Can I drown in them? Please, can I?
Those deep blue eyes. Gorgeous eyes on a gorgeous face. And, I am looking at that face, and those eyes are looking into mine. That was my start at Munich. At the baggage claim, where I am sure (knowing my penchant for trouble) that my backpack hasn’t reached Munich and is lost in the million (it did feel like that) transits I did, I am elated by the attention I am getting from this fetching young man and at the same time panicking about my baggage. Like some Bollywood movie, our bags come together and we smile, pick our bags and walk towards the exit.
I had booked all my accommodations through Airbnb. As, it was much cheaper and definitely safer than staying at a hotel. Well, I wasn’t worried about my safety at all, but this being the first time I was on a vacation alone, I decided it would be prudent to live with locals. The experience would be much richer too. Its better to have some company when I come back home than stare at the walls of a hotel room.
My host in Munich, Andrea had given me the directions to her place. Very simple. S-Bahn from the airport to Isartor and then walk upto her house on Baderstrasse. I reach the exit where the S-Bahn ticket vending machines are located. I stand and stare at them. It’s all Greek and Latin to me. Or rather, its all German.
And then, my knight with blue eyes and a backpack comes to my rescue. (Did I mention his kickass forearms?) He asks me if I need help. I grin like an idiot, stutter and bob my head. He shows me how to select your stations and buy the tickets and that I have an option to do it all in English!! Hallelujah!! So, once I have bought the ticket, we realize my train is already there and will leave in a minute. So, I give a quick smile, a thank you, just turn around and run. While running I am thinking, “You fool!! You should have said Danke!” Well, if this was a Karan Johar or Yash Raj movie he would have boarded the train too or we would have bumped into each other some time in the next 3 days. But alas, he was no Raj and I, no Simran.
I get into the train, dump my backpack and plant my butt onto the nearest seat. Andrea had told me that my stop, which was at Isartor was around 25 minutes from the airport but, I was worried and restless. I didn’t want to start my first day by missing the right station. Then, I realize they have announcements, and they are in English too. So, I relax, lean back and enjoy the view. I wish I could live here. (You would hear this quite often now) The city is so green and beautiful. Just when I was slipping into my favourite pastime à la day dreaming (no details, these are the juicy bits you don’t get to know) I notice that the announcements have stopped in English. They were only for major stations where one would alight to change the line or take a U-Bahn. Ideally, it shouldn’t matter if there aren’t any English announcements. All I needed was the name of the station, but my English trained brain could not correlate the spellings to the way they actually were pronounced. I read everything the way one would in English and they didn’t sound anything like they actually should. There was a display too, but too far from me and I couldn’t read it. Time to start getting worried, I get up and check out the map of the lines on the wall of the train and just, so in time. Isartor was the next stop.
I walk up, out of the station. And. I. Stop. Breathing. It’s cold!! I mean, really really cold. Bone shaking, mind numbing cold! Excuse me?!! What?!! It was supposed to be 20 degrees!! That’s what Google told me! Damn you!! This is supposed to be summer!
Now, what am I supposed to be with those shorts and dresses I have stuffed in my backpack? 12 Kgs of worthless scrap. That’s what they were now. Anyways, more the reason to hurry and find Andrea’s home. So, I walk, staring at the street names, trying hard to not shiver, completely lost. I try to switch on my data and look for the location. Its blank. Nothing comes up. So, I decide to ask the people around. Its around 12 in the noon, but it looks like 5 in the morning. Hardly anyone around. And, just my luck, every person I come across is a tourist himself. Lost. Finally a sweet lady switches on her map and tries to help me. We both stand at the corner of the street, twisting the phone and ourselves in weird angles to figure out the direction. I thank her and continue on my quest. And, lo and behold! The first street I enter is the right one! Its a delight to see orderly, numbered houses. 2 minutes walk and I have 22, Baderstrasse on my right. Home sweet home for the next 3 days.
