Our first morning in Munich, Dr. P gathered us around and warned us that it was going to be one of the most difficult cities on CR, both physically and emotionally. Still riding off the high of Berlin, it was hard to know what he was talking about. However, once it was time to say goodbye and move on to Interlaken, I think everyone understood. Munich is a complicated mix of memories for me, including some of my lowest moments as well as some the most beautiful sights of the whole experience. The day that is the best example of this, as well as the hardest to write about, is our visit to the Dachau concentration camp.
Dachau is a museum and memorial site to the concentration camp that existed there during the reign of the Nazis over Germany. There is a large museum with detailed information about the lives of the prisoners at the camp, but the most shocking aspect is the camp itself, with both original and recreated buildings representing guard towers, barracks, and crematoriums.
We each were handed an audio guide and told to go off on our own, so that we could experience Dachau individually. Walking through the camp by myself, listening to the increasingly horrifying stories through the audio guide, I started to feel weighed down. Each new fact I learned was like a weight on my heart, and I knew I needed a break. Heading to the very back of the camp, I found a gate that led to the Catholic Carmelite Convent. The shady courtyard led to a completely empty chapel, and I stayed there for a few minutes to gather my thoughts. Sitting in the silence, I started to feel calm and the sick feeling in my stomach slowly went away. I wondered how in the middle of a site of so much terror and destruction, there could be such a peaceful and calming haven?
This juxtaposition of terrible history and current beauty continued throughout Dachau. In one corner of the camp was the location where prisoners had been taken to be lined up and executed. However, today that same spot is overgrown with wild flowers, and walking through it you could see the sun shining through the trees and hear the birds chirping.
Dachau made me feel a lot of things, but one of the most prominent was gratitude. The mixture of raw beauty and horror made me so thankful for my life, my family, and to be able to be experiencing these things.
The contrast of highs and lows was definitely a theme for Munich. The incessant rain made it harder to push through our loaded itineraries, and shared exhaustion made it more difficult to keep our patience in the bigger groups. However, there were so many magical moments, like visiting castles straight out of Disney movies, having group dance parties in a Mexican restaurant, watching people surf in a park, and singing happy birthday to Cooper with an entire German beer hall.
Ultimately, Dr. P couldn’t have been more right. Munich challenged us on every level, be it finding the will to walk ten miles in the rain, or the emotional strength to make it through Dachau. However, we all made it through as a team, and I think we were stronger because of it.
Until next time,