The Happiest Diplomats: A German Adventure

Claire McMullen is a current GLP student who recently attended the G20 Conference in Munich. Previously she has participated in the GLP Youth Development Forum and been a delegate on the GL Symposium to Turkey. For something a little different, below is a day to day account of what she and the other Macquarie delegates got up to recently in Munich outside conference hours…
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Part 1: Munich.

The flight to Germany began with airport security.  Jenny, the most suspicious member of our delegation, was fortunate enough to be cleared after a sufficient scanning and joined the rest of us (Patrick McGrath, Luke Dominish and Omar Abawi) at the departure gate.  Looking back it’s hard to believe the 5 of us, leaving for Munich early, barely knew each other as we stepped onto the plane. It’s safe to say after 22 hours of wailing babies, ‘Frozen’ sing-alongs and Arabian pop songs, our friendships had been well and truly consolidated… even if Luke was asking, “are we there yet” only 4 hours into the flight.

After arriving in Germany to a brisk 6 degrees and stellar public transport system, our entourage set off in search of bakeries; pretzels were a priority! We joined a walking tour and explored the historical sites and breathtaking architecture of the city. The majesty of the buildings exhibiting a gothic and renaissance décor, combined with the striking number of people in Bavarian dress, made it feel like we had traveled back through the ages. To our bewilderment, our tour guide informed us that most of the city was no more than 80 years old.  WWII air raids had destroyed most of Munich, a memory still very much alive in the heartbeat of this great city. Over the years the German government had slowly rebuilt central Munich to mirror the buildings that once stood.

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We compared our foot size to the Devil’s footprint in the Frauenkirche, ‘Church of our Lady’, where according to legend Satan stamped his foot in anger at being double-crossed by the builder, Halsbach. When the clock struck 11am we watched the puppets dance around the Rathus-Glockenspiel tower. Our guide had warned us that it was anticlimactic but the tourist’s “oohs and aahs” made it a worthwhile viewing.  Taking shelter from the rain we ducked into the Beer Garden where Adolf Hitler began his ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ in 1923. There’s history on every corner.

 

A walking tour is a really valuable way to see a huge diversity of historical and cultural sites in a short period of time. Both Jenny (with a broken toe) and I (in an ankle brace) were thanking all things German that Munich is so flat. We would also like to thank Luke and Pat for routinely checking on our progress as we hobbled down the cobble stone streets and not leaving us behind.

Before our group succumbed to jetlag, we popped by Munich’s Spring Festival where Jenny met the ‘Pretzel of her Dreams’. I told her not to take it at face value.

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The following day the cripples climbed the 360 steps of St Peter’s Church tower and were rewarded with sweeping views of the city. I have been asked by Luke to inform one and all that he too went up a tower, the one captured in the picture below, the only difference was he got an elevator to the 11th floor… pic 4Jenny was in charge of bakeries, Luke scheduling, Pat activities and Claire navigation. Now the others might have something to say about my sense of direction, or lack thereof, but none could deny that some of our greatest finds were stumbled upon whilst lost in Munich. We wandered through the Jewish Museum and the City of Munich Museum where the personal recounts and vibrant visual displays painted a powerful story of German history and everyday life. It took us from medieval times, to the Nazi rise to power and the aftermath of war.

 

 The Chills of Dachau and the Importance of Remembrance

5th of May. Jenny, Luke and I travelled to Dachau, the first German concentration camp. Established in 1933 in an old munitions factory, Dachau was designed as a ‘work camp’ and its forced labour, imprisonment and inhumane treatment horrifically became a model for other camps during the WWII.

It was eerie as we walked through the quaint town of Dachau and along a cobble stone path lined with towering green pines. Behind this veil of natural beauty, the stone watchtowers and barbed wire fences reminded us of the terrible atrocities and human suffering that occurred here just over half a century ago.

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We stood in the bunkrooms where a prisoner’s rank and living conditions were determined in accordance with their perceived ‘crime’. My fingers trailed across the fanatical lists categorizing prisoners, political dissidents, Jews, immigrants, gays and nationals, on their ‘level of humanity’ dictated by Nazi supercilious ideology. By the mid-war years, Jews were considered sub-human and thus forced to endure unsanitary, overcrowded, diseased and fetid quarters with over 200 people forced into a bunkroom designed for a maximum of 80 people.  Each day the prisoners were subject to inhumane working conditions and extreme levels of torture, both physical and mental. It’s an entrenched fear of ‘difference’ that feeds racism, discrimination and persecution; fusing into a toxic ideology of endemic proportions and spreading like a plague, subjecting our own kind to a cruelty beyond all rational thought.

