Munich, Germany

Boarding the night train in Venice, I found myself in a couchette a gentleman from Lahore who was on a 22-day trip of self discovery. Since he didn’t have a ticket, as he plied me with crackers, I advised him to find a DB rail employee and get one. No sooner had he ignored my advice and unpacked his stuff than a gaggle of Korean teachers arrived, occupying all of the available bunks and leaving him without a place to stay. After some harried negotiation with the rail staff, I think he managed to find a place to sleep, but it certainly wasn’t in my cabin. Sad: he was interesting and full of restless energy. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the evening chatting with the Korean women as we rolled through the Italian and German countryside. I managed to sleep for a few hours, so when we arrived in Munich, I felt ready to explore. However, since my rail pass was about to expire, I figured I’d use the last of it to reach the Porsche factory in Stuttgart and leave Munich for the following day.

After returning from Stuttgart, I fell asleep in the 4 You Munchen hostel, which was poorly ventilated, but clean, close to the train station and had a decent breakfast. It was also filled with Canadians (several from Calgary). After a fitful night, I went on another of Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tours, hosted by the excellent Travis. Like the other free walking tours I’ve taken, the New Munich tour (in spite of its name) focused on the old town and was both informative and amusing. If anyone ends up in a city where the Sandeman’s offers one of these free tours, I highly recommend it as an introduction to the city. The New Munich tour covered:

  • The Glockenspiel, probably the most overrated tourist attraction anywhere
  • Hofbrauhaus, a famous beer hall that seems to have descended into cliche, with abundant lederhosen and oom-pah music
  • Frauenkirche, with the iconic minaret-esque towers that survived the war (primarily because they were used as bombing landmarks)
  • Viktualienmarkt, the source of delicious fruit, veg and beer
  • Royal Residence
  • The New and Old Town Halls (wherein the new one is actually older than the old one, which was destroyed in the war)
  • National Theater
  • New Synagogue
  • Englisher Garten, an enormous and splendid park in the heart of the city
  • Church of St. Peter

Besides all the sights, we were treated to many amusing stories and were led to several memorials to the war, which, unlike the ones in Berlin that were prominent and obvious, were often subtle.

After the tour, I explored more of the city on foot. I spent hours relaxing in Englisher Garten, watching the clouds roll across the sky and strolled past many nude sunbathers soaking up the afternoon rays. The wearing of clothes, I also discovered, was not directly correlated with participation in activities. There were people in clothes laying peacefully on blankets next to the gurgling stream and there were fully naked people playing a rousing game of paddle ball. After Renee, Lawrence, Ryan and I sprung upon a naked volleyball match on the beaches below Torrey Pines Glider Port (north of San Diego), I’ve felt like some things might hurt when you’re naked. Diving into sand and lunging for a small ball seem like two of them. Nonetheless, the Germans proceeded unaware of the danger. Ha ha.

After a few days in Munich, many pretzels and some really superb beer, I took a spin through Theresienwiese (where they’re already preparing for Oktoberfest) and then hopped on a train to Nice.