So before heading to the shit show known as Oktoberfest, we decided to have a little layover in Berlin. Well WE didn’t decide, Munich was loaded up and prices were through the roof. Spending a few days would actually save our wallets and livers, also giving us a chance to see a new city.
Not a lot was accomplished, but what we did see was pretty powerful. We of course got acquainted with German food, which I must say, surprised the hell out of me. It might actually be my new favourite food! (Sorry, Italy.) Pork knuckle, curry wurst, schnitzel, roast chicken, pretzels…god it was all so magical. The 4 of us (myself and the doppelgagner brother, a childhood-ish friend and his older sis) dined out quite a bit and started our “drinking stretches” for Oktoberfest. Lucky for us, Berlin had its own mini-Oktoberfest for us to start practicing.
Our first day, we wandered down an area which had pieces from the old Berlin Wall. First thoughts were that it felt like a park. Families, friends and couples just hanging out having lunch, playing games, and the random graffiti artist working on his latest creations.
As we walked down the wall you start to get a feeling of how large it was, mind you, we only saw an extremely small portion and it felt like a pretty long walk with no break in the wall. Various murals take up portions of the wall with contributions from different places across the globe. With the illustrations giving you a glimpse of what the Germans were feeling before, during and after “The Wall”.
The next day was a day trip and tour of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. We all felt like it was important to see such a powerful part in world history. All of us being Canadian, we have a connection with the World Wars, plus living in Toronto has given us the opportunity to meet a lot of cultures, and where we grew up we have many close friends who are Jewish. Heck, my first girlfriend was Jewish.
Our tour guide really painted the picture for us, at times it was deeply saddening and gut wrenching that humans could do this to fellow humans.
We started in station “A” where all prisoners were checked-in and greeted by an iron gate with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” which translates to “work brings freedom.”
During the tour it was hard to hear about the conditions and the deceit that was given to the prisoners. Working, starving and freezing to death were all common, along with the standard torture that more often than not ended in death. In one area the guide explained that the SS would tie the hands of the prisoners behinds their backs, hung them by the hands dislocating the shoulders and then swing them back and forth intensifying the pain. As demonstrated…
When he showed us this I stood there in a daze, shaking my head. The most disturbing part was when he explained that Station “A” was where they entered, then the conditions they lived and worked through, and then Station “Z” was where they would be set free, or lead to believe this.
We were lead to the trenches where the guards would drink and then open fire on masses of prisoners, the drinking part was to make it easier for the guards to perform. This was later proved as traumatizing to the guards and the “showers” were introduced. Groups of prisoners were lead to Station “Z” were they were told that they were to be set free, but would need to take showers before this could happen. Staring at the floor of the gas chamber, at a non-functioning “decoy” drain, my heart sank. In their heads they were so close to freedom after enduring unthinkable hardships, even after the gate at Station “A” telling them that “work brings freedom”, it was all a mind fuck.
At the conclusion of the trip, our guide explained that as much as it is an embarrassing part of history for Germans and the majority refuse to even speak about it, he feels it’s necessary to educate and inform to ensure that events like these don’t repeat themselves in history.
Now on the the painfully fun, Munich and OKTOBERFEST! We meet up with friends from our Denmark/Sweden leg, and another from back home and double our drinking team number. Power in numbers, right?
Food, drinks, games, debauchery and unreasonably expensive costumes = Oktoberfest. If you plan on attending sometime in your life (which you ABSOLUTELY should) it requires some serious planning and essentially manning up to the max.
You have to get there early! We got there around eleven in the morn and were extremely lucky to have met some German women that offered to share a table with us. If it weren’t for them we would have been out of luck. Danke German ladies, danke.
It was a messy day, and it all happen so fast! We were pounding steins of beers and eating all type of food like it were our dying hours. We spent stupidly on funny hats and glasses that lit up just to make sure that if we were not acting stupid, we certainly looked stupid. Even my camera had too much to drink…
Once we saw that we were slowing down a tad we decided to hit the carnival portion. We ran with handfuls of bratwurst and legs of roasted chicken to the haunted houses, roller coasters and bumper cars. The good news: everyone else was in the same boat, it was thousands upon thousands of idiots, just like us. Patrons were stumbling, arguing, hugging, laughing and crying. You could feel the love!
The bad news: it was 7 pm and we were SPENT. By 8:30 pm we were back at the apartment trying to recall all the stupid thing we said and did, yet didn’t regret a thing. We all looked at each other and said “next year? yah?” This may be a semi-annual event, it was that memorable, from what we remember…
The next morning we picked up our car from the airport for our road trip to Switzerland and noticed my brother favouring his neck. I asked him “did you sleep on your neck weird or something?” He looked straight ahead and then smiled a tiny bit from one corner of his mouth and replied, “No. I think I got whiplash from the bumper cars.”
More photos click here!