What I find fascinating about Munich is that it’s a place with conflicting layers, the days of yesterday, horror stories of. Munich was home to the epitomy of human cruelty ( and proof that all we need is a bit of fear and pride to support the most evil of evil) and yet today it’s a beautiful city full of well-dressed young professionals and charming outdoor farmers markets. There’s also an impressive variety of hot dogs. I’ve eaten hot dogs for dinner two nights in a row and it’s about time I start translating the menu.
Yesterday I had a beer at Staatliches Hofbrauhaus in Munich, a 500 year old pub that has been a favorite hangout spot of Mozart, Vladimir Lenin, and it’s also where Hitler gave many of his political speeches. On Feb 24th 1920, he proclaimed the 25 point program of the Nazi party (at the time it was still the “workers party”) at that very pub. And I sat there with my husband drinking beer and talking nonsense. Every once in a while I’d remember that Hitler used to hang out there. I’d feel all icky with Hitler cooties, and then a moment later I’d be talking about something totally unrelated. It’s fascinated how our brains can touch on something terrible then bounce back almost instantly as if nothing completely horrifying had ever happened. I assume it’s our coping mechanism that allows us to exist because, my friends, throw a bit of pride and fear in the mix and we can be monsters, or worse, we can allow monsters to become dictators.
People don’t really change much, only time changes. Yesterday afternoon I had a coffee where the barista, a charming, sweet man, handed me my cappuccino with a wink and “a beautiful coffee for a beautiful woman.” A man of about ten thousand years old sat at a table behind me, clearly old enough to have witnessed Hitler’s speeches, or even old enough to have served as one of Hitler’s Youth (possibly old enough to see Jesus walk on water). It was a strange thought to have in a sweet cafe with the sunlight and the families having lunch and that cute old man having a beer with his friends, reminiscing about dinosaurs or whatever the ancients chat about. It makes us feel safer to think that people were really different back then, they weren’t “like us,” but I don’t think that’s true. People are the same, only the rhetoric changes. It was a stark reminder of what blind nationalism and the fear of “the other,” can do.
How fucking depressing. And so? Drink more beer and then hide from the world behind it.
What I like about Munich is the beauty and simplicity of the food markets, the men in their lederhosen, having a beer with their friends, laughing boisterously in the cold and rainy street (with apparently no ability to experience the cold…Germans are clearly weather-proof).
These wonderful things float between the complexity and darkness of the past like the cream center of an Oreo cookie. On these same streets that are now full of tourists, drunk Englishmen, were the same streets where sixty-plus years ago Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, black people, were being dragged from their homes and sent to internment camps. It’s one of the most powerful illustrations of the dichotomy of the human condition, our ability to be both lovely and horrific.
Also, is it just me or does this look like Hitler playing a harp? It probably isn’t because that would just be insane, right? But it totally looks like it.