After wearing my cut off white pants for about nine days in a row because of the heat, on a cooler travel transfer day it was time to pull out the jeans for a welcome change. We are in the groove with packing up now and all went smoothly with plenty of time at the station.
While we were waiting we made friends with two young mums who spoke some English and who were off for a holiday with four children and two prams between them! The five year old, a gorgeous kid, was intrigued with us as his mum explained where we are from. He solemnly counted up to six in English in an attempt to communicate and we showed him a photo of our grandson of a similar age. Missing our family!
Then we were off, plenty of space in the carriage for luggage, and time to chill. Trains here have wifi, so it is a good time to WhatsApp with our family. So much has changed since our earlier trips when we had to buy phone cards and use a public phone!
We thought we had pulled it off well when we found the hotel, but there was a miscommunication and we were not prepared to pay the extra they were asking, so we bailed and were homeless on the streets of München, Germany’s fourth largest city! Traveller resilience comes from solving problems, we told ourselves.
After dragging our luggage across town to another hotel (one person dragging much more than the other 😊) we were able to book another place instantly and realised that we had ended up in a very multicultural part of town. Thanks to Angela Merkel’s open policies, there are people from many nations; we find ourselves surrounded by Turkish, Afghani, Moroccan, Pakistani and Ethiopian people, to name a few. Best of all, there is marvellous food that we love: kebabs, rice, falafels, Turkish bread, to say nothing of mountains of baklava and Turkish delight! Add the other ethnic cafes and we are in no danger of starving.
The only simple way to get around a big city at first is the tourist bus, so off we went again, enjoying the entire circuit before going around again to disembark at the Alte Pinakothek, one of the oldest galleries in the world, covering art from the 14th to 18th centuries and many of the Old Masters. At the moment the Neue Pinakothek is closed so some of the best art from there has been included in the old gallery, making great value for a visit.
It is my kind of gallery. Spacious, cool, free audio commentary in English and plenty of benches for contemplation and rest. We saw so many favourites: Van Gogh (one of his six remaining Sunflowers), Cezanne (still life in his studio that I have visited in Aix en Provence), Klimt (last seen in Vienna), Turner, Rodin (last seen on a roundabout in Paris) Gaugin (nativity in island style), Millet, Goya, Botticelli and the amazing Dürer originals. And many, many more!
Faint with hunger and thirst (no water bottle allowed inside) we stumbled across the park to the first table outside a bar and had yet another delicious meal. Tarte flambee for me turned out to be a very thin sort of pizza base smothered in cream cheese, leeks and bacon and it melted in my mouth. Peter tackled his second schnitzel in Germany with a red currant sauce.
Refuelled, we did our first split, as Peter chose to go back to the gallery for another couple of hours – he wouldn’t want to regret missing anything. I can live with the surfeit of what I did see, so I set off solo to rejoin the bus and spend some time at the very lively Marienplatz. Another church, a cheery street choir, market stall and so much food! I managed to find the bus again after a random wander and headed confidently back to base.
I knew the walk back was just over a kilometre and felt sure I could find it, but a few hundred metres from home, the storm struck! I was drenched in a few minutes, buffeted by the strong wind and worst of all, could not see anything through my wet and fogged glasses, let alone the blue dot on the map on my phone.
It all went a bit pear-shaped as the shops closed and everyone sensibly disappeared, but without maps or landmarks I got a bit lost. I ended up taking the scenic route home, plodding along in the rain and taking my bearings from St Paul’s church which I knew was near our place. I finally made it and left a river of water dripped along the hotel corridor. We spent all evening trying to dry clothes, shoes and bag with a hair dryer…
Peter had the umbrella but missed the worst of the storm, our first rain since we left home.
I walked nearly 8 kilometres that day, which is a minor miracle. So the next morning, both a little whacked, we took a sabbath rest, listened to a great message from New Pen YouTube, cleaned our shoes and ate baklava for breakfast and morning tea. It’s a good life. Meanwhile the church bells clang out the passing time every fifteen minutes.
A little walk around the hood wrapped up in our rain jackets took us to St Paul’s, where, to our surprise, a steady stream of people were arriving. We joined them just as the service started – a Croatian congregation had packed out the church with over 300 people. We stayed long enough to recognise the tune of ‘It’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer’; that’s for sure and it warmed our hearts inside our sodden jackets.
