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Arrival In Munich

Well, I haven't been very good at posting entries on here at all. We are in our third country now, and I am just getting started.

So, we arrived into Munich on the 21st after a non-eventful flight from South Carolina. I didn't get much rest, so I was pretty tired once we landed, but it was a very smooth arrival into Munich and our hotel. Munich has a very efficient public transportation system, which is sort of a shock to the system as I am used to the chronically late and generally subpar (to European standards) public transit system of San Francisco. I mean, what does one do when a bus arrives at its scheduled time? No protests holding up an entire line? Absurd. 

Anyhow,we found ourselves at our hotel in record time. That's right, we have started out this trip staying in hotels, a remarkable departure from our previous experiences. Usually we are pretty hardcore about where we stay; an American we met the other day was telling about an instance he had bedbugs on his current trip, and I sort of scoffed and thought, "Only once?" Well, fear not, my friends, tonight is our last night in a hotel; tomorrow, once we arrive in Florence, we are back to the 14-bed bunkroom.

But I am getting off track, which, being a week behind, I cannot do. So we checked into our hotel, which was quite nice. Speaking of getting off track, allow me to define "nice" as it pertains to me; as Jess and I are travel nurses, and even though we have been in San Francisco since January now, we never knew how long we'd be there, so we have been sleeping on an inflatable mattress since we moved there. This place didn't have any air mattresses that we could see, especially ones held together by duct tape and late night reinflations.

At any rate, we couldn't actually go to our room, so we headed out into the center of Munich, a beautiful plaza called the Marienplatz. Now, we had a good reason to go to Germany in December--the Christmas markets. These turned out to be worth the hype, being numerous and randomly placed throughout the cities of Germany. They tend be merry and well-lit with lights, swarming with shoppers and filled with colorful gifts of all sorts. Different markets have different focuses; there is a medieval market, another that had stalls that sold only nativity scenes and their characters. The largest market, in Marienplatz, was the Target of the markets, selling all sorts of gifts and holiday paraphernalia. The one thing the markets had in common is that they all had glühwein, that spicy alcoholic beverage called glogg in the US, served piping hot; there is nothing better than a steaming cup of glühwein on a chilly holiday afternoon.

We didn't stay out long that first afternoon, opting to go back once it was possible to get into our room. We had no problem getting in a four-hour nap, before heading out to look for some dinner. On our first venture out, we'd taken the bus, as we had a day-pass for all public transit, but our nap made us feel more adventurous. So off we set on foot, only to find out that walking in the center of Munich tends to be more confusing than might think. Probably more due to the fact the center likely retains its medieval design than a critical failure of German efficiency, most roads in the center curve around and head out in all sorts of random directions. On our way into the center, we got a bit off track and wandered around an extra half hour, which was fine. Once on the center, we quickly found a restaurant near the Marienplatz, a joint called Ratskeller. It seemed like it had the potential to be a German Denny's, being a bit generic and probably quite touristy in the summer. For our purposes, it was great; I had a massive plate with an assortment of sausages, along with sauerkraut and plenty of beer. Jess's dinner was less extravagant but still pretty good. Stuffed and feeling our fatigue settling in, we decided to head back, but were still feeling adventurous, so we decided to walk (to burn off all that meat and beer, perhaps). This time we really got lost, seriously so, and crossed the center several times. I simply could not get my bearings in the city, which normally I have better success at. As a cheapwad, I'm loathe to take a taxi, especially when a familiar street might just be around the corner, and quite unfortunately we'd left our map at the hotel.

I'm happy to report that we survived and arrived back to our hotel, and all on our own, though we walked a good two and a half hours. We did ask one lady; she seemed to want to help us, peering at a bus-stop map for awhile, then getting on a tram looking as though was going to get some directions from the conductor. I thought that was quite above and beyond until the doors slid shut and we watched the tram and our would-be helper roll on down the street. The next morning we walked again, this time with our map, and found we were less than a half mile, about 15 minutes, from the heart of the center. Note to self: don't forget the map, and take the bus if you do.

Our second day, the 22nd, was all about walking and eating. We started with a cafe near Marienplatz, which we left before eating once we realized our coffee and OJ had already cost 20 euros (oh, yeah, we're in Europe). We were quite hungry, and it was near noon, so we walked a short distance and found a beer hall specializing in sausages (what else?) called Bratwurstherzl, where we found sausages grilled over open flames and plenty of beer. While scarfing down our food, we found they'd put us next to a couple of Americans (a common experience so far, though whether to allow us better conversation or to isolate us from other customers, I don't know). One of them lived in Munich, and he told us all about the choices of Christmas markets we had.

The rest of the day we spent using various markets to set goals for walking. There was a sort of light rain and sleet mix, with occasional snow,  but it was tolerable, so we were able to get in some serious walking. I have a pedometer, and it says I took just short of 25,000 steps, which it calculated to be about 14 miles. By late afternoon the weather had dropped the snow part and just was raining, so we headed back to the center. We were quite wet by the time we arrived, and lo and behold, we found ourselves back at the Ratskeller again. Several beers and food such as hot soup and delicious kuchen got us into cheery moods, so much that we decided to walk. Of course we got lost, but not too seriously, and we stumbled upon a market, for young folks, that only sold glühwein. It was our kind of place, and a couple of those helped make the wet walk more tolerable. Even better, the market sat next to a major landmark I remembered from our trek the previous night, and we were soon back.

An old friend of mine, Verena, had invited us to spend Christmas with her family, in a small city outside of Munich called Rosenheim. We were to go there on the 24th, but on the 23rd we had plans to meet Verena for lunch in the city, where she works. We spent the morning exploring the area north of the Marienplatz, an upscale business and historic area, getting in another decent mileage for the day. We had lunch with Verena in a Christmas market in the Englischer Garten (English Garden), which is Munich's Central Park, only bigger than the one in NYC. After, we wandered back through the center again, and on to our hotel, for a bit of rest. That evening, we wandered up to the train stop we'd need on our way to the airport after Christmas. It was the same one we arrived on, but after our treks around Munich, it seemed prudent to confirm the route. Near the stop we found  a restaurant that oddly enough had tex-mex on its menu. It also had southwestern US decor, including paintings of saguaro cactus. The menu also included schnitzel, which I'm pretty sure the Germans are more proficient at cooking than tacos or burritos, so I stuck with that, as well as some more excellent German beer. Actually, it was really good beer, so we stuck around, talking and drinking until far too late.

Thus ended our few days in Munich, which is a charming but also very modern city. The next morning we were off to Rosenheim for our German Christmas experience, but that is another entry.

Until next time, be safe.


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