Saturday, September 15, 2012

There are no stupid questions

Yeah, right. That's about as accurate as "the customer is always right."

My stupid question of the day was at the train station. I need to buy a train ticket to get to the castle I'm going to tomorrow. I tried to buy it early, but I couldn't find the destination in the system -- three times.

I went to a tourist station and asked, "What's the train stop for Fussen?"

Her answer? "Fussen."

I tried to explain that I couldn't find it; she told me to go ask the train people. I headed back to the train station, then, not interested in trying to talk to someone, tried the ticket machine again.

Well, as a spelling bee champion (16 years ago) I should have remembered that spelling something properly makes all the difference. As someone who's typed on that blastedly confusing German keyboard, I should have remembered that they have more letters. See, it's not f-u-s-s-e-n. It's f-u with an umlaut over it-s-s-e-n. Guess what popped right up?

Anyway, after that moment of genius, I went to Dachau, took the wrong turn three times before getting on the right trail and walked the three kilometers the prisoners took. Considering the atrocities perpetrated there, it is a remarkably peaceful place. Dachau was the longest-running concentration camp and the camp the rest were modeled after.

Some of it was too horrible to imagine. The two crematoriums are still there, the original incinerators in place. The chimney stands tall. One of the barracks had been rebuilt so visitors could see how prisoners lived.

Some of it I didn't have to imagine. In the interest of making sure the world does not forget, the displays include graphic images of men being tortured and humiliated, of people who were starving to death and of people who had starved to death. It was effective. There are some things you simply cannot forget.

Then I listened to two Americans on the subway name dropping the football players they've met. One is cousins with Dan Marino. I quickly wished I'd sat by Germans.

Back in Munich, I went to the main city center and just walked. I looked at more dirndls (I'm here on the eve of Octoberfest, so people are getting ready) but didn't take the plunge. I discovered windows here open two ways, got back to my hotel, opened it all the way, stuck my head out and wondered what living in a big city would be like. I ate a salad to make up for the two desserts and the days of pork. I discovered my taxi driver took the long way to my hotel last night I listened to an organist and an oompah band. Yes, I said oompah. You'd listen too if you knew that was a genre.

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