Wednesday 8/6

Now this day starts off daft, goes through bad & ends up just plain weird.

I started off by deciding that its time to do something about my excess baggage, including my tankbag. The damn thing has been getting on my nerves all the time. Now there's also some clothing and so on to deal with. A short walk into Grafelfing, past the stark white combined ambulance and fire station and the neat little shops, until I reach the post office. They have a healthy stock of boxes and tape. I buy two fairly big, stout boxes and a roll of brown tape. Back at the hotel these swallow my old riding kit, my tank bag, the suite protectors for my new kit and some other bits and pieces that I haven't needed & won't now need (like a book about Poland). Back to the post office and I'm free of them as they wing their way back home. Hurrah!

We pack up and set off for Dachau. Its just across town really. Well, West then up and back across to the East, so we can avoid the central area of Munich.

<deep breath>

Dachau is a fairly ordinary town-cum-suburb. There's new bits and there's older bits. And right in the middle of the older bit is a huge car park and a path that leads along the wall of the Dachau labour camp.

At the start of the path is a bus-stop looking thing with a plaque. Alongside the path are the foundations of a long building. It reminds me of something I remember from my childhood - some ruins that are along the beach at Lepe. Not that there's a beach, mind you. But there is the same concrete floored, long, straight building only now visible from its foundations. This one's a guard house for the camp. Ironically, the one at Lepe is one of the places that they built the Mulberry harbours for the D-Day invasion.

In front of the entrance is what's left of a small railway yard. The concrete ramp and the rails are more depressing, in a way, than those awful marshalling yards at Birkenau. Those were almost a grand statement of designed deadliness. These more speak more of misery, of despair, of shuffling souls and petty despots.

Turning to go in, we're confronted by gates and that inscription again: 'Arbeit Macht Frei'. Its a creepy feeling, not made better by the giggling girls taking turns to stand behind the gates and have their photographs taken. It may be bright and sunny but those gates make things darker. We walk through and into the yard of this ex-munitions factory. Most of the buildings remain but the wooden prisoner huts have more or less gone. Like Birkenau, just one row remains. All the guard towers remain.

The main administrative blocks and the prison camp's prison (is there a much more absurd concept?) are now the museum. This is a substantially better presented affair than that at Auschwitz, although without the dramatic and hard-hitting items like the wall of hair. Jerry notices a grimly satisfying fact: the town of Dachau welcomed and wanted the camp. They thought it would bring employment and money into the area. It didn't - everything was run centrally. Dachau gained nothing except a nasty reputation.

After this thoroughly well done museum we walk through the huts that remain and down to the back of the site. The people that were everywhere seem to have mainly left. Almost empty, somehow the place feels worse. Thing is, this place is a labour camp, not an extermination camp. It was the first of the camps, a model for many of the others. The prisoners still died in large numbers, although only a comparative few died in the gas chamber (yes, there is one). Living here was no picnic, no cakewalk. No cake at all. The camp staff were brutal and the rations were short. There were torture facilities in the prison blocks (they're still there).

The path goes off between the trees in the corner of the site. Walking through there, we pass a statue to the prisoners. Its a sort of "statue to the unknown prisoner" and a curiously powerful image.

Round the corner, there's a low, single storey building. This contains steaming units for clothes, a changing area, the gas chamber and the ovens. Walking through the gas chamber is a decidedly unpleasant experience. Nevertheless I felt it would be cowardice to walk away. The ghoul behind me took photos in there. I couldn't. Things were too brutal. They used to hang prisoners right in front of the ovens. More convenient for disposal, see.

I need to get out of this place and head for the exit. I can't cope with the contrast between the camp and the town and I want to leave both behind.

We get back on the bikes and head off. The roads are, well frankly I don't remember. Dachau camp filled up my memory banks. We get onto an autobahn fairly quickly and munch miles down to Lindau (Bodensee) where we turn to follow the edge of Lake Constance. Its getting towards the latter part of the afternoon now and we're wondering about places to stay. A hasty side-of-the-road confab shows we agree that stopping somewhere soonish would be OK.

Not much further and we enter the edge of the not exactly remarkable looking town of Friedrichshafen. Not remarkable until we stop at some lights and Jerry says "did you see the sign to the Zeppelin museum?" My reply is simple "we'll stop here for the night then!" After Dachau we both need something slightly absurd like a Zeppelin museum. I know I certainly do.

We find a hotel across the road from the waterfront with a curious long wooden panelled entry hall. We park the bikes out the back, directly below the window in our room as it turns out. Showers, change of clothing and we're off out to see if we can get a meal and find the museum to make sure it'll be open in the morning.

We find the museum near the quay for the ferry, which comes in while we wander. The on-board PA is very load and pumping out music. Truly gruesome :(

We grab a coffee & then go looking for food. Just about everywhere so far its been a doddle to get a meal in the evening, but not here. Ice cream, yes. There appear to be hundreds of ice cream and coffee places but restaurants? Oh no. We end up in a Chinese where we have undoubtedly the worst meal of the trip. After about 3 mouthfuls Jerry says "oh yeah, I'd forgotten that German Chinese restaurants are universally awful." My meal has congealed lumps of what I suspect is MSG lurking it it. And its not the warmest of meals either. I don't finish.

Afterwards we walk along the lake embankment for a short while & see some odd statuary, a little park and, oh my God we're cursed, a fscking OOMPAH band. And not just any old oompah band, oh no. There's about 40 of them. Its more like a bloody oompah orchestra & they're playing in the bandstand facing the lake. Sitting on the edge of the stage is an astonishingly miserable looking man. He must have heard them play once too often. Poor git.

Back to the hotel. Sleep beckons. If I can't sleep I'm willing to drink myself into oblivion to get the oompah band out of my head but fortunately such drastic methods are not required.

Image of route

Mapsource .gdb file of track

Next day