Wednesday, August 26, 2009


We arrived in Munich on the 2nd without any problem after saying our goodbyes to and leaving Robyn to check-out of our Viennese hotel. We hauled our backpacks about a mile or so down the road to the hostel we had booked with. It was not the prettiest day outside, but at least it wasn't outright raining. The hostel was busy - as hostels usually seem to be - so we patiently waited our turn until we could check-in. By the time we got into our room at 4:00 PM we found it still hadn't been cleaned yet! I suppose there are just too many rooms for the cleaning staff to get to in a timely manner because by the time we got back from dinner a few hours later it was all taken care of. As for dinner, we had first planned on simply going tot he grocery store, but being Sunday no grocery store in a 50 mile radius was open it seemed. Do people not need to eat on Sunday? I guess I'm just set in my American, capitalist, consumer ways is all. So we ended up walking all the way back to the station (luckily without the backpacks this time) in what was now a steady drizzle to find some warm food. I think perhaps that if your hungry with nowhere to go, try the train station. After packing down a few sausages and fries we contentedly head back to the hotel to warm up and relax for the rest of the night.

The 3rd was a day of sight-seeing despite the still-cloudy skies and morning rain. We headed north to see the Glyptothek in the museum district first. It's a big columned archway/building that just looks pretty. The museums next to it are also built with that Roman-column look, so they were kind of pretty too. Next stop was an area (or perhaps just the building) called Residenz. The area around there was more impressive thant he Glyptothek with a huge monument, a big yellow church, a lovely garden area, and the Residenz building itself. It was also much more crowded over here - back at the museum district we saw barely five people. In one of the arcades we were lucky enough to come across a string trio playing some lovely classical classics. The first violinist of the group was really very good and would look around at the crowd with these ice blue eyes and a subtle smile. When she looked right at you it gave you a little shiver and made you want to look away. But she was really good! Difficult and quick passages seemed to effortlessly roll out of her fingers. I thought they deserved a donation so we gave them a bit of money. Yay for us! We did a good deed. Next stop was a market called Viktualienmarkt, but to get there we had to go through the center of the city. It's crowded through there! It reminded me of what I imagine New York is like (I have to just imagine, because I sadly have not actually been to New York). We saw a tall spire down one ally so checked outt he church it belonged to. It wasn't as old-world impressive as any of the other churches we've seen, but the height of the ceilings was immense and the bleeding, wounded Christs positioned around the place was interesting. Somewhat macabre, no? Viktualienmarkt, once we got there, was very cool. It's a great combination of fresh food and cooked food; fish and meat, veggies and fruits, dried fruits, big iced cookies, small and large decorations for the house or garden, plants, olives, vinegars, etc. I have to say, the marketplaces in Europe are pretty awesome, but always a bit pricey of course. We discovered here the one liter beer. It is a massive monster of a beer and so much fun to drink! It just feels so quintessentially German to hold that giant mug to your lips and dip your nose in the frothy head as you take that first swig. That was what we had been looking for in Germany! We only split the beer, which was a good idea because I'm pretty sure I would have been asleep had I drunk a whole liter on my own. Along with beer we tried a local favorite called Leberkase which is this sort of... spam-like slice of pork eaten on a bread roll. It's pretty good, with a texture to the meat that's just a tad odd to me. We also got a freshly baked pretzel, still hot fromt he ovent hat was very good. Oh, in this market area is a whole bunch of tables that you're free tos it at with your own food or market-bought food. And the place is so crowded that you're pretty much guaranteed to end up sitting at a table with perfect stangers. If you're lucky they'll talk to you, or you just sit next to eat other minding your own conversations. Either way it's pretty neat! It's not too common to fidn that sort of arrangement in the States, but in Europe we've run across it at a number of places. It's a good way to meet people as we discovered on our last day in the city. But after we had spent too much money on market food we walk to the park where Oktoberfest is held each year to see the Statue of Bavaria. The park was already being prepared for Oktoberfest and had a bunch of construction going on. A bunch of big buildings were being made and it looked like it would be home to a lot of beer drinking! The Statue of Bavaria, despite being surrounded by the unattractive scenes of construction work, was impressive. The best comparison would be to the Statue of Liberty, but not quite as big. You could even go inside the statue and climb to the top - for a fee of course. Always for a fee. We, of course, chose not to do this, finding the statue a cool enough sight. But we were very tired by now with sore feet and aching backs. Time to head back to the hotel and be lazy for the rest of the night.

