Summer Winter Vacation V
by Jeffrey Scott Duly, Age 41
Now that I've been bitten by the travel bug, I am usually on the lookout for airfare specials. As it happens, Luftansa has a special to Europe from selected cities. There was a good fare from Charlotte, but I'd have to get to Charlotte. I could have driven and stayed the night in a hotel the day I got back, but the cost of gas and lodging would have been about the same as flying from Nashville. So that is what I did. If you've seen any of my other travelogues, you know you can bypass my narrative and go directly to the pictures here. But where's the fun in that? I have hyperlinks to places and things I saw and did here. You would miss out.
Prologue: The flight to Charlotte left Nashville at 2:15 p.m. on one of those little commuter planes. It was a U.S. Airways flight to Charlotte and a Lufthanza flight to Munich. It got in a couple of hours before the flight to Germany, so there was a little bit of waiting at the terminal. There was an old man with a little girl near me waiting to board. He was wearing a pin-striped suit, white socks and sandals. Très Chic! I wasn't fond of that specific Luftansa Airbus jet. There was little legroom and no individual video screens. Dinner of beef and rice was good. The movie was Marie Antoinette, which I didn't particularly want to see, so I tried to get some sleep. I might have gotten about an hour or so total. The bad thing was we had a particularly rough descent. On the plus side, we got in thirty minutes early and getting through customs was a breeze. There were no lines at all. Of course I got out ahead of the large church group on the plane.
Donnerstag, 1 März (München, Deutschland): There was a train station at the airport, so getting to town was pretty easy. I had booked a room at a bed and breakfast in a southeast Munich neighborhood and had worked out how to get there ahead of time. It was the train to the Ostbahnhof, another train out to Trudering and then a bus to the house. There is a bus stop right outside the house, so it could not have been more convenient.
After a quick change of clothes, it was on the train to the Marienplatz. It is the central square in the old part of Munich where the Neues Rathaus is located. Actually both the old and new Rathauses are there. The big touristy thing to do at the Neues Rathaus is to watch the glockenspiel. It goes off at 11:00 a.m. every day. I was never at the Marienplatz at that time, so I never saw it. I kept in the general vicinity this first day as I was still a little tired from the flight and I had a headache. I bought some German headache tablets at an apothecary. After going into the Frauenkirche, I wandered in the direction of the Englischer Garten. It is a pretty big place. There were a lot of dog walkers out in the rain that day. I didn't really intend for the first day to be a busy one, so after heading over to see the Hofbräuhaus I had dinner at a restaurant called Opatija. It was Germany and I wanted some German food, so I ordered some turkey schnitzel with a side of spätzle. My Coke was typically European, which means without ice. I just don't know why they do that.
Freitag, 2 März (München, Deutschland): I got a good amount of sleep before I started a long day of sightseeing. I did better than my trip to Paris a little more than a year ago in that I didn't overdo it on day one and completely wreck my legs. The first stop for the day would be Nymphenburg Palace. It is strange for an American to go to palaces, knowing that people who really didn't do anything be born to royalty used to live in such opulent places. It's just so undemocratic. Anyway, I wandered about the palace avoiding being in the same space as the Brazilian tour group. Then after walking some of the grounds behind the palace I went to the wing that held the Marstallmuseum and all the royal coaches and sleighs.
The Olympic Park was not far away, so after the palace I caught the train to the nearby station. After a quick elevator trip at the blinding speed of seven meters per seconds, I was at the observation deck in the Olympic Tower. It provides a spectacular view of Munich. On a clearer day I could have seen the Alps to the south of town, but it was mostly cloudy and there was rain to the south that obscured my view. As it was I saw the former Olympic Village where the tragic Munich Massacre took place in September of 1972, the nearby headquarters of BMW and in the distance the Allianz Arena where I would go on Sunday to catch a soccer match. After getting high in the tower (literally, not chemically) and a kirsch-royal (a big cherry danish) at one of the many bakeries in the train stations, I went back toward the old town to visit the Valentin Musäum. It is devoted to the work of German comedian Karl Valentin, the Charlie Chaplin of Germany. All the displays were in German so I didn't really get most of the humor, but it was good anyway.
I knew the Königsplatz was lousy with Nazis back in the bad old days, so that was my next stop. The Königsplatz, where several rallies were held, still looks a lot like it did back then. A few of the old party administrative buildings nearby still stand as well, including the Führerbau where the Munich Agreement was signed on September 29, 1938. Strolling the former Nazi stomping grounds was not quite the last stop for the day. After a quick backfische baguette sandwich for dinner, I decided to take the train out to the Allianz Arena to see it lit up at night and to scope out the lay of the land for Sunday. I found where the ticket windows were, took a few photos and headed back to the house for the night. I watched the German version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" with Jan translating some of the questions for me. There was a guy going who had won €500,000 on a question about which animal was once believed to sweat blood. (I got the answer right. It was the hippopotamus.) Time ran out before he got the €1,000,000 question, so we'd have to wait until Monday for that.
