I am really amazed sometimes at my ability to wake up on time. I think I’m just as amazed at how skilled I am at not going to sleep on time too. After exploring Amsterdam and taking in everything it’s worth I am finally ready to head to Munich and this will be the first time that I am using my lovely $700 train pass.
I blows my mind how much the train costs to go travel between countries. I always assumed it was just cheap and effective. If it weren’t for my golden ticket I would have paid about $180 one way from Amsterdaam Central to Munich HBT–three of these trips and I’ve basically got my money’s worth. The price sounds a little expensive but it really isn’t too bad if you think about it. I opted in for the 15 days of traveling within two months pass. I wasn’t really sure of how often I would actually need it so I figured 15 was a solid number.
The process is a little intimidating. The first step is to have it stamped and activated. After that I have to fill out what train I will be taking using both the date and train number followed by the destinations–this also includes every transfer. All of that information is put onto a seperate paper that isn’t my actual pass. The next step is for me to put the date under the number of days I’ve used the pass otherwise I can be fined €45. Only reason I figured this out was because the conductor told me that since didn’t fill it out correctly I could be fined and explained the process to me. Not even 10 minutes into my trip to Germany and I just dodged a fine.
The train ride was really nice. I didn’t spend the entire 7 hours staring out the window but I was able to see a few villages which was pretty nice. Everything once entering Germany, at least on the trains route was a beautiful green and hilly. It was interesting to see villages that have certainly been there centuries being placed in the middle of no where being surrounded by farms. After a while I decide I had enough and drifted off to sleep. It’s been about 10 days and I can already tell I will need to take naps at any time possible to survive this.
The train rocking back and forth eventually woke me up. I really didn’t mind because I am terrified of oversleeping. These trains travel hundreds of miles between stops, if I missed just one who knows where I could end up. As I got closer I was getting a little more anxious. Munich will be the first time I am seeing someone who I actually know on this trip. Everywhere else I’ve been has been me doing what I’d like when I’d like and not having to care about other people. Not that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Miranda, I was, I mean it’s been two years since she moved here.
Miranda and I have been friends for years. We were best friends in high school and hung out several times a week along with all of our other friends, but as it happens with most people college got in the way. I wouldn’t say we lost touch or anything drastic like that but we certainly didn’t hang out like we used to. It went from every other day in high school to once or twice a year at best. The last time I had seen her was at our friend Rocco’s birthday party. It was the same time she told me she was moving to Germany because of some guy she met. I couldn’t help but laugh, and I meant it in the friendliest way possible.
Let me give you a quick description of Miranda. Attractive girl, fairly tall, crystal blue eyes, and was a straight A student in high school. In essence she is a walking definition of an innocent persona. I say this because she doesn’t drink, smoke or anything. I couldn’t even see her backpacking Europe to begin with let alone living there.
About four years ago she backpacked Europe for about 60 days with another friend of ours, Sammy. She met this guy at a bar in Munich. Somehow halfway across the world she manages to find the only guy in the bar who doesn’t drink. As you can imagine they hit it off and yaddi yaddi yadda the stories continues. He visits the states a few times staying with her and they decided that she should move out there to be with him. Although they are still together she is not living with him. She wanted to move out and get her own place before things got any more serious. Which works out great for me!
I arrive at Munich HBF station and I begin to look around to see if I can find her. We really didn’t set a meeting point but luckily my phone had some service. I try not to turn it on too much because, well, I don’t want to come back to a bill the equivalent of my trip, even though I did have an international plan–I don’t trust phone companies.
As I am walking through the crowd dodging everyone and their massive suitcases I finally see her through the crowd. It’s always weird when you see someone you haven’t seen in a while and expect them to look so different but they don’t. I mean it’s only been two years but it felt like so much longer.
The first thing we did was get me a week subway pass which ends up being cheaper than the 3 day pass they offer. Just another way to nickel and dime the tourists! But I gladly pay the €17 and we walked to the nearest station just trying to catch up on life. It’s amazing how hard it is to fill someone in on the major things that have happened in the last two years, let alone all the smaller details that really make up bigger picture. You don’t realize how much has actually happened until you’re trying to fill in the gaps.
Her apartment is only a short walk from the train and is in a really nice quite area of Munich. I happily throw my bag down and collapse on her bed. It’s a studio so right in the middle of the apartment is her bed. After sitting in a semi comfortable chair for the last few hours it feels amazing to just relax. Eventually I unpack my things and we just continue talking about life.
An hour flashes by and we decided it’s time to actually get up and do something productive. I attempt to arrange my stuff so it doesn’t look like a tornado picked up my backpack and tossed its belongings all over but it was a failed attempt (lost cause). We grabbed what we needed and heading back to the metro to see some of Munich.
