We were so very fortunate to not only be able to ‘sit’ the apartment of our good friend Renate, but she introduced us to some of her long time friends and they were kind enough to take us to places in Munich and to include us in some of their activities. We met most of them for the first time when we visited Renate last October, but this time, we got to know them better and have them all to ourselves.
Shortly after Renate left for her holiday to the Black Sea, we were invited to dinner with her friends Lotha, Karsten and Holgar. We took along some wine, not knowing that it was Karsten’s birthday. I introduced him to the notion of being ’44 and a little bit more’ and he had a good laugh. We had a great meal in a nearby Italian restaurant and after our meal we were treated to a number of tunes belted out by the owner of the eatery.
Apparently, he always wanted to be a singer, he’s Italian after all, but his father wanted to be sure that he could support himself and his family adequately, so he forced him to be a chef and a restaurateur. For that reason, anyone who stays till the bitter end forms an audience for his talents. It’s clear he loves to sing, but it would be better if he lowered the volume a little and shortened his performance to only a few songs, not several.
A few days later, another friend Stefan invited us out for Sunday lunch at a typical Bavarian restaurant. We had been to the Schelling Café for a beer with Renate, but their food is excellent and the Sunday Special is a great value meal, complete with soup and dessert. It was a little strange to eat a meal with a tablecloth and napkins while people nearby were playing pool.
The weather had turned cold and nasty while we were inside, but Stefan wanted to take us to the Verkehrszentrum (Transport and Mobility Centre) because I had mentioned how much I love the city’s trams. The centre is chock-a-block with all forms of transport developed in Germany over the years. We had to fight strong winds and driving rain to get inside, but I could have stayed there for hours. Unfortunately, we had only seen a portion of the exhibits when the museum closed for the day.
To our surprise, we stepped outside to bright sunshine and light breezes. Stefan bypassed the spot where his car was parked and took us a little further to the nearby Theresienweise, formerly a large meadow where hundreds of tents are erected every fall for the Octoberfest celebrations. The site is almost completely empty at this time of year, however, a large carnival with all the requisite ferris wheels, bumper cars and sideshows, was in full swing.
We weren’t particularly interested in visiting the carnival, but there wasn’t an admission charge, so we wandered through the grounds and I was drawn into noticing what was the same and what was different from the carnivals that tour North America. Things have clearly been updated since I was last on carnival grounds, and there are new and more terrifying rides that have been developed.
The sight that gave me the biggest laugh was the ‘carousel’ that had not galloping horses, but in their place were bar stools, and the man in the middle of the ride was serving huge mugs of draft beer. I guess it could be said that there is something for all ages at the fair grounds in Munich that day. It was great to get out on a rainy Sunday and we were thankful for the time that Stefan took out of his busy life to show us around.
During the following week, we had terrific weather. The skies were clear and the temperatures were in the low 20s. Perfect, in our minds. We spent the days roaming along different streets in the trendy Schwabing district where Renate’s apartment is located, enjoying the street activity and the beautiful buildings that line those same streets.
We wandered all the way over to the Englischer Gardens, where we had ventured when Puneet, Komal and Anya were with us from New York. We were all surprised to read that the Gardens were larger than NY’s Central Park. Altogether, we saw only a small portion of the Gardens on foot; we hope to return one day on rented bikes and explore the grounds even further.
When we finally arrived at the interesting Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), we laughed when we discovered a Bavarian ‘oom-pa-pa’ band playing music on the second floor of the tower. I drew Anil’s attention to the fact that the ice cream cart nearby was selling Movenpick ice cream, our new favourite. I was a little disappointed with their pistachio (their strawberry is incredible) but Anil was very happy with his choice, Cashew Caramel.
The weekend brought scorching temperature, it even surpassed 30C, but despite that, I suggest that we head over to the nearby palace Schloss Nymphenburg, a short tram ride away. The palace was begun in 1664 and eventually expanded to become the summer palace of the royal family. The grounds are extensive and the interior rooms elaborately decorated. We chose to wander around the grounds, lacking interest in yet another over-the-top series of rooms with too much gilt and old-world glamour.
As we left the palace grounds we caught a whiff of the smoke coming from the kitchens of an outdoor eatery across the main road. The place was packed when we first arrived and the three waiters were run off their feet trying to quench the thirst of so many guests and quiet their grumbling tummies as well. We weren’t able to nab a table in the shade, but found one under the eaves of a garden shed with a little shade.
As I walked to the table, I spotted a young woman eating a meal that looked particularly appealing. I interrupted her meal long enough to ask her what it was called on the menu, and eventually when the waiter made it all the way to our table, we ordered one dish to share (the portions are huge here) and two very cold, light beers.
While we waited ages for our meal, we enjoyed the cold beer and the comings and goings of the people around us. We eventually moved to a table in the shade and once we were there, we weren’t in any hurry to leave. Our meal was delicious, and I later asked the waitress to explain what it was. She told us that the roast pork left over from the previous day was sautéed on a heavy metal pan, along with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions. The whole pan was topped with a fried egg just before the meal was delivered to our table.
We made it home early enough to escape the worst of the heat and in time for an afternoon nap. We had a date to join Renate’s friends Mara and Cornelia to plunge into the music scene in Munich. Renate had told us about Die Lange Nacht Der Musik (The Long Night Of Music) before she set off on her trip, and Mara was kind enough to take us along and plan the itinerary for the evening.
She poured over the booklet that outlined the various venues, where live artists were performing different genres of music. The tickets for the event includes unlimited transportation on dedicated event buses, to ensure participants can easily move around the city from one event to another.
We were able to take in four different performances, in four different venues, and we had a terrific time. The one I enjoyed the most was the novice opera singers who performed on the second floor, velvet-draped room, in the old-world Tombosi Café. We stayed out till well into the wee hours of the morning, and slept in late the next Sunday morning.
April was coming to a close and we couldn’t believe how much we’d packed into it. We’d left South Africa on April 2nd, spent eleven days zooming around Crete and the second half of the month was spent exploring and enjoying Munich and the new friends we’ve made here. Now we had to decide how we would finish off the last three weeks of Year Six of our retirement travels.
We could easily while away the time in Munich, but Renate would be back to reclaim her apartment. We felt that if we were going to be staying in hotels once again, we might as well rent a car and explore more of southern Germany before it was time to head to Amsterdam to take our flight back to Seattle. We’re tempted to see a little of northern Switzerland and Lichtenstein when we’re in the region visiting the fairytale castle known as Schloss Neuschwanstein at Füssen, at the northern foot of the Alps.