Samstag, 3 März (Salzburg, Österreich): I did not get a good night's sleep before Saturday morning. I kept waking up about every couple of hours. I clicked on the television and found phone sex ads on a couple of the channels. Not the kind of ads you would see late at night on your local independent station where some babe whispers about how she and her friends are just waiting for you call. It was non-stop ads with completely naked women (their special lower womanly areas were obscured) writhing about and in some cases simulating or actually masturbating (that was of course obscured as well). Talk about Bavarian cream! Ohhh!
I got out of the house early and to the Ostbahnhof about a half hour early because I had to buy a train ticket to Salzburg. It was pretty easy to do since the Die Bahn machine was in several different languages. The trip took a little less than two hours. I bought a copy of the Sun newspaper at the station for the trip, so I got caught up on all the salacious news from the U.K. The train pulled into the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof a little before 11:00 a.m. I bought a Salzburg card that covered transportation for the day and also included free admission to many of the places I wanted to see. The first thing I wanted to do was hop on a southbound bus and get to Untersberg. One thing I wanted to do on the trip was see the Alps. Munich is a bit north of the mountains, but the Alps start just south of town in Salzburg. So up the in the cable car I went to the station at an altitude of over 5800 feet. Untersberg isn't the highest mountain in the range and the station isn't even at the highest point on the mountain, but this was as good as I was going to get. It's still the Alps and I was on a snowy, windy and cold mountain. The temperature at the top station was -1°C. With the wind whipping at around 30-40 m.p.h., it felt more like -10°C. There are trails on the mountain, but there was a lot of snow and ice. With the wind gusting like is was, trekking too far would have been a bit dicey. I walked around a bit, but after a while it was back to the station for a hot chocolate at the little cafe and the trip back down.
Salzburg is known by most people for two things. One of them is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart was all around. There are museums in both the house in which he was born and the house where he and his family lived later in his life. The latter museum is better. In the museum gift shops were everything Mozart, from golf balls and mouse pads to perfume and socks. And in most of the tourist shops you can buy Mozartkugel. They are chocolate nougat, pistachio and marzipan coated in chocolate. Had I known they were so good, I would have brought back more. As it was, at one of the Mozartkugel shops I bought a couple of chocolate eggs. One had a chocolate-champagne center and the other had lemon cream inside. I needed the sugar boost. I was still a little hungry, so after the eggs I also went to a bakery and bought a fashingkrapfen (an apple-filled doughnut). Good stuff. There is a fortress on a hill called Hohensalzburg that overlooks old Salzburg. Fortunately there is a tram that goes up the side of the steep hill. It was a former castle for prince archbishops of Salzburg. Now it's just an old fort with a great view of the city.
Salzburg's other claim to fame for the average person is The Sound of Music. The story was based on the von Trapps and several scenes from the film were shot in Salzburg. I saw the nunnery where Maria was a novice and the Mirabell Gardens where Julie Andrews as Maria and the kids danced around singing "Do Re Mi". After all this I was staring to tire, so I caught the bus back to the Hauptbahnhof and looked for somethng for dinner. Unfortunately all that was around the station were dodgy kebab places and betting shops, so I did what I don't usually do and went to the Burger King in the station. I usually don't eat at places I can eat at home, but I didn't trust that a kebab wouldn't come back at me on the train and I didn't want to chance it. When I got back to the house in Munich, there was a talk/game show on television called Wetten, Dass..? which roughly means "Want to bet that..?" The talk show portion is your standard chat show on a couch, but the game part featured people who say they can do something unique. There was a kid who claimed he could identify six classmates simply by feeling their ears. (And he did it!) Then there were a group of guys who said they could identify a metal just from the sparks made when grinding it (They guessed none.) Lastly there was a guy who tried to identify makes and models of cars by simply tapping the front fender and hood while blindfolded. (He got a few.)
Sonntag, 4 März (München, Deutschland): Since I only brought carry-on luggage I had to pack light. So by Sunday morning I needed to do a little laundry. Fatima showed me where the washer and dryer were and I did a load. I didn't have much on the schedule for the day other than the TSV 1860 München match at 2:00 p.m. so the morning was spent with breakfast, laundry and relaxing a bit. After my stuff had dried I put on clean clothes and went to the Allianz Arena. I had a little trouble buying the ticket. I asked the woman behind the glass if she spoke English. She didn't so I muddled my way through the transaction. I got bought a ticket okay, but she must have thought I was a supporter of Eintracht Braunschweig, the visiting team. I didn't notice this until after I'd already been to the 1860 Munich team shop and bought a scarf. I didn't want to sit in the middle of the opposing team's fans and certainly not while wearing the home side's scarf. So I stood on the railing at the mezzanine level where the concessions are and watched from there. Except for not sitting, it was a great place to watch the game. The supporters on either end were chanting and singing songs throughout the match. Once song was to the tune of old Cuban song "Guantanamera" and another was a reworking of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver. 1860 Munich beat Braunschweig 2-0. It wasn't a particularly good game. 1860 was mid-table in the second division and Braunschweig was at the bottom. The home team controlled play for most of the match and really should have scored more. But my usual streak of good luck continued as the home team in the matches I've been to in Europe are still undefeated with three wins (Heart of Midlothian, Anderlecht and 1860 Munich) and one draw (Brentford).
