Munich and a New Car

Day 1: Thursday

Our train arrived at Munich Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) at just after 6 am. We decided to see if we could find coffee and breakfast somewhere before walking to our hotel. Our first observation was that Munich is not an early rising town. We headed out of the station and found that the nearby cafes didn’t open until 7 and Burger King not until 8. So we headed back into the station and found the shopping section we’d missed the first time and there our breakfast and coffee.

We arrived at Hotel Uhland a bit after 7, and Brigitte at the desk couldn’t have been nicer. While our room wasn’t ready (we hadn’t expected it to be), she offered us a place to sit and as we brushed our teeth and checked our email, she came back to say that the person in our room had just checked out. It was made up and ready to go by 8:30, so we were able to head up to shower and change after our overnight train trip. Afterwards, we walked to the city center to for a bike tour. The tour gave us a good intro to the city. Our guide Tony, an American expat married to a Bavarian girl, was a lot of fun as well as being a source of information about the city and culture. The tour finished up in the English Garden, where it was too cold for nude sunbathers, but not too cold for beer and wursts at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower).

After the walk back, the long day and the trip the night before was starting to catch up with us. We were looking for a quick bite nearby and found it just around the corner at Speiselokal Lenz, thanks to a recommendation from the hotel desk. After dinner, we took a quick turn through the Theresienwiese, the fairgrounds where Oktoberfest takes place. Currently, Frühlingsfest (Springfest), “the little sister of Oktoberfest” as the website calls it, is running there. The beer halls were packed on a cold Thursday night, but the rest of the place was pretty quiet. We decided to stop back over the weekend to check it out.

Even after less than 24 hours, some of the differences between Germany and Italy were clear. In Italy, all traffic signal were treated as purely advisory, and you crossed the street by holding up your hand traffic cop style and hoping the drivers obey. It works, in that we didn’t get run over, but it’s slightly nerve-wracking.

Here in Germany, it’s different. While walking downtown, we arrived at a minor intersection. The pedestrian crossing signal was red and there were three or four young adults waiting for it to change. It didn’t. Instead we heard sirens in the distance. After a minute or two, a couple of fire trucks went through but the light still didn’t change. No cars were going through the intersection, but no one crossed. Finally after a total wait of perhaps five minutes, the signal changed and everyone crossed. It could never have happened that way in Rome or even Boston, but it seemed perfectly normal in Munich.

Day 2: Friday

Delivery day dawned sunny and warmer than the day before. The hotel buffet was great: a pot of good coffee, hard- and soft-boiled eggs, assorted granolas and cereals, fruit and juice, and the highlight for me, a great spread of cold cuts: sausages, cheese and vegetables. After breakfast we bought a transit pass and caught the U-Bahn (subway) to the Olympic Park.

We were there early, so we wandered through the site of the ‘72 games geocaching, then took the elevator to the observation deck on the Olympic Tower, 190 meters (over 600 feet) up. The view was nice, but even though it was a clear day, it was too hazy to see the Alps in the distance.

By the time we finished we had to rush to BMW Welt (BMW World) to make our factory tour. The folks there checked us in and set us up for the tour with a few minutes to spare. It was interesting to watch the robots work–for large parts of the process, people are there mostly to fix problems, while robots do all the routine work.

The tour was two hours. Afterwards we settled into the VIP lounge to wait for our “delivery experience.” (We elected not to try to squeeze the BMW museum into the hour in between.) They had a buffet with weisswurst (veal sausage), cold cuts, desserts, beer and soft drinks. When it was time, Stefan, who handled our delivery, gave us an overview of the car’s features. We stood on a balcony overlooking a special showroom area and watched the car arrive in an elevator, then we walked down a curving ramp to see the car, which was rotating slowly on a turntable! Quite the show!

After photos, Stefan took me through various features in the car, getting my phone paired via Bluetooth, etc. Then it was time to leave. The first drive was through rush hour traffic back to the hotel, which was slightly nerve-wracking. As soon as we drove away I thought of five questions I should have asked Stefan. I guess that’s what the owner’s manual is for.

For dinner, we headed to the Augustiner Beer Hall. The biergarten outside was packed, so we headed inside to the beer hall. There I had a mixed plate of German specialties. (The pig’s knuckle was superb!) Anne had a sliced beef dish that was also tasty. I had a liter of beer, while Anne stuck to the half liter.

It was interesting people-watching in the beer hall. While there were a number of tourists, the majority of diners appeared to be locals: couples or small groups of friends, what appeared to be a bachelor party and so forth. We see people in traditional Bavarian attire (lederhosen, suspenders and felt hat for men, dirndl for women) everywhere: out to dinner, at Frühlingsfest, walking down the street. It was people of all ages. It seems to be an alternative way to dress up, not a costume you wear twice a year to the folk festival. A culture where eighteen year old boys wear lederhosen non-ironically may be more alien to most Americans than one where everyone waits for the Walk signal.

Day 3: Saturday

After another good breakfast Saturday morning, we caught the tram to Sendlinger Tor, then walked to Asamkirche, a rather astonishing baroque church. It’s very small and was built by two architect brothers as a private chapel and perhaps as a showroom for future potential clients.

From there, we walked towards the center, stopping at the Frauenkirche. Most of Munich’s churches, indeed most of Munich, was heavily damaged in the war and has been restored. Perhaps because of that, they don’t seem as old as they are.

We wandered around Munich, stopping at the Dallmayr Delicatessen, then heading to the Viktualienmarkt. It was packed with people, most of them wearing red Bayern FC gear. They were playing Hertha from Berlin and there were a few of their fans around too, dressed in blue. After strolling around the shop and stalls for a while, we stopped in the biergarten for beers and a fried half chicken. After stopping at another church, we started towards the Residenze, the former palace, now a museum. But I was too tired to face another couple of hours in a museum, so we headed back to the hotel.

After a rest, we headed out to catch a Saturday vigil Mass, then try to find some place to watch the rest of the game. In a coincidence that may imply divine intervention, we chose the church in Munich that was hosting the bishop for confirmation. For those who don’t remember, we also happened into a confirmation last week in Florence. This was a big deal, with many being confirmed, a long homily and full choir. The music was pretty good, although we were somewhat startled when they launched into a hymn to the tune of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Last Supper” (Lyric: “Look at all my trials and tribulations, Sinking in a gentle pool of wine…“) from Jesus Christ Superstar. The whole service went close to two hours, so by the time it ended we figured the game would be almost over. We headed back to or hotel, then back to Frühlingsfest to grab dinner and a beer at the Hippodrom tent. Unfortunately, there were long lines and it was raining, so we instead headed back to Lenz, the place we ate Thursday night. Then, back to the hotel. Tomorrow we head north in the new car!

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