And so the journey continued.
We caught the two hour train to London from Bristol and dragged three suitcases and two backpacks through the public transport system and across a neighbourhood to meet our dear friend, KJ, living in London. We were sweaty, tired, sore and only had a few hours to explore London so without much hesitation we got back on the tube, this time carrying far less weight and made our way down to..somewhere. Somewhere with water and lots of famous landmarks.
Big Ben himself. Or technically, the building with Big Ben in it? Anyway, the tower was so much smaller than I expected. Pretty, but smaller. Architecture, gardens, gates – everything around it and around this area of town is pretty stunning. Super fancy, old, ornate, and well preserved.
The amazing Westminster Abbey. The place the royals get married, apparently. There was an organ concert on so we couldn’t go in but it would have been really sweet to see an organ concert in there I’m sure.
London was so BIG compared to Bristol. It felt busy and way more fast paced. Like, you wouldn’t want to stand on the left side of the elevator out of the tube or you’d be in trouble. Unfortunately most of our looking around was at night, so photos don’t do it justice.
And that was London in less than 24 hours. We had a delicious organic farm-to-table meal at a local place with KJ, and we drank cocktails in a high-rise overlooking the city. We shopped, caught the tube, and rode the double decker buses. Isn’t that all there is to do in London?
Kidding. We’ll be back. We look forward to little weekend escapes from Bristol to watch a show, eat a nice meal, be with a lovely friend or just be somewhere big and bustling. I’m not sure London beats NYC for me, but perhaps I just don’t know it well enough yet. We look forward to being so close to such an amazing historical, cultural, and beautiful city.
After much, much anticipation we flew to Munich to meet Shane’s parents who were on their way to Europe for the adventure of a life time (or so we’d like to hope!).
Shane and I have spent a bit of time in Munich, and especially around Christmas we highly recommend it. The markets are huge and sprawl through a lot of the old town, and the surrounding buildings and shops are gorgeous. I have a favourite shop there, Manufactum, and I think I could happily set up house with their stock. And I could eat their bread everyday and drink their coffee. Basically, I wouldn’t need to leave the store. The shop is full of hand made wooden, copper, leather goods – games, toys, garden tools, outdoor stove-heated bath tubs – it goes on. We had a delicious lentil and veggie soup with three types of fresh bread from the bakery, and it was probably the lightest meal we ate in Munich!
Then there’s the the cafe Maelu, which has small decadent cakes and desserts and custard-thick hot chocolate. A photo from their website, because I guess I was so busy eating I forgot to take photos http://maelu.de
And of course Hofbräuhaus for a good 1 litre beer, you know, for when you’re really thirsty. http://www.hofbraeuhaus.de
Not only were we showing Shane’s parents the place, introducing them to slightly colder temperatures and much older architecture, but we also had a delightful friends Zeke + Yvette join us for the ride. Our time in Munich was full of gluhwein and hot egg nog, pre-Christmas happiness and selfie-stick photos ala Ugle-Earth.
Shane’s parents, rugged up and saying “it’s not that cold, really!”. You just wait.
After a visit to the Alter Peter church, we somehow convinced Jackie it was a good idea to walk up 299 steps to see Munich from above, so we climbed the old church tower and took in the breathtaking views.
The Christkindlmarkt is nestled below the epic town hall building in this photo. We watched and listened to the bell display which was horribly out of key but of course nice and quaint. I love the mix of new and old in towns like Munich – these ornate buildings with little bell tower displays, next to modern indoor shopping centres with massive greenery hanging from the roof stories above.
Something (strange?) that Shane and I love is walking through old graveyards. We read about people who lived long ago, who died young and old, who are buried side by side with loved ones. I think it makes us realise that every day really is a gift, and that we are part of such a bigger picture that goes back so long ago. This graveyard was completely overgrown, untended and surrounded by a big high wall. That’s not so normal around here, where the graves surround the church and are often tended to daily by family. I’d love to know the stories behind this forrest.DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP
Cities here are beautiful and hold a lot of history, but there’s only so much Christkindlmarkts and Christmas shopping I can handle. I got the ok from our group to take them out for an educational day at Dachau. Instead of walk ourselves around the memorial, I did some research and found a group to join. I would highly, highly recommend this tour. http://www.dachautour.com
Our guide started the tour by reminding us that what we’d see were not sporadic incidents of crazy injustices. They were systemised, institutionalised camps. Over 2500 camps were across Europe, and most of them were trained by leaders who went through their training at Dachau. Our guide reminded us that the gas chambers were designed by engineers, built by companies, and sold to corporations who implemented their use under the governance of boards of directors. Just like there still exist companies that make weapons and sell them to warring countries. These weren’t rash decisions or one-off torture devices – they were industrial level, governing board level, nationally implemented operations. On that note, let’s start the tour.
I didn’t know that the first to be taken into Dachau were Germans themselves. The clean up of society started from the inside, so it was the socialists and communists, the artists, and the gays, before it was the Jews.
Our guide spent the rest of the day showing us around the grounds. He presented what happened then in light of what’s happening today. He told us stories from Dachau survivors as they would have them told. His relationship with them is what informs his presentation, and it was incredibly interesting. He noted the discrepancies of Hollywood and the history books, according to those who lived it.
The motto of the survivors, etched into the statue near the gas chambers, is “To honour the dead and warn the living”. The camp, reconstructed as a war memorial by the survivors themselves, is not a fun place to visit. It’s heavy, and shocking and painful. But it’s necessary, and our guide reminded us that the survivors get through life today with humour and non-prejudice.
An incredible experience, that needed a whole day around it just to process. I’m no history-nut, and probably an embarrassment to my family with my lack of historical knowledge, but I think our whole group benefited (I can’t really say enjoyed can I?) from the experience.