Travel: Munich (Part II)

I apologize. At this point in my travels, the wanderlust has worn off and a sense of ennui has caught up with me. Hence, today was a lazy, hazy day. I had little motivation to cram as many events into my day as possible, therefore I slept in late, and meandered through town at a leisurely pace.

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First stop entailed a short visit to the Cuvilliés Theatre, which lies within the aforementioned Residenz Complex. It was ordered by Maximillian III Joseph outside the palace after a fire destored the previous St. George’s Hall. Construction spanned from 1751 to 1753 according to the design of François de Cuvilliés in rococo style.

If you look closely at the pictures from the Residenz Interior, you will see several rooms also exhibiting the Rococo Style. It is in this theater that Mozart’s Idomeneo premiered in 1781 and Carl Maria von Weber’s Abu Hassan in 1811. The theatre was intelligently meant to be multifunctional, and this was achieved via a floor that could be lowered or raised for ballroom festivities.

Lacking in energy, despite accomplishing little, I gave myself a reprieve by immersing myself in some casual reading and a glass of hot Chai (My favorite milky tea). Finally, summoning the impetus to move, I ventured to visit, now don’t be surprise, another palace.

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The Nymphenburg Palace was the main summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria designed in the Baroque style. The visionary was the italian architect Agostino Barelli, who was comissioned by the couple Ferdinand Maria and Henriette Adelaide of Savoy in 1664. It is within these walls that King Ludwig II was born in 1845, as the great-grandon of King Max I Joseph.

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While open to the public, the building continues to be home and chancery for the current Franz, Duke of Bavaria, who is head of the house of Wittelsbach. Jacobite, who trace the line of the British Monarchy through legal heirs of James II of England, he is the legitimate heir of the Stuart claims to the throne of Great Britain.

It is interesting to note however, that despite merely having a dukedom, this claim has not been actively pursued. I can’t say that I would have done the same in his place, albeit that as a ‘commoner’ I grew up with Disney Movies and imagined a happily ever after as a princess with a prince on a white horse to rescue her.

The Coach Museum:

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The Porcelain Museum:

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What are your thoughts on Monarchy? Democracy? I’m torn. While the medieival, monarchical period of history seems romantic, I also know that the power resulted in sever abuse and neglect of the general population. This doesn’t mean, however, that certain monarchs wielded economic and political decisions for the benefit of his people, in contrast to selfish gain by exploiting his subjects.

Travel: Bavarian Magic Castles

At this point in my trip, I have become increasingly uninterested in man-made structures, despite the story they tell about the daily lives of the clergy, royalty, and general population. Therefore, I took a day-trip to the heart of Bavaria; thankfully it was a gorgeous day filled with sunshine, that complemented my intense need to traipse through the natural undergrowth of the mountains.

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Modern day Bavaria comprises a large chunk of Southern Germany (approximately 27,200 square miles); this is 20% of the nation.  It originated as a duchy during the middle of the first millennium. Previously it had been inhabited by  Celts, but Bavarians began to emerge north of the alps, seeming to have coalesced out of the population remaining in the aftermath of the 5th century Roman withdrawal.

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This led way to the Duchy of Bavaria which was ruled by the house of Agilolfing from 554 to 788, before the last Duke Tassilo III was deposed by Charlemagne. In the following four centuries, numerous families held the post, but rarely did this extend beyond three generations.

 

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Fast-forward to the 1800s, when Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire, Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806. It then preserved its independence by capitalizing on the rivalries during the 1866 Austro-Prussian War.

Eventually, Bavaria became a part of the German Empire despite religious tension between the protestant Prussian state and the Bavarian Catholic Population. 

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Sorry, I always let myself get overly enthusiastic about the origins and history of an area. Perhaps I should have chosen to be a history major or study anthropology or archeology instead! Nonetheless, the mountainous region was beautiful and capped off by a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle.

