Dachau CC & the Bavarian Alps – Germany 2009

After our extended stay in Meissen, we wanted to get moving again. Our original plan was to explore Saxony Switzerland and the far east of Germany, but we fancied a change of scenery and some alpine air, so we decided instead to head south, to the Bavarian Alps.

An overnight stop was necessary and this took place at Selb, in a car park behind the sports centre/ice hockey rink. There weren’t any facilities but it was free and very quiet. We left Selb early and pressed on – our first destination was Dachau Concentration Camp, which is very close to Munich.

Guard tower, Dachau Concentration Camp
Guard tower, Dachau Concentration Camp

I had long wanted to visit one of the major camps and was looking forward to it (if that is the right way of describing it…). The camp is well-signposted and is, inevitably, a major tourist draw. There is a small charge to park in the sizeable car park but admission to the camp is free. When we arrived, mid-morning, the car park already had coaches in as well as cars from half a dozen other European countries. We were the only Brits, though.

The main feature of the camp is the large compound where prisoners lived. Within this, most of the accommodation huts have been destroyed (their foundations remain) but individual examples have been preserved. Also preserved is the camp’s prison building, were prisoners were kept in solitary confinement and interrogated.

The main camp building, which once contained the administration offices, has been converted into a sizeable museum.

Parade area with accommodation hut in background
Parade area with accommodation hut in background

The museum is organised chronologically and is deeply sobering, even if you are already familiar with the history of the camps, as I was. The museum’s narrative starts in 1933, when Dachau was the first and only camp. As well as tracing the camp’s expansion and the growing scale of the atrocities that occurred, the political background to the events is explained, too. This makes it possible to understand how the Nazi regime gained so much power, so quickly, and is very educational.

A surprising number of photographs exist of the camp in use, and these are used to powerful effect throughout. The result is that you are gradually drawn into the horror of the camps and reach a point where you feel you must have seen the worst – only to find that you have not. I admit that it was a relief to eventually emerge into the sunshine and fresh air.

dachau-3

On leaving Dachau, we headed even further south to the Berchtesgaden National Park. Our Stellplatz for the night was in the parking area of an off season ski resort, Götschen, just above Bischofswiesen. It felt great to be in the alps again and a very quiet, dark night ensued. We were planning to spend several days in the area and this was the ideal base as everything was within 20 minutes drive. No facilities, however – there are various other Stellplatz in the area that do offer facilities and charge for them. These must be used as needed, interchanged with free nights here. Note that some Stellplatz in skiing areas operate different services (and charges) in summer and winter. Check the guide for details.

The Stellplatz at Gotschenalm is surprisingly popular, even out of season
The Stellplatz at Gotschenalm is surprisingly popular, even out of season


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