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72 Hours in Bavaria: Munich, Germany

New Town Hall in Munich

New Town Hall in Munich

My time in Munich was short but my friends Margret and Anna helped me pack in a Bavari-awesome time.

The first evening, Margret and I enjoy a Greek meal and catch up since our first meeting two years ago.  Dazed and confused after 24 hours of travel, I pinch myself over wine and garlic bread realizing that I’m actually in Munich and my latest adventure is now underway.

A Stroll through the Center

Independent my first day, I walk to the city center, down long, wide streets.  The air is snappy and fresh and a crunchy sprinkling of snow collects in crevices and clings to frozen grass.  My route winds awkwardly around the golden Angel of Peace statue erected in 1899 as a reminder of peace after the Franco German war (1870-71).  Next, I cross over the steely-gray and shallow Isar River which is so clean and pure that in the summertime it’s full of swimmers.

Soon, I’m strolling a promenade through the English Garden of Munich which is one of Europe’s largest public parks and even bigger than New York’s Central Park.  It’s leafless trees and the gray sky create a monochrome vision of romantic melancholy.  A young couple, she in a traditional dirndl dress and he in lederhosen, are photographed perhaps for an engagement.

In the center of the city and in freezing temperatures, it’s a surprise to discover surfers at “the wave” surfing on an artificial stream in the center of Munich.  Take a look for yourself!

 

I continue strolling until I find myself in front of Munich’s famous Glockenspiel, an animated clock in the tower above the New Town Hall.  Despite the ancient appearance of the magnificent New Town Hall, it is neo-gothic, built in 1908.  I’m tardy to the clock party, arriving at 12:04.  Since I’ve missed the show, I ramble on to the nearby outdoor marketplace in where vendors in covered booths sell aromatic cheeses, sausages, flowers, and golden breads.

Outdoor market in Munich

Outdoor market in Munich

In the center of the marketplace square is a red backback, unattended.  I stare at it, waiting for the owner.  Without a doubt, and admittedly playing into the desires of terrorists, I am wary of public spaces these days, in my own country and abroad.  I prefer to avoid them but also refuse to live in a plastic bubble.  Especially when the likelihood of being killed by lightning is statistically-speaking four times more likely than being killed by a terrorist attack.  In fact, Americans are about 22 times more likely to die from a brain-eating zombie parasite than from terrorism. [Source]  But, I don’t generally worry about brain-eating zombie parasites.  Do you?

But back to that backpack which appears full, yet abandoned.  I watch for five minutes and get jangled.  And so I go looking for a policeman.  I search the market for a good ten minutes and never do I find one.  In my whole day of walking I saw but one patrol car which I found amazing given the recent terrorist threats on Munich.

Interesting polish!

Interesting polish!

Later in the day, when I explained my alarm to my hosts, they said they were glad there were no policemen and that the city was not suffering under a paranoid, police state mentality.  They also explained that Bavarians are not easily riled up, exemplified by a Bavarian saying and a general life philosophy: “Passt Scho” which is the equivalent of  “It’s all good.”  

I hope it stays all good. 

It was also notable that bikes are left unattended and unlocked all over the place.  I can’t imagine such trust in the United States.  In a city of 1.4 million people, it feels so much like a village — quiet, relaxed, peaceful, and trusting.  That is all good.

After a savory snack of a reiberdatschi which is starchy powerhouse of potato, flour, egg and grease, I return to the Glockenspiel at 1 PM.  Sadly, no animated characters dance in the clock tower.  At 1 PM, exactly nothing happens.  However, the many surrounding churches ring their bells and the experience of 360° bell-ringing is auditorily scrumptious.

Dinner and Politics

Kaese Spätzle

Kaese Spätzle

In the evening Margret invites guests for a special and truly Bavarian (and vegetarian!) dinner of Kaese Spätzle which is similar to Mac and Cheese but better.  I grate three large, stinky blocks of cheese which are added to the freshly made egg and flour pasta.  The kitchen is a riot of commotion with guests participating in making the dish perfectly according to their family’s tradition.  Red onions are sautéed to a dark and crispy perfection and sprinkled atop the final dish.  It is extraordinarily cheesy and delicious and the very definition of comfort food.

