Munich on My Mind

A view of the Odeonsplatz from the Feldherrnhalle

A view of the Odeonsplatz from the Feldherrnhalle

Standing in this square gave me the shivers.

It was a wet, gloomy day, and I was in Munich, part of a walking tour group that had so far made its way through a winding path from the Marienplatz to Odeonsplatz. I am normally a frugal DIY traveler — out of habit and necessity — and almost never join these tour groups. However, the guy who’d shared our breakfast table at the hostel had recommended this tour: it was on a tips-only basis, he himself had given the guide 5 euros, and I thought, well, I guess I can afford that.

The tour was top-rate; the guide, Jon Wilkes, was brilliant. As he took us through important landmarks within a walkable radius of the Marienplatz, he gave us facts, figures, and amusing anecdotes on everything from Pope Benedict to Adolf Hitler.

Image courtesy of Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-1426 (C-BY-SA-3.0-de)

The Odeonsplatz during the Beer Hall Putsch. Image courtesy of Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-1426 (C-BY-SA-3.0-de)

That last topic, I could imagine, had to be handled with some care. Munich had played a not insignificant role in the rise and reign of Hitler. The Nazis even referred to Munich as Hauptstadt der Bewegung, or Capital of the Movement. The Beer Hall Putsch had happened here. Hitler’s early coup attempt had failed, technically, but his subsequent trial was the soapbox from which he brought his ideas to national attention.

It was also in Munich, at a dinner commemorating the Beer Hall Putsch, that Hitler received news of the death of the German diplomat who had been shot 2 days earlier by a Polish Jew. What happened next was a horrible game-changer: the Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, so named because the streets of Munich and many other cities all throughout Germany had glittered that night with shards from the smashed windows of Jewish homes and establishments. There had been blood and fire as well, and grief unimaginable.

As I stood there at the Odeonsplatz, I could imagine Hitler standing at the Feldherrnhalle: marshalling his troops, his voice ringing throughout the square, captivating, convincing. I could imagine thousands of soldiers saluting him stiffly, their eyes alight with fervor or glazed with fear, ready or resigned to do whatever was asked of them. I shivered because that moment, more than anything else, crystallized for me not just the horrors of war or genocide, but the reality that it can sometimes take so little to turn men into animals. Even today.

The Feldherrnhalle, Munich (January 2014)

The Feldherrnhalle, Munich (January 2014)

Munich on My Mind” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

10 thoughts on “Munich on My Mind

  1. Last night I watched the excellent movie, The Book Thief, which is set in a town in Germany during WWII. It is so terrible to think that all of that happened such a short time ago and that atrocities are still going on all over the world today. “…it can sometimes take so little to turn men into animals” — yes.

    • It truly is heartbreaking. There are times when you wonder what the world is coming to, and there is so much that you can do nothing about, and I think that makes it all the more important to work on things that we can do something about. It could be something as “simple” (though it isn’t really!) as raising good kids and making sure they know the difference between right and wrong…or whatever it is that is within your sphere of influence.

  2. Pingback: Europe for the Heartbroken: 7 Perfect Places for Healing from a Broken Heart (3/7) | SMALL-TOWN GIRLS, MIDNIGHT TRAINS

  3. Pingback: 7 countries in 18 days: A sample European itinerary | SMALL-TOWN GIRLS, MIDNIGHT TRAINS

  4. Pingback: Germany | SMALL-TOWN GIRLS, MIDNIGHT TRAINS

  5. Hi! During your travel around Europe for your 18 days itinerary you seemed to have jumped ftom one country to another, How did yoy di this? By train or plane? We are going to Paris Oct 17 to 30 & i would like vety much to adk your idea on how we should go about with our itinerary? Thank you

    • Hi Dianne! We did this by train, usually by sleeper (overnight) trains if available. You’ll find that plane trips are sometimes cheaper than trains and quicker, but then you have to factor in things like time going to and waiting at airports, and having to pass through Immigration and all that, and that’s why I tend to prefer trains. Paris is a major hub for a lot of trains, both within France and to other European cities, so I would recommend taking trains. This website has tons of info about it — http://www.seat61.com/

      I hope that helps! Have a great trip.

Share your thoughts!