We started off the next morning with a bit of a bittersweet moment; my oldest niece was departing our tour and catching a train to Amsterdam for the next phase of her journey. My friend and I took her to the nearby station in Bobingen and helped her get on the S-Bahn to her connection in Augsburg, then stopped off at a local bakery to pick up some things for breakfast. By the time we were back everything was set up for a relaxed morning repast before we also packed up and headed out across the Bavarian countryside for the environs of Munich.
When I was booking the hire car I debated where to drop it off in Munich as it would be a liability rather than a benefit for our day in the city. Augsburg was the logical place and we could then take the train onward, but the return center there was too far away from the station to be able to comfortably walk with our luggage. I narrowed my search down to return centers within walking distance of stations, and picked the closest one to Augsburg.
It was located in the city of Dachau. Yes, that Dachau. The site of the first of the Nazi Concentration Camps. Accordingly, after a very pleasant drive through the spring countryside under bright blue skies, we stopped to fill up the car with its final dosage of diesel and then headed to the memorial as I felt it was important that my nieces have the experience of standing on the site of such inhumanity and tragedy. Less than a year earlier I had taken them to visit the American Concentration Camp at Manzanar where Japanese-Americans had been interred in the same time period; visiting Dachau was exposing them to a yet more evil incarnation of that same thought process.
Much has been written and said about Dachau and the other Nazi Concentration Camps. I will not attempt to repeat that documentation. For me it is a deeply personal experience every time I visit one. I cannot begin to guess how each of my nieces experienced it, any more than I could guess how the person 20 steps away from me as we entered experienced it. My personal response to our visit to Dachau was a regenerated commitment to be a voice opposed to the resurgent racial, religious, sexist, and nationalistic bigotry; as a global population we have seen too many examples of tragedies committed under these banners which could have been stopped had enough people recognized the symptoms and stood up for truth and justice at the point where that was still possible.
Our last miles in the rental car were very quiet as we each contemplated where we had just left, but as we parked, turned the car in, and headed off on the short walk to the train station we individually came out of the shells we had retreated into and discovered that we were once again enjoying a beautiful spring day. We bought a group day pass, caught the S-Bahn into Munich, and proceeded on to Ostbahnhof and the Courtyard hotel nearby, checked in, and got ready to head into the city for an afternoon of exploration before our evening engagement at the Munich Philharmonic.
Part of why I had selected that particular hotel was because it was near the concert location at the Gasteig. I wasn’t quite sure how best to get there, so we decided to walk the 1 subway stop to it. In the process we passed by the memorial to Sophie School and the Weisse Rose movement attached to the building on Orleansstrasse which was pictured in the background of the photo of her seeing her brother and his friends off to the Eastern Front. On the way to the hotel we had walked along the very fence in the picture.
After an enjoyable meander down Weissenburgerstrasse, passing traffic police giving out tickets to bicyclists who had disregarded the signs to walk their bikes through the crowded area, we carried on down Rosenheimerstrasse and came to the Gasteig. All told about 20 minutes from the hotel to the entrance. The Isar river was right in front of us, so we kept on walking and crossed over. From there we simply meandered through the city. As our stomachs started to remind us it had been a while since breakfast we found a table at one of the Biergartens near the Viktualienmarkt and refueled on beer, sausages, and a perfect spring afternoon to enjoy them.
After lunch we headed back into the city, eventually reaching the Hofgarten and through it to the English Garden. Whereas the night before we had seen a collection of Dirndl in the shop windows of Augsburg, we suddenly found ourselves seemingly surrounded by groups of young women wearing them in the park. It reminded me quite a bit of the groups of teens I would often see near Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, with the exception that there the kids went out of their way to be cutting edge trendy and unique, whereas in Munich they were back to the clothing traditions of the area.
While I was pondering this, one of my nieces suddenly hissed “Don’t look over there, I think those people don’t have any clothes on!” I had known that the English Gardens has a clothing optional area, but in my memory it was further into the park. My memory was proven inaccurate. Since both of my nieces were clearly appalled by this, we opted to head off in another direction and found a quiet rock by the stream to relax at, then headed back to the U-Bahn at Odeonsplatz and on to the hotel.
After a tea break and a change of clothes, we decided that as warm as the day had become we might as well take the train to the Gasteig for the concert rather than work up a sweat walking there. Once on the platform, however, there was an announcement that the train was out of service so we ended up retracing our earlier steps and walking to the venue. We arrived in plenty of time to settle in to our seats.
The concert was the last of the “really want to do” list we had put together while planning the trip, and my nieces had surprised me by picking up the price of my ticket despite it being significantly more expensive than their student tickets. I had never before gone to a concert with them, and I was amazed to see them pull out notepaper and pencils and start taking notes as the concert progressed, much in the same way others might take lecture notes. I guess for those who study music a high level orchestral concert is probably pretty close to a lecture…. The highlight of the evening was the Labeque Sisters playing Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra op. 88a.
Following the concert we headed back to the hotel and settled into a booth at the bar to reflect on the concert, the trip, and life in general. It was a wonderful way to wrap up our trip together, as the next morning we would be heading off on our separate ways.