What a ride it’s been! I’m writing this on the plane from Munich back to Heathrow, with less than an hour until landing! Feels strange to be coming back home as it’s only really been a fleeting visit to Germany, and the last time I was abroad, it was for a far longer time; my 3 month stay in America last summer!
Wednesday was a fairly low-key day; other than some general housework, I took the youngest child in the family to the park for a while whilst my hosthad a bit of a rest, and then went to Erlangen quickly to do a little bit of work formatting the blog and catching up with friends, as well as checking my travel arrangements for this weekend. Only just made it back in the nick of time for my host to head out for the evening whilst I babysat again.
The kids are remarkably easy to look after; they really are so well behaved! Their boundless energy, whilst a little tiring to keep up with, is no problem compared to some kids I’ve come across in my life! Whilst I can’t say that I’ve been here long enough to really get that attached, it will be weird to be back in my quiet house with only my parents (and the dogs) and relatively calm surroundings. I’ve got used to having the kids underfoot, and really, they’re great kids! It’s also been nice to speak Czech, though a little difficult at times! I must make an effort to speak Czech more at home with my mum!
On Thursday, I made my final trip out to Nuremberg. I really love the town, it’s such a nice place with so much to do; an area like Bavaria which is so rich in culture is brilliant for touring museums and historical sites. Today, my first goal was seeing the “Justizpalast”, the court where the Nuremberg Trials were held after the Second World War.
The exhibition, “Memorium Nuernberg Prozesse”, includes an audio tour of the court (Courtroom 600) and various exhibits and information boards detailing the trial process and giving comprehensive background on those involved, lawyers, judges and of course, defendants.
Okay, I admit it. I gave up mid-flight and it’s now been three days since I arrived home. Back to it!
It was quite surreal to sit in the courtroom where the Nuremberg Trials took place, but very interesting. This was the only time over the last few weeks that I’ve felt a small flicker of doubt about my decision to stop studying Law. But, I suppose, it was never really about the law for me. More about the history in this case, and the hope that I’d be able to help people and work in International Human Rights. But really, I don’t think studying Law is anywhere near the only route to this. After that, I went back to the Rally Grounds to see the parts I’d missed the week before, and to go around the museum there.
It was a brilliant museum; not too much introduction and filler regarding rise and rule of the National Socialists, which I really have seen enough of! The whole exhibition was far more specific, focused on the running of the Party Rallies. The Doku-Zentrum, as the museum was called, was a very comprehensive documentation of an aspect of National Socialism not often covered in general exhibits. The Congress Hall in particular was quite a sight.
Walking around the Luitpoldarena, a central part of the Rally Grounds, where the “Ehrenhalle”, or “Hall of Honour” is another of the only remnants of National Socialist presence in Nuremberg, was a strange experience.
The Arena is now a park where people walk every day on their way to work, or to use the jogging path, or just to walk their dogs. They’re walking across the grounds with no thoughts of the displays that took place there. It’s so odd that it’s even possible to get past that. I suppose that it’s good that the grounds are used like that, rather than becoming some bizarre consecrated location. And if you live in the area, I suppose you have no option but to look past it and accept what happened there. It was quite chilling to look out from the Ehrenhalle and remember the black and white photos taken from exactly that vantage point, of Hitler approaching thousands of rabid followers stood to attention.
Quite enough history for one day, I believe! Before the train ride back to Erlangen, I bought a couple of books for my journey back. One is called “Die Laendesammlerin” (The Collector of Countries), and looks to be a good read about a woman who decides to leave her mundane life and fulfil her dreams of travelling to every UN member state (sound a bit familiar?). The other was a book I saw in Germany a couple of years ago and wanted to buy, but didn’t think my German was up to it. It’s called “Er ist wieder da”, and has been translated into 28 languages, being enormously popular; the English translation is called “Look who’s back”.
It’s written in the first person, which has led to some sceptical reviews. It focuses on an alternate reality where Hitler wakes up in the street in Berlin, and removed from the context of the war and Germany under his control, must find his way in modern-day Germany under Angela Merkel, eventually finding a career in television and later returning to politics. It has been criticised for portraying Hitler more as a bumbling fool than the complete monster most would rather believe him to be. It’s written in a manner that often leads the reader to laugh not AT Hitler as he navigated modern Berlin, but with him, a rather disconcerting experience at times. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying the book so far; it’s witty and very funny, though a little bit of a slow read as some German words are unfamiliar and I’m sure some of the political satire must be going over my head.
On Friday, I didn’t do much other than finish up my packing for my onward journey, and then later take the older girl to archery before bidding goodbye to my host family (wrap up post on the Workaway experience yet to come) and heading out to catch my trains and bus to Munich.
Once I arrived in the city, my Couchsurfing host met me at the bus stop and took me to her apartment just outside central Munich. She and her boyfriend were lovely and welcoming from the start, and I immediately felt like I was with friends. We had some great conversations about our travels, and places we’d both visited.
Saturday was my final full day in Germany, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better day to round off the last couple of weeks! As soon as I had decided to visit Bavaria, I knew that I wanted to visit Neuschwanstein Castle in the mountains.
We set out fairly early to get to the nearest train station, Fuessen, before taking a bus to the castles. My host and the two guys we went to the castle with didn’t fancy going for the tours but they all live in Munich and so could basically go whenever they wanted. So I went for the tours of the two castles – Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein – by myself, before also going to get “that shot” of Neuschwanstein from Marienbruecke (Mary’s bridge) and going to the Museum of the Bavarian Kings, also in the valley by the Alpensee (Lake of the Alps).
Unfortunately there was a bit of a mis-communication which led to us not meeting up at the right time, pretty much everyone’s phone dying, and us missing a bus.
We got back to Munich around 11pm, and my host and I were consequently far too tired to go out again as we had planned! My bad…
I really loved it out there. The views of the Swiss Alps were beautiful, and the atmosphere of the place, with woodland and mountains and castles, was so peaceful. I’ve never, until that point, walking around by myself in Hohenschwangau, felt so utterly myself, without any unwelcome thoughts buzzing around in my mind or influences from other people.
Sunday was my departure date; I woke up quite late and my host took me to the train station, where I took the S-Bahn to the airport and went through all the check-ins and security procedures fairly smoothly and bought another book whilst waiting for my flight, which was then delayed for a while. The book was a brilliant one I had bought and read in America last summer, but had to give away as I didn’t have room in my backpack! I was excited to start reading it again – it is one of my all-time favourites, called “The Girl You Left Behind” by Jojo Moyes.
Flight went by without incident and then I had to wait a couple of hours before hot-footing it to the central bus station (as usual, cutting it very close with my timing) to catch my 3 hour coach back to Bridgwater, where my dad picked me up from the station.
All in all, the trip was absolutely brilliant, and I was glad of the opportunity to do a more low-key Workaway experience in Europe before heading off to Asia in a couple of weeks. I will do a wrap up post of my Workaway and Couchsurfing experiences, as well as possibly reviews of a couple of the cities I visited.
Thanks for reading, and my next diary entry will kick off with my journey to India!