Andrea is such a bubbly and warm woman. She is so restless, always doing something or the other. (reminded me of myself, probably/hopefully would be like her when I am old) Her house is so cozy. A little cute kitchen, a bathroom with a big window overlooking their backyard (and, probably the neighbours in the adjacent buildings can look into) and a bright room with a bed and a couch which would double as my bed for the next few days. I had gotten a little elephant made in marble with in-lay art for her as a gift. She was thrilled that she had something from India now.
I take a quick shower, change into one of the two pairs of pants I have carried and am ready to head out. Andrea is shocked that I don’t want to sleep and rest. Apparently most of her guests do that. Well, most people will after a 14 hour journey. Mine was almost 28 hours as I had left home a day before. But, I wasn’t going to sit at home. I wasn’t tired. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore. And, well, there was also the matter of not wasting those precious Euros I had spent on being here.
Now, back to the point of it being 7 degrees instead of 20-22. I just had a flimsy shrug and a pullover. There was no way I was wearing a pullover. Andrea lent me her bright red trench-coat. My favourite colour!! I looked great! I swear! There was no one with me who I could force to take my pictures, or else I would have proved it to you.
Being my usual, over organized self, I had a three page document on all the places to see and things to do for each of the three cities I was going to visit. But, at the same time I had told myself that I don’t have to see all. This was a vacation and not a race. (Same words used by a friend a few days later. Needed that reminder) Still, secretly I was hoping I would be able to do all and I was gonna try my best to make it happen.
Andrea helped me with my plans too. She shared a few maps and a travel brochure on Munich. She suggested that I go to the Deutsches Museum first, as it shuts down at 5 p.m. and was just a few minutes walk from home. Actually every place worth seeing was a few minutes walk from her place. I couldn’t have picked a better location for my stay.
So, I brave the freezing wind and walk up to the Museum. I have to walk across a bridge over the Isar river. It’s beautiful. Deutsches Museum is the world’s largest museum on science and technology.
For me, it was about the German dominance in the world of technology. You can see the earliest engines, turbines, etc etc. (I am pretending to know stuff here.) It was incredible to see engines probably 5 times my size.
Being the first day out, I was converting everything back into Indian currency and having a minor cardiac arrest everytime I paid. So, while buying my ticket I did not take the audio guide and so have no clue of what I saw. A mistake I did not repeat again during this trip. The main area has a display of aircrafts. I was having a tough time with my camera. My DSLR decided to go crazy and would not take any pictures. The error displayed was, not enough light, but the flash won’t pop up. I tried for a while and then got frustrated and called my husband back at home. He obviously couldn’t do much. Anyways, it decided to be nice to me for 10 minutes when I took as many pictures as I could. I wanted to take a picture of myself. All my selfies are a disaster, and the idea of using a camera to try one! Just then, a very sweet lady came and offered to take a picture of mine as she had noticed that I was all by myself. Zoom in, zoom out, this angle and that angle, without me even having to ask for it!! My favourite kind of photographer.
Next, I walked up to Marienplatz. This is the most popular and important tourist site of Munich. This was the market square in the middle ages and has seen its share of medieval tournaments and executions. It derives its name from The Mariensaul or Maria’s column which is a high column with a gilded statue of Virgin Mary that was erected in 1638 to commemorate the end of Swedish occupation.
Right behind it is the Neues Rathaus or The new town hall which houses the Glockenspiel. Glockenspiel is the biggest attraction of Marienplatz. This clock tower dates back to 1908. Every day at 11 a.m. and also at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. in summers, it chimes and re-enacts two stories. The top half of the clock tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V. The lower half shows the Schäfflertanz or the cooper’s dance. The myth is that in 1517, Munich was hit by a plague and the Cooper’s danced through the streets trying to bring vitality and joy. This dance can be seen during Fasching or The German Carnival; next one is in 2019. So, this city drops back into my bucket list. 😀 The whole show lasts around 12 minutes, at the end of which a very small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps thrice; marking the end of the show.
