Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation
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Day 17: Munich
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Day 14: Lahr
Day 15: Lucerne
Day 16: Munich
Day 17: Munich
Day 18: Nurnberg
Day 19: Dresden
Day 20: Berlin
Day 21: Berlin




Ampervilla Hotel


Cool and foggy in the morning; hot and sunny with a high of 29°C in the afternoon

Text Box: Fast Fact:
Why is Oktoberfest called "Oktober"-fest when it actually begins in September? 
The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September. By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over “die Wiesen” or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times. 


















Day 17: Thursday, September 21, 2006     Munich, Germany

A Day of Good and Evil

This was one of the strangest days of our vacation.  After a morning of sadness and anger, we spent an afternoon and evening of laughter and fun.  We visited the concentration camp at Dachau in the morning and spent the evening at Oktoberfest in Munich.

Kathryn had done a lot of research on the computer finding us hotels for our trip.  Because it was in the middle of Oktoberfest, all the hotels in Munich were ridiculously expensive.  She managed to find the lovely Ampervilla Hotel, in the countryside north of Munich.  We started the day with a huge breakfast that was included in the price of the room.  We had eggs, bacon, pastries, cereal, yogurt, cheese, meats, and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Kathryn in our lovely hotel room

We set out driving the 20 km to Dachau on country roads that wound through several small villages.  Kathryn was noting land marks so we could find our way home later.  We arrived in Dachau but could not find the concentration camp - it is not something that they really advertise.  We found the train station and found an outdoor map in German that we finally managed to figure out and made our way to the KZ-Dedenkstatte Concentration Camp.  After parking, it was a short walk to the front gates where you see the famous inscription "Arbreit Macht Frei" - the great Nazi lie that "Work will set you free".  On March 21 1933, Heinrich Himmler ordered that a concentration camp be erected at Dachau. This was the beginning of a terror system in Dachau that cannot be compared with any other state persecution and penal system.  In June 1933, Theodor Eicke was appointed commandant of the concentration camp.  He

Ken at the gates to Dachau

developed an organizational plan and rules with detailed stipulations, which were later to become valid for all concentration camps. Also from Eicke came the division of the concentration camp into two areas, namely the prisoners' camp surrounded by a variety of security facilities and guard towers and the so-called camp command area with administrative buildings and barracks for the SS. Later appointed to the position of Inspector for all Concentration Camps, Eicke established the Dachau concentration camp as the model for all other camps and as the murder school for the SS. Overall, more than 200,000 prisoners from more than 30 states were imprisoned in Dachau.  For more information on the Dachau Camp, see

We spent over four hours touring the museum and the grounds.  There were hundred of displays that gave the history of the camp with photos and artifacts of some of the people that died there.  Several parts of the camp have been restored to their original state. This was a very educational experience but it left us sad and angry that human beings could do this to other human beings.  Some of the images that still stay with me are the bunkhouses were the prisoners slept, the "shower rooms" and the actual ovens where the bodies were burned.  I took lots of photos and you can see them in the slide show below.

Three Photo Panorama of the Parade Square, Dachau Concentration Camp: prisoners were made to stand for our on the square, sometimes watching others be punished.

We drove back to the train station to board the transit train into Munich (Munchen in German).  You could only buy tickets from a machine and we could not understand which of the several different kinds we should buy.  Kathryn said that if you want to find some one who speaks English, ask a young person as they all usually take English in school.  Sure enough we asked a young woman and her English was good enough to show us the right ticket to buy.  We took the train into downtown Munich and wandered around the city centre. 

Huge crowds started to gather in the main square in the late afternoon.  The Munich city hall has a famous clock tower and Glockenspiel.  Every day at 11am, noon and at 5pm the almost life-size figures of the Glockenspiel re-enact two events of Munich’s history: a tournament held in 1568 to celebrate a royal marriage and Schäfflertanz (Cooper’s Dance), which dates back to the 17th century then celebrating the passing of the plague.  After watching the Glockenspiel, we walked around and found the famous Munich Hofbrauhaus

Waiting for the Glockinspiel

where Kenny had a half-pint of the local beer and a huge pretzel.  We then caught the train to Oktoberfest.  I had always pictured Oktoberfest as a festival that took place in several taverns in Munich and other cities but it is much, much more.  We got off the train at Theresienwiese and went up the steps and onto the grounds of die Weisn (as the Germans call Oktoberfest). 

You arrive on this huge carnival grounds (much like the Calgary Stampede only bigger) filled with rides, souvenir shops and food booths.  On the grounds are 14 huge beer tents (see map at right) that hold from 4000 to 8000 beer-drinking, loud-singing Germans and tourists who are pretty much all drunk.  The tents are open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm and are packed every night.  For those of you who are familiar with the Calgary Stampede, imagine 14 Nashville North tents only 4 or 5 times larger.  This was way larger than anything Ken had pictured in his mind.  As you can see in the slide show

A map of die Weisn

photos below, these beer tents hold thousands of people.  There are rows and rows of picnic tables in the middle with a elevated bandstand on end.  There is a fifteen foot wide aisle that encircles the tables in the middle.  The waitress move on the outside of this aisle as the carry four, five or six of the huge beer steins.  If you do not have a seat, you can lean on the short waist high walls that are on the inside of the aisle.  If you make a mistake and try standing on the outside, bouncers very quickly arrive and move you out of the way.

It was already after 7:00 pm when we arrived so all the tents were full.  We walked around in a couple so Ken could catch the atmosphere and then decided it was time for a beer. After buying a beer from one of the waitresses, we walked around taking pictures.  Kathryn came across four lovely frauleins and asked if Ken could have his picture taken with them.  They happily obliged.  While we were standing in the aisle, another young couple invited us into the middle to share a table with their friends and bought Ken another beer when they found out we were Canadians.

Kenny and his "girls"

Ken would have been happy staying here at lot longer but he was taking several different drugs and wasn't supposed to be drinking at all - but who can go to Oktoberfest and not have a beer?  We left the beer tent and wandered back toward the subway station.  We noticed that about one-quarter of the people were dressed in drindl and lederhosen.  We took several photos of the beer tents and you can see them in the montage below.  We walked back through the crowds to the subway station and caught the train back to Dachau were we had left our car.

The trip from the hotel to Dachau involved many turns and secondary roads.  It was easy going there because we could just follow the signs that said Dachau.  Coming home was not as easy and we got lost - again.  There were no signs and the landmarks the Navigator had noted earlier looked nothing the same at night as it did during the day.  After driving around the Munich countryside we finally stumbled across a highway we recognized and made our way home.   We went a little north of Fahrenzhausen to a small family restaurant and had a very good German meal and then back to the hotel for a good rest.

The following is a montage of some of the beer tents at Oktoberfest.  Click on a thumbnail for a larger view.

Click here for a slide show of Day 17 photos.

Day 18

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