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Berlin to Munich – An Amazing History Lesson in Germany

With the weather starting to change slightly, we grabbed a cheap airfare to Berlin to spend a week checking out this incredible city and then travel by train down to Munich. As many will know, both places hold such an incredible place in History and we absolutely loved the tours that we embarked on.

The first photo was always going to be one of the Brandenburg Gates

The first photo was always going to be one of the Brandenburg Gates

Berlin is a city that is definitely re-building. Elissa visited here in 2004 and in 6 years, she noticed quite a lot of change and still there is construction sites in a lot of places.

This is a Holocaust Memorial (built between 2003 and 2005). The design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial , partly because it has no symbolism. People have many different interpretations. There are 2711 concrete stelae. Way less than representing one per person.

This is a Holocaust Memorial (built between 2003 and 2005). The design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial , partly because it has no symbolism. People have many different interpretations. There are 2711 concrete stelae.

The first thing we decided to do was to do a Walking Tour of Berlin. This is a free walking tour which we discovered most major cities now offer and so rather than paying a set price for the tour, the guide accepts gratuities which we were told could be around €1 per hour contributed by each tourist. We cannot speak highly enough of this tour. Our guide was English spoken knowledgeable, passionate and so enthusiastic and the walk covered some amazing places including Brandenburg Gates and –

:: The Berlin Wall…

Believe it or not this is the Berlin Wall. Or whats left of it anyway. There are only a few of these sections left of the wall that surrounded Western Berlin.

Believe it or not this is the Berlin Wall. Or whats left of it anyway. There are only a few of these sections left of the wall that surrounded Western Berlin. All the chips out of the wall were from people hacking off their own piece of the wall. Of course you can buy your own piece at most souvenir shops....

:: Checkpoint Charlie…

The site of what was Checkpoint Charlie. You can get your photo with a mock-up American soldier. Locals think is too much like Disneyland

The site of what was Checkpoint Charlie. You can get your photo with a mock-up American soldier. Locals think it is too much like Disneyland

:: The site of Hitler’s Bunker,

Elissa is standing on what was Hitlers bunker!

Elissa is standing on what was Hitlers bunker! Appropriately the spot above where the dictator killed himself is nothing more than a crappy car park these days....

:: The Reichstag as well as some beautiful churches and Museums. The tour Company is called  Sandemans New Europe.

This was our first lesson in the history of Germany and particularly the events that took place in WWII but mainly the story behind the Berlin Wall which divided Berlin (and West and Eastern Europe) from 1961 until 1989.

Bullett holes and shrapnel marks are visible on a lot of buildings if you look closely.

Bullet holes and shrapnel marks are visible on a lot of buildings if you look closely.

One thing we ran out of time to do was climb to the top of the Reichstag for a complete view of Berlin. People queue outside this building for hours to get to the top. The Reichstag is a heart of the German parliament and offers a good view of the city. We recommend you get there early to see it.

The Reichstag is the centre of the Parliamentary quarter. The dome you can see on the top is where you can climb to.

The Reichstag is the centre of the Parliamentary quarter. The dome you can see on the top is where you can climb to.

From Berlin we caught a train south, well 5 trains in fact (its the only way to do it), to Munich. It took around 8 hours. It costs €18.50, so its a lot cheaper than a flight plus you get to see plenty of the German coutryside.

Near an old looking city of Berlin (although a lot of which was repaired to look original after the war) is this modern and massive building called Berlin Central Train Station. It was built for the World Cup 2006.

Near the 'old' Berlin (although a lot of which was repaired to look original after the war) is this modern and massive building called Berlin Central Train Station. It was built for the World Cup 2006.

Munich is a fun and fascinating city to visit. It has a great vibe with cobbled streets aligned with shops, cafes and the famous beer halls. Arriving just before the official start of Oktoberfest, we still managed to get a great feel for this crazy festival. We highly recommend visiting the Hofbrauhaus. This beer hall is the famous venue in Munich where Hitler held meetings with the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) – recognised as the Nazi Party.

Upstairs at the famous Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall

Upstairs at the famous Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall. You can actually have a drink up here in Hitler's meeting room but the real fun is downstairs where steins, bratwurst and sauerkraut are served with huge pretzels and the German bands keeping you entertained. It gets loud and crazy but is such a good night out.

We went on another tour here called The Third Reich with the same company from Berlin (Sandemans New Europe – €12). This 3 hour tour walks you around Munich and informs you about the rise of Hitler. It was one most interesting tours we had been on so far,  especially because of our knowledgable & passionate guide.

Cobbled streets of Munich are great to wander through.

Cobbled streets of Munich are great to wander through.

We checked out the Hofbrauhaus, various memorials that have been erected since WWII, Hitlers Office and sites of the famous ‘attempted’ rebellion – The Munich Putsch (9th November, 1923).

This is a memorial commemorating those lives lost in the Munich Putsch. Its worth reading about this event, Hitler is a coward it turns out....

This is a memorial commemorating those lives lost in the Munich Putsch. Its worth reading about this event, Hitler is a coward it turns out....

There are hundreds of memorials throughout Munich commemorating those lives lost through WW1 and WW2.

There are hundreds of memorials throughout Munich commemorating those lives lost through WW1 and WW2.

We also spent a full day visiting the Memorial Site of the Dachau Concentration Camp (CC). We hired the audio guides and spent about 6 hours walking through the museum, seeing the horrendous living conditions the prisoners were subjected to and the atrocities that were bestowed upon.

Dachau Concentration Camp is moving and shocking....

Dachau Concentration Camp is moving and shocking....

To get to Dachau its an easy €6 train ride from Munich Central Station, it takes about an hour to get there. As a town its just a normal ordinary town, but the name Dachau is synonymous with so much more…. You then need to get onto a bus for 10 mins or so to get to the CC. You really need to take a few deep breaths and brace yourself before you enter the historical site.

Dachau front entrance. The German propaganda was that Dachau CC was a rehabilitation facility.

Dachau front entrance. The German propaganda was that Dachau CC was a rehabilitation facility.

Dachau was built in 1933 and was the first and longest running CC.  Dachau was used as the basis for setting up many more satellite camps .

Barracks

1 of 20 Prisoner Barracks. At times there were approximately 32,000 prisoners, crammed 1,600 to each of 20 barracks, which had been designed to house 250 people each.

A lot of the time if the prisoners didn't make their beds properly, absolutely perfectly, they were severely punished.

A lot of the time if the prisoners didn't make their beds properly, absolutely perfectly, they were severely punished.

On site Crematorium.

On site Crematorium.

This is a Gas Chamber. Although Dachau had no reports of mass killings in these gas chambers, there were several individual incidents of gasings. The prisoners were told they were getting a hot shower to lure them in.

This is a Gas Chamber. Although Dachau had no reports of mass killings in these gas chambers, there were several individual incidents of gasings. The prisoners were told they were getting a hot shower to lure them in.

We really felt that by visiting Berlin and Munich we had one of the best history lessons ever. Being able to walk past sites, buildings or memorials that are part of such recent history definitely helped us piece together major events such as WWII and the divide of Western and Eastern Europe.

Check out more photos of Berlin, Munich and Dachau from our gallery:

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