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a bit of thought from a guy and his girl, "Standing Before the Face of God" …

Spring Break – France, Germany, & Jason

Okay now, definitely just got back from backpacking through Europe and I can’t believe everywhere we went and everything we’ve seen! Every penny (well Euro-cent) we spent was completely worth it…even though I’m never going to be able to buy food and afford transportation back to the States now! Jason came over for his first ever college spring break from IUP and we left with Big Josh and Mikey. On Sunday evening we took an all night train up to Paris, then that night another all night train to Munich, Germany, and then spent a night there, and came back the following day to Roma via another night train.

So, on Sunday night, we all got a good sleep on a train to Paris. We arrived in Paris around 9am and didn’t understand any of their public transportation so we walked the entire day! Oh well, it got us more into the city! We decided we would see the sites based on their location so we could walk from one to another and then to the new train station for that evening’s trip to Munich without backtracking anywhere. So the first site we stumbled upon was the Cathedral of Notre Dame (aka, where the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame takes place). This place was huge! Larger than the churches in Rome and more “gothic” in appearance. Gargoyles were on the walls and the walls themselves were very dirty, but this seemed to help give the cathedral it’s “image”. The funny thing was, for this “gothic” type church, it was located on a nice and well kept island/community in the middle of the Seine River in Paris. Inside, the building seemed the same as the outside, dirty walls and very old! Check out the pictures and a video to see what I mean!

From the Cathedral of Notre Dame, we headed for the Louvre. The Louvre is the museum that houses the world-famous Mona Lisa by Da Vinci, and yes we went and saw it! The museum itself was enormous and we got plenty of pictures of lots of artwork inside that we knew little about, ranging from Egyptian, to Greek, to Roman, and to French art. We also got to see apartment rooms filled with the furniture of Napoleon. This was very interesting and cool to see. And now, the Mona Lisa…it’s small, it’s plain, it’s worth LOTS OF $$$$$$. I’m not sure why it’s so renowned but it is, so we had to see it. It’s sort of shocking, if you haven’t heard before you got there, but it’s actually very small, only about 3 ft by 2ft in dimensions (if that). But this small work of art had lots of security around it and lots of visitors. We couldn’t take photos of it, like most important pieces of artwork, but Mikey managed a bad 8 second video I’m going to try and get from him to put online so you can check out.

Once outside of the Louvre, our next goal was the main goal of the day, FOOD! Okay, just kidding, but we did want to eat before we got to the Eiffel Tower! We knew it would be a hike, so we took our time, walked past some cool buildings, ate Chinese, and then found the enormous Eiffel Tower. We were just like your typical tourists, taking pictures and staring at it, but it was really worth it because it was truly something like you have never seen. So of course…we had to go up! We dished out our 11 euros to get to the top and took the elevator up. Now, Mikey and I were scared out of our mind because going to the top, your elavator has windows and it’s as scary as can be. Josh and Jason made fun of us the entire time, but whatever…we got our pictures and videos and we at least didn’t chicken out! The view was definitely worth it though! There’s a video online here, but it doesn’t sound too good because of the great gusts of wind when we were at the top, so pay very close attention to hear everything.

After braving the Tower, we got hot chocolate to warm up and proceeded to the Arch de Triomphe. This is an ENORMOUS arch built by Napoleon to commemorate victories and military success. It also has 11 streets running to it to form a giant, un-laned, mass-caotic, circular road around it! Underneath the arch is also the French Tomb of their Unknown Soldier. To get to the arch itself, we had to take an underground tunnel from one of the streets, under the circular road and to the arch. Since this was our last stop, we were able to see the Eiffel tower all lit up at night! There’s also a video online of this too! From here, we headed for our new train station and hoped onto a night train for Munich!

We arrived in Munich the next morning around 9am. Our hostel was only 1 block away too! And ohhh how we lucked out with our hostel this time compared to Florence or Venice!!! When we were booking, somehow I was able to find this place called Wombats. It was ranked the #6 hostel in the World and the Cleanest hostel in Europe! This place lived up to it’s expectations. It was more like a nice hotel for younger travelers. The owners were extremely friendly and helpful with getting around the city, there was a restaurant/bar, computers w/ internet, laundry, showers in every room, and lots of pretty women…haha! But anyways, there was more to Munich than just a hostel!

