Monday, June 10, 2013


Today was very surreal, I spent most of the day at Dachau concentration camp. It was a fascinating experience seeing how it started as a small camp in 1933 by the Nazis and then grew over the next 12 years to become one of the largest and most-feared camps in all of Germany. It answered my largest question of how they were able to put such horror next to such a large city. There also was absolutely no freedom of the press in Germany in the Third Reich, so if it wasn't in the state press, Germans wouldn't know about it. There were actual tours of Dachau during the 1930s with concerts, and the prisoners were said to be people who wouldn't work (the homeless and mentally ill) even though this was not the truth. Thinking of a lot of people i have met, this type of explanation would work on a lot of people, and most people wouldn't investigate further. I saw the death chambers, which consisted of ovens and a gas chamber. I spent a good two hours in the museum and still didn't see all of the exhibits, and at a few points I felt like crying it was so overwhelming (which I don't do). That alone took most of the day. By the end of the existence of Dachau there was the beginning of a resistance forming, which had been difficult for most of the chance of existence because the prisoners were from so many different groups, which kept them divided and conquered (United we stand, divided we fall). The museum is really well designed and does an excellent job at explaining the history of Dachau and ties it in with the larger picture of what was happening in Germany at the same time. Standing in Dachau it is impossible to fully understand the complete horror that took place under Nazi rule and how a country so completely devestated by the Treaty of Versailles could fall so low. The massive depression that hit Germany and the blaming of minorities on the whole country's problems were the two major factors that led to the Nazis coming to power. John Maynard Keynes predicted that the Treaty of Versailles was a terrible misstep, and he was so very right. One thing for me that is particularly uncomfortable is that we often think of the second world war as the epitome of a "just war" if such a thing is possible, yet we really took our time in going into the second world war, and we didn't go into the concentration camps until 1945. One would think there would have been bombing raids on Nazi Germany in 1939 if the purpose of the second world war was to free the Jews et al, but the truth is that we didn't do that, and it wasn't until we ran in and found how extensive and overcrowded the concentration camps were. I also thought of today in North Korea at their numerous concentration camps on their territory and in Russia that are operating today. We have done nothing to end this and the reasons (Putin) help a modern observer understand past mistakes better. But are only part of a complete understanding. 

Dachau made me think of right now in North Korea which is so similar.
After Dachau Concentration Camp we drove back into the city of Dachau and had our lunch. We came home, I packed since I leave in two days and dinner. The evening was spent catching up on two weeks of news and learning how there will be new Star Wars games.

Munich and Starnberg

6 June 2013
On thursday I took the s-bahn to starnberg to see a friend and deliver one of her things. We first went for a bike ride around Munich and saw the English garden and walked around downtown. I found a few bookshops and bought a few. I found a beautiful map store that has literally every country in the world. I found a small antique book store but didn't buy anything. I then caught the train which took half an hour, which is very good for a city train at that distance. Her husband is a doctor in a hospital and when I arrived he pretended to not speak English like other Germans I have met which forced me to speak German which I appreciated. They live with their granddaughter who is my brother's age, and she was nice. We had a much needed quiet day.

7 June 2013
On Friday I went to a Biergarten south of Starnberg which was very big and had excellent food in German serving sizes (the largest I have ever seen) and then went back to Munich by the S-Bahn and got off at the wrong station because I didn't understand which station I had to get off at. Next time I come to Germany the first thing I am going to do is get a simple prepaid t-mobile SIM card that works with a small data   I went for a long bike ride in Munich to southwest Munich (we live in Ottobrunn) which was a beautiful bike ride to a Biergarten which had live music on the edge of the Isar.

The other German side

8 June 2013
Today we left Munich early in the morning around 8:30 and drove west to Swabia. My cousin who planned the gathering spent a few weeks exploring the Swabian alps (which are hills) where my uncle used to live and found the small hotel where we had our family gathering. My family is wonderful, but family politics between my uncle and two of his sons meant that my uncle chose not to come to his own party, so I will never meet him, and I'm not sure if that is a bad thing. I had a wonderful time talking with my wonderful cousins about our lives, playing with the younger cousins and having wonderful food. There was one young cousin who is less then a year old who was always happy when she saw me and my presence calmed her down. I went for a car ride around town in a convertible my cousin rented (because the rental company made a mistake, so he got an upgrade for free). Two of my Finnish cousins are entrepreneurs, one is hoping to start a bed and breakfast and one is getting close to starting a dance studio in Helsinki. It was interesting comparing starting businesses in the us and Northern Europe which is really similar. I got more information on our heritage and had a wonderful day.

