Munich! Van Repair! Springtime! Evan provides an updateFreiburg, Spring 2012

As I type this, it is around 8 am on a cold, grey morning. Outside my window, some of Vauban’s residents are finishing repairs on one of the vans that line the lot. It seems as if they are always building or repairing something like bicycles or furniture and they’ve been working on the engine of this enormous delivery truck that is a furnished home for the past two weeks. Apparently, the repair involves the repeated revving of the engine for 45 minutes at a time. I’d like to emphasize the previous point – it is 8 in the morning. I’m going to need a strong cup of coffee for this one…

Life in Freiburg has settled into a comfortable pace and I’m letting it carry me along as spring draws closer. When I walk to the organic foods store for tofu, the cashier recognizes me and greets me with a hearty Guten Tag and I’ve gotten better at negotiating the bike lanes on a trusty used bike that I have named Jezebel. Most satisfying is my German has greatly improved with the help of a “Tandem Partner,” a native German speaker named Miriam. Miriam is from near Leipzig and we meet on a semi-weekly basis to chat auf deutsch as well as in English. It’s a symbiotic and bi-lingual experience.

Another exciting development was last weekend’s solo adventure to Munich. If you haven’t made a long distance trip by train, allow me to highly recommend it. Planes are stressful and expensive and cars are claustrophobic and subject to traffic jams and terrifying gaps with no radio stations. But there is something effortless and beautiful about the coming and going of trains at stations. I bought a roundtrip ticket on a Wednesday night and on Friday afternoon I stepped onto the train. Easy as that. No putting shampoo and deodorant in a Ziploc baggie, no sitting on a tarmac for 45 minutes and no chatty used car salesman from Rochester. Just four hours of the countryside gracefully flying past your window. You may consider me an unofficial spokesperson for Deutsche Bahn at this time.

When I arrived in the Munich Hauptbahnhof, I was disoriented and almost delirious with hunger. I revived myself with a falafel wrap, stopped by the tourist office for a map and plotted my route to the hostel, which turned out to be a 45-minute walk away. With the exception of an infuriating locking mechanism on my door, Haus International was a loud place to spend two nights. The Italian kids on a class trip ran shrieking up and down the halls all night and the vibrations from the discotheque in the basement reverberated through the walls. It was not a very restful night’s sleep on Friday.

The next morning, I ate breakfast in the cafeteria while shooting dirty looks at the kids who had kept me awake the night before. To get around Munich, I bought a ticket valid on all public transportation for 24 hours. Suddenly, I had no time to waste. I had to move. The people at Haus Internationale are some of the friendliest and showed me how to get from the front door of the hostel to the heart of the city – Marienplatz. I hopped on a bus and then a subway and the day had suddenly begun.

At nine in the morning I had the entire Marienplatz to myself. From there, most of the city is accessible by foot. It was impressive and I had the whole day to myself. The Munich skyline is accentuated with many cathedrals; the largest and most noteworthy being the Frauenkirche. The massive wooden doors were open and I stood in awe under the massive crucifix. In the back of the cathedral near the front door, afootprint is visible. According to legend, the architect made a deal with the devil to complete the church in a short period of time and the devil’s one condition was not to build any windows to the church. When the church was finished but not yet consecrated, Lucifer snuck in. He stood in the doorway and saw that indeed, there were no windows. But when he took a step forward, the enormous and intricate stained glass windows revealed themselves from behind the pillars. He was angry and stomped his foot, leaving a perfect impression the tile that even features what appears to be a mark left by a boot spur. Satan wears size nine, by the way.

Any tour book will encourage you to have a beer at the legendary Hofbrauhaus. In this legendary beer garden, some of the world’s best beer comes in daunting one-liter mugs called a Maß. If you try and order anything smaller, your waiter/waitress will laugh at you and bring you the full size anyways. But friends, Evan Johnson is a discerning consumer, so I went around the corner and found some of Munich’s finest for less than a Euro apiece along with some picnic fixings at the grocery store. I hung out with the monkeys at the Tiergarten and walked around the Residenz for the morning.

I hid out at Odeonsplatz under the Ferdherrnhalle monument for an hour while the freezing rain drenched the square. It wasn’t showing any signs of stopping and I was wasting daylight so I moved to the Haus der Deutschen Kunst. As a student, I paid dramatically reduced student prices for every entrance fee. I just flashed the student university ID and suddenly the price dropped from eight Euros to two. Yes please. Thomas Ruff’s photography was engaging and dramatic, yet possessed a minimalist quality to it… or that’s what I overheard to tour guide say (I know nothing about art). Then I went for a long, wet walk in the Englischer Gartern. I ended the night with Chinese takeout.

We changed our clocks ahead by an hour last weekend, disappointingly reducing my time. Before getting on the train, I ran through the Neue Pinakothek and enjoyed Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Monet’s waterlillies before making one final rush to the train station for a wonderfully long and peaceful ride home, perfect for doing all that homework…

All that typing and the revving engine still hasn’t stopped. I’m getting frustrated and I’m running short on patience and words. Either I finish writing this or I rush outside in some kind of violent rage. A friend of mine is headed to Munich today so I gave her a map and a list of stuff to do. If you’re ever headed to Munich, let me know and I’ll do the same.

Sound good?

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1 Comment

  1. You’re a very good travel writer! Looking forward to new posts.
    And get your butt to Italy! Can’t wait to read what you have to write about that!

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