Over dinner, we talk about many things.  All the guests kindly and impressively speak excellent English so I am not excluded.  The topic of the refugees arises and there is nothing but compassion at the table and an understanding that Germany, who has welcomed refugees, is at a pivotal moment, with a backlash towards the refugees happening in some parts of Germany and the pressure intensifying on Angela Merkel to stop the flow.  The European Union teeters in the balance and Greece is crumbling under the pressure.  I am appreciative of this candid talk about the situation and more appreciative of the heavy weight that Germany has volunteered to bear.  Sadly, they are getting little help from most other members of the European Union.  Where is my own country in this time of humanitarian crisis?

And then the question I dread —  with wide eyes, I’m asked: What do you think about Donald Trump?  Could he win?”  Ug.

If you haven’t traveled outside of the U.S. you might be surprised to see how much people in other countries follow American politics (often more than Americans themselves!). As a representative of my country, I am at a loss for an explanation as to how a man so divisive, arrogant, crude and full of hatred can be in the forefront of our political process.  At this table he is considered a joke, but not a funny one.  And although he’s not in office, he’s already doing a lot of damage to our reputation abroad.  My stomach churns in agitation and I can do nothing but drown in American embarrassment and explain that I doubt he’ll win. 

A Day in the Mountains

Bavarian breakfast

Bavarian breakfast

The next day it’s snowing and Munich becomes a wintery wonderland.  Anna goes to the local bakery for fresh pretzels and over coffee teaches me the correct pronunciation: “Brrrret-zin” with a rolling ‘r”.  A toasted fresh pretzel with butter could be the definition of divine.

It’s Saturday and the city heads to the mountains for winter fun.  Margret and Anna give me mittens and boot covers and a 40-minute drive takes us to the foggy and cold alpine region of Tegernsee.  We stop on the way to buy plastic saucers for sledding.

A super-high (and therefore terrifying) tram takes us to the top of the mountain and now we are ready to descend Germany’s longest natural sled run at 6.5 kilometers (4 miles).  While initially steep,  the slope becomes less so in minutes.  I quickly remember abdominal muscles that I forgot I had twenty years ago.  Due to sticky snow and our general lack of technique there is more walking than sledding.  A bit frustrating but who cares?  It was magnificently beautiful and fun.

 

Halfway down we stop at an alpine hut.  One step inside removes the deep chill.  Antlers hang on the wall and a fire burns in the center.  Margret orders a round of “Jaga Tee” which is a uniquely Bavarian mixture of black tea, schnapps and herbs that packs quite the soothing effect.  I have a lovely meal of reiberdatschi (potato pancakes) with applesauce and Margret and Anna enjoy borscht soup.  For desert we have Bavarian Kaiserschmarrn which is like a chopped, sweet, fluffy pancake with apple sauce.  Bavarian food is not for dieting, but for hearty living.  As mittens thaw and jackets drip with snow, our bellies become full with warmth.

Resting Up

On my final day in Munich, I stay inside.  Margret and Anna watch alpine skiing and go to a classical concert while I write and plan for the coming week.  It’s Sunday and church bells toll, the radiator hisses, snow falls quietly and cozy feels just right.  

Tomorrow, it’s on to London.

Many thanks to Margret and Anna for showing me such beautiful Bavarian hospitality in beautiful Munich.

Photos of Munich, Germany (click to view):

5 Comments

  1. Oh that`s funny, I think we were in Munich pretty much 1 week apart, the scenery looks the same!

    • Pretty place, huh? Where are you now?

  2. Whoops, I’m not an alien!!! My name is Aileen

  3. Hi, enjoying your updates here in the UK, no snow in the south of England so no sledges required! Enjoy your time here and look forward to reading more updates.

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