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