January - March 2020
  • Day2

    Arriving

    January 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.
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  • Day3

    Day 2

    January 18, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 4 °C

    The next day I meet Franz for breakfast. He has work today, but time for brot und kaffee before he goes. When I arrive he has a radio for me to take, bread laid out, and three kinds of jam all from his tiny-garden. In Munich, and Germany, there are allotment-gardens: tiny sheds with a garden attached, like a community garden but with more for each participant than a raised bed. The sheds usually have water, or water nearby, electricity and enough room for a couch or equipment (whichever you might need). Franz has a bee-hive, a pear tree, strawberries, and enough time to turn them all into jams for sharing in the winter.

    We chat a bit more. The weather has us both with low energy. It’s my first day in Munich and I plan to explore good weather or not. Franz has set out bretzels, sunflower seed bread, and wheat bread. The jam goes well with the breads, the Kaffee, and the advice Franz has for exploring downtown. “You have lots of time, Munich is small. Don’t worry about seeing it all in one day”. I do worry, but with his advice to go through Schawbing to downtown, where I am to find New Town Hall and Marienplatz, I head out on a bicycle in the rain.

    As I ride downtown I get lost, refuse to ask directions and wind up passing by Schwabing only to double back and check it out – and it’s worth it. There’s a diversity in restaurants – Asian, Mexican, burritos, bratwurst, and everything inbetween is here. The place bustles with activity even though it’s not even 11am yet. I drive my bike downtown until I run into streets shut to cars, and then ride my bike a bit farther before I lock it up under a shelter in a rather large plaza. After a solid look around I realize that New Town Hall is in front of me, and all the people are watching the glockenspiel at New Town Hall play its 11 o’clock tune to the entire square.

    Despite an adventurous spirit and a willingness to learn about a different way of life, I really didn’t learn a bunch about Germany before coming here. I have run into enough people that I have an idea of the culture – everyone I’ve met from Germany is fantastic – yet I know that it’s not a particularly open and inviting culture. Like Nova Scotia everyone is friendly yet difficult to get to know. My lack of knowledge about this place and how to came to be needs resolving, so I load up an audio tour of downtown Munich and hit play, hoping to learn the lay of the land and a bit more about the history of this place.

    The tour takes me on a whirlwind through the city. I know I can hit pause and take my time yet I don’t know what I’m putting off or taking in, and I know I’ll have more days to come, so I rush through it all like I’m doing a drive-by shooting where I can come back later to investigate exactly what just happened. I crash through St. Peter’s Church and avoid walking the tower as it’s still too cloudy for me. I run through Viktoriaplatz where fresh stalls sell farm-fresh produce at high prices next to outdoor cafes and beer gardens still bustling with people despite bad weather on a weekend in January.

    I wander through an iron and glass building with a grocer and restaurants that’s an absolutely stunning piece of architecture before stumbling into Munich’s museum, and the Jewish history museum and synagog. The Munich Museum shop tells me enough that I need to go back and learn more about the Bavarian history of fancy outfits and Pumukles that make Munich so unique. I find children’s books I might actually be able to read with my kinder-deutsch.

    Next up is the Asmoth Church – a church only a few meters wide that looks like it’s made of marble yet actually it’s mostly beautiful facades. Almost every building I pass by is a replica of what it was before WWII, and even the originals are inspired by Italian Architecture as Munich was the Catholic Church’s northernmost stronghold: the frontline of the Roman Catholic Church in the middle of Europe. I don’t know what original Bavarian Architecture is because it’s so entwined with Italy’s architecture – much like the regions.

    I head away from churches for now and wander down a pedestrian street, around a corner or two and past the hunting and game museum with a boar and a troat on guard outside. I keep walking to St. Michael’s church were Mad King Ludwig II is entombed and I have to take a look. Afterward I stumble toward the Frauen Kirk – a cathedral dedicated to Mary that is iconic for the height of the spires and their unique round shape. Next door is a posh mall, the funf “somethingerother” which is a most beautiful covered arcade / mall / shopping centre with 50 ft ceilings and ivy dangling down from the top. It’s a gorgeous dedication to capitalism. I can’t help but purchase a blank notebook from Muji – ostensibly to help with notes as I learn a new language.