I spent the rest of the day wandering around a bit more, taking some more photos. Dinner was once again decidedly non-German. A couple of slices of pizza would do for the night. On television was a replay of a previous night's handball match on Eurosport. Handball is actually sort of popular over there. In fact this was an EHF Champions League match between FC Barcelona (Yes, the same as the famous soccer team. Their uniforms even look the same.) and some German club called SG Flensburg. I didn't really watch it because I was tired and listening to it while I fell asleep wasn't an option because it was broadcast in German.
Montag, 5 März (Dachau, Deutschland): Here is where my guidebook let me down. I had bought a guide to Munich before I left and had planned some of what to do on what day. Monday was going to be spent in Dachau seeing the palace and the concentration camp. The Dachau Palace was not mentioned in the book, but I knew it was there. The concentration camp was and it listed it as open daily. So on the train I went to Dachau for the day. Dachau is northwest of Munich and is kind of like some of the bedroom communities around Nashville like Franklin and Lebanon. It is far enough away from Munich to retain a feel as separate town but close enough to be accessed by the Munich rail system.
Getting off the train I started walking in the direction of the palace, which is at the top of a hill. After getting up there, I saw the sign saying that it was closed on Mondays. Oh well, you've see one palace, you've seen them all, right? On the way back down the hill I stopped by the Dachau information center and picked up a map and brochure. The brochure said that both the palace and the camp were closed on Mondays. Damn! That was pretty much all I wanted to do in this town. So I walked through town to the camp to see if there was anything worth seeing over there without being able to get in. I could have caught a bus, but I was kind of annoyed anyway, so the walk gave me something to do. I still got a few picture from outside the gate and in the surrounding area. There was a sign that indicated some points of interest in other places in the Dachau area, so I found them on the map and continued walking. Unfortunately they were on the outskirts of town. I got up to the SS shooting range where over 4000 Soviet prisoners were executed and the camp cemetery where thousands of camp prisoners are buried. After a long day of walking (I figure at least ten miles) in the gloomy cold and damp, back on the train I went and back into Munich to find dinner. I hadn't had German for a few days, so I gave the Ratskeller a try. I knew it was in the Neus Rathaus and it was early enough not to be too busy. I had wollwürste (a veal sausage without skin) and potatoes for dinner and apfelkuchen (an apple cake) for dessert. At the table next to me were seated four Germans and three Japanese business people. It looked like they were having a meal after a meeting or conference. The common language they spoke was English. At another table not too far away was a creepy old German guy with white hair and moustache and a young black woman who looked young enough to be his daughter. He was touching her in a way seemed a little sleazy and he gave her a gift of perfumes. I'm not exactly sure what the relationship was there. It almost seemed like she was an escort. That was it for the night. I had a morning flight the next day and I had to get up early to get out to the airport.
Dienstag, 6 März (München, Deutschland): Thanks to these stupid rules about liquids on planes, I was unable to bring back a bottle of the delicious apple drink I had while I was over there. I couldn't even bring the empty bottle because it would have been bigger than three ounces. If I had checked my luggage I could have, but I don't like to unless I absolutely have to. So I boarded the United flight back to Dulles Airport for my connection back to Nashville. The movies on the trip back were Night at the Museum and Stranger Than Fiction. Both were good in their own way. About halfway through the flight I noticed several people looking out the window. We were over the ocean. What was there to see? I opened the window shade and looked down at Greenland. That was pretty neat. Every other time I've flown across the Atlantic it has been either cloudy, dark or no where near Greenland, so fortunately I was lucky to notice the others and see the icy mountains on the Greenland coast. The connecting flight landed in Nashville on time and when I got home I crashed into bed for some much needed sleep.
Epilogue: This trip was another one of those "The fare is so good, how could I pass it up?" trips I take from time to time. It turns out there isn't as much to do in Munich as I thought. Fortunately I wasn't there for a long trip. As I observed in Germany before, there is less in the way of old historic buildings as in other cities because we bombed the crap out of them in the war. That is why so much of places like Berlin and Munich look like modern American cities. They had to rebuild. And when I checked the weather before I left, I was looking at rain on most days. While there was scattered rain on just every day except Sunday, it ranged anywhere from a mist to a light rain and even then just off and on. The only wicked weather was in Salzburg where the light rain was accompanied by fairly strong gusts. But all in all it was a good trip.
Now I know you are wondering what I thought of the women in Bavaria. I had not been impressed with the women in the north of Germany on a previous trip, so I wasn't expecting much. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not "Wow!" like the Scandinavian ladies in Finland, Sweden and Denmark, but "Hmm" as in "Hmm, these women aren't half-bad looking." I didn't come across anyone who looked like the St. Pauli girl, but I guess women only look like that after drinking many pints of St. Pauli.
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