Since it was now later in the day there wasn’t really much time to do anything other than walk around and explore. I really had to admire the look of this city. There was something about it I just couldn’t put my finger on. Maybe it was the medieval and gothic style architecture of Marienplatz has that I expected all of europe to have but I had yet to see.
It was nice to hear all the little information about the city as I walked through it. Normally my plan to just walk around aimless leads to one of a few things–me being tired, hungry and or lost. Which necessarily isn’t a bad thing. As we walked through the city we stopped by Mike’s Bike Tour company which is one of the places where Miranda works. Since I would be going on a few of their tours she thought it would be a good idea to stop by and introduce me! I had no complaints especially since I was going on these tours for my favorite price– F R E E.
Right around the corner from Mike’s was the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall. This is the beer hall that is famous during Oktoberfest for women in dirndls, men in lederhosen, and of course enough beer to drown in! As were about to walk in I really didn’t think much of it. I assumed during the off season of Oktoberfest it would be just a normal beer hall with people enjoying some beer and pretzels. I was wrong. The place was packed and there was even a band playing Bavarian music fully equipped with a tuba, clarinet, accordion and trombone. It seems just as chaotic as Oktoberfest I couldn’t even imagine what Oktoberfest would be like, well actually I could. It probably would be just like this but with people screaming, yelling and chugging beer on tables. My kind of place!
Of course being here I had to get myself a beer. After fighting through the chaos that this place was we managed to find a spot to sit down outside. All I really wanted was a big pretzel and a beer but European restaurants have an entirely different culture. It’s seems to be it’s more of a seat yourself culture and in the states if you don’t get greeted within the first few minutes it’s almost an outrage. At least that’s how my last restaurant treated it telling us we had to be at the table within 30 seconds of them sitting down. In Europe, especially Germany your’e lucky to even have the waitress realize you sitting down after 10 minutes of rubbernecking.
Germany is technically the first country I’ll staying in for more than a day that has a completely different first language. I hardly count staying in Belgium as being in a country that didn’t speak English because I really wasn’t there long enough for that to matter. But here I was sitting at a German restaurant staring at a menu that I had no idea to what was going on. I mean it was pretty simple what I wanted, and if it really came down to it I could play charades with the waitress until she realized what I wanted. But since I had Miranda here I figured I’d use her to my advantage.
I asked her what is like a simple German or Bavarian thing to eat. Something small that would go good with a beer. She recommended that I try obatza because it was one of her favorites. Basically it was a cheese dip made for pretzels and bread. Sounds like the perfect bar food to me. Eventually we managed to flag down a waitress, and by we I really mean she did. After ordering everything in German we sat back and waited for it to arrive.
After a few minutes of sitting down and looking around the family next to us started to speak to me in German. Instantly I was caught off guard. The tables in Hofbräuhaus along with most beer gardens are long medieval style tables where you kind of just sit down next to another family if there is room. Not having the slightest clue what the lady next to me had said I turned to Miranda with a slight confused and deer in the head lights look.
Miranda instantly jumped in, I just followed the flow of the conversation back and forwth as if i were watching a tennis match. I assume what was being said was somewhere along the lines of “he doesn’t speak German, but I live here and he is staying in Munich with me for a few days.” everyone laughed including myself out of sheer awkwardness and continued to look around secretly listening to their conversation.
It was really strange to see her speak another language. The last time I had seen her I knew she was studying a bit of German but it is still hard to look back on a few years ago when we would see each other every day and grasp now that she is living halfway across the world in the most expensive city in Germany speaking a second language. It just goes to show you that truly anything can happen.
Eventually our food shows up along with my beer. This is what I was talking about! I really havn’t dranke much since traveling so I was looking forward to it. Plus this orange pastel coloured scoop of cheese was pretty good! The best and probably most unappealing way to describe it is sherbet colored cheddar cream cheese. But I was always told don’t judge a book by its cover, and I learned that is entirely true for food. Some of the worst looking food taste the best. Also some of the best looking food taste the worst too so its really just a 50-50 chance at this point.
We continued to walk around the inner city of Munich as she showed me some of the main landmarks and told me a little more about them. It was also convenient that she worked at a bike tour place so that she was able to give some pretty interesting facts.
The sun was getting closer to setting and it was time for us to head back. Which I was not opposed to. I had just spent 7 hours on a train I was pretty tired and really just looking to be able to relax. The train ride took no longer than 15 minutes and about a 10 minute walk to back to her apartment. But before heading up to her room we went into the basement to get a spare mattress she had–it was surprisingly light, thanksfully because she was a couple stories up.
