Monday, February 21, 2011

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Ok here we go with the next blog post.

If you haven't looked at the picture website lately, you may want to. There are some good pictures from Munich and Dachau. On Friday, we drove into Dachau. Dachau is a city about 20 minutes outside of Munich. Dachau is also home to the first Nazi concentration camp.

Walking through a concentration camp is one of those things that you can't really explain. Sure, you can explain the camp and what's still in it but you can't really explain the feeling you get when you walk through it (sorry if that sounded cliched).

Here's a little walk through of the Dachau concentration camp. When you first enter the camp, you walk through a big watch tower type gate. There is a metal gate that says "Arbeit macht Frei" (Work makes freedom). They put that slogan on the gates as some kind of sick humor. Then you walk into the main hall. They have turned the hall into a museum of the camp. There are old remnants of the camp and there are stories and information about the people who were imprisoned there. It talks about each ethnic group (Roma, Sinti, Poles, Communists, Jews) individually. One thing that I learned was that for the most part of the war, the Jews weren't the largest group imprisoned there. The larger groups were the Poles, the Russians and even a significant number of Catholic priests were imprisoned there. There are videos and memorials throughout the museum part of the camp. 

Next you can either walk into the courtyard (I think that's the right word) or into the prison house. The prison house is a long and narrow building with cells on each side of the hallway. Each cell is about 6 foot by 6 foot. Then they sometimes divided those cells into fours and the tiny cells were shared by 4 people. There was no heat and sometimes no light in the prison cells. Then we walked into the courtyard. It is a big empty yard where the prisoners had to stand for roll call. Then they showed the barracks. All the original barracks are torn down but they have a few exact replicas. They had wooden bunks and each bed (not even the size of a single bed) sometimes had to be shared by prisoners when it was overcrowded. Then you walk down the main road. On the sides of the road are the foundations from where the barracks used to be. At the end of the road are three memorial buildings. One of the buildings is for Jews, one is for Catholics and one is for Protestants. The Jewish memorial is a stone building that goes partly underground but has a hole in the top where the sun shines in. The Catholic memorial is a round cobblestone building with an open front. Inside there is an altar and on top is a crown of thorns. The Protestant memorial is basically an actual church. There are memorial candles, pews and an altar. There are even services there on Sundays. 

Now you can either go into the adjoining Cloister or onto the next part of the camp. The Cloister belongs to a group of nuns who established the cloister there after the Holocaust. The next part of the camp is the Crematorium and Gas Chamber. On the way you pass the fourth religious memorial. This one is for Russian Orthodox people. The Crematorium and Gas Chambers are in an old brick building. It's set up so that you can walk through it from start to end. You walk into the waiting room, then the changing room, then the gas chamber and then the Crematorium. In the changing room, they explained how they tricked the prisoners into getting into the gas chambers. Walking through the gas chamber was by far the hardest part. There's just a feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about what happened in the exact place you are standing. I learned at the end (while eavesdropping on someones private tour) that there are peep holes into the gas chambers so that the Nazis could watch what was going on inside. The Crematorium is at the far end of the building. It consists of maybe 5 ovens (and 2 in another building). The Crematorium is another thing that I really cant explain well. 

The way out of the camp is along the edge of it. The camp is surrounded by electric fence, barb wire and large guard towers. Another thing I learned at the concentration camp was that the guards would sometimes take the prisoner's hats, throw them over the fence and tell them to go get them. If the prisoner refused, he was shot for disobeying. If he went to get his hat, he was shot for "trying to escape" and the guard got a week of vacation for stopping him. It's things like that that really made me stop and think how anybody could be that cruel. 

Okay, on to the fun part of this blog post. Saturday was spent wandering through Munich. We watched the glockenspiel in the Munich City Hall and bought more parts of my lederhosen. There are pictures on shutterfly of me in the lederhosen.

On the way home we stopped at the American diner again. It is a chain restaurant in Germany and even though there are none near us, we go every time we take a trip. I tried a hamburger with a fried egg on top. It wasn't exactly typical American food but it was good none the less.

