Oh Munchen. You were definitely interesting from beginning to end, just not sure in the absolute best way possible. The couch surfing experience was quite an experience, but more on that later, off blog. One thing I did see on my way to the hosts place, though, was the trains and busses of refugees at the station. The whole area was blocked off and medical tents were set up, with guards and volunteers everywhere inside. My greeter later told me that she had signed up to volunteer but they were turning away all volunteers for 2 more weeks because they were already inundated with help. It’s definitely an interesting time to be in Germany, especially since it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the States.
Already ready for Oktoberfest. The area was blocked off even when I was there a few weeks before it started.
When I finally made it to the place, I met 2 other surfers, a girl from Russia and a girl from Hong Kong, the host’s girlfriend from Ukraine, and his 2 roommates from Russia and Germany. We had dinner and then played Asshole late into the night. I learned that German decks of cards often only start at the number 7 and people buy a different deck for games that need the whole deck. Well, learned something new. Didn’t make sense to me, but doesn’t matter. Once the hosts went to sleep, the other girls and I went out to a bar for a drink and the girl from Hong Kong, who’d lived in Munich for 4 months before, gave me tips and restaurants in Garmisch, if I ended up stopping by there. It still amazes me that in Germany, beer is usually cheaper than water. Honestly? I don’t think I drank water once in my 5 days in Germany…
So it’s not quite cheaper on this sign but still gets close enough
The next day, I went on a Greeter tour I found online. If you haven’t heard of it and are visiting Munich, definitely check it out. It’s free, and I got matched with a great woman from Pittsburgh, who also lived in Boston. She came to Munich for an internship, met a German guy, and never left. 27 years later, she’s still there. She gave me a really informative tour of the city- so much so that another guide who gives paid tours, came over and asked her how she knew about the domes of a munich church, which were done that way for budgetary reasons. After a few hours, we sat down for coffee and paninis, and chatted about differences between the 2 countries, life in Germany, and everything else. She explained that in Germany, because they want to encourage younger workers to have jobs, companies will pay older workers 82% of their salary to not work for 3 years at a time, like a sabbatical. So here she is, a software engineer, getting paid a full salary almost to not work. She also explained (and sort of complained) that when she was working, she was not allowed to go into work on the weekends, or work more than 10 hours, because the employer could be legally responsible if she were to end up in an accident after leaving a long day at work. It was definitely a long adjustment period, filled with frustration, but now one she appreciates.
Another thing I learned in Munich is just how much Germany likes its recycling and organic products. Everywhere I went, I saw “bio-” things, and there are recycling bins everywhere. I guess being from the Bay Area, I always sort of assumed no one could beat us on this, but it looks like Germany definitely has. (More on this attitude later)
Germans also don’t cross the street when the light is red, and the guy I had dinner with later told me you can even lose your drivers license for jay walking! The joke is that in Germany, red light is a law, in France it’s a warning, and in Italy, it’s a suggestion.
After that, I went straight to Dachau, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’ve heard it can be quite moving or quite bland, depending who you talk to. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a concentration camp, and not an extermination camp per se, although of course that gets ambiguous too, but it didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it would. Seeing stories and personal items of people in the Jewish museum in Berlin probably had a bigger impact on me. Stepping up to the “dead zone” near the fencing and ditch and wall, though, did feel very real after walking through the museum, almost as if I was worried someone in the watchtower would spot me and shoot. Definitely a weird moment, but gave even the slightest sense of how terrifying it would be.
That night, met up with a German guy I’d found on couch surfing, and he took me to a beer garden in the English Gardens where we of course had a liter of beer each and a traditional duck dish with sauerkraut. Did you know that in Germany, beer gardens and bars don’t offer different beers from different brewers? Each one is basically owned by the brewery so you can only get that beer. I had no idea, but I definitely learned quickly.
Assam’s Church. Apparently these two brothers who designed this church wanted to keep it private just for themselves and Munich said no. I’m glad it’s now public! It’s also right off the street and you’d never know this was inside if you didn’t know to look.
Back at home, I met 2 other Lebanese couch surfers staying with the host too. It was a great night and we all sat around talking and planning our next stops.
While I can’t say I absolutely loved Munich, I’m glad I went and I met some great people. I may not have done it right or seen the best parts, but I much prefer Berlin and its complexity and genuineness. (I promise to come back for a second opinion!)