9 June 2013
In the morning the remaining members of the family had breakfast together, consisting of those of us who live outside Germany, two of my uncle's sons, my cousin and fiancé who live in Switzerland, and the family with the five year old. We drove to Roetlingen and the Finns, Americans, one of my uncle's sons and I had a delicious lunch at a nice restaurant owned by family friends of my uncle. We then drove back to Munich and spent three hours with my aunt talking and having dinner. I was exhausted. My 2nd cousin I am staying with and I are plotting to get the family back together since the German side all lives so close to one another. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

4th and 5th of June

4 June
We went to the Altenpinapotek which has a lot of beautiful paintings from the late Medieval era to the early 1700s. It had works by many great artists and many were very large. I couldn't imagine what it was like to paint such large paintings, but I'm not an artist so that doesn't really mean anything. We then went to my aunt's house and her two older sons were there, and her second son's son. I talked with my second cousin for a couple hours, and he is an interesting guy. We came home and had dinner at a nearby Chinese buffet.

5 June
Today I went to Neuschwanstein with my cousin's partner, and it is a really amazing castle. It is a good hour and a half from Munich and a lot is between the two places. We stopped by Wieskirche on the way south which is a beautiful little church with wonderful paintings near Wies, Bavaria. We arrived at Neuschwanstein early, and took the bus up the mountain partway to the castle. We walked to a bridge and saw Neuschwanstein before going inside. The throne room is currently under construction so I didn't see that part, I guess I have to watch chitty chitty bang bang again. It was a beautiful castle and is a must see for a trip to southern Bavaria.

We then went to Füssen, and walked through the city which is beautiful. We got some bread and went back home.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Back to Munich

Today my friend had to leave at 5:30 so I woke up at 5 to see her off. I then went back to bed, but didn't sleep. Her boyfriend came back around 6:30 and we packed lunches and breakfasts before going to the u-bahn so I could go downtown and he could go to school. I walked around for about three hours seeing the city away from the tourist area. I walked across the bridge of love to the other station and it is clear that the west side is nicer. I found a nice used bookstore with good prices and got a few books, and the went back to the train station an hour early. My train was fifteen minutes late (which talking to the other passengers they assured me is unusual, one more difference between the us and Europe!) but when I couldn't make my connection in Mainz they allowed me to stop at Frankfurt and get a direct train to Munich, so I  came out ahead! I arrived in Munich on time when I remembered why I am never traveling without a SIM card again. I went home and had dinner with my cousins, after which I went to bed pretty quickly (since I was falling asleep at the dinner table). 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Köln day 2

Today I had a pretty quiet morning at home. My friend's boyfriend was at work so we stayed, watched tv and read some things having a quiet morning. His sister came with her daughter who is 18 months old and she played with my friend as I read different things (I have grown to like quiet mornings). He came home and we all went downtown where we walked around. Everything was closed so we didn't do anything. We went for a short walk in a park before coming back home for some Iranian food his parents made. It was delicious. We then went to walk around a German cemetery which was a really beautiful place. Families here have their family gravesite which they rent for a period of 25 years before it is given to someone else, and some gravesites can be very beautiful. You will usually have several people buried at the same gravesite. We then came home and watched the German-US football match, and it was fun to see the US beat one of the best teams in the world. A potential upset for the German team, which is currently ranked as the second best team in the world. The US is the 29th strongest according to the FIFA Ranking, so we might see the US grow in strength next year in Brazil.

