ArrivingJanuary 17, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C
I’m waking up on a Lufthansa plane as an attendant serves diced fruit in a reusable plastic cup with a recyclable lid and a bun in a plastic bag. We’re only 90 minutes from Munich and both myself and my seat-neighbor are only just rubbing the sand from our eyes. She’s slightly less excited to arrive than I – she’s getting on one more plane to Italy for work on a cruise-ship, yet she’s come all the way from visiting her family in Calgary, where they moved from Ukraine. So very international. I’m just excited to be in a strange place.
And Lufthansa airlines is also a wonderfully strange place. After breakfast I get a hot towel. I must be used to short-hauls on American airlines where people are crammed onto the plane like sardines in a city-bus, because the hot-towel just blows my mind. I remember that “The Neverending Story” is still paused on the plane-tv-monitor and I’m ok with leaving it that way. It’s a German-dubbed version of the American classic movie-adaptation of a classic German fairytale. Between my schlect-kinder-deutsche and the multiple-translations this story has gone through, I spent my time admiring the 80’s puppets and supressing a strong longing to scream at the screen as a horse enters a swamp. I turn off the paused plane-tv-monitor and go on to look out the window.
As we approach Munich, the landscape emerges from underneath the clouds. Roaming country side views of farm fields and winding roads separated by winding rivers reminds me of New-England style farmlands, and farmlands in general, yet here the farms aren’t separated into a British grid, more like a a meandering web. The homesteads aren’t standing alone separated by miles but instead buildings are placed close together in clusters – at least I hope these are clustered homesteads because the idea of tiny industrial farms dispersed in cute clustered homestead style buildings strikes an uncomfortable nerve inside me. Either way it’s beautiful, and it’s sort of the point of me coming to Europe: to see new things.
The plane lands after the usual announcements in a language that’s very unusual for me and not for most of the passengers that were lined up with me when we boarded the plane. I understand half of it yet before I can rewind it in my head to see if I can understand more an English version starts, which is basically foreshadowing for all of Munich where it’s German first, yet everything is also in English. Except for labels in the grocery store.
As we get off the plane we walk down a boarding ramp that’s lined with windows and into an airport that’s also lined with windows. Wandering through the Airport I wonder why Vancouver’s airport gets recognized so often when this airport that spills out sunlight on white walls, with signage that is clear to someone of any language, seems so beautiful. Maybe I’m just excited to be finally be able to move my legs yet in this moment things are beautiful.
Not so beautiful for whoever planned the arrival. We’re almost an hour late on arrival and our bags come out even later. I checked in my 30L hiking bag donated by Mr. Markides, which has now gone across the country, up a mountain or two, around Keji and generally been almost as good a friend as Chris – so thanks Chris. It’s filled with everything I plan on using over the next twelve months. I also checked in a friend’s bag, which has everything she thought she’d use in Canada over 12 months. It’s 60L, full, and she still has another backpack (or two?) while she continues her journey in South America. I’m carrying a collapsible bike messenger bag to the baggage pickup to find these giant hiking packs. It can hold up to 30L, but right now is more like 10L.
Franz messages me to ask if I’ve arrived. I have. He tells me to exit right from the first floor and find him after my bags. This is easier said than done as only my friend’s bag comes out – and it’s ripped, but holding everything still. I wait and wait for my bag only to find it, at last, in the oversize baggage area. This is strange because my bag is smaller than the other…. Either way, Franz is wondering where I am. “Almost there”. I stop by Lufthansa’s baggage counter, google the price of a 60L bag like K’s, and ask them what they can do. They give me 80% of the replacement cost, in cash, on the spot. Lufthansa impresses me again.
“On my way” I message to Franz – then promptly walk right past him and into the airport-shopping-centre as the baggage carousel, and myself, exit on floor 0. Franz and I play a game of cat and mouse as we try to guess where each other are. My cellphone provider has no coverage in Munich – this could be a problem in the future. My lack of coverage is definatley a problem right now as I play the mouse that doesn’t message back, or receive messages, promptly. I spend the entire time checking my phone for wifi and Franz’s messages. After far too long I find Franz in the centre of floor 1, near an information desk I didn’t know existed. As he tells me in children’s English that he’s parked in a 10 minute zone and we’ve been here longer than 10 minutes. We rush to the car.
Franz’s children’s English is better than my Kinder-deutsche. I am wide-eyed at traffic signs in strange languages, new landmarks, and a mountain range that stretches across the entire southern horizon. “Only 60km to mountains, 100km to Zugspitze”. I am shocked that it’s only an hour to the mountains – to all of the mountains. I almost forgot about mountains as Nova Scotia has none like this – and in British Columbia only a few mountains are near – to get to the rest you must drive down winding roads and around cavernous slopes to find them. Both have their beauty yet I am astonished by the one I haven’t seen before that now sits across the entire southern-skyline and is punctuated by Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. Zugspitze stands on the Horizon like the tallest child in a family photo – standing a head and shoulders taller than the rest, and somehow at the right-most side of the picture. To the west of Zugspitze is nothing but a drop-off which makes the silhouette of Zugspitze even more stunning.