I had to move some of my stuff to make room for the mattress but after that it ended up being a pretty solid setup. After placing the bed on the floor next to her’s there was a couch to my left which acted as a really long bed stand for everything I owed. As I put my stuff down in my best organized chaos I enjoyed the luxury of fast WiFi. The phrase you don’t know what you have till it’s gone applies perfectly to good wifi. Everywhere I have been the wifi, you know, worked but that’s about as far as I would describe it. Here I was able to upload photos and listen to music at the same time without freezing up the access for everyone. After a while we headed to bed considering we had to be up early.
We woke up just in time for me to get into the shower and for Miranda to get ready. By the time I got out and changed and brushed my teeth we had to be out the door. The metro we had to catch was leaving in 7 minutes and that’s about what it takes to speed walk to it. Booking it in the most casual way we could without having to run we made it with about a minute to spare. Every train we have caught so far has been us rushing to catch it just before it leaves. I am either a good luck charm or a jinx and only a few more trains can decide that.
The tour we were going on in an hour or so is to Neuschwanstein Castle. This is about a little under 80 miles from Munich and is the castle Walt Disney based his iconic castle off of. I didn’t even know this existed until a few days before arriving when Miranda asked me if I’d like to check it out.
After getting off the metro we headed straight for the bike shop where along the way we stopped to get some breakfast. By now I have gotten over the idea of a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast and have settled for fruit and a pastry. It’s a solid go to because everyone has it which is great because I don’t think the bacon egg and cheese fad has crossed the atlantic quite yet.
It’s always an adventure ordering food in another country. You kind of take the little things like small talk and communication for granted when there isn’t a language barrier. For example you certainly don’t realize how important little sentences like “can I have one of these” and “no no not that one, this one” are until you have to play a morning game of charades with a half wake German.
I found a pastry that looked, I know this is going to sound strange but pretty. It was round with doughy texture covered in powdered sugar with a nice deep red fruit looking thing inside of it. I decide to ask for one of those but froze when I saw its name. Streuselschnecke mit Johannisbeere. That’s a 35 fucking lettered pastry. No wonder why the German language sounds so angry, their tongues are just naturally frustrated that they have to sound out that many vowels and consonants to order a pastry. Along with that I had ordered a sandwich that I didn’t even bother pronouncing its name I just pointed. I don’t even know but it was, but it looked sort of familiar so it would have to do.
After that microadventure we made it to the tour shop where Mike, the owner was actually there. Turns out he is from Hicksville, Long Island which I thought was pretty cool. Even half way across the world I managed to be in a room with two people from the place I grew up.
It was time for to head to the bus that would bring us to the castle. It was a short walk around the block to where the bus was and we boarded it right away. Just as I thought things would be smooth sailing from here it quickly got interesting. Mike, was giving us a quick rundown of who he was, how the company came about and just the typical run around you expect when you are on a tour.
I knew Miranda said that he was an eccentric type who really had no censor but I didn’t realize how true it was until he was on a mini rant about Asian tourists. This was essentially how the conversation over the loudspeaker of the bus went.
“One of the main reasons this tour is great is because you won’t have to deal with the crowd of people who are just lost and confused. Especially the annoying asian tourists that just stand in the middle of the walkway taking picture of what appears to be nothing. I mean nothing, like a rock or a tree like they’ve never seen one before. Oh yeah I forgot to mention this isn’t a PR kind of tour. I really don’t care much about that I just tell it how it is.” I turn to Miranda to see if I was really hearing this. Across her face was a smile and her hand covering her eyes in embarrassment. The best part is that we actually had Asian tourists on our tour! I just couldn’t help but laugh.
Soon after that Mike said his farewells and wished us a good trip. The bus dropped him off at the train station where he would ride back to the shop. It was finally smooth sailing after this. Over the next two hours I watched the landscape fly past me and really soaked in the fact that I am in Germany with Miranda who I had not seen in the last two years. It just felt so surreal. Everything about this trip felt surreal.
The cool thing about this tour is that it gave us a bunch of opportunities to do a few things. We all received a bike to do the initial tour around Neuschwanstein and then we were to stop at a restaurant order some food and drink and possibly go on a luge for a few Euros. After that we would get a magic show, simply because one of the tour guys graduated from (the university of magic shit) then finally head up to the actual castle. Now the only thing actually included in this tour was the bike ride, everything else was extra but really didn’t cost too much. Even access to the castle wasn’t included but for thanks to Miranda we were able to get into it for free.
Once getting off the bus we walked a few minutes up a hill to where the bikes were all laid out for us. It slowly dawned on me that I had not rode a bike in years. Something like 3 or 4 years. Not that I was afraid I forgot but it’s strange how much time can pass by between something as simple as riding a bike. It’s even stranger to think about how many times I had rode my motorcycle in the last three years but have not stepped foot on a bicycle. I after adjusting the seat a million times I hopped on and was good to go. It felt amazing to have my body carve through the wind again.