The propaganda displays were equally shocking, with an inspector from the Red Cross declaring the Camp ‘top quality’ and a facility ‘that treated its prisoners well’. Visual depictions of the  horrific medical experiments inflicted on prisoners by madmen such as Dr. Sigmund Rascher and the personal recounts by survivors serve as both a warning and reminder of the  human capacity for extraordinary cruelty. Whilst Dachau was classified as a “work camp” it still contained gas chambers and 2 crematoriums… one wasn’t considered enough at the height  of the war years. As we walked to the gas chambers, Building 44, hidden behind a wall of trees, the German tour guide told us quietly that prisoners had known nothing about this building;    only that those who went there never returned.

As we exited the Death Camp, through the ironclad gates and past the words Arbeit macht frei (work makes you free), we couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. The prisoners who had entered the camp through those gates more than half a century ago had no way of knowing what lay ahead or whether they would ever leave. Dachau was the only camp that remained in operation for the entire duration of the war; finally liberated by American soldiers in 1945.[1]

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Macquarie’s Fairytale

Once upon a time, two princesses and two princes set off to find a castle nestled among the Bavarian mountains. What they found was Neuschwanstein. Before conquering the hillside, the royals (that’s us), found a bridge that provided a picturesque view of the castle and the rocky stream far, far below… After watching or perhaps crashing a local wedding proposal, the royals continued past signs that possibly said something in German about DANGER (we couldn’t be sure) and up the opposite mountain. Not afraid of dirt or adventure, the 4 made it to the top where they were greeted by… an even better view!

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The Castle – #sofrozen

 

The royals disguised themselves as tourists and joined an English language tour of Neuschwanstein. Illustrious detailing and gold furnishings decorated every inch of the interior. At first, the four weren’t sure the palace was suitable, there wasn’t even a throne! King Ludwig II was declared clinically insane and unfit for Kingship after only 172 days at the castle.  He mysteriously drowned in a lake… with his psychologist before the castle could be completed. Insanity or genius, everyone was impressed by the personal man cave that separated the King’s bedchamber and dressing room.  Complete with stalagmites and stalactites, it was quite literally ‘a cave’. The royals stopped in their tracks. Never could they have imagined such a peculiar feature in a palace. Excitedly they declared the castle their own. To celebrate, someone asked one of the princes, Luke, to sing ‘Would you like to build a Snowman’ in the Grand Hall. He declined.

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Thank you!

 

Munich and the surrounding countryside were memorable in so many ways. The four of us really made the most of our time there. We would like to thank Macquarie University for enabling us to travel a little earlier. The experiences we had, the amount we’ve learned so quickly and, perhaps most poignant of all, the lasting friendships formed, have added so much to this great opportunity. Our sheer excitement, comradeship and the rigor of learning experienced through interaction with history and a different culture, only enhanced the G20 Conference experience that followed.

 

By Claire McMullen

 

 

 

 

[1] For more information on Dachau see the historical site: http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/memorial.html

*All photos courtesy of Claire McMullen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Multiculturalism in Action

Ellen Kirkpatrick is a current GLP student. During the summer she participated in a PACE project where she travelled to the Phillippines to work with Bahay Tuluyan, a childrens’ rights organisation. She wanted to participate in the Auburn Cultural Series to gain a better understanding of different cultures and how refugees living there are able to maintain their cultural values despite living in another country. Read on to find out her experiences there…

 