Tomorrow morning I am taking the train to Bad Honnef. The CBYX scholarship recipients are having a "mid-stay" camp there. It goes from Tuesday until Sunday. Bad Honnef is a town on the Rhine river and kind of near Bonn. I haven't been to Bonn yet but it's supposed to be a cool city. I'm not entirely sure what we are doing for almost a week but at least I am going to be with the other exchange students.

We had sixty degree weather for like 2 weeks straight. I walked outside in just a t-shirt and was enjoying the early signs of summer. Unfortunately, today it started snowing again. The temperature dropped and the sun is basically gone again. 

Like usual, now comes the part where I talk about some differences between Germany and the USA. 

The first thing I should probably talk about is music in Germany. To start off, Germans listen to exactly the same music we do. They listen to music in English. I know that they all speak English but I want to know if they actually understand all the songs. Of course there are also German bands but they're pretty rare. It's the same way with movies. They just dub ours into German. There are also a few true German movies but not many (Goodbye Lenin for example, every German has seen that movie). Another thing I don't entirely understand is why the German artists sing parts of their songs in English. 

This one is kind of random but Germans all write their 1's differently. It looks like 1 but the little dash-thing at the top goes all the way to the bottom. I can't find a picture of it though. Also a capital g looks just like a lower case g except bigger. There is no G like that one ------------------------------------------------------------>

I write my G's like that and they used to always ask me what that was. 

Another thing about Germany is that the deposit on a bottle is like 45 cents instead of 5. Also, the deposit is on all bottles. When you get almost 50 cents per bottle back, it's needless to say that everyone brings them back. Another thing is that in Germany people search through public garbage cans to find cans and bottles to return for money. In the USA, I guess people do this too but here it really is normal. You see grown men in business suits searching through trash bins to find a bottle. 

I don't know what it is about taking notes in Germany but no one uses lined paper. They all use graph paper instead. In German, English or French class; they still take notes on graph paper. I'm starting to catch on to this and now write mostly on graph paper too. Also, no one uses pencils. Seeing as their fountain pens are erasable, there is really no need for pencils. 

Germans tell time as 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,
18,19,20,21,22,23 o'clock. They also use the day/month/year setting when writing the date. This next one goes without saying but Germany is on the metric system.

Funny story in relation to the metric system. I was in NWT class and we were calculating something that had to do with speed. This was a Thursday and after 5 pm so needless to say after 8 hours of German education (including classes like physics, chemistry, government) I was out of it. I had had enough school for that day. Of course, he decided to call on me to convert some measurement. The first problem was that I probably wasn't paying as good of attention as I should of been and the second problem is that when it comes to the metric system; I am absolutely clueless. So I just kind of sat there awkwardly pretending to do math in my head and hoping he would take the hint and call on someone else. He didn't call on someone else, he just waited. Eventually someone whispered the answer to me and I just said it. 

Also on Thursday, we had German. This story kind of cancels out the fail in the last one. We are for some reason learning about the British Monarchy in German class. Not entirely sure why we're studying it but I actually know more about the British Monarchy than as the last few units. Well she asked who was the British Monarch who beheaded his wives. Nobody knew it and so I thought I'd give it a try (what did I have to lose anyway). I guess Henry the 8th and I was right. The teacher just kind of took a minute to register the fact that I answered it right and then corrected me in that in German, he is Heinrich the 8th. Then I answered some more right about Anne Boleyn and Mary Stewart. It's kind of fun to surprise people by answering questions.

The moral of those two stories is that the "boring and useless junk that they teach you in school" is actually useful. The metric system for example, we learned all about it. I just never thought I would use it and kind of played it off. I was wrong, I ended up needing it. The history of the British monarchy on the other hand was basically half a year's topic in AP European History last year. I remember thinking, why do I have know the difference between King Henry the 8th and King James the 1st? I ended up needing that too. 

Ok well as I said earlier, I am going to a CBYX camp tomorrow morning and I still haven't packed yet. I should probably do that now.

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