    Eventually I find a most-posh grocery store with a fancy café that has a lineup a mile wide. Half the people in the store are tourists, yet the other half are regulars in fur coats and fancy suits looking at prices on produce that match their outfits. The Bavarian Hofbrauhaus is world famous for being a wonderful and bustling brewhouse yet in the early Saturday afternoon it’s dead. Everything I’ve read online tells me the brewhouse is expensive and touristy and everyone should instead go to Augustiner, and that’s where everyone is. I grab a seat with strangers, order a beer, and rest for a bit.

    My tour ends back at Marienplatz after a roundabout look at more architecture and tales of old Bavaria. After a few errands Downtown dark sets in – I leave knowing I still need to find groceries and tomorrow’s breakfast before I can sit down and make dinner.

    Dinner is a simple pasta, made with love and accompanied by a beer. It’s Saturday night and I know there’s a lot going on yet all that’s on my mind is if there’s convenient wifi in a café nearby as the wohnung I’m in doesn’t have it set up. Pretty soon I’ll need to have a meeting or two with Nova Scotia which will be hard to do without wifi. An after dinner walk reveals several spots for wifi – none I expect. Olympia Hall and TUM university have eduraom, free wifi for those who remember their university email – yet neither offer great seating. It’s enough that the internet tells me where the libraries are. Libraries are great in a pinch.

    By then it’s time for home. Google Fit says I’ve overkilled my goal today. My body feels it and when I finally get to bed I sleep hard with only a little jet-lag related wakeup in the middle of the night.
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  • Day4

    If the weather’s good, we go hiking

    January 19, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 2 °C

    “If the weather’s good, we go hiking” but the weather’s not.

    It’s Sunday with a forecast of snow and rain and clouds. Franz has other things to do. It’s a slow morning for me, with a laptop and coffee. BASIC, the grocer I stopped at last night, has simply delightful brand-name coffee that I make too strong with a coffee maker that hasn’t been used in a year – which results in one cup of coffee despite putting in two cups of water – one very strong cup of coffee. I love sipping it as the snow falls. There’s no internet, which makes less distractions and a great time for journaling.

    Sunday’s in Munich are for quiet things, relaxing things. No loud noises or construction allowed. Brauhausen and restaurants are mostly open, yet most other stores are closed. The Bayerish museums are all only 1E. aI want to see a castle. Nypmhenburg Schloss is next to the Museum Mensch und Natur, and there’s a forest behind it. With the snow falling, even the apartments nearby are gorgeous. What will Nymphenburg look like? I decide to head to the Castle between snowfalls, put on my jacket and head for the bike.

    Yet the bike has a flat! Pumping it does nothing, and I have no tools to fix it. The bike store nearby is closed because it is Sunday. Maybe there are tools in the whonung, yet I don’t know where they are and I have a plan for Nymphenburg, with only a small break in the snow before it retuns in the afternoon. I return the bike and head out on foot.

    Going on foot is a great idea. For this moment the sun is shining, snow is out, and walking lets me wander wherever my feet take me – so around Olympiapark and up to the hill I go. It’s gorgeous to look down at all the snow, yet the Mountains are hidden behind the snow-clouds. They will return soon, so I soon continue on my journey.

    Olympiapark is huge. Many people are running along all the paths. Groups of locals and tourists are walking, sightseeing, enjoying time with their hund, or doing whatever people do on a Sunday in Olympia Park. I just wander. There’s a tiny church and a farmer’s museum that looks like preservation means “just let it sit there with the doors open” because the doors of the church are open. There’s no heat, just paintings of Mary and many saints and a cross underneath a tinfoil ceiling – as if this church is hiding it’s Cross from something above – but what? And why? No one is there to tell me. I continue. There’s a tent event-centre: closed today. A city-farm with sheep and horses. A school for theatre and performances. It’s snowing again. The afternoon snow arrived early.