After showering and gathering some energy and eating, we bought an all-day transportation pass (Munich is known for and does have one of THE BEST public transportation systems in the world) and headed for Dachau. Now if you don’t know what Dachau is, it was the first Nazi Concentration Camp, located only about 30 minutes outside of Munich. Probably the eeriest/craziest place I’ve ever been to. I’m a big history fan and enjoy my facts about the past, so this was right up my alley, along w/ the other 3 guys. We got to the Camp and all that remains now is the Concentration Camp itself. Dachau actually used to be what you could call a plantation. SS gaurds were trained here, administrative buildings were there, farms, and factories. The camp itself probably only made up 1/15 of the plantation. However, the prisoners were the ones that kept it going and the Nazi agenda moving. Prisoners were forced into every type of labor you can think of, especially arms production. The only thing not remaining in the camp were the barracks (the 2 in the pictures are reconstructions), but I believe they were torn down with GREAT reason. Anyways, we walked through the main gate, proceded past the Roll Call area where prisoners were checked in EVERY day, and past the barrack row. We walked along the security fences. This was amazing (I have a picture). There was a no-tresspass area where SS gaurds would shot at you, then a huge ditch, then an obstacle of barbed wire on the ground, then an electrified barbed wire fence, and then a stone wall. Basically, the Nazi’s wanted to make escape impossible along with intimidating the prisoners, which was part of everyday life in the camp. We also came to the Krematorium. In here is where bodies were burned, clothes were disinfected, prisoners were shot and gased (no mass gassings though at this camp, but some were killed in small groups). We walked through the actual building, stopped by the memorials over the mass graves, and passed by the memorial to the tomb of the Unkown Prisoner, representing all the unidentified people. We were able to also walk through the 2 reconstruced barracks and saw how the prisoners were kept (lousy conditions, overcrowding by 700% when the camp was liberated!). Lastly, we walked through the old Prisoner Administrative building. This is where prisoners were first registered, stripped of their dignity and clothes, showered, and ate (on seldom occassion). In here, we watched a half hour video on the history of the camp and then we left after about a good 2-3 tour of the camp. This is one humbling experience and will surely be a memorable one. Take a look at the pictures that correspond with everything I’m talking about, and the quick video I took.

After Dachau, we walked past the Munich Town Hall, where Hitler spoke to crowds from. Munich was where the Nazi’s and Hitler began and started there power for political dominance from. We walked through this building the following day on Wednesday, but for this evening it was time for dinner! We went to the Hofbrauhaus. It’s an OLD brewry/restaurant where local Munich citizens have been going to for many, many years! Turns out, this is where Hitler first started speaking his political view to others in the 1920’s in a few uppers rooms. We got a GREAT Bavarian meal though with sasuages, and mashed potatoes, and saurkraut, and dessert! This type of meal is something Big Josh and I have been craving about for a few months now! After dinner we called it a night and went back to Wombats.

The next day we took our attention off of WWII and turned it to the 1972 Munich Olympics. This is when/where the Palestinian Terrorists murdered Israel team members. We saw the old buildings where this happened but also got to walk around the Olympic grounds. We were able to go up into the large Olympic Tower overlooking Munich and the Olympic grounds. The grounds below were beautiful, with rolling hills, a lake, awesome architectural buildings for their stadium, Olympic Hall, and the Swimming Pool. Next to the Olympic Grounds were the BMW headquarters and a museum (we didn’t go in) and some manufactoring plants. I thought it would be really cool to see these grounds after just being at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy! After the tour here, it was time again for a late lunch and we headed to Weisses BrauHaus. Another brewery, but this one seemed not as touristy, and had MANY local Bavarians inside! We ate at a table with three older Germans, who seemed to be just enjoying the day, drinking a beer, and talking. We finally started talking a little bit of English with them and they were very curious of what we were doing but seemed to be happy to be talking to us about the city and what not. Inside, you could tell how old these brauhaus’ were. Everywhere, you could see people just reading papers, grabbing a quick lunch, and/or talking with a friend. These were and seem to still be part of the society…very cool! Oh yea, I got a plate of pork, sausage, bread dumplings….and more saurkraut! After here, we went to the Nymphenburg Palace, which I know nothing about because it was closed. However, it’s located in an ENORMOUS park and we were able to walk around the palace, which had to span 400 yards, and a pond in front, where we watched 2 swan struggle maneuvering on the ice (oh yea, Munich had snow on the ground, what a place to go for Spring Break)! From here, it was around 6pm and we road the tram a little bit to see more of the city and then proceeded back to the train station to eat Burger King! Once again, Josh and I, and also Mikey, got to indulge in food we haven’t seen nor had in about 2 months, we were pumped (Jason just didn’t understand it)! Then again, another night train back to good old Roma.

So check out the pictures, the videos, and if you have any questions about anything, ask me!

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