Sunday, September 8, 2013

Museums and Visitor's Centers

We bade farewell to Nuremberg on Saturday morning and piled into our bus. Sadly, it was a normal bus and not a crazy decked out party wagon, but we managed. Our driver had only received her bus license on Tuesday though, so we had a nice eventful day of wrong turns and stalling out. Good times!

Happy to survive the first leg of the bus ride

Our first stop was at a piece of landscape architecture. We pulled up into some German farmland and walked down a dirt road, where we saw a piece of granite stretching out towards the river. The monument marks where (in the canal) the Danube river and the Rhine river separate. The canal bridges the two, and on the left of the monument is the Rhine while the right side is the Danube.


It was a very nice piece of architecture. The granite starts out level to the ground, but continues at the same height while the land and topography drop away. By the end of the piece, it's over 20 feet above your head.


They grow hops on vertical scaffolding here.

We left the monument right as the farm next door started spreading manure and continued on to Munich. We stopped to visit some student housing near the universities. Student housing in Munich is treated differently than in America. Instead of each University having its own housing, any student from any university in the area can apply to live in the apartment complexes around town. That way, you can get student from the Art Institute next to mechanical engineers from the big University. Diversity, man!

The stairs!

The building was four levels tall and made of structural concrete. It was interesting, because the floor/roof extended over the walls of the apartment by around 5 feet, and the edge was created by a trellis with ivy growing all over it. So, the main walls of the apartments were set back from the edge. I thought it was beautiful- light filtered through the leaves of the ivy very nicely on the lower floors. Sadly, though, the ivy didn't grow up to the top floor, so those units weren't shaded from the sun at all and could get really hot.

Ivy climbing up the trellis.

A very friendly mechanical engineer let us pip into his one person unit for a quick glance at the inside, and then we were back in the bus. Before we left, I hopped into the grocery store across the street and picked up some Oktoberfest beers for the week in Munich. I'm sad I'm missing the REAL Oktoberfest (we will be in France by then) but at least I get to try the beers!

We continued down the road, on our way to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. Heiner heard that they had a new visitor's center built, and wanted us to see it. But on the way, we stopped to visit the Allianz Arena, designed by architects Herzog & deMuron. The facade is made of balloons. Literal balloons. I got up really close to it to try to understand the structure, and it's made of two skins- an outer steel frame that holds the puffed up balloons in place, and the inner skin that's made of concrete and steel and whatnot. The outer frame is connected back to the inner frame by steel pins.

Bubble building.

It made for an interesting texture for a football (soccer) arena. We've talked on this trip about architects leaving their "signature"- a style of architecture, a specific building element, etc. Herzog & deMuron's "signature" is their imagination and sheer willingness to try new things, new systems, new structures. Their firm continues to push the envelope architecturally and it usually works out.

Underneath the bubble wall

I was anxious to visit Dachau. We had visited lots of sites associated with the war and post war- the Berlin wall, the Nazi Rally Grounds, we spent a day trying to notice which buildings were bombed in the war for crying out loud. But being in a place where such pain and injustice occurred, I've never had to confront that before personally.

We entered the complex from the back, where a nunnery had been built in the 1960's. I noticed that there are a LOT of chapels and churches and monuments to worship on the Dachau site or near it. I wonder if it's humanity's attempt to try to reconcile what happened in Dachau, by building sacred sites. I personally don't think it works that way.

Views of the outside of the chapel and inside the chape.

Dachau is huge. It was hot when we went- the sun was high above us and there were no clouds. It was organized with plots where all but two of the old bunk houses used to stand, with two houses reconstructed. The old furnaces and gas chambers were preserved as well, and in the old SS headquarters building, a museum exhibit was erected.

The ditch on the perimeter

I didn't take many photos while I was there. I definitely didn't take any of the chambers. The weight of the space hung heavy on me the whole time I was there, it's hard to not be affected by it. Everyone from our group that I ran into was kind of anxious to leave, it's not a pleasant space. Dachau was an operational labor camp from 1933 to 1945- an entire 12 years. I think I read that over 60,000 prisoners were in the camp at one time.

You can see where the old beams were replaced with new arches. Also, the area in the second photo was the shower area. The architect made the little raised wooden paths so that visitors don't walk on the same surface as the prisoners. I don't know if it is out of respect, or something opposite, by separating the two entities.

The roof was interesting too. It is concrete that was formed to resemble wood. If you look at it, it really REALLY looks like wood. I never did figure out why the architect when through such trouble to make concrete look like something else.

I walked through the whole complex before heading towards the new visitor's center, and boy was I surprised. After having my entire soul wrung out like a piece of sink laundry from the reconstructions and somber area, going to see the visitor's center was a shock. It's a new building with a square floorplan. It looks like two flat concrete planes that are held apart by lots and lots of wood columns. As car as construction is concerned, it's a smart building. Some of the columns are slanted left and right, which act as cross bracing and create a mini truss that supports the top plane.

But it just didn't seem appropriate for the space. I mean, here I was, having just walked through Dachau, and I'm confronted with people eating ice cream cones from the cafeteria. The Jewish Museum by Libeskind was a very thoughtful space, creating voids and light and dark spaces. The architecture made you think. This building didn't make you think. It was light, airy, spacious, and not at all what I would pick for the visitor's center of a concentration camp. It could've been a library or anything, but I wouldn't have expected it for Dachau.

Let's go borrow some books, kids!

We headed to our new home in Munich and then out to dinner. My room has a sweet balcony with a view of the cathedral. It's very nice, but I feel like the cathedral is going to be waking me up a lot.


Sunday was our first full day in Munich. We started later than usual (9:30!) and ended earlier than usual (Go visit this museum at 2 and then do whatever you want!), so it was a very short day. But we packed it full of museums on museums on museums.

The gate, which used to mark the entrance to the city from the country

Domed ceiling in one of the many museums

The back of one of the museums. Guess where the bomb hit in the war?

Beautiful stairs

One of the gallery rooms

Europe does not lack for picturesque outdoor spaces!

The modern museum

The facade of another museum. It's made of ceramic tiles, because that's the only material out there today that can hold color permanently and withstand the elements.

Stairs in the colorful museum

We weren't allowed to take photos in the colorful museum, but I secretly took some hip shots because it was AWESOME.

I'm starting to get really run down. I skyped Pa on Saturday night and he commented that I look haggard. And on Sunday, John made a comment that my eyes are looking yellow. I think my cheapo diet of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and less than stellar sleep is starting to slowly kill me. Something needs to change. I've only been gone for 16 days, and I have like 61 days left (how convenient!). I can't be dying of peanut butter overdose yet.


  1. I'm loving your posts. It sounds as if your trip is amazing!

  2. Sounds like an intense couple of days! But really fascinating stuff. Your pictures are all so fantastic!

    Is there any other cheap nutritious food you could subsist on for a while? Don't you ever get a couple of days off to relax and catch up on sleep?