    I’m only halfway to Nymphenburg. The half-waypoint to Nymphenburg, for me, is where a blouvard to the castle begins, with lanes for cars and people separated by a canal “Canal Grande”. There’s a memorial here – something from years before Canada was created and dedicated to someone I was never taught about in school – and it’s gorgeous in the snow yet I have no idea what it is. On a map, I can see this would offer a direct view to Nymphenburg, yet today it offers only the most romantic picture of falling snow over water, with ancient bridges across the Canal – ducks and swans still playing away as people pass by in winter coats. I’m covered in snow. After so much hiking and cold weather, I decided to bring to Germany layers for warmth instead of winter coats. I’m only in Munich for a month or so, and all cities are famous for having warm spaces to hide in; here you can run from brauhaus to brauhaus the way summer-Australians run from air-conditioning to air-conditioning. For winter-hiking, layers are great because you need less warmth while moving. Standing outside is cold. I didn’t pack for that.

    The walk along the Canal is beautiful, yet long. The snow layers on my jacket. I become a snow-man as it sticks to me. I move more and stand still less. None of the other people walking have such layers of snow – do they know something I don’t? Did they only just come out of their house? Is there some special property of their jacket that makes things better? I have no idea, I just keep walking.

    As I approach Nymphenburg the snow lessens. It clears enough for me to see the castle, surrounded by canals and water, which is surrounded by a parking lot big enough for Walmart, which is surrounded by what used to be walls yet now house brauhausen and offices. I am astonished by both Nymphenburg and the parking lot. In Munich, I have not seen large surface parking lots as in Canada. I assumed there were less cars, and more parking underground. Here at Nymphenburg I am surrounded by a Disney-land style parking area, fully equipped with bus drop offs and Asian tourists. It’s a strangely familiar situation, made more amusing because of a comment a German working in Canada told me before I left: “You’ll love it, my Canadian aunt does. She says all of Europe is just like Disneyland.” In this moment, it is like Disneyland – at least for parking.

    The Castle is beautiful. It’s no ancient medieval thing, with stone towers and arrow-slits, it’s much more renaissance. Flat and boxy, in a Florentian style I will learn more about inside on the information panels. Italy keeps returning to the stories of Bavaria which I hear and read about, yet manifesting in a way that I am told is “Bayerish, not at all Italian”. I warm up inside the giftshop and absorb it all. Every giftshop has German biersteins, even here in the former seat of aristocracy. There’s also candle-holders inspired by crowns and in between is the history the place, a tale told in a side-room that you need to seek out between the kitsch, cash-registers and Nymphenburg museum admission prices, yet I’m not here to see the family jewels. Instead I notice something on the panels: the park inside Nymphenburg was originally made for aristocracy to hunt game in their backyard. The entire space is designed and man-made, yet supposedly feels wild, and from the Map it looks like a cross between map-art and a landscape designer’s dreamscape. I must explore.

    I walk and walk and walk. I’m not looking for anything in particular yet I’m greeted by a winter wonderland the likes I’ve only seen in Disney movies. The woods don’t feel wild by Canada standards, yet intentional in a way Canadian forests aren't either – As if Canadians build around forests, trying to let them feel natural even as we encroach them with McMansions, and here it is “city first, forest after” – giving the entire thing the feeling of a living painting – a well curated site-specific experience with many viewpoints. Several of which become obvious as three or four people all stop and takes pictures from a slightly different angle. I can’t blame them, in fact I joined right in.

    I dried out on this cold walk. As I neared my end to the walk I discovered the most magical thing: The Palmhaus. A botanical garden filled with palms, along with an outdoor palmtree themed café serving fuerzangerbowle, mulled wine that warms everything inside you especially with nothing else in your belly. I continue on, filled with a fuzzy feeling that happens when you’re slightly tipsy on beauty and rum-filled mulled wine.

    As soon as I open the doors to the museum I am overloaded with noise. THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE IN THE MUSEUM. Parents, children, families, tourists – everyone is here exploring, pointing, laughing, screaming. There’s a coatroom and a lunchroom and a café and an gift-shopkiosk and an admissions desk and they’re all connected to the same single room with high cielings and hard surfaces and it’s every audio engineer’s worst nightmare as sounds echos from the ground to the ceiling and off the walls and into my head, yet I’m here and I’ve had a fantastic day and admission is only 1E, or 3.5E with the special exhibit, so I get my admission quickly, drop off my coat and head inside.

