A Travellerspoint blog

München

And then we come to Munich (München in German). This city is splendid. I've been here before, on my way back from Venice, but that was at 7 AM in the morning. First impression of the city, it's a highly commercialized place with a lot of immigrants. But then I realized that's only because I was near the train station. The farther I got from the train station, I got the German feeling of it. The city is just amazing. After getting to the hostel, we all quickly went to grab some dinner since we were all hungry after a 5 hour train ride. We went to a nearby Chinese restaurant, and thankfully I found something vegetarian there, even though it wasn't all that good. But then me and a few other friends just went to a pub to hang out. It was a good time and we got back around 12.30 since we had a morning trip planned for next day. It was one of my friend's birthday, which is why staying back past midnight was so important.

We made a trip to Siemens AG headquarters. I was totally impressed by the things they do, and I'm not gonna type all that. We got to see a whole lot of things and I got to know the company much better than what I knew about it. It was a fun experience and I'd definitely have considered working there if it had aerospace departments. Another impressive thing about them is their cafeteria! The cafeteria was even more amazing than the company itself. I can't believe they get so many choices of food, drinks, and desserts, especially considering that the cafeteria at GE (that's where I work) are much poorer. We went back to the hostel and got a quick nap before doing a scavenger hunt infused city tour - we basically had to answer questions on a worksheet that was given to us, and to fill that worksheet in we had to go around the city and see the famous places! Then we ate at this very old biergareten called Augustiner. They are actually very popular locally for their beer and beer customs ("the mass"). After that, I just ended up hanging out around the city with some friends and enjoy the Munich night life!

I woke up late on Saturday and after grabbing some lunch went to the Deutsches Museum. This was the best museum I've ever been in. It's a technology museum and they've displays of everything - electricity supply, trains, aviation, space stuff, cars, scooters, bikes, home appliances, bikes, motorbikes, etc. JUST TO NAME A FEW! Man, it was such a great visit. If possible I'd like to go there again, since I wasn't able to cover even half of it. It's HUGE! We directly went to a beer brewery from there, we had a visit planned there and got to learn some stuff about the processing and business strategy of a regular German brewery. It was the Paulaner brewery, it's very famous here in Munich. Later in the evening we went to Tollwood Music Festival in the Olympic Park. Got to see the park and the stadiums from outside. The festival was fun too, a bit crowded, but pretty lively. We didn't actually go see the music part, just had food there and hung out for a bit.

Posted by dhruval.shah 07.08.2012 06:46 Comments (0)

Last days in Weimar

Finally the end to Weimar was coming. I was very excited about Munich, and why wouldn't I be, Munich being such an awesome city. But it was an end to Weimar, we almost made it our home. I can't believe we stayed there for a month! Last days with our tutors, last time I'm probably gonna see some of those buildings, etc. The weekend was spent just resting and some studying for the finals. It was a good thing to do before hitting up Munich. We had two finals on Tuesday and a presentation on Wednesday. Everything went fairly decently, and we were all set to go to Munich. We also had a 4th of July party in Germany (yes, I haven't had that even in US!). But this one doubled up as our farewell party too since pretty much everyone that we met during our stay in Weimar showed up at the party. It was a lot of fun, we had red, blue, and white balloons everywhere, even got a group picture with them. We also sang the national anthem and then a few people gave performances of a couple of patriotic songs. It was a great last day.

On Thursday afternoon we all headed out for Munich. It wasn't a bad train ride and I spent most of it watching a movie (thank you ICE trains for those power outlets!). First impression of Munich- RAINS! Ahh, that was disappointing, but thankfully they didn't last too long. But it did rain hard enough that we had to spend 15 minutes under a passage on our way to hostel from the train station, so that our luggage and us of course doesn't get all wet. More about Munich in the next post!

Posted by dhruval.shah 07.08.2012 06:32 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Buchenwald

Buchenwald. Have you heard about it? Chances are, you probably have. It's one of the biggest concentration camps held by Nazis during the Hitler regime. The place is located very close to Weimar, in fact a local bus goes there on an hourly basis. I did not know this until now. This was the case during the Hitler regime too - no one in Weimar knew that there was a place of mass human torture so close to their city. What's even more surprising is that most of the big concentration camps in Germany were close to major cities. Dachau was close to Munich, Ravensbrück was close to Berlin, and so on.

The concentration camp was built for a capacity of 12000 people, but of course that was not the number of people that were admitted there. We all tried to guess the number, but still fell well short of the actual number of 60,000+. Yes, 5x the capacity in a concentration. This would've been much rougher than what it sounds to us. We started with watching a short film about the camp and then had a tour around the huge camp area - which looked like a map of one of the modern day shooter games. The guide showed us the path that the trucks took, to admit the new prisoners. We were told about the whole process of admitting, how everyone would be sanitized (which is surprising, because the camp itself was one of the most unhygienic place ever based on what I learned). After sanitizing the prisoners were divided according to their skills and families were parted away. Little kids were kept separate, and strong men were forced to do heavy work. We went to the crematorium after that, and hands down, this was the most moving visit during my trip to Europe. The way the prisoners were killed and cremated, I seriously don't have words to describe it. It was so sad and pathetic that even to this day, everyone is supposed to observe silence while inside the crematorium. The capacity of the crematorium was about 600 bodies/day, and were people were killed in bulk. Almost 33,000 people were killed/cremated/buried here in total.

