My sister went on a study tour in Munich about a year and a half ago, so she planned a packed few days for us. After Dachau, we decided to visit Schloss Nymphenburg (or Nymphenburg Palace), which was a tram ride away from the city center.
Schloss Nymphenburg was the main summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria, which is a state of Germany of which Munich is part. We were all palace’d out, so we just walked around the gardens, which are obviously things of beauty. This is partly what I mean when I say that it’s full of parks.
I wondered if swans could fly, and then I got my answer.
We walked to Hirschgarten, the biggest beer garden! but it was a dud. We tried to look for the nearest train station, but got severely lost, before braving the woods again and looking for the tram instead. It took us about fifteen minutes to walk to the tram. Oops.
The first thing you must know about München is that it is very green. There are parks everywhere. Unfortunately, I can’t show any pictures of that yet, because I decided to take just my film cameras when we walked around on that first day. The first available footage I have on hand are pictures from our visit to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site.
We enlisted the help of a tour guide and rode the train from the city center for about half an hour, if I remember correctly. Dachau isn’t the most notorious concentration camp, but it was the first one, “on which other camps were based.” A short walk from the bus stop will lead you to the gate, which holds the motto plastered on concentration camps all over the world.
Translated, it says: “Work will set you free.” Though common knowledge (or I guess, just my own assumptions) of such camps set up in the second World War involve the sick and the dying, some camps like Dachau had prisoners subjected to forced labor and often served only as a station where prisoners are sent to other concentration camps or death camps all throughout Europe.
Currently, only two replicas of what had been 32 barracks exist on the grounds. Some areas have been turned into a museum, for people to know about and to remember the suffering that the prisoners went through. If you notice, Dachau looks very pretty. The SS took great pains to make it appear as though the prisoners were well fed and were under very good living conditions, to disguise the fact that there were atrocities being done to other human beings at the time.
A memorial featuring the motto of the Jewish Defense League, “Never Again!,” in several languages. JDL aims to protect Jews against antisemitism by whatever means necessary.
A portion of the ditch, which went around the entirety of the camp, was rebuilt when Dachau was turned into a memorial site. Immediately after the war, Dachau was turned into a refugee camp, which was when they removed the ditch. It was what separated the camp from the barbed wire fence, which was what kept the prisoners from their freedom.
The patch of grass before the ditch came to be known as the “death strip,” as it was an area that sealed the death of whoever stepped on it. Prisoners were shot if they came in contact with this patch of grass. If a guard disliked a prisoner, he could throw the prisoner’s cap (a piece of their uniform that was required to be worn during roll calls) on the grass.
It was a very sobering experience. I’ve always been interested in stories about the Holocaust, especially in the richness of Jewish heritage and religion. I’ve gravitated towards novels set, or partly set, during the second World War—Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated,” Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief,” Aleksander Hemon’s “The Lazarus Project,” Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” and so on—and I suppose, I’ve always been curious. Although I sometimes suspect a bit of racism towards myself, it has obviously never been this extreme, something that I am both grateful for and horrified in behalf of those people who have it worse.
Because of scheduling conflicts, we didn’t get to go to Versailles until the last full day, which turned out to be rainy. We opted to just tour the palace instead of going around the gardens. It was a little useless to do so in the rain, and in the middle of autumn. Or so I would imagine.
Versailles, now a city, was a province of France in which the royal palace could be found. It is, as you can see, extraordinarily lavish. I can’t imagine living in something that rich or that big. I suppose you can call it impressive, especially when you think about how it might have looked against the milieu of the starving French peasants.
For the record, I am not a fan. It’s a great place to visit, but it doesn’t appeal to me aesthetically, and I guess morally (though the fact that it’s been opened as a “museum” of sorts remedies that). For this reason, I don’t have a lot of pictures of the interiors. On that note, their beds are freakishly small.
We decided to ride back a little bit after lunch, in hopes that we could catch Musée d’Orsay before it closed for the day. We were met by a loooong line of people and a relentless downpour of rain.
(We went inside anyway.)
Technically, you can’t take pictures, but nobody ever said anything.
