Our trip began in Munich, Germany where somehow, despite the pace of the city, things moved a little slower than I was used to. Waiters leave you to linger and enjoy your company, portions are smaller and meant to be savored over a longer period of time, and people take to walking instead of jumping in a cab. We stayed in a hostel in Munich and it was much better than what I expected a hostel to be. I became very impressed on our trip with the compactness and functionality of European designs. At every hostel or hotel we stayed in, the look was modern and the rooms and components very small. However, they were cleverly designed to be both attractive and functional. No design feature was ever obtrusive or without purpose. The hostel breakfast gave us our first taste of the differences between an American and European meal. For example, there is a much bigger emphasis on savory items at breakfast time. It’s not uncommon to find a salad bar and several types of meats and cheeses on a European breakfast buffet. However, that’s not to say that sweets do not have their place. I was pleased to find jams, croissants and chocolate were a part of almost every breakfast we enjoyed. Another point of interest is that ice is very uncommon in Europe. Room temperature is much more usual for beverages and food items than it is in the U.S.
While in Munich we had free time to enjoy the city and revel in the various bier halls, including the famous Hofbrauhaus, vast food markets and endless shopping, but a real highlight for me was our trip to the Palace of Justice. The Justizpalast was built in the late 1800’s and is huge and impressive. While there, we were able to observe the courtroom where members of the White Rose movement were sentenced. It was heartbreaking to see the young faces of the members memorialized in frames on the courtroom wall and know that they were sentenced to death in the very room in which we were standing. Our guide also explained the details of the current German legal process, several aspects of which I found more favorable than our own process in the U.S. For example, “winning” or “losing” is not a consideration for prosecutors or defense attorneys in Germany; justice is the only goal. That is sadly not always the case in our own system. The following day we traveled to Dachau Concentration Camp and experienced a place where injustice was once the order of the day. It is difficult to describe the emotions that wash over when you enter the camp, or the sorrow you feel when touring the grounds, but it was an experience I found to be one of the more moving and reflective periods of the trip.