    It’s a really great museum. It’s got everything the Royal BC Museum does, but crammed together in a building older than the federation of Canada. You can slow down and take in every exhibit, yet I decide to let crowds be my guide for where not-to-go, and speed through areas with lots of people. It means I speed through the animal exhibit, where a different stuffed or prosthetic animal has it’s own interactive exhibit every meter. Many of them are the same as in Canada, but harder to understand in German. I count myself lucky to move on. There’s an incredible special exhibit on the beginning of time that no one is in. I understand enough to get the drift; I’m enraptured by a story of an underground experiment to determine what happens to the day/night cycle or people without sunshine. Turns out most people have an internal clock just slightly longer than 24 hours. As I wander through the museum, there’s something distinctly Bayerish about it: the modern scholars are all German, sitting beside all the same historic ones I learned about in school. There’s an exhibit on Bruno, Bear JJ1, the first bear to wander out of the Alps into Germany in almost 100 years. He was loved until he found out livestock was an easy lunch. After much hubbub, he was put down in June of 2006. I understand better why Europeans think bears are dangerous and Canadians are more relaxed. German bear-stories are scary.

    I leave the Museum and I’m glad to be back in the quiet cold people don't hang out in cold and maybe neither do clouds because, the sun is out. Half the snow is melted. I wander towards Hirschgarten Biergarten, where there in summer there at sometimes 15,000 people. Today, there are not so much. I have a beer outside around a fire (brilliant idea) while watching a German version of curling. It's more drop-in than league plan and I think about playing in the future with a beer. It could be fun. For now, I head toward the city-centre. There’s a pub and a board-game meetup I want to get to, yet when I arrive it’s early for the meetup and late for my energy. I have a beer, a burger, and a quiet time. When the meetup begins, I’m full of an American-style German burger that’s a great imitation of something that I don’t think exists here, I’m content, slightly sleepy, and in the mood to get home and unwind with a book, so I do. The meetup can wait.

    At home, I find a message from Franz: “Tomorrow, bike ride around the city. Meet for breakfast at 9. Ok?”

    “Ok, but my bike has a flat that I need to repair”

    “Come anyway, bring the bike. Take another”

    Well ok then.
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  • Day10

    Bicycles and Beers

    January 25, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    When I arrive for breakfast, it’s already cooked. Weisewurst und brot, mit biere nicht aber Kaffee. There’s a particular way to eating the sausage which is elaborated on extensively. This is another lesson in German culture with Franz. I’m learning more and more about German, yet this is slow. I have no idea where we’re going today: answers are vague and broad in a language I’m barely speaking.

    It doesn’t slow anyone’s enthusiasm. We switch bikes, leaving the flat behind and get riding. We visit Franz’ Kleingarten, which is absolutely adorable, tucked between many others. Every Kleingarten has a tiny shed, which most have turned into an adorable sitting area, and a garden outside. The actual tools are in an even tinier shed attached to the house. There’s even a firepit. I understand why Franz is so involved – his garten, and the entire area, is gorgeous. The group of Kleingartens also shares ownership of a tiny pub. Every summer their garten has a tiny pub where everyone can get a drink, enjoy the sunshine and relax. I forget to take pictures because I’m so taken with everything. After a short tour of the garten, we continue on.

    Every viewpoint we stop at. We tour the local metro station, Schwabing area where there are more cafes and bars than stores. The entire area has been renovated and gentrified and it’s both adorable and a little sad that the original beauty of the place is changed. The church hasn’t though: it’s a gorgeous Catholic Church that hosts Christmas mass. There many churches in Munich.

    We skip and jump our bikes between streets and slide into Englischen Garten – the central park of Munich. It’s over 10km long, yet only a few km wide at any given moment. There are spaces for beer gardens that hold 15,000 – 20,000 people. The people aren’t there and I’m rather happy about it. I can’t believe 15,000 people would fit. The Monopterosim is gorgeous as we ride along a river in the central of the park. It’s a cold river yet people were swimming in it in December, and will again in summer when they need a place to cool off, yet Franz tells me that the river becomes crowded with people in the summer, and the fields around the Monopterosim also fill up with people enjoying the sunshine. We ride past and find a tiny waterfall with water running strong enough that you can float down the river with a beer and as the water pushes you along. At the mouth of this little waterfall there’s an artificial wave. I’ve heard of this wave – that people are constantly surfing it even in winter – and there are people surfing on it today, in January. They’re in wetsuits and already have an audience. We join them watching 

