Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dachau and The Journey Out of Munich - The Goldbergs in Europe Day 6-7

We got a late start the morning after we went to the HofBrau Haus.  Although we were both tired the next morning, we felt surprisingly good, given the amount of beer and sausage we had consumed the night before.  German beer never lets you down, not even the next day.  We did, however, wonder if anyone caught us on hidden camera dancing around the train station with a bratwurst.

We decided today was the best day to go see the Dachau Concentration Camp.  We took the S2 train to Dachau, and after a short bus ride arrived at the camp.  It always surprised me how close the camp existed to Munich.  It wasn't more than a 20-30 minute train outside of Munich.  Not a very uplifting experience, but it was definitely something that Hannah wanted to do on our trip, and I was happy to go back and experience it with her.  Dachau had changed quite a bit in the 12 years since I had last been.  The local organizations had put a lot of effort into making it more accessible to visitors.  We did the audio tour of the camp, trying in the 2 hours we had to see all of the exhibits.  Dachau's grounds have remnants of the atrocities of the concentration camp while providing recounts by survivors. 

One of the most powerful things for us was the Jewish memorial which is a sloping cave with a small hole in the top that allows light into the cave, which we felt could be interpreted as a glimmer of hope.

After the visit to Dachau we realized that our days on this stint in Munich were coming to an end.  We were exhausted to the point of delirium after the past week, especially after the Hofbrau Haus the night before but we managed to pull ourselves together and find a nice Greek Restaurant in my old neighborhood.  The hardest part of motivating ourselves is getting out of the house, yet once we were out we had a great time as usual.  For some reason we can't seem to order a meal in Germany without ordering enough food to feed a family of 4.  We stuffed ourselves with strips of delicious Greek Gyros, shrimp, salads, and of course Helles.

The next morning we said Auf Wedesehen to our lovely apartment which we had come to love and call home and started off at Hannah's favorite place in Munich, the good ole Hauptbahnhof.  I think next time we come to Munich I'll just set us up on a bench at the train station.  This will serve two purposes, it will save us a ton of money on accommodation, and let my wife spend time in her favorite place in the world.  Maybe we'll even upgrade to an ATM vestibule, but we'll see what's available.
After stocking up on water, fruit, sandwiches, musli, candy, cookies, and chips, we got our Hertz rental car, a Chevy Cruise, with manual transmission…something you'd never get in a rental in at home…and hit the Autobahn, Prague or bust.

We cruised along the beautiful countryside, passing towns, hillsides, and farms along the way.  At times we pushed the limits of that Chevy to past 100mph, loving the freedom to drive as fast as we wanted…yet still being passed like we were standing still by BMWs and Audis.  When we arrived in the Czech Republic there was a stark difference in of course the language, but also the infrastructure, and the countryside.  The manicured look of the German landscape turned into a much less maintained, cultivated look.  We know the reasons for this, but to see such a strong disparity in just a few miles was evidence of the strong economic differences between these two countries.

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We arrived in Prague at about 4pm and easily found our hotel, the Josef Art Hotel.  This hotel was recommended to us by a client of mine, and was by far the nicest hotel we ended up staying in on our trip.  There were obviously plenty of choices of hotels in Prague, but choosing based on a website wasn't ideal at all.  It was great to get the recommendation of someone who had lived and worked in Prague.  We had a nice patio for having coffee and writing, and the included breakfast was served every morning on a sunny patio.

We only had two nights and one full day in Prague, and it turns out this was just enough time.  I had been to Prague a few times many years before, but obviously the 12 years in a country that architecturally peaked 400 years ago, this didn't make a difference in the sights.  You would think that the lifetime of one isn't consequential in a city such as Prague, but when you reflect on what has happened in this city and others in Europe from 1930 to the present you realize that this only holds true for architecture, not the dynamics of the local population or the mentality of the people.

We found a seemingly local establishment with an Argentinian theme.  We remembered that we weren't in Argentina, but in fact, in Prague and immediately realized that they got us again...we were in a tourist trap.  We had  a quick drink, solely to be polite, and got out of there as quickly as possible, right before the tango show started.   We then found what appeared to be a slightly more local feeling establishment, but the smoke was so thick that we felt it better to have a quick drink and leave before suffocating.

That evening we went out to a very nice, although probably tourist priced restaurant in the city center called Apostila.  It was a great meal and a great experience, and we realized that finding a local restaurant in Prague with "local" prices was hard, if not impossible for us, not knowing the language or having any idea where to find the local scene.

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