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The brainchild of Ludwig II, it was designed as a  Romanesque Revival in homage to Richard Wagner. Fortunately, Ludwig paid for the construction with his personal fortune or via borrowing instead of selfishly utilizing public funds. Unfortunately, the king died before the castle was complete, and therefore many of the major features remain unbuilt to this day, with only 14 rooms finished.

The Myth:

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Ludwig II is often called ‘Mad King Ludwig‘. His younger brother Otto was considered insane, so it is claimed to be hereditary. He was deposed on the grounds of mental incapacity despite lack of medical support.

Furthermore Ludwig II died under mysterious circumstances when both him and is doctor were found dead in the waist-high water of Lake Starnberg the day after his confinement. The doctor had managed to sustain unexplained injuries to both his head and shoulder.

 

 

Travel: Munich Residenz

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Leaving Vienna behind, I bypassed my original plan of Salzburg (due to limited hostel options) to southern Germany and the city of Munich. To be honest, at this point in my travels I was sufficiently exhausted of the exhausting routine of staying at one city for a few days, hopping a train, and continuing to make my away around and across Europe. However, Munich has a medley of fascinating sights, and a few of them provided my the additional motivation needed for my enthusiasm not to dwindle.

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The primary impetus involved a visit to the Residenz; On my walk through Old Town, I was able to pass through the Karlstor (one of four medieval city gates ), gape at the awe-inspiring Town Hall (a massive gothic-revival structure that dominates the square), and enjoy the machinations of the glockenspiel.

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Associated with the intricately detailed glockenspiel is a Myth. During the year of the plague, 1517, coopers are said to have danced through the streets to, “bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions.” This dance became symbolic of the population’s perseverance  and their continued loyalty to the duke. As a result, this dance is traditionally performed every seven years, despite the current form not being defined until 1871.

Finally approaching the Residenz, one could not imagine the mysteries that lay within its walls. It is the former royal palace of the Bavarian Monarchs. The complex contains ten courtyards and encloses 130 rooms. Original builds were constructed in 1385, and financed as a sanction for the failed uprising against Stephen III and his younger brothers. Over the centuries it has been continuously developed, and after four hundred years, practically replaces the entire former city quarter. It now includes a large variety of styles such as Late-Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neo-Classicism.

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I didn’t nearly expect to get suctioned into a black hole of wonder and history, yet the Residenz is one of the few former palaces that have achieved this. Each room is both unique and a surprise, as the former rooms give few clues about the what architectural secrets it may contain. The work is intricately detailed, and provides a foundation upon which I could imagine the richness and allure of holding the Bavarian Crown. 5 hours later, I was exhausted, and had completely depleted any energy I had.

 

Travel: Berlin

2013-05-06 05.16.26Don’t get me wrong. Berlin is still a culturally vibrant and thriving city. It may have  a dark past, but despite those shadows, it has managed to fight beyond the repression, and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Sometimes it still gets a bad reputation as ‘the concrete city,’ but she bravely flaunts the lessons learned from the 20th century.

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For example, it has used former Nazi Locations such as the current Topography of Terror, Bebelplatz, and Fuhrer’s Bunker to educate the citizens about oppression, genocide, and the darker side of man. This allows for individuals to recognize the indicators of dictatorship, and provide hope for prevention of this power takeover be attempted again.

The museum about the rise of the Cold War at Checkpoint Charlie, and the international freedom memorial at the East Side Gallery, proclaim loudly to the world that freedom of expression is a basic human right. It uses vibrant color splashed along a long stretch of the former Berlin Wall to support individual thought, the legitimacy of homosexuality, and the power of expression.

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This is best represented through the glass dome of the infamous Reichstag; it is the 2nd most visited attraction in Germany. From above, visitors can directly observe the chambers of parliament while they are in session. For the politicians, this is a reminder that the population elected them into their positions, and can also take the offices away. As an official, it its their duty to serve the desires of their constituents, not individual and subversive agendas.

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What are your thoughts on these iconic wars? How have they impacted Germany, and furthermore, the governance of the world?