I'm sure going to miss my friends, and can't wait to see them again.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Köln day 1, thoughts about cities

Today I had a quiet morning as my friend's boyfriend was working. He works at a German bakery and Northern German food is so delicious! It is also very similar to American, but slightly different. While in Southern Germany (or at least Bavaria) it is common to have a platter of different meats and cheeses next to a basket of bread, and then everyone takes as much bread and meats and cheese as you want. Northern Germany is more where everyone has their own dish and they are very similar to what is considered American food that you could get at a good restaurant. It is very clear that Northern Germany had a large influence on American cuisine. We went with the same friend we went with yesterday to downtown Köln and walked around for probably a good 5 hours. We took the U-bahn which is by far the most convenient way to get around and is the least expensive and most flexible option (since you could arrive let's say in north downtown, walk for a few hours to the other side of the river and catch a different train without ever having to back trace) and you don't have to waste time finding a parking spot. We went right downtown and I found a card store my friends had never found before. We went to a very nice chocolate factory where they show people how they make chocolate and have old chocolate dispensers and things like that. There were a lot from Dresden before the American military destroyed it. We went to the bridge of love. We then went to get our lunch at a Turkish section of Köln which was absolutely delicious. Köln is a huge city and as a huge city there are people from around the world here which I really like. We were then quite tired after a long day walking around this beautiful city and came home. I remembered that we were going to get a board game (Settlers of Catan in English, originally a German game) so we walked into the mall in Weiden where they live and got it. Our other friend went home at that point so I played Catan with my friend who I went to school with for a good three hours since her boyfriend was so exhausted.

I am surprised that Köln has free parking, it probably won't last because we saw our friend trying to park this morning and she had trouble finding a good spot, the Bahn is by far the best option, and goes everywhere in the city and to the neighboring cities. It is also very quick and pleasant, and for intercity travel you don't have to arrive several hours beforehand for a flight which wastes valuable time which I've grown to hate. That's my advice for travelers to Europe, since all cities here have excellent mass transit systems and the intercity mass transit system is very good, and has a lot of room to improve in the next ten years if they choose to. You also go to the center of downtown when you take the train into Köln which is right next to the second largest cathedral in the world after St. Peter's Basilica. It is a must see on a trip to Northwestern Germany.

Köln is currently the fourth largest city in Germany and the largest of the Rhine region (behind Berlin, Hamburg, and München) and I love this city as much as München and Tbilisi. I have liked most cities I have been to, the only ones I don't care for so much are Los Angeles (because of the god awful smog and lack of options to get around, there is very little freedom of movement in comparison to European cities or other American cities), Tri-Cities Washington (urban sprawl, three eyed fish, excellent apples you can get at home at your supermarket and not much else), and in the future there will be other cities I will not be so enthralled by. Cities I have really enjoyed are Seattle, Sydney, Brisbane (for the 3 hours I was there, and I need to explore this city more), Portland OR (which has a lot for its relatively small size), Vancouver (amazing people, amazing culture), Victoria Canada (for everything), München (wonderful city with amazing food, excellent museums, wonderful people and it is extremely easy to get around), Köln (for the same reasons as München), and I enjoyed Tbilisi (it takes a few days to get used to the differences which are quite extreme, but once you figure out how the city ticks it becomes quite pleasant.

In the future my list includes (but is in no way limited to): The Northeast coast of the USA from Boston to Canada. There is so much to see in my own country still! San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Northeast Brazil, Santiago, Bogota, Medellin, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and different places in South Africa along with Botswana and Namibia. Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome, Venice, Milano, Istanbul, Berlin, Hamburg, Mainz, Hanover, Leipzig, Luxembourg, Nuremburg, Bern, Zurich, Vienna, Stockholm, Gotenburg, Copenhagen, Malmo, Oslo, Helsinki, Vasa, Nice, Monaco, Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Athens, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Seville, Granada, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania, New Zealand, Singapore, Delhi, Calcutta, Dubai, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Chongqing, Beijing, Tianjin, Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo, Osaka, and so many places I haven't thought of yet!

A summary of my route yesterday:
I started in Munich, and passed through Ingolstadt, Nürnburg, Würzburg, Frankfurt, Mainz, Koblenz, Bonn, Köln. The most beautiful part of the trip was between Mainz and Bonn. I want to explore Mainz in the future, the home of Johannes Gutenburg, and a city that has been settled for over 300,000 years. is an excellent map of the German train system that is useful for people who plan a trip to Germany in the future.