Sunday, September 21, 2008

Munich, Germany - All Aboard!

Friday, September 19

7:30am came way too fast. It was a short nights sleep in a room with 20 people. At first the light was on until Heather got up and shut it off, multiple people snoring, and somewhere around 2 or 3 am 2 girls came into the room, one speaking softly, and one basically yelling, with the entire room telling her to be quiet. We got out of bed, ate some breakfast and made plans to just sleep on the 5 hour train ride to Munich. We made sure we had change for the "machine that walks for us" to get us up the hill while carrying our backpacks. At the train station we hopped on the first train for the hour trip to Zurich where we would have a one hour layover to catch the next train to Munich.

In Zurich we walked across the street to McDonalds to use the internet while we waited. Heather bought a happy meal of chicken nuggets and curry sauce, and we worked on the blog a bit and checked email. We should say we only go to McDonalds because they are a sure place for free internet, provided you by something. So we usually go and split a soda. We can assure you we are not dining at all the McDonalds in Europe. We got on our next train, and much to our surprise we had a private 6 person cabin all to ourselves!! For those paying attention, we should have taken notice when we sat on the train in the station for about half an hour, before being told we had to move to a different car because of one of the second class cars not having electricity, so they had to split the train and take a couple cars out of the train. Luckily we got our own private cabin again, where we promptly shut the curtains and napped for about an hour. At a stop along the Switzerland-German border we found ourselves sitting once again for about an hour. We really did not get a good explanation of what happened other than our engine had left the train and were either waiting for a new one to come along, or they would put the people on our train on the next one coming by. At about 2:45pm, the next train came along, and all the people on our train now attempted find seating on a near full train. We tried getting our seats in first class since we had reserved seats on the last train, but to no avail, so we found ourselves wandering the train in search of seats. We walked through the dining car, where it seemed some pre-partying for oktoberfest was going on, so we kinda hung out near the kitchen for a few minutes, hoping for a seat to open up. Shortly after an older couple got up and we quickly took their spots with some guys maybe in their mid 30's on their way to oktoberfest. We had NO idea what we were getting into here.

We sat down and ordered a beer and began talking and introducing ourselves, and really in Europe you introduce yourself by your country, names are optional. There was a group of about 40 Swiss men (bankers) on their way to party in Munich, and one guy from Australia traveling on his own. We soon found our new friends to be quiet fun and entertaining. One of them had an ipod hooked up to some speakers they were blasting what we now know are German drinking songs, and the entire group was singing along. We felt kind of bad for an older gentleman who was dressed up in a suit eating a very nice meal, next to 40 plus party goers. He proved to be a very good sport though, and even got a hug later on in the train ride. The next 3 hours on the train were kind of a blur and a lot to take in, so forgive us if we jump around a little. Most of these guys had been to Oktoberfest many times before, except for one, who claims it was his first one. The australian guy had been there once last year. They told us stories of past experiences, what to expect there, and different traditions that go on there.

One we asked about was we'd noticed all of them putting some kind of brown powder on the backs of their hands and snorting it. We assumed it wasn't any type of hard drug, as they were doing it right in the open on a packed train, and also they were fairly respectable people when not partying on trains. They said it was powdered tobacco, and was a Bavarian thing to do, especially at oktoberfest, and really wasn't any worse than smoking a cigarette. At one point a guy in a red t-shirt bumped into the waiter, causing him to spill his tray and break a glass. The waiter looked quite mad, and we thought maybe he'd put an end to the fun everyone was having, but he turned out to be a good sport, and later on he posed for pictures and chatted with everyone. The same waiter who went from crabby to friendly at the drop of a bottle was running his own deals for sur.e, the price of beers shifted all through the ride and at one point a conversation went something like this:
Heather - "We'd like to order two more beers."
Waiter - "No more beers, all out!"
Heather - "Really!?! No beers?"
Waiter - "No beers, all gone!"
Heather - "Are you sure?"
Waiter - "Fine we have beer in cans."

Towards the last hour of the train ride there was quite a party going. The ipod stereo had made its way to our table somehow. We found it VERY funny that a huge hit here was a remake of the John Denver song "country roads". There was also a song Heather dubbed "the german macarena", which we're assuming told a story of cowboys as the dance involved swinging a lasso and shooting pistols and scanning the horizon for indians. We could be way off on this as we are just going by hand gestures as we didn't know the words.

Like our other train journeys... we arrived in Munich an hour late missing the meeting with our german host Florian. As the 100's of people piled off the train we stumbled along with our heavy packs and tried to make heads or tails of this new city and find the city train to Florians. Trains where pretty easy to use here which was good because we may have only been running on a few brain cells. Since we've been planning train troubles into our journey we were prepared with directions on how to find Florian's house. He only lived maybe 50 meters from the station, and of course we could do nothing but apologize for our lateness.

Florian was great! He lives in a two bedroom apartment, of course on the top floor with his room mate Andreas. Florian is still in college studying English and Sports so communications was really easy for all of us. Like a good german host he offered us a beer right away but we'd had about enough for a while. He showed us where we will be stayed. Has everyone read Harry Potter? Good. You'll know what we mean when we reference the cupboard under the stairs. It was private... no it was perfect! A lot of thought went into decorating this room. The low slanted wall/ceiling had dark blue wallpaper with glow-in-the-dark stars, the floors were a bunch of mattresses pushed together to make one, a discoball, lava lamp and polar bear type fur blanket, million pillows and bean bag chair made us laugh and smile :)

After we settled we took a walk with Florian to the local grocery store, picked up some cheap dinner and headed back. WOW the prices here are 1/4 of what we paid in Switzerland. Oh and we have solid way to gage how expensive a city is. We always go check out the tiramisu for two at the grocery store... whatever price that is will tell you all we need to know.

Back at Florian's we all had a nice german beer (oh hell, why not?). We talked for a while then we made our dinner. Spaetzle (a sort of potato pasta), red sauce, sliced chicken, and three triangles of soft cheese made us a meal fit for royalty. We did our usual "oh we'll never eat all this" and of course almost licked the bowl clean.

We are off to bed in our cool room because tomorrow it's time for Oktoberfest!! And from our friends on the train we learned you need to get there early if you want a chance at getting in a tent.

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