Next day we woke up bright and early at 7:00 AM - we've been bad with staying up late and waking up between 9:00 and 10:00, so 7:00 was early for us! We headed tot he train station to try and get on the tour to Dachau. Dachau is a nearby concentration camp and one of the important ones from what the guide told us. Apparently Auschwitz was built with the same exact layout as Dachau and pretty much all of the brutal camp leaders spent some time training in Dachau. Dachau wasn't used as a death camp, though. I mean, 32,000 people died there, and they did have gas chambers, but they weren't used en-mass like at some other camps. I think it was actually the first camp to be built and became their prototype. And of course, terrible things happened there. So much brutality and inhumanity... But it was good? Or interesting? I can't think of quite the right word to describe it. It was something worth seeing though. On our tour was a family with two young children, one maybe 3 or 4, the other perhaps 6 years old. The younger one, a little girl, was firstly fascinated by all the pebbles that are used as ground cover for the place and I saw her picking up and pocketing pebbles she had decided were particularly nice a few times. It was cute. And there was a silent film showing scenes from the camp, mainly extrememly starved dead bodies staring blankly into space. She was on her fathers shoulders and not long into the video began asking "Are those people-" But was cut of by a "shhh" from her father before she could finish. I think she was going to ask if they were dead which is an odd thing to hear from a 4 years old's mouth. I hope Dad later talked to her about it a bit because I can only imagine the confusion that would be going on in her mind, especially since my 27 year old mind was shocked by what I was seeing. Later I heard another conversation between her and her mother as we were heading to see the gas chambers. The girl had figured out that people had gone into the chambers and breathed a bad gas that made them die, but she told her Mom in a matter of fact tone that "Well, they shouldn't have breathed." Mom told her that they had to breathe, they couldn't help but to breathe. So the little girl decided "Well, they should have breathed through their noses." It was very sweet and a bit disturbing and sad to hear this little girl's thoughts on how these people might have saved themselves, if only they had breathed through their noses. I thought it was good they brough their kids to see the camp, I just hope they made sure to have some conversations about it later. Here in Germany it's actually a school requirement that school kids see a concentration camp at some point. And the guide told us about the political situation at the time that the camp came about and I couldn't help but draw some scary parallels between their situation and our current one in America. It was definitely an enlightening visit. After we got back from the tour we took a break in teh hotel fro a few hours then headed back out again. This time we headed to the West side of the city to the Hirschgarten. It's an authentic beer garden and was really cool! It's set up like how I described that market area from the previous day, so there are a bunch of long tables set up in a big open area, some trees covering overhead here and there. We went to order a liter beer (we like the liter) and wee motioned around the side of the shack to pick out our beer mug. They had about three, six foot tall sets of shelves packed with clean beer mugs, and next to that was a big outdoor sink where you could rinse out your mugs to prepare for the next round. You get to clean your own beer mugs! So we managed to get our beer, and for some reason we also got a big of an evil from the keg-master... I hate it when we get the evil eye - but evil eyes are a fact of life I suppose. It didn't stop us from enjoying our crisp, tasty, cold beer. And as we were finishing up we noticed there was a fenced in area with about 10 deer just grazing peacefully not 3 feet from people sitting nearest the fence. Some had full heads of antlers as well as a few small babies. We left the Hirschgarten and headed north to Schloss Nymphenburg. It's a big castle comples similar to the Shonbrunn Park in Vienna. In fact, the layout and look of the building was almost exact. They had a very, very long garden out back with a long pond. We didn't want to walk anymore though, so didn't make it to the end. Instead we sat by a smaller pond, under a big trees whose drooping boughs completely enclosed us and fed crumbs to some cute ducks. There were two kinds of ducks and one was constantly giving dirty looks to and chasing after the other. There was a little baby too who just swam back and forth peeping over and over. He was cute.