    The bike cruise continues – through Lehl area, a posh area with lawyers offices and fancy shops and Franz’ daughter works. We visit Hofgarten with the Baverian state offices. As always, the building is older than Canada yet the wings of the building were destroyed in the war and replaced with modern updates. There’s a memorial to those lost in the great wars underneath a monument to Bavaria’s victories. It’s humbling to see how close those lost are kept to the government offices – a reminder perhaps?

    We zip through a few more streets until we wind our way through one of the oldest graveyards in central Munich, where all the rich and famous are buried. Many of the rich and famous are former brewmasters. The importance of beer is really setting in.

    We continue on our way and arrive at our first of many breaks for the day: the Augustina Beer Museum – in one of the oldest buildings in Munich. The building is from 1329 and it looks it. Many of the wooden beams are original. The museum’s closed, yet the history of the place is overwhelming. Franz tells me about Schmidt, the head brewer of Augustina who pioneered restoring buildings to their original style whenever they opened a new brewery. Augustiner has a policy of never advertising and they don’t have to because the beer, and the brauhauses speak for themselves. It’s incredible to be here. It’s incredible that Franz and Schmidt once met!

    We continue riding. We ride toward the Bavaria Statue and as we enter a large plaza Franz tells me this is where Oktoberfest is, and it covers all the plaza. All the plaza is kilometers wide. It’s larger than any sports field. I can only look at Franz and ask “Alles? Alles diese es Oktoberfest?”

    “Ja, Alles.”

    “Alles?!”

    “Ja!”

    I am amazed.

    The Bavarian Statue is also huge. Like the Statue of Liberty it looks over the entire field. Behind it is a hall of Bavarian historical figures, each with a bust and a mold. We don’t go inside at the moment – there are still more places to discover.

    The next stop is Augustiner Braustuben – the actual Augustiner brewery where all the beer is made. Since it was made. Since it was horses living in the stables delivering the beer. There are still stables, and in summer there are still horses. THIS PLACE IS SO OLD!

    The actual tap room is a classic beer hall, yet Schmidt designed the space and it is beautiful It fills up much of the original stable area, and has dried hops hanging over the tables like vines. Franz looks content, and I am smiling. This is beautiful.

    Our tour “hops” off again, to the Augustiner Bieregarten, an outdoor beer garden managed designed and run by Augustiner. There’s curling outside, yet we head inside. The building is huge. It has a cellar that is now a beer hall, where ice was saved from the winter to ensure the beer was cold in the summer. The main hall is huge, and covered in the shields of the many provinces of Bavaria. I notice Garmish first, yet one for all the provinces are here. The hall is huge, it must hold hundereds and it’s got a stage in case you need it. Every year, everyone from Franz’ kleingarten is invited to celebrate with a party here.

    After the beer hall we head back to home and pass a few delightful plazas with outdoor markets, yet before we get home it’s dinner. Without more answers, I am taken to an Italian place near our final destination. It’s slightly more classy than I’m ready for, and it’s earlier than a usual dinner time, yet we skipped lunch and it’s freezing out. It’s nice to sit down again. Another beer, more chats, and pizzas twice as large as our plates land in front of us. Yet again I am totally amazed. This is much larger than expected. I can’t finish mine. Franz is laughing at me a little bit. We pack up the leftovers and head home – both of us looking forward to turning the heat up and cozying up after the day bike riding in the cold.
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  • Day10

    Fockenstein

    January 25, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    The week starts to blend after the bike ride. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are errands. I meet a friend to get advice on a place to live, registering my visa, and sorting out bank accounts. I check out language schools, double checking my original decision. I go to Salsa. I catch the sunset. I ride a bike to Grafelfing to discover that it’s closed by noon. I return to Grafelfing and get registered. I go to group book-reading and discover a Canadian who’s been working in Germany for 2 years and doesn’t speak German at all. She’s from Toronto.