We did a short but interesting visit to the museum after this. Here they had excerpts from what the visitors have told about the camp, a lot of excerpts from talks with American soldiers that freed the camp. These were some very interesting talks. We got to see some rare pictures of the camp. One of the photographers, a French civilian, was a prisoner himself at the camp. He took pictures with a camera that he was able to obtain from some rubble, by hiding the camera in his shirt, and saving the film for nearly 2 years before he was able to develop it (after the freedom). None of the SS men (the protection staff, as they called the people who managed the camps) have pictures that show them torturing the prisoners. Such pictures were not allowed and if someone took them, it'd result in death! There were some interesting stories about what happened after the camp was set free. Honestly, i wished I had more time to spend here. The 4-5 hours that I spent there were definitely not enough.

Posted by dhruval.shah 06.29.2012 10:14 Comments (0)

A lighter(er?) week...

Got back from Italy, a bit tired. Very next day, we had a long list of trips to make. So yeah, that wasn't the best thing. But the good part was - NO CLASSES! We start the Monday by visiting a candy and cookie factory outlet store. I initially decided not to buy anything and didn't do so for 10 minutes after I entered the store. But then I started tasting some of the candies and cookies that they had for us, and holy cow I couldn't control myself after that. I ended up buying about 14 euros worth of sweets, thinking I'd take them back home. I haven't consumed them yet, so lets hope they're intact till I get back home. We went to a porcelain company, Kahla AG after this. Kahla is a very popular porcelain manufacturing company in Europe, at par with Corningware from the US. I got to see the production facility and how the work conditions are over here. It was an interesting visit to be honest. Then we had lunch there and a chance to buy something from their factory outlet (again!), but ended up not getting anything.

From Kahla, we headed out to Leuchtenburg. This was a very scenic and beautiful castle on top of a small hill. The foundation here collects porcelain pieces from under the seas, pieces that were lost during the transport of porcelain in previous ages. They've been able to gather a beautiful collection of arts dating back a number of centuries. Leuchtenberg - which means Light Castle, has a huge tower from which one can see the German countryside miles away. It was a very scenic view from the top of this tower. We literally saw a rainstorm approaching the caste, if only we had an hour to spend there we could've seen the storm closing in. But we were getting late so we came back down, and had some of the best cakes that I've ever had in my life in the cafe downstairs. The cafe was overlooking a valley, another great scenery. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera here, otherwise I would've gotten some fantastic pictures! We headed back after having the cakes and coffee.

Tuesday was nothing special, just usual classes. On Wednesday, we did a trip of the Bauhaus University (that's where we study). It's a very interesting school of architecture, responsible for the modern art style in architecture and interior design. The Bauhaus movement is responsible for some of the modern skyscrapers that we see. It'd be kinda interesting to check it out on Google/Wikipedia if you're interested!

Posted by dhruval.shah 06.28.2012 14:46 Comments (0)

Venezia

Floating city. Beautiful!

Alright, so we take a early morning 8.30 AM train from Florence to Venice. My first impression of Venice, WHAT THE HECK!? There's no cars here, I was not aware of that. Yeah, the only way to get around in Venice is waterways. That's the beauty of this city, a floating city. You open the doors of your house, and there's a canal. It seemed as if the city is crazily flooded. We got a day pass for the waterbus so we could roam around as much we like and started off the tour after getting some tourist information from a rather lousy tourist office.

The first place we went to was the Realto bridge. It's quite a scenic place (but that's every place in Venice), giving views of the busy district of Venice with a lot of shops and restaurants. Small streets connect to this bridge on both the sides, pretty easy to get lost here. A lot of shops selling souvenirs, I am not really sure how all of them survive simultaneously! I guess tourists buy a heck lot of stuff, and Venice has more tourists than residents. Took a lot of pictures here, a few of them came out to be very beautiful. This place was too beautiful to be real!

From here we headed out to the main place in Venice - Piazza St. Marco. There's a square here, around which there's a church, a castle, and a bunch of other stuff. Very scenic place again. We went into the small streets near St. Marco and found a small place to eat a Panini! Quickly enough, we got back and toured around the city for a bit. After that we decided to do a Gondola ride, which is a Venice tradition. Our Gondolier was awesome, typical Italian man that I had expected. he gave us a small insight into the history of the city and gave us some details about the landmarks that came our way. We went inside the city, thru the small canals. It rained a little bit too, which made the ride a lot more amazing!

We took a watertaxi from St. Marco back to Academia, to visit an Art Museum. However, instead of visiting the museum, we decided to have some Italian coffee and after that headed off to the tip of that island to visit a church. We got some awesome pictures from the island tip and just hung out there for a bit. We saw a HUGE cruise pass by, probably going to Greece, Venice-Greece being a very popular cruise line. It was time for the GTL people to head off to Florence then, so we went back to Realto bridge district for them to grab food, while me and Aakash had dinner after they left. Our train was at 9.05 pm from Venice to Munich, where we reached at 6.15 in the morning. After that we had a connection to Naumburg, from where we came to Weimar! It was not a bad train ride, but somehow we were still tired. We freshened up in Weimar, ate lunch (döner kebap ftw!) and I took Aakash to show Erfurt! I got back home at around 7 PM and then just kinda chilled out and slept early to get some required rest! Oh man, that was one happening weekend :)

Posted by dhruval.shah 06.25.2012 09:38 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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