And that is the last of Paris! We caught a train to Munich, which entailed a transfer of trains at Stuttgart. A transfer to a train that we nearly missed. We literally had to run along the side of the train, which if you know me, might have been a pretty funny sight. In case you were wondering, we made it on the train just fine.
With nothing left to do (Musée d’Orsay, Versailles and the Catacombs were closed that day) after finishing our itinerary for the day on the previous day, we set out to do some things within the city. We passed by the Opéra national de Paris.
I was looking forward to having a meal at Maison dela Truffe, to which my mom accompanied me. The food was alright, though I suspect that I should have ordered dishes with the black truffles, instead of the seasonal ones. The servings were really big, too; I think we ought to have shared.
We reconvened after an hour and decided to go around Montmarte, since we didn’t get to go around the last time we were around the area.
That’s when we found a great view of the Sacred Heart Basilica. Nearby was the Dali exhibit, which was sort of like a rehash of the exhibit I saw with my brother and Sarie in Singapore. Not a lot of paintings, mostly prints, drawings and sculptures. There was an awesome short film made up of a couple of clips of Dali, though.
With nothing else in mind, we ended up looking for Café des 2 Moulins, which is the cafe at which Amelie Poulain worked. The road to the cafe—a winding, downhill trek along Rue Lepic—was pleasant. I saw a lot of houses and I wondered what it was like to live there. We got a little bit lost as the street curves sharply to the right.
Café des 2 Moulins (or the Café of the Two Windmills) was, as expected, incredibly quaint, though I don’t know if I would go there regularly if I lived in Paris.
I wish they had kept the original interiors.
They named their crème brûlée after Amélie. It was alright.
We ended the day early and went home after that coffee, as we had a big day the next day—Château de Versailles!
Because we finished going around Centre Georges Pompidou a little early, we decided to go ahead and see the Eiffel Tower. We took the RER C train going there, which passes the stop by Musée d’Orsay and is on the way to Château Versailles.
The Eiffel Tower is gorgeous in the daytime, although it was considered as an eyesore back in the day. It seems like there is, weirdly, a lot of public opinion that surrounds these public Parisian monuments. Check out this upskirt:
There were a lot of people milling about the parks surrounding the tower. It’s very difficult to get a shot of yourself that doesn’t include other tourists posing by the beloved landmark. I can only imagine how packed this place is during the summer holidays!
To pass the time (since we wanted a night shot of the tower as well), we decided to take the River Cruise along the Seine. It was the perfect time as we managed to glimpse Paris as the last hours of the day trickled away.
I creeped this girl out, trying to take her picture because she looked a little bit like my friend, Stick. Bonus: the light is so frakking pretty!
I Wonder How Many People in This City
I wonder how many people in this city
live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when I look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
looking back at me,
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.
It was weird to see Paris from the middle of the river without being able to take a closer look.
We were on our way back to our point of origin (the part of the river nearest Eiffel), when the most amazing—and tacky—thing happened. The Eiffel Tower became a big, pointy, glittery thing!
This is it, in its almost-entirety. We had to cross a few blocks and climb up a few steps to get this view. It was worth it.
We’ve finished our Italy leg, and are now in Amsterdam (which is currently my favorite place, despite spending less than 24 hours here), so obviously I am quite far behind. I actually have not been taking a lot of digital pictures (or at least less than usual), so you and I have to wait for the film to be processed. I hope they turn out nice.
Anyway, back to Paris! After the Sunday flea market, we tried going to see the Catacombs. Upon arriving, however, we were met with a very long, disgruntled line of people due to some difficulties in the Catacombs’ operation. We decided to forego it, not wanting to risk getting stuck underground, and just visit the Centre Georges Pompidou, which houses Frances’ modern art.
There was a special exhibit on Gerhard Richter when we went, but I’ll get into that later.
I didn’t bring a wide enough lens that could take Pompidou’s side view (it’s the famous metally one that has the impression of steps outside), so here’s the view from the top. If you look really closely, you can see Sacré-Coeur and Notre Dame, I think.
The day was still early, so we decided to go see the Eiffel Tower, which is a whole other animal altogether. Which means that it warrants another post.
In other news, it’s my birthday in the Philippines! In an hour and a half, it will be my birthday here, too.