I was not too keen on seeing this show. If you are from Hyderabad and have seen the musical clock at Salar Jung museum, this doesn’t hold as much curiosity as it would otherwise. A friend (another fellow Hyderabadi) who had helped me chalk out my “To dos” at Munich, had suggested the same. But, luckily, I was at The square at 5 and got to see the whole spectacle. If you intend to do it, please carry a pair of binoculars. Without it, you can’t really appreciate the show.
The biggest structure at the square is the Neues Rathaus. This was built in between 1867 and 1908 in Gothic Revival style of Architecture.It shows the House of Welf, Duke Henry the Lion and and almost the entire line of Wittelsbach dynasty in Bavaria. The central monument is an equestrian statue of Prince Regent Luitpold. The Town house houses the mayor’s office and the city council. As soon as I entered, I was greeted by a beautiful stained glass window. (I am absolutely crazy about them) The ground floor is taken up by a restaurant called Ratskeller. In the corner of the inner walls you can see gargoyles and other statues of human heads. There is something very dark about these moss covered statues. I couldn’t decide if they were screaming in pain or in rage.
You can climb up the stairs into the floors above. Its main tower is accessible through an elevator. I have no idea why I didn’t try it. Each floor has a central area with a fireplace (non functional now) and a beautiful ceiling structure. This was my favourite part of the day, as I could set my camera in auto mode and take pictures of myself in front of the golden fireplaces. The rest of the floor are offices of the city council. It was really funny to smile at these people in suits and then run to stand and pose at my camera.
I was hungry now. Walked up to the Viktaulienmarket, my dream market. I wish I could live here. (Strike 2) Fresh vegetables, fruits, an array of various kinds of meat. I stood and made up recipes of what all I can cook.
The Rostbratwurstl at Schlemmermeyer’s (right opposite Viktaulienmarket) was on my list. I had to wait 10 minutes for it as they had just run out of it. It was absolutely worth the wait. I fell in love with the bread. The sausage was good, but for me, the hero of the dish was the bread. It looked like it would be crusty and as most breads do, would hurt my upper palate. But, it was soft and delicious.
Happy to have ticked off one more thing on my list, I went in search of Michaelkirche or The church of St. Michael. There was a service going on in there and so we visitors weren’t allowed to take pictures, and I barely got to see much. The cathedral alongside it, was undergoing renovation. Michaelkirche is on the end of the pedestrian street between Marianplatz and Karlsplatz.
This street is filled with stores and malls all of which were on a summer sale. (Summer?!! Are you kidding me?!! Can you hear my teeth chattering?!) The place by late evening was filled with tourists and locals alike taking advantage of the great deals. I was absolutely exhausted now. I was wearing belle shoes and I am used to open toe footwear. My feet were hurting and I couldn’t wait to hit the sack.
On my walk back, I come across a band of street musicians playing right in front of the Fischbrunnen (The fountain at Mariensaul) A few old couples are dancing to the music. Slow shuffles, arms in arms, smiling at each other. I stop to look at them. That’s love right there. At the dusk of their lives, probably spent most of their days together but still, don’t miss a chance to just stop and dance and live the moment. I can’t stop smiling. The music stops for a minute, we all clap. I tell the couple closest to me that they were beautiful. They don’t understand English and I forgot all the German the moment I stepped into Germany. 2 months of mugging up and all I remembered was Hallo and Danke. I gesture with my hands that they are wonderful together. The old man smiles, pulls me in just as the music starts and starts dancing with me. I giggled like a little girl. My face hurt with the smile I had plastered on my face.
I decide to grab something to eat before I head back home, and I had to have a beer. After all I was in Germany!! I stop by at the Glockenspiel Café. The waiter/server was a friendly chatty fellow. I was tired and had no energy to even decide what I wanted. I asked him to surprise me and he sure did, with a Japanese Asahi Beer and a Tom Kha Soup. The soup was to die for. I savored every drop of it while reading my Kindle.
I was told and had read at a million different places that Germans aren’t the friendliest of people. I don’t know what they were talking about. I was met with warm smiles and happy hearts everywhere I went. I was thrilled and felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of my first day.
I know I am going to sleep well tonight.