Over the summer I spent 8 days visiting Germany and Copenhagen. This was made possible by a £300 travel grant from Churchill College. I intended to visit Munich and Copenhagen both to explore the Resistance activities which were undertaken during World War II in these areas, and to visit a couple of Universities in order to help explore my options after I leave.
One of my major interests over the last few years has been the resistance movements which occurred during the Nazi period in Germany. In particular, there was a student resistance group which originated in Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich named the White Rose who participated in distributing leaflets and information to combat the Nazi propaganda. As I was reading about the people involved in this group, I became increasingly interested in actually visiting this area.
It is perhaps a testament to the impact that the White Rose had on this area and its cultural identity that one of the primary areas of Ludwig-Maximillian University, or LMU, is centred around Professor-Huber-Platz and Geschwister-Scholl-Platz – named for Professor Huber and the Scholl siblings. The importance of this connection is also demonstrated in a number of exhibits that the University has put on around the area: on the floor before you enter the main atrium is a pavement memorial depicting the White Rose leaflets; in the main atrium (trying not to accidentally enroll myself in a course, I apparently turned up on their matriculation day) there is a bust of Sophie Scholl; the main atrium itself was the area in which the Scholl siblings were arrested while stacking anti-Nazi leaflets after being seen by a custodian; and there is a museum containing displays, drawings, and original books and possessions relating to the White Rose. In this main atrium area, the White Rose is represented in a similar fashion to Winston Churchill in our own college.
The remembrance of the atrocities of World War II is also present in a number of other places around Munich. For example, while walking towards LMU to visit the White Rose museum I saw the ‘Platz der Opfer des Nationalsozialismus’ (Square of the Victims of National Socialism) which has an eternal flame burning inside a cage to represent those who were most deeply affected by the National Socialist rule in Germany.
Munich played an important role in Hitler’s Germany. In particular, I visited the Feldherrnhalle which was the site of the famous 1923 Beer Hall Putsch shootout, during which Hitler was arrested and sent to jail. The original Beer Hall has now been destroyed.
After spending a number of days in Munich, I set out for Copenhagen. As a result of my frankly awful planning and overestimation of my own ability to sleep, this included a 21-hour long journey made up of 5 different trains (Munich to Frankfurt, to Hamburg, to Flensburg, to Fredericia Street, to Copenhagen). While I did save about £20 by doing this I would strongly recommend (as many people did to me on route) that you pay the extra money and get either the direct train or the Munich-Hamburg-Copenhagen ICE trains.
My primary aim in Copenhagen was to visit Copenhagen University. I had been to Copenhagen prior to this journey and I practically fell in love with it – it has a lovely atmosphere, and so I was intending to visit the University to find out about the courses which were on offer there. The University of Copenhagen is similar to Cambridge; both are very old, both are spread well around the city, both have a number of museums associated with them.
I also visited a number of museums in Copenhagen, such as the Geological Museum (which currently has a lovely exhibit on dinosaur families on), the Danish Jewish Museum, and the Livgardens Museum. The Jewish Museum and Livgardens museum were particularly interesting from a World War II resistance perspective – for example, almost all of the Jewish people living in Denmark were evacuated to Sweden in 1943, while Denmark was under occupation.
After accidentally having a run in with a couple of armed guards and finally going the right way into the Livgardens Museum (turns out that if a museum is in a military barracks you can’t just walk straight in – that’s not so much a travel tip, more of just general good life advice.). One thing which particularly interested me about Copenhagen was how effectively the entire layout of the city is due to its military history. Looking at Copenhagen from above (centred on Kongens Nytorv), you’ll notice that there are effectively two circles surrounding it: one of the green spaces such as Orstedparken, the Botanisk Have, Ostre Anlaeg Park; the other of water. It turns out these aren’t natural features but were instead constructed to act as essentially a large fortification around the entire city (the parks contain remnants of a large wall that would’ve made Trump proud).
As I learnt more about this history of Copenhagen I was drawn to visiting Kastellet, Amelianborg and Christiansborg. These are all stunning places which I would strongly recommend visiting, and felt very reminiscent of Buckingham Palace in London.
I would recommend to anyone planning a trip like this to be realistic about your own limitations. Prior to this trip the longest I had spent in a foreign country was one night, and I had never been abroad alone. To go from that to suddenly spending over a week alone in a country where I don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language particularly well was a bit of a shell shock.
Additionally, it’s good to plan ahead if you have particular dietary requirements; for instance, I was a bit naive and did not realise that meal deals weren’t as prevalent in Germany as they are here. This made it a bit harder than I was expecting to find food which I could eat at a reasonable price
Overall though, I very much enjoyed my trip and I would strongly recommend an equivalent trip to someone else. I would like to thank Churchill College for giving me a travel grant and allowing me to go on this trip.