Arts Desk

Across the Europeverse: Munich, Germany

Dachau blues.

For most of the month of October, Arts Desk contributor Justin Moyer and his band, D.C. modern rock quartet Edie Sedgwick, are touring Europe. Here is his latest dispatch.

We drive north across the Alps, leaving Italy for Austria, then Germany. I pay about 15 euros in highway tolls, 8 euros for an Austrian highway sticker, and 9 euros to go over a series of impressive bridges and through a number of impressive tunnels. Six hours later, we are in Munich. The venue is called “Kafe Kult.”

Kafe Kult is a former Nazi barracks that somehow became a punk-friendly performing arts space that, like the former Nazi barracks, receives funding from the German government. Kafe Kult’s de facto housekeeper is H., a technophobe who lives in a back room at the venue surrounded by broken amplifiers, scratched records and overflowing ashtrays. When WiFi was installed at Kafe Kult, promoters had to tell H., who thought that WiFi would give him cancer, that they would take the WiFi with them every time they left. This seems cruel but, like many cruel things, is funny.

About 30 Germans come to the show. They respond positively to our music, moving their upper bodies without moving their lower bodies in German fashion. We are paid only 200 euros, but sell about 150 euros worth of merchandise—a decent showing. One German, the drummer of the opening band and, allegedly, a founding member of the Bartlebees, is a completist; he buys every record we have, and every T-shirt design as well. It is just this anal-retentive, volkisch mentality on which the success of our musical endeavor depends.

The next day, driver D. and I go to Dachau’s concentration camp. Though Dachau is only 30 minutes from Munich by car and I’ve been to Munich at least three times, I’ve always avoided the trip. This time—either because I am 34, or half-Polish, or a new parent—the pilgrimage seems essential. I pay 3 euros for parking.

I’m not sure how instructive or fun it is to write about my visit to Dachau in a blog post for Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk. If Elie Wiesel has weighed in on a subject, I probably don’t have much of value to add. However, I will mention that, though I thought Dachau was little more than a freezing, windswept plain in the middle of a godforsaken German forest given over to memorials, it is actually a quaint, small town. A partial list of things to see in Dachau besides once-bustling crematoria: a casino; two sushi restaurants; a McDonalds; a Mercedes-Benz dealership; and a four-star hotel. Woe unto the publicist for the Dachau bureau of tourism. (“We’re most reknowned for our genocide—however, if you don’t like dwelling on the past, there’s no shortage of things for your family to see and do in beautiful downtown Dachau!”)

One other observation: We exit Dachau’s punishment block when I look over the wall of the former concentration camp’s forbidden zone and see that Dachau has neighbors. That is, someone either lives or works next door in a room with a concentration-camp view.

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