The name of the city is actually München, but a little artistic liberty is always welcome.
After a quick and cheap falafel lunch at the local kebab shop, D. and I boarded Meinfernbus (My Fern Bus? They are green…) and made a 7 or so hour ride down to Munich. Though I am generally a fan of train travel, prohibitive pricing combine with a prohibitive strike combined to make the bus the best way to travel south. As an added bonus, I can now say I have been on the German autobahn, which is far less exotic now that I realize anything transportation related in a “bahn.” That said, it didn’t cease to surprise me when zippy cars flew past our bus.
The scenery between Berlin and Munich is mostly flat, with fields. The fields can be green, or full of alarmingly yellow mystery flowers, or better yet, solar panels. They are also populated by more windmills than La Mancha (good thing Don Quixote never made it here, because he’d have his work cut out for him).
We arrived forty minutes after our scheduled time thanks to a little traffic jam; the wonders of European mass transit are not immune from delays caused by roadside accidents. Upon arrival in Munich, we made our way, walking to M.’s house, one of D.’s climbing buddies from his time in Berlin. What we expected to be a short walk turned out to be, well, not so short, and 40 or 50 minutes later, we ran into Marcel and went up to his flat. Clean doesn’t exactly do justice to the state of M.’s home–it was hospitalesque, with not a hair to be found on the white tile of the bathrooms and nary a misplaced crumb on the vinyl kitchen floor. The shiny Ikea cabinets had no less shine than the ones in the catalog and even the spare coins were separated by denomination into different jars. Thankfully, such a neat dude was not opposed to ordering a slightly messy pizza, my first delivery food ever on this side of the world. A glass of wine and an hour of chitchat later, I headed for bed a little after 1 and left the fellows to continue they’re catching up.
While it is usually a rather disagreeable experience to sleep on the floor of a “stranger’s” house, or worse, sleep on an airbed, M. had two delightful fold-out mattresses, soft sheets, fluffy pillows, and dual matching blankets ready for us. (I’ve since learned that it’s fairly typical here for each partner to get their own blanket rather than sharing a queen- or king-sized one. Funny.) The sleeping was good. And plentiful….no one budged until almost 11 the next morning.
M. ate the most enormous bowl/bucket of oatmeal I’ve ever seen, and D. and I. waited to do brunch on the town. This time, we decided not to walk, but rather take the S-bahn to somewhere near Marienplatz. Seeing as the local, but hugely important, football team (Bayern, winner of several championships) was about to play, people were decked out, and a leettle noisier than the average whisper-y German. While I had my mind set on something breakfasty, it was near 12 o’clock, which on Bavarian time is lunch o’clock. We made our way past several ENORMOUS biergarten-esque places. In Barcelona, or perhaps in Spain in general, it is rather uncommon to see a place with more than three or four dozen tables. Here, that seems like only half the capacity of these places. Even so, the place we settled on felt intimate enough and my midday risotto was, if not delectable, certainly more than edible.
Our lunch. D., M., and me (behind the lens..)
The nerd in me wanted to take quick peak in the church, called the Woman’s church (in German, instead of course…frau something or other). While the Gothic- brick exterior gave me certain expectations about what I might find inside, it actually felt almost “new” in the interior. Tall, plastered white columns, alternating large red and blue tiles on the floor. Nothing terribly remarkable. The neo-gothic city hall, which would’ve fooled me if not for M. telling me otherwise and the “1908” placard, was more spectacular than the church.
But, all of that was viewed in passing as we made our way back underground to head to one of the world’s largest climbing facilities. Though this certainly isn’t typical tourism, when in Rome…do as the climbers. Being around a sea of people who look like they know what they’re doing naturally leave me taken aback and almost “shy” at the beginning, but since I’m with someone who doesn’t allow for that, I was up climbing before I could truly feel sorry for myself. This facility is mostly lead climbing; what that means is that the climber has to hook his/her rope in hooks every 3 meters or so. Since I don’t know how to do that, or rather since I haven’t practiced that, I waited for someone to climb all the way up and then leave their rope on the route and then I could go up. These walls were considerably higher than the ones we’ve tried in NC, which means I was considerably more terrified. At the beginning, I didn’t go up to the top strictly based on principle…I didn’t want to be so far off the ground. In between climbs, you sit and chit chat and watch other people. Personally, I was amazed at the mini-EU assembled there–German, French, English, Spanish, and even Catalan was spoken around the gym. Another cool bit is that the walls were both indoor and outdoor. We tried both. Before my fifth and final route, D., in as many words, told me to deal with the height, to go up and hang out and get used to being up there (where the air is rare…). (The “oh-sh*t” face that affixes itself to my face half-way up the wall is apparently not helpful in conquering a leetle fear of heights.) And, even though I slipped a few times and used holds (the shaped plastic grips on the wall) that weren’t the color of the route I was trying, I did fell less scared on the last route. Mind over matter.
D. at the top of one of the routes I tried later (he, of course, did the harder version).
D. coming down and M. belaying at the bottom. Me: still behind the lens.
Even more fun than climbing (okay, so I exaggerate) was realizing that the showers in the gym were not individual stalls, but rather a large room with 3 or 4 shower heads. I consider myself fairly liberated, but I’ll be honest, when I noticed no one else was in the showers, I made it in and out in just 3 thirty second whacks of the timed faucet. Safe!
As a reward for our excellent afternoon, we got Lebanese food a place that satisfied my need for a meal in a (bright blue) hole in the wall. It was cute and cozy and tasty.
My dinner mates in the mirror.
Back in the U-bahn, we (D., M., and M.’s climbing partner, T.) headed for a walk around downtown, which seemed much more pleasant by night. Originally, we were looking for some bar-hopping concert-thingy, we eventually settled on a dark bar on a corner near a plaza for a little bevvie. The walls were completely soundproofed, and fairly early in the evening (10 or so) they take all chairs away from the outside to avoid making noise for the neighbors, who, presumably, might want to sleep. Edgy dressers stood and sat with their glass and hipster-y portraits adorned the walls. It surprises me to see that Germany is both the land of bright, spotless Ikea kitchens, and also a tattoo and hair gel kind of place. D. attributes it to the idea of tolerance and respect that permeates the cultural vibe here; live and let live. After a pleasant first weekend trip, I find myself inclined to agree.
Heading to the Laim S-bahn. The pom-pom’d blondie in the back is on an ad for English classes: “Rebecca teaches real English…with all her American cheerfulness.” (Not a bad reputation to have…)
Academic progress: None to speak of for the weekend.
Gratitude: An easy trip back and forth with no hitches, an afternoon activity that was surprisingly enjoyable, delicious green tea at the Lebanese place, a comfortable guest bed, a nicely reorganized room in Berlin (D.’s handiwork), and, of course, my mom (it’s Mutter’s Tag here and there).