It Doesn’t Matter Which Road You Take #9



Episode Nine: Munich

European Washers and Apple Vendors

We wake up the next morning and pack our bags for Austria. Actually, we are
stopping in Munich first, but saying that we are packing our bags for Munich
does not sound as poetic for some reason. Either way, we are excited to be
stuffing our packs with newly washed clothes. Knowing we will be wearing
fresh items the next few days makes me whistle with glee.

I cannot say enough about European washers. The minute my underwear and
socks come out of the washer they look whiter then they were when I bought
them. We are thinking that we have somehow accidentally bleached the hell
out of our clothes, but Christa explains to us that European washers fill
themselves with water and then slowly become hot, extremely hot. It is kind
of like making soup. Washing machines and the way toilets flush so
forcefully are the two things I am most jealous of in this foreign land. Oh
yeah, and also their sense of culture and history.

Our arms are sore from all the rock throwing yesterday, but since this is
the most exercise we have had in a while, we only complain a little bit.
When we arrive for breakfast, there is a bottle of Coca-Cola on the table