Yesterday, a group of students, including me, made our way to Auburn for the GLP Sydney Cultural Series. What was meant to be a rainy day ended up being a beautiful warm autumn day which made the trip a whole lot more enjoyable. After a chance to get to know one another in the morning we headed to Auburn City Council to learn more about the area itself. We heard about the unique history of Auburn and how it has developed into a culturally rich and diverse area. The city welcomes refugees and there are now over 126 cultures living alongside one another in relative harmony. We also got some insight into the troubles that Auburn city faces in regards to access to services and other related demographic issues. For instance, the fact there is only one public high school, which is also girls-only, for Auburn’s 80 000 people astounded us all, especially as youth make up one of the largest groups. The city’s population is increasing dramatically with more and more families coming to the area and there is an obvious demand for greater access to necessary services.
After the council briefing, we were able to relax for a little while as we visited the Auburn botanic gardens – a hidden treasure of the city. The Japanese garden was pretty spectacular, although, we were all a little surprised by the unusual coloured water and the bearded man (possibly from a popular TV gardening show) followed by a camera crew wandering around the gardens. Then it was time for lunch, which we were all incredibly excited for and our expectations were certainly fulfilled. Jasmine 1 has amazing Lebanese food and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who goes to Auburn. Not a single bit of food was left, with some people packing whatever was leftover into containers to take home.
A highlight of the day was definitely the visit to the Gallipoli Mosque after lunch. We were able to fully appreciate the beautiful architecture and design of the Mosque as well as its intricately painted interior. We had an enthusiastic tour guide who was happy to talk to us about what Islam meant to him and the important value of the Gallipoli Mosque in the Auburn community. It was a great learning experience and I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say I feel more informed about Islam after visiting the Mosque.

At the Mosque with our tour guide Randolf

At the Mosque with our tour guide Randolf

We finished off the day with an Amazing Race around quite a large area of Auburn city. Some groups found this challenging but we all did pretty well, answering most of the questions correctly. Congratulations to the team who won (my own team), as well as to the team who came second – that final sprint to the finish line was pretty impressive.
All in all, the GLP trip to Auburn was very enjoyable and I encourage students to attend the Auburn or Cabramatta Cultural Series. It was a very interesting day and I feel a lot more informed about cultures I previously had no real idea about. In terms of being global leaders, we need to understand variances in cultures and accept that we are all different but just as valuable as one another. One of the underlying things we agreed upon at the end of the day as a group of GLP students was that no matter how different we are as people we can always cooperate with each other and make it work. I believe the trip to Auburn helped us recognise this.

We really wanted a group shot at The Botanic Gardens!

We really wanted a group shot at The Botanic Gardens!

Ellen Kirkpatrick
Photos taken by GLP staff members and Emma Dillon

 

 

 

 

 

The three G’s – Germany, G20, and the GLP!

Patrick McGrath is a GLP student who is currently in Munich attending the G20 Youth Forum. Previously, he has attended the Global Leadership Program’s Brazil Symposium and shared his experiences here on the GLP Blog. This time around he will chronicle his experiences at the forum over the coming weeks…

 

A pretzel a day keeps hunger at bay.

This is the rule I’ve been living by after arriving in Munich a few days before the G20 Youth forum begins just outside Munich. It’s been a great opportunity to catch up with some old friends I met on exchange (NB – one of the many reasons you should go on exchange is to have local guides scattered in cities around the world) and to ensure I am over the jet lag and time difference to be at my best once the proceedings begin.

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Munich City centre and one of the many beautiful city parks

The response I get when I’ve told people here and at home that I am attending the G20 Youth Forum in Munich is “Great! What is that though?”

An entirely reasonable question. In short, it is a conference that brings together young leaders each year from the G20 member nations to discuss relevant international topics including law and human rights, ecology, energy and the environment and global migration issues.

The collection of students, academics, parliamentarians and members of the public will attend a series of different meetings where they will present their research or position papers and they will be discussed within in these groups as well as published in the conference proceedings. Similarly, a summary of the discussions will be tabled at the G20 conference in Brisbane later this year.

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The rolling hills of Dachau about 45 minutes outside Munich

Macquarie University will be strongly represented at this conference sending a delegation of 14 students and academics to contribute to this conference. A number of Macquarie University delegates have also been selected to act as the Chairs and Secretary-Generals of their respective tables in addition to their regular duties.

I am one such student who has the dual honour of being selected to be Macquarie University’s student representative to the Social Affairs and Medicine Roundtable as well as act as the Secretary-General of this Roundtable. This means in addition to preparing and presenting my paper “Why Are We Still Hitting Our Kids? A Case For Action on The Use of Physical Discipline on Children” I also decided the order of presentations of our roundtable and will prepare a report of our roundtable’s discussions to table and present at the closing ceremony of the conference.

For more information on the G20 Youth Forum check out the G20 Youth Forum Website.

Please be sure to follow our delegation here on the GLP blog and on social media with #macuni and #G20Youth.

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A glorious cheese stall at the Stachus Markets in Munich

All photos courtesy of Patrick McGrath