    Wednesday though; Wednesday. Franz takes Oli and I to Frockenstien, near Tigernsee. It’s incredible. I would write something, but no words can describe it. I’m writing this on a lazy Saturday and I still can’t get over it. Here are pictures.
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    Looks like an amazing view.....

    2/4/20Reply
     
  • Day11

    Pinakothek Der Moderne

    January 26, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    The Pinakothek is beautiful. I love art. I rarely understand it, yet like Dance, I always feel wonderful if it has made me feel something - even if the Art makes me sad. Luckily, the Pinakothek Der Modern did not disappoint. There are three Pinakotheks. An old - with historic art, a New, with more-recent art, and the Modern, which celebrates new art and design. I love innovation and art, so of course the Pinakothek Der Modern is my first stop.

    Pinakothek Der Modern is a concrete squat building with a UFO outside. It doesn't really look like much itself, yet the UFO set in the park next to the museum makes it stand out. I am always amused at the juxtaposition of old and new, and the new museum with a UFO is next to all the older buildings, including the other Pinakotheks. Inside the Pinakothek is beautiful, white, with a huge exhibit in the centre of the lobby featuring a giant pendulum. My little camera doesn't take good pictures of this, as it is covered in chrome and swings back and forth to the amusement of everyone who enters. Many people take pictures of it. I wander off to the rest of the museum, excited to see design and new art from Munich.

    There is pottery from Africa (not very German so I move on quickly), and a feature exhibit of light-art, with a chandelier made of broken porcelain, light-benches and more. A design museum with unique furniture, cars, and motorcycles from the 19th Century to today. Even a shrine to the design of the walk-man (I had one of those!). The walk-man has been so far from my memory that I forgot I loved one for a long time, yet until seeing this exhibit walk-mans are far from my mind. The world has changed sooo rapidly in only the years I've seen! I can't believe how much it has changed in the life of my parents or grandparents.

    Of course much of the art doesn't move me. I learn a little of Germany's history in modern art - how the wars influenced it - yet I am moved most by an exhibit that has no words - only examples of art with no description. Much of it passes over my head like an airplane and I wonder what the point is, yet this itself amuses me. How did these artists come to make this art? and why - of all the art that could be - was it selected for here?

    I don't understand it, yet many pieces make me smile. Some make me frown. Most make me slightly bemused that humans have come so far in technology and understanding, only to still be making things up and placing made-up values to things.

    Some of the art I think my niece could have made. This is also funny, because I don't think the Pinakothek curator would agree.

    I have a coffee. I enjoy large windows and a chat with a stranger. Life is beautifully simple here.

    I head off to Sunday dinner with Franz after. It is delightful. Moreso for the chats about hiking.
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  • Day12

    Deutsches Museum #1

    January 27, 2020 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 3 °C

    The German Museum is huge. I go immediately after my first day of language school. There are actually three buildings. Maybe Germany just has too much history and every museum needs three buildings. I don't know, but it seems likely Right now.

    I've heard over and over that the German Museum is incredible and it really takes days to go through. Turns out they're right. The Deutches Museum I visit is dedicated to the history of technology, which includes the history of mining in Germany - since the first time coal was ever mined in Germany - the history of power - since power was people pushing things until today - astronomy, surveying, flight, marine history, and then there is the Akademie collection which includes the telescope that identified Neptune. There's also a cafe, with an incredible exhibit on .... coffee..

    There's also huge sections on nanotechnology, technology inventions and more - yet most of this goes over my head. Tell me about cars and trucks and travel patterns and housing and it makes sense to me. Other people can be experts in Nanotech. I'm just happy I caught a power exhibit with raw lightning shooting over faraday cages.
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    Jeremy Banks

    Replica of the red baron

    1/31/20Reply
     
  • Day17

    Kufstein to Oberaudorf

    February 1, 2020 in Austria ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    via Hechtsee, Nußlberg, and Kl. Audorfer Berg

    18km, 4.5 hours. Lots of stops. ~800m climb.

