The ride is officially over. After breakfast, tearful good byes and promises to stay in touch with the other riders, most of the riders were shuttled to the airport for their flights home. John and I were taking the overnight train to Paris so we had the day to kill. We managed to convince Rob to allow us to take our motorcycles for one last ride and went to the Dachau concentration camp.
Dachau has an impressive memorial to those who were interned at the concentration camp. It is deeply, deeply disturbing. My most haunting image is not of the information, photographs and remaining buildings, but of the elderly gentleman and his (I assume) grandson moving through the exhibit next to me. The look of profound sadness in the gentleman’s eyes and tears streaming down his cheeks almost brought me to tears. I am not clear on the language he was speaking to his grandson. It was not German. Perhaps it was Polish. Given his age, he would have been alive during the period Dachau was in operation. Had he survived the camp? Had he managed to escape internment but relatives had not? I will never know but the pain he was feeling was palpable.
Needing something more uplifting, John and I returned the motorcycles and took the train from Olching to the Marienplatz in central Munich to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Part of the second construction phase of the New Town Hall, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel dates from 1908. Every day at 11 am it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. It consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. In honour of the happy couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (in white and blue) and Lothringen (in red and white). The Bavarian knight wins every time of course. This is followed by the bottom half and second story: Schäfflertanz (the coopers’ dance). According to myth, 1517 was a year of plague in Munich. The coopers are said to have danced through the streets to, “bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions.” The coopers remained loyal to the duke, and their dance came to symbolize perseverance and loyalty to authority through difficult times. By tradition, the dance is performed in Munich every seven years.
With still several hours to kill before our train, we headed over to Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest fair held annually in Munich, Germany. It is a 16-day festival running from late September to the first weekend in October with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810.