“Hungry? you need a warm bdjflahsdfhj-simmmel, it’s a Bavarian classic” We stop at a grocery store and go straight to the Deli counter, which is filled with the familiar and slightly unfamiliar, prepared and unprepared meats. Franz orders for me, chatting with the butcher at a speed that I can’t follow beyond hearing the order and something about showing his Canadian visitor Munich and a Bavarian classic. I realize I have miles to go before I even have a chance at following a conversation of native german-speakers, and the sandwich tastes so amazing that I don’t care. Franz is brilliant.
“Das turm? Das ist Olympia Park, we live here.” We round the corner from the grocery store into a neighborhood of 3, 5 and … 10 story wohnungen; apartment buildings. They are large and blocky, everything people in the suburbs of Canada hate, yet the roads are smaller than in Canada and become smaller still as Franz takes us between several of them, finally stopping at HornstraSe, a one-way street half a block away from Olympiapark. “This is where you stay, we drop off bags then I take you on a bike ride”, we grab all three bags and take them to the flat, in an adorable yellow (gelb) 3 story wohnung. We’re in and out quickly, after turning on the power and looking around. The flat is gorgeous – next to a beautiful park, filled only with just the furniture that is needed, and a huge window and glass door to the balcony. The entire apartment is covered with pictures of adventures and landscapes that are inspiring between books on micro-adventures and challenges to live your best life. I can’t help but feel humbled to be here as I start my own adventure in this cold and rainy city.
This is where the whirlwind really begins. After a stop at Franz’s storage locker I am given an old road bike that appears to have been adventuring for longer than I have been alive. After stopping at Franz’s wohnung to get his bike, he guides me to the top of Olympiapark, which is the highest hill in Munich. This lookoff is made of shrapnel and bombs from WWII as a memorial to those lost. True to it’s description this peak provides a beautiful view of the city, with the new Town Hall and Cathedral in the distance to the South, and of the 1972 olympic athletic facilities below our feet to the north, and yes – the Turm (tower) that stands out like a beacon. The mountain range, which I first saw from the car, frames the city to the South and feels close enough to touch. I forget that pictures are a thing as I try to take it all in.
We ride our bikes down the hill and through Olympiapark, which never seems to end. It blends with Technical University von Munchen’s athetic campus and stretches farther than I ever expected. The Athletes village, from 1972, is now apartments – many for students – and many are painted and decorated in strange and unique ways. They are set so close to each other it reminds me of whistler, or summercamp cabins, or a trailerpark, yet it is permanent and you can see how people have made each one uniquely their own. We ride to a shopping centre that has everything I could possibly need. It reminds me of every shopping centre ever – but different. There are cafes in the centre that serve coffee and beer and everything between. Tchiba roasts and serves coffee, SIM cards, and household appliances. You can take a seat and order your new cellphone all at one place. Franz arranges a SIM for me with Tchiba, and in 10 minutes I have a European handy.
We wander through the mall, stopping to have a glass of fresh juice (saft) for ein euro before finishing our tour of the mall outside at a busy intersection surrounded by big-box stores filling the main floor of even-bigger buildings. The sheer scale of Munich is disorienting. The buildings are bulky and stocky and taller than one will find near a shopping centre in Canada. Canada has more parking lots around shopping centres. Munich shopping centres have a metro inside them. The difference relates to how we live – Canadians in their cars and Germans in with their many transportation options.
As night falls, we ride back through the Olympic Village and through winding alleys between tiny apartments, stopping at the U-Bahn nearby. A quick lesson on U-Bahn later, and we’re on the bikes passing BMW Welt, which is only a block from our wohnungen, the opposite direction from Olympiapark. We keep riding past things as Franz points out necessities. The grocers, the cafes, the organic grocer, the Greek tavernas, where to get great pizza, and finally, where we’re going to get dinner: Augustiner.
Augustiner is a brauhaus and brewery. This is a thing in Germany – the servers wear traditional clothing, the tables are all long and seat 8 – 10. If you get there before 7:30pm, your group can have a table to itself if one’s available (so get there early if you want one). After 7:30 your table is shared. Between 6:30 and the end of the night, Augustiner just gets busier. Franz and I swap hiking pictures and stories as we both know words for this. Our child-language skills are perfect for food topics and mountain topics and we indulge on these topics. I try the three beers Augustina makes: a Helles, A dunkel, and Weiss biere. I also have the Munich Schnitzel – pork with garlic fried over potatoes, with a side of horseradish and a salad. My mind is blown.
After dinner we stop by a Hofbrauhause on our way home – another of Franz’s recommendations. We get another beer and it is revealed that the Weiss biere I’ve been ordering is frauen biere – Women’s beer. I laugh and laugh. Das ist sehr lustig fur mich, wein ich tranke gerne im Kanada Wiess biere.
We wind our way home where I fall asleep as fast as I make the bed. I’m exhausted, overwhelmed and very very satisfied.Read more