Over the next few hours we saw a bunch of amazing sights, stopping every so often to take photos. But I think my favorite part was toward the end of the tour right before heading back. We stopped at a beautiful alpine lake that over looked one of the castles. I knew there would be an opportunity to swim, I just never thought how great the view would be for it!
Miranda ran off to change into her bathing suit while I struggled to take out my GoPro. Of course the locking mechanism decide it be a great time to pop off right as I was putting the waterproof case onto it. It took me about 10 minutes, and several rocks as leverage to pop the lock back on. It ended up being just enough time because as I finished Miranda arrived.
In less than a minute we were taking steps into the lake. It was pretty damn cold, but so refreshing. It reminded me of the mornings I had spent last summer at Indian Head jumping into the lake for combination of a wake up call and a bath. What makes it so refreshing is that it’s kind of a shell shock to your system. The chill just wakes up every cell in your body leaving you completely energized.
About 20 minutes pass by of treading water and it’s time to head back to return the bikes and grab a bite to eat. Considering I was already saving so much money by not having to pay I decided to treat myself to a beer and some Kaesespaetzle. This was beyond delicious! It was basically an adult version of mac and cheese topped with sautéed sweet onions and it was amazing! When the plate hit the table I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it but slowly bite after bite I managed to leave no remains. This had been my first real meal in days!
Once everyone was finished with their food and drinks we had the option to down a lunge mountain coaster for a few euros. This was surprisingly fun, I thought it would have been some little kiddie ride that adults could also use. The setup was pretty simple, you sit down with your legs out in front of you. There is a lever which you pull back to using the brakes push forward to speed up. We were given a warning that people get hurt every year because they don’t listen and continue down the entire slope not using the brakes. Usually what happens is someone hits a turn too fast and they get launched up rather than around the turn.
As for most people, being told you should not do something makes you want to do it even more, well at least for me. It’s kind of like having a huge red button that says do not press, I’m sorry. I am going to press it. As I was taken up the hill like a roller coaster I reached the top. I pulled the breaks so that the person in front of me would have some time to work their way down because I knew I would easily catch up. As soon as I felt the time was right I threw the lever forward and began flying down the hill. At first it was going pretty slow, I felt like the whole warning was an exaggeration. Almost instantaneously I began to pick up speed. To try and be more aerodynamic I leaned forward to get as much speed as possible. The first major turn I hit I basically rode the end of the curve which was pretty exciting. The whole time I was capturing this on my GoPro.
Toward the end of it I almost crashed because I was going too fast and I didn’t realize how close the person in front of me actually was. I had to quickly pull the brake to avoid ramming her cart. Lucky my reflexes have always been pretty good because I was able to stop it before she even realized what had happened. Once everyone who wanted to ride the Alpine Slide did we watching an amazing magic show who gave us a taste of his card routine and then headed toward Neuschwanstein.
It was a good 20-30 minute hike up the mountain to reach the castle, but neither me or Miranda minded–we’ve both have done multiple hikes before. Before we reached the castle we stopped at a bridge that overlooked it. Talk about perfection. I was able to see the castle in its entirety along with the mountains and grassland in the background. I thought I saw an interesting castle in Dublin but that couldn’t even compare to this. It’s also interesting to see where the notorious Disney castle silhouette came from.
Again thanks to Miranda I was able to get a free pass to see the inside of the castle. Normally it would have cost extra because it is privately owned so Mike’s tour company isn’t able to sell the tickets but they do have them on reservation. Inside was honestly not as impressive as the outside. I think it was because we had one of the most excruciatingly awkward tour guides ever. Not only was there a language barrier, by this I mean she was from a Spanish/Portuguese speaking country but had a British accent mixed with an attempt at German. So everything she said sounded like a vocal blender.
That was just one of the issues, the worst part was her attempt to be funny. There was a point where she tried to compare King Ludwig II’s (he commissioned the building of the castle) love of books to her love of comic books. Which is a good comparison if you can convey it properly. Her attempt at it led into her confessing that when she was younger she basically hid from everyone through comic books. It quickly went from a tour guide to a therapist’s session. You could hear the fakeness in everyone who did laugh throughout the tour but, it was really just a filler to end the awkward silences. How she got that job, I will never know.
The hike back down was entertaining because I had a conversation with a few 8 year olds about Australia. They tried to convince me to try all of these Aussie foods and snacks that sounded absolutely horrible. I even told them that and they just laughed. By the time we reached the bus I was exhausted. This was only day two out of four days I will be staying in Munich and it has easily been the most productive day of my trip. The two hour ride home flew by, mostly because I was zoning in and hour of consciousness watching the terrain whizz by me. What a way to be welcomed by Munich.