Travel: Cold War Remnants

It is hard to walk through Berlin without seeing the lasting impacts of the Cold War in its streets. In the aftermath of fall of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union had already positioned itself in power over the nations it had annexed, laying a foundation for the Eastern Bloc.  They effectively became Soviet Socialist Republics.

Early on, Winston Churchill expressed concerns that the soviet leader, Joseph Stalin was unreliable. It is during this, that he delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech, encouraging an Anglo-American alliance for defense. Germany was in no position to fend for itself against the onslaught of Allied disagreements over the best method of reinstating democratic governance.

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The primary nations involved all formed alliances amongst themselves, effectively snatching up zones of occupation to prevent the further encroachment of communism. This eventually culminated in the creation of the Berlin Wall. East Germany was losing many of its young and educated professionals to the West. Despite an ultimate to restrict this exodus, the allied forces refused to accede, and on August 13, 1961, a barrier was erected over night. The wall divided families that were a mere 2 km apart, and permission to cross was difficult to obtain and rarely granted.

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This is not to say that certain reforms were ineffective. In speaking with local Germans, certain chains in the East were considered beneficial. One example is the mandatory care and check-ups of children; If a mother failed to bring her offspring to medical practitioners within a certain period of time, it would be documented, and officials would go for a consult at their residence. I concede that this may seem overbearing, however as in present, many children still suffer due to malnutrition, and stringent religious beliefs that reject modern medicine. Note that I am citing but one example.

Despite this, many still sought to escape the oppression of soviet communism, and the limitations put on individual freedom. For example, the wall  divided families that were a mere 2 km apart, and permission to cross was difficult to obtain and rarely granted. Families were divided.

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I would have made the same choice. Some individuals were successful, coming up with inventive ideas such as secret compartments, flying contraptions, tunneling, or even fake identity papers. Some were not; an estimated 600 people died during their attempt, or after due to sustained injuries.

On 12 June 1987, Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear down the wall as a symbol of increasing freedom. In late 1989, “Peaceful Revolution” a non-violent protest sparked. Since no one wanted to take responsibility for issuing violent action, the police stood by. Eventually, the Politburo voted to allow migration of Germans from East to West; On November 9, 1989 thousands of citizens began climbing over, and tearing down the wall.

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Today, the East Side Gallery is possibly one of the largest, and oldest, open-air galleries in the world.

It stands as an international memorial for freedom, rejecting the stigmas of oppression,  restrictions of rights, and emphasizing the expression of individualism.

It was some breathtaking artistry.

I particularly liked the statement expressed here.

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Travel: Holocaust Mosaic

For this, I will consolidate my Germany City experiences into one. I do not mean to skip forward and back, but each visit to important sites of the Holocaust only serves to reinforce the overall picture of horror that continues to grasp me. They each deserve recognition for the vital, yet horrific role they play in this nation’s history, but I can’t bring myself to have to recall each emotion that gripped me; nor can I subject my readers to multiple instances of horror. I had thought not to include pictures, to best illustrate the somber mood with which I want this article viewed, but perhaps basic shots, will help convey the darkness that I witnessed.

The areas we will touch upon are Hamburg, Cologne, and Brandenburg.

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In Hamburg, My compatriots and I paused at the old company building that was responsible for the development of Zyklon B; it was the gas used in the chambers.  Death at the hands of this gas was anything but merciful, it was slow, and often the body would react radically in defense. The Nazi commanders thought it more merciful for their soldiers, they didn’t have to interact with the victims by personally murdering t.  It was previously used as a pesticide with an odor, however to prevent victims from realizing the imminence of their death, the company removed the scent, an illegal act violating international law. It was this fact, that allowed the one of the owners, Bruno Tesch, be sentenced and executed for his war crimes in 1946.

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In Cologne, I stopped to visit the EL DE Haus, it was the site of the main Gestapo Headquarters. It is within these walls that the secret police imprisoned, questioned, and tortured people or interest. The Nazi’s rented it in 1934, and remodeled it so that the basement level contained prison cells. It also provided a broad history on the rise of the Third Reich to power, and those affected by their hatred. When I entered the cell-block, I started crying. You can still see the inscriptions carved into the fall, imagine the unhygienic conditions of shoving up to 30 people in the small cells. I had never been so ashamed of my species, my race called man, until this moment. How could individuals, in my physical form, commit such atrocities against each other? It’s on a level that I couldn’t even comprehend.