    Samstag wandere ich erste mit "hiking buddies". Hiking Buddies ist an online Gruppen mit Leute nahe München fur wandern. Wir treffen um 7:30 Uhr au der Bahnoff getroffen und zu Kufstein mit Zug fahren. Wir kommen zu Kufstein um 9 Uhr an. Wir beginnen zu Hechtsee wandern. Wir lossen unsere weg und an unsere map schauen. Ich habe keine map, so sehe ich an dem schon berg und der schon blau Himmel. Schöner, weil wir heute haben gedacht, dass dunkel wölken mit regnet werde gegeben.

    Wir kommen früh am kirk und Spitze von Nußlberg, und gute Aussicht an der weg sehen. Der Spitze is im Wald und keine Aussicht haben. Wir entscheiden zu der nächst berg weitermachen. Wir kennen nicht wo das ist. Die Gruppe gernen der schon tag, so folgen wir zeichen zu "Bergstation Hocheck" ohne handy nutzen.

    Wir kommen zu "Bergstation Hocheck" und eine Überraschung finden: Bergstation Hocheck ist fur Schneefarhen! Wir laufen zu Hocheck Brauhause und zu der Spitze weitermachen, wo finden wir guten Aussichten über Oberaudorf und der Ski-hausen.

    Nach, zu Oberaudorf gehen wir. Zwei wegen zu Oberaudorf kannst wir wählen. Der erst is 1.45 stunden lang. Der zweitst ist nur 1 stunde, aber es ist eine "summer weg". Vielleicht der "summer weg" ist zu steil? egal, wir wählen der "summer weg" weil es ist kurzer.

    Andere Überraschung: der summer-weg ist for Rodeln! Wir müssen zu dem recht oder links schnell springen. Der weg ist rutschig und sehr steil. Wir gehen zu Oberaudorf sehr schnell, und der nächst Zug ist im nur 15 minutes! Wir rennen zu der Bahnoff!

    Wir kommen der Banhoff mit eine minute sparen an. Wir gehen gerne früh zu München mit sonnengebrannte Gesichter. Es ist eine gute tag.
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  • Day22

    A Rhythm

    February 6, 2020 in Germany ⋅ 🌙 -3 °C

    It is Thursday morning. The first morning with no rain since Sunday night. When it rains in Munich it transforms into a tiny Vancouver with people running into the metro and into cars to escape the rain. The subway fills with damp commuters and I am one of them.

    These days, there is a rhythm to Munich. A flow I have found. School till noon, followed by a tiny bit of work or museum or sport (depending on the weather), then home for dinner. There is always something to do in the evening: a meetup for German practice (tonight!), social night, salsa, anything and everything. There is even brunch for practicing your German on Sunday. So much German practice if you want. Or time for yourself too.

    My rhythm has German in it. Class is busy and fills my head each morning with 3 or 4 hours of German and at times I feel things shift somewhere behind my eyes. I am always starving hungry after so much focus. My afternoon adventures are sometimes tedious (travel for an hour to drop off something).or humbling (The Bayerish public library entrance is very grand), or active (there's an adult playground nearby with a slackline and monkey-bars to enjoy). No matter what I find myself doing I am still amazed that I am here, and that here is as it is.

    When I first went to France, I describe it to others by saying "Well, it exists. Even the Eiffel Tour exists," because nothing truly prepares you for the stories coming to life. In Germany, and I suppose in many places, there are blocks of apartment buildings. Less cars, and less parking, than in Canada or the US. Trainrides to mountains, bicycle lanes for everyone, buildings and suits of armor with more history than colonial Canada, it is rather humbling. Many of the things I work on in Canada with urban planning are in Europe a "matter of fact" and the strange looks I get from Germans when I explain my wonder confirm this.

    The culture is different too. So much like Nova Scotia, yet so different. You are not a friend until you have been a friend for years. You have time with friends, which always looks like friends, yet perhaps it is more or less. I have not yet heard Germans talk of "wanting to be near people" or "spend time with friends" - it seems very German instead to plan your activities and let friends follow or emerge. It is as if the first and last person to plan for is yourself, and friends will either take part or new ones will be found along the way.

    Strangely, I find this true. I have met two or three people and quickly hit it off. Now we text when we are about to do something the others may enjoy. I am beginning to see how this works as I keep running into these friends at the events I return to. Yet other times, I do things I do not want to share with them, or anyone.

    It is a curious thing to make friends in a place you are not staying, yet nice to have good company while it's here.
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