The 5th was the day we checked out of our hotel. But since we were taking a night train to Paris we had a whole day to kill with no hotel to hang out in. We rented a big locker at the train station for €5 and went back to Viktualienmarkt. We got our favorite one liter beer, a huge pretzel, and searched for an empty seat in the very crowded sea of tables. We were very lucky in our seat choice because we ended up next to two very friendly older men who could only really speak to us in German. Manuel was the more outspoken of the two and just started a conversation that we could hardly understand, embellishing with hand signals. Chuck's German is actually pretty good and he understood more than double what I could, so he was the one to do most of the talking, then would turn to me and give me a quick overview. After a bit we figured out where everyone was from and turns out Manuel is actually Spanish and Emilio is Italian! And Manuel told us that Emilio plays the piano very, very well and sings like Frank Sinatra while Emilio sat back shaking his head "No, no" with an embarassed smile. Emilio even had a CD of him performing he showed us! I wish I could remember the full name on the CD, although I don't think I'd be able to find it anywhere - it was just a step above home-made. And they offered us some of their cheese to taste and when we liked it they insisted we take the last little chunk with us. I tried to object but Emilio literally forced it into my hand. And once Manuel realized Chuck also speaks a bit of Spanish as well he would talk to him in German and Spanish all mixed together. Chuck says it completely threw his mind for a loop. After a couple of hours we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways, except that our separate ways ended up running into each other at the edge of the market. I think I may have inadvertantly been rude to them because they said something with the words "coffee" and "expensive" while pointing off down a street and I took it to mean that they were suggesting a nearby coffee shop to us. I made a face at the "expensive" part and shook my head no and we went our separate ways again after another quick goodbye. Chuck syas he thinks they were atually inviting us along with them for coffee! And I went and made a face at their invitation!! I hope they realize that I really wasn't trying to be rude - I just misunderstood what they were saying. Stupid language barrier. As we headed off this time we did not run into them again, but I did run into a fruit stand selling lychees. I didn't literally run into it... But I did buy a few lychees. We eventually ended up back at that Residenz park where we took a seat on the grass and watched people for a few hours. A quintet set up in the arcade near us and started playing: flute, piano (yes, they dragged a large piano into the arcade), violin, cello, and bass. We stayed there listening until the sun had moved far enough behind the building that we were getting chilly, then headed back to the train station. On the way we saw two more string groups, one of which was the same one we had seen on our first day out. That violinist with the piercing eyes. At the station we putzed around with nothing to do but wait. We still had about 10 hours until our train left so we were rather bored... I noticed that a lot of people would go from garbage can to garbage can collecting any bottles that had been thrown away. They didn't look homeless either. They then take the bottles to the bottle-return machine where they get a few cents per bottle. I don't know how much exactly per bottle, but no more than €0.10 I woudl think. That's not such a bad return I suppose. We ended up at Starbucks (located in the station) after a while, then moved on to Burger King where the internet was free. I overheard the conversation of a group of three people our age sitting behind us that was interesting. They were discussing love and relationships and marriage. The one girl seemed to basically have the fairy tale idea of love: it should last forever; if you love her you should marry her; you should always be happy in your relationship if you're in love; you can't control falling in love; etc. Only one of the two guys was really involved in the conversation and his views were more like: marriage doesn't equal love; sometimes you can be unhappy with your relationship but if you stick through it you may end up happy once again; you can control whether or not you fall in love by choosing to associate with, or not to associate with someone you're beginning to have feelings for. Anyways, I found their conversation an interesting one! After we left Burger King to wait on the train platform I realized I didn't have my sweater. After some thought and discussion we figured out that we left it in Starbucks on the window sill. They were, of course, closed by this point, so there was no way I was going to be getting my sweater back. I was actually a bit upset! I remember buying that thing at H&M in San Francisco when my Mom and sister came to visit. Robyn didn't really like it at the time but she wore it a few years later and liked it! It was a bit of a memory sweater is all. Ah well, au revoir my sweet little sweater! To Paris we go.

Some things I noticed in Munich are that people stare at you. Chuck has noticed this since we got to Europe, but I only really started to notice it in Munich. On a few occasions people would ride by on their bike and as they passed their head would turn full around to continue looking at us behind them. What the heck?? Why are they staring?? Do I have food on my face? Did I sit in wet paint? I don't get it. But they like to stare... And the grocery stores are closed on Sundays which makes things difficult if you didn't plan ahead. And you have to be careful about the type of bottled water you get! While our Dachau tur group was waiting to get on the train after the tour a woman pulled out a big bottle of water and opened it up to have it fizz out all over her and even a few people close to her. "Sorry, sorry," she yelled. "I thought it was still!" We've made that mistake a few times already - not the fizzing all over us part, but the getting the wrong water part. So we have to make sure we remember to look for the word "still" on the bottle. If the company wasn't kind enough to translate then shake the bottle up and if bubbles collect at the top for more than two seconds it's soda water. Soda water just isn't nearly as refreshing as still. And it's difficult to find cold drinks. You may get excited at finding a refrigerated section of drinks only to find that someone has neglected to plug the thing in. But over all, Munich was a pretty decent place.

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