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The last major stop for me was the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, it was the model camp for all future camps because of it’s equilateral triangular layout, so designed that the main guard tower, ‘A’ was the tallest building, and could thus see everything on the fields. Furthermore, it is here that the ‘death squads’ were trained – the commandant Rudolf Höss of Auschwitz traced his origins here – and that the standard for prisoner treatment was developed. Primarily used as a work camp, an assortment of work details were available, examples include the boot track, the kitchen, the brick factory, the ammunitions factory. Some had much shorter life expectancies than others, and were assigned to those at the bottom of the Nazi Hierarchy list, each was identified by a different triangle on their prison uniforms. 10,000 Soviet POWS were executed at this site, they were shot in the back of the neck through a hidden hole in the wall, during a uniform measurement. Unfortunately, when the camp was finally liberated in April 22, 1945, only 3,000 prisoners on the verge of death remained, the remaining 33,000 inmates were sent on a death march by the troops the previous day before.

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Arbeit Macht Frei is a prime example of Nazi Cruelty. It means “Labour makes (you) free.” For the prisoners, it was a taunt, the regime was mocking the forced workers, It was not work that set them free, it was death, either through the work, through lack of nutrition, or the infamous station Zeid.

It was a very sobering experience. It was in Berlin, that I finally attained the sense of freedom that I have been so desperately seeking; it was like a cloud of peace and freedom settled over me. No stress, no worries, no cares, just pure bliss. Those of you that know me well will recognize that this may have never occurred in my lifetime thus far. I think this is primarily due to the horrors that I have learned about; as individuals in this huge universe, it is often difficult to comprehend how meaningless the little nuances in our lives are. Yes, they are important to us on an egoistic, personal basis, but in the larger scheme of things, we are incredibly fortunate. It can be difficult for us to see sometimes, but so many of us have livelihoods that millions of people will never get the opportunity to experience. Think deeply about that.

 

Travel: Beethoven’s Bonn

I took a day trip to the city of Bonn, the birthplace of the beloved Beethoven. Its history dates from 11 BC when the Roman Army was stationed at the current historical center, and consequently expanded this area into a military fort in the coming centuries. More recently, it was recognized as the  provisional capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 before it was relocated to the current Berlin.

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The main allure of this town was Ludwig Van Beethoven. He is a composer who I have long admired, and I cannot help but admit that my favorite pieces continue to be Fur Elise and his iconic 5th Symphony.

Beethoven was born to Johann van Beethoven and Maria Keverich in 1770, although his exact birth date is unclear. It is generally taken to be the 16th of December, the date before his baptism in St. Regius, as it was a tradition for children of that era to be baptized the day after birth.

He was one of seven children, however only him and two younger brothers survived infancy.

2013-05-02 04.56.58His primary music teacher was his father, but his methodology was harsh, and as an infant Beethoven is said to have stood over the keyboard in tears. Other local teachers rounded out his musical education with violin and viola. His talent was blatantly apparent even at a young age, and his father claimed that the boy was a child prodigy, and used the age of 6 (he was actually 7) on posters advertising for Beethoven’s first public appearance.

2013-05-02 04.26.50In the years following 1779, Beethoven studied primarily under Christian Gottlob Neefe, the official appointed Church Organist. It was Neefe that helped him publish his first compisition – a set of keyboard variations, = and later obtain a fully paid employee church organist position in 1784. This was a vital turning point in the teen’s history, as after his mother’s death, his father lapsed into alcoholism, which forced young Beethoven to be the primary source of income for his family.

 

Beethoven officially left Bonn for Vienna in 1792; his father died shortly after this.

He died on 26 March 1827. The picture below is his ‘death mask’ it was typically in that day to remove all of the individual’s hair to save as a keepsake.

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