A little discouraged by the non-stop rain, we delayed the outing we had planned and decided to try the public transport and go to the only museum open on a Monday – the massive Deutsche Museum of Science and Technology. Armed with a Munich all-day ticket, we connected the U4 Bahn and the S2 Bahn (eventually). When we tried to emerge from the bowels of the earth underground, the escalator had stopped. Somehow I hauled myself up about 130 steps but as a result we had to stop for our first iced coffee stop before I could walk another step.
As we approached the museum, it became apparent that we were not the only people looking for inside activity: it looked like half the population of Munich and their children were lined up to enter. We retreated, and, ever flexible, we enjoyed the amazing gift shop and found a couple of presents for our long list of family at home before moving along. Vietnamese street food got us home as we reversed the train route and felt like confident commuters and trying to remember that it is not the destination but the journey.
I had thought hard about whether I wanted to go to Dachau Nazi concentration camp memorial,and wasn’t sure if I needed to be reminded of one of the worst horrors ever inflicted by humans on other humans. We decided to make the trip, in spite of the steady rain, perhaps as much to pay our respects to those who died and suffered there rather than to look and see.
Having got the hang of the Munich all-day ticket to ride, we used four trains and two buses for the day and just about knew which direction the trains we wanted were running.
The bus takes you through the town of Dachau where people live their ordinary lives, and I wonder what it is like to have that name as one’s locality. Apparently when the camp was liberated, the local residents were made to go in and see what had been happening in their town.
It is hard to describe how I felt. It was not so much about seeing the displays and listening to the audio commentary, although that was engrossing and they are well done. It was more about standing on the roll-call ground and looking down at the gravel, being in the crematorium next to the ovens and going into the reconstructed barracks. The echoes of terror, despair, hunger and helplessness cry out from the gravel, unable to win against powers, abuse, cruelty and inhumanity. I could feel it. Yet the human spirit is amazing, even with dignity stripped away. Stories of threads of defiance are powerful.
Bad things are happening all the time, but somehow Dachau gathers together a sense of evil that is a nadir in the history of the world and I needed to experience that hell and sit with it for a while.
I actually wasn’t sure if I could walk as far as the crematorium, nor did I really want to, but I plodded all the way in the steady rain because it was really nothing for me compared to what had happened where I walked. That was a seven kilometre day again for me – truly amazing.
We had a little smile on the crowded bus when we were both offered a seat; Peter reflected wryly that it was the first time in his life he had been treated as an old person. With his birthday in two days, it seemed fitting.
Nothing has quite gone to plan in München, but plans b,c and d have been great too. We had done a great deal of research about how to do a day trip to the highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze, with its cog train and cable car. When we finally had our turn at the ticket desk, the lady told us dourly that there is repair work on the line and the trip would take three times as long with several buses; it could not be done in a day. Ah well. The Zugspitze webcam showed heavy cloud and rain, so it wouldn’t have been a great view anyway.
It was to have been a birthday celebration for Peter, who reached the grand age of 73 today, but the birthday boy jumped at the chance to see more art instead.
Deftly managing two U Bahn lines, we spent the morning at the Lenbachhaus museum, where one of the exhibitions featured the early 20th century Blue Riders group of German Expressionist artists: Wassily Kandinsky is a real favourite of ours, and we have a print of his at home. It was a rich exhibition and I love his jewel-like colours, often primaries with a dash of teal and swirling figures. Kandinsky believed that spiritual values could counteract the corruption and materialism of the age. The group also fused music and art with synaesthesia; yellow was the colour of musical sound apparently. Peter focused on this group in Year 12 Art, so was a good tour guide for me.
He could not resist just one more museum, the sculpture gallery nearby, so I sallied forth on my own into the underground to come home and experienced again the buzz of mastering complexities in another language.
The best I could find for a birthday celebration was a chocolate donut with a cardboard candle. No trouble spared for my wonderful husband!
And now we move on again. Tomorrow another country and another language as we head south through the alps to Verona. The weather forecast tells me that the white pants will be worn again!