Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 1 in Munich, Euronight Train & Walking Tour

I slept on a Euronight train last night, a six bed couchette as they call it in Europe.  I did not know what to expect from the Euronight train, most of the reviews online are positive. I met a couple of Australians who accidentally ended up in a six bed couchette on their way to Vienna, after part of the train was removed,  they enjoyed it, but they also got lucky and had a private compartment.

When I got to the train's platform I confirmed I was in the right place, and the train was bound for Munich. I asked a conductor where my seat was, to be sure I was in the right place.  After a few misunderstandings due to the language barrier, I figured out I was supposed to board the car we were standing in front of and I was in the 5th compartment. The conductor had told me number five, I thought he meant car number five and I started walking towards it, I was standing in front of car number two.  The conductor said, NO, NUMBER 5, again I did not understand what he meant by number 5.  Finally, the conductor pointed, said this car, number 5, I apologized for the misunderstanding and thanked him.  He lifted my bag into the car and I walked to compartment number 5.

When I got to my compartment it was empty, I only saw four bunks, one was folded up, so there was a sofa like seat area, would have been a nice place to sit, if nobody had joined me in my compartment.  A few minutes later a middle-aged German man came to the compartment, he spoke no English.  He seemed a bit confused, asked me some questions, his younger friend came and joined the conversation, they asked, "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" I said no, only English, they had more conversation.  I thought both men were going to be in my compartment, turned out only the middle-aged man and I shared the couchette.

The German man did not set up his bed until the train started moving, he stood outside our compartment for a long time, I did not know what he was doing, I could not ask, we do not speak the same language.  I made up my bed, I tried to ask him if he wanted to make up his bed, he pointed to the sofa like area where I was sitting and communicated he would sleep there, I said OK.  He still did not move to make up his bed or arrange his luggage.

When the train started moving, the German man brought his luggage into the compartment, folded the sofa up and it became a row of 3 bunks, just like my side of the compartment.  His friend stopped by our compartment again, said a few things to me and his friend, then left, I did not see him again until we arrived in Munich this morning.

Me in Couchette on EuroNight Train to Munich 
I read my Europe guidebooks on my Kindle until around 11:30pm, then I decided it was time to try to get some sleep.  My couchette mate was still up reading the German newspaper, I laid down and tried to go to sleep, I think I fell asleep or at least zoned out at some point.  I awoke when the German turned off the lights and locked the compartment door and again at a stop when several people boarded the train, a few tried to open our compartment door. My German couchette mate had already told me we were the only one in our compartment, whoever was trying to open our door wasn't assigned to our couchette.

I went back to sleep or into a semi-sleep state, the couchette was comfortable enough, the conductor knocked on our door around 5:45am to return our passports and tickets.  The conductors collect these over night so they don't have to wake up passengers every time we pass into another country.  I got up, I wasn't well-rested, I don't think anyone was, but the ride passed faster than 8 hours would have during the day. Our train pulled into Munich a little after 6:00am. 

I stopped at a pastry shop at Munich's main train station and bought a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast, then I looked for the bus stop for the bus to my hostel.  I asked some German Deutsch Bahn workers where the bus was, they pointed me in the direction.  I found the bus stop, got on the bus when it arrived, the bus driver was no help with ticket information, in Berlin they sell the tickets, in Munich they have a machine with no English.  I bought the cheapest ticket, sat down and monitored the stops until we arrived at the one for my hostel. 

I went down the wrong street in search of my hostel, I walked to the next bus stop.  The hostel's directions said get off the bus and walk straight ahead, it did not say in what direction to walk straight.  I turned around and walked back towards the bus stop, then I was looking left and saw the sign for the hostel, I was relieved. I went to the hostel, the man at the front desk was nice and let me check in, often they make you wait until check in time, usually around 2pm.  I was tired and grateful he gave me the room that early, I did not expect it, I thought I would be in the lobby for several hours or I would go on an early walking tour. 

 I went to my room, tried to be quiet and not wake my hostel mates.  They eventually woke up, one of their alarms went off, they thanked me for not making noise when I entered the room.  We talked some, both are working on their Masters at Cambridge University in England.  They asked me if I was on a post-college trip, I said something like that, but it is a post-CIA trip.  I told them some about my experience with CIA and FBI and gave them both my cards. When my hostel mates checked out, I went to sleep.  

I set my alarm so I would wake up for the 1pm Sandemans Munich walking tour.  I walked to Marienplatz, Mary's Square, Munich's main square. I decided to walk so I could orient myself to Munich and I had time on my hands, gave me a chance to see more of the city. I got to the meeting place about half an hour early, walked around, read some on my Kindle and waited to meet the tour guide. 

Lynnae in Marienplatz 
The Munich walking tour covered all the highlights of Munich, plus a lot of history of the city, I will not recount the entire tour here.  We saw several churches, learned about Hitler in Munich, stood in the square where Hitler gave his addresses, saw an understated Holocaust memorial.  The Holocaust memorial marked a Jewish owned shopping centered that was shuttered by the Nazis, the shopkeeper and his family were sent to concentration camps.  Our tour guide said Munich has understated memorials to the holocaust  unlike Berlin, he said Munich believes this gives people less opportunity to desecrate the memories, do inappropriate things to them.

Holocaust Memorial to Jewish Owned Shopping Center
We also visited Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) it was built in 20 years in the 1400s and there is what is believed to be the devil's footprint at the entrance of the church, superstition says it was built quickly with the devil's help.  A tour of Munich would not be complete with out beer talk and we got that too, including a stop at The Hofbrahaus, a famous German brewery, I had not heard of  until today. I would probably enjoy Germany even more if I were a beer drinker. 

My foot next to the Devil's Foot Print at Frauenkirche 
After the tour ended, I walked back to my hostel.  I found out my hostel room was changed, not a big deal.  I moved to my new room, met my new hostel mates, one from Russia, the other from Korea.  The Korean speaks some English, the Russian does not speak any, we have talked some, but not much, there is a significant language barrier.  

I wanted to get traditional German food for dinner, really Bavarian food, there is a regional difference in Germany, like in the US.  I asked the hostel staff for a recommendation of a restaurant close by, they gave me directions.  The restaurant was crowded when I arrived, I did not want to get take out or take away as they call it in Europe, I wanted to eat in, a hostel is not conducive to enjoying good food.  The waiter sat me at a table with two German men, in Europe it is common to share a table with strangers, population density often demands you share a table.  The German men readily agreed to share the table, we did not talk much, most of the Germans I met today were absorbed in the Munich Barcelona match, my guess, that is what my German table partners were discussing. I asked the waiter what was a traditional Bavarian dish, he told me the Schnitzel, I ordered the schnitzel with cheese and ham, I call it the heart attack schnitzel.  I had apple juice and sparkling water for my drink, it almost looks like a light beer. 

My Bavarian Dinner 

After dinner I returned to the hostel.  I am planning to go on a day excursion to Neuschwanstein Castle, should be a full day.  

Day 1 in Munich Photo Album 

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