DACHAU, GERMANY. When your hotel is just around the corner of the Hauptbahnhof, itchiness to travel far constantly get to you. It is a nice and cold winter morning when we thought of going to Dachau. A 30-minute ride through S-bahn from the city center, this charming little town in Upper Bavaria is a popular residential area to those working in Munich and a popular attraction for the tourists because of its proximity to the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp.
The train station to remember is Dachau; self-explanatory, yes, but it somehow presented to us a moment of confusion still. Nonetheless, the confusion wore on fast and we easily got back on our supposed track. We alighted the S2 train from Munich and saw immediately how quaint this little town is. I know that the word "quaint" is getting too used up already by me but the word just perfectly encapsulates what I think the towns and cities in Europe look and feel like when dressed in white snow.
Approaching the bus station near the bright orange building which we saw from the platform of the station, we saw that only a few people were waiting for their buses to arrive which can be attributed from the post-holiday high or from it being just a small town with a small population. Different numbered buses arrive by the minute in the station with a predetermined destination but if Dachau Concentration Camp is what you have in mind, you only have to look out for buses #724 or #726 as they stop directly in front of the Dachau Memorial Site. If riding in a bus is not your cup of tea, you also have the option to rent a cab which you can also grab near the bus station or you could just walk a good 35-minute walk towards the site.
Do not ever get worried about missing your stop as you may constantly check where you already are and how far you still are from your departing point through a monitor perched in front of the bus. If you still want to be sure though, the ride would take you to the Dachau Memorial Site in approximately 15 to 20 minutes, occasional stops included.
Roaming around the site is of free charge so you can go directly to the memorial site and find your way around there. Information boards are placed in strategic points along the walkway and all over the grounds to guide you and give you a basic idea on what you are looking at or what it was you are standing on. But if you want more in depth knowledge about the place, you may book a guided tour, or rent an audioguide, if you want to do things at your own pace.
More than the look, the aura or ambiance is what I usually notice first when I arrive at a new place. Dachau Memorial Site gave me an impalpable heavy feeling; one that could not be easily dismissed however one tries to make it go away. We rented an audioguide and off we discovered more and more about the former Nazi concentration camp. The narrations started lightly, but as the stories went on, the earth-shattering and depressing reality about the camp's existence and wrongdoings unfolded bit by bit. The feeling got heavier with each step and turn. Each word heard from the portable medium became a lightning rod through the heart. One does not have to be a genius to see and feel that almost all of the sufferings of the world converged in these camps: deprivation, loss of one's self, death, abuse and hopelessness were everyday norms. I know it had been years already since these things happened but the place still induced a sense of fear; roaming around still scared the hell out of me.
The prisoners' accounts displayed in the museum say it all. Their stories gave you idea of the things they went through during those times. The mini films and movies gave you more glimpse and the more that I know, the more I die inside. Their sufferings make you silent. The pictures were hard to look at, accounts hard to read but I know that I have to. One could not fathom the cruelty, but the sad truth is that it happened and to commemorate was the only thing that I felt I could do for them.
The grounds were now serene and beautiful but it still can't hide the stench it possesses. We went away with more knowledge but with a heavy heart; a heavy heart that prompted me to utter a prayer to Him, thankful that the senselessness of the Nazi occupation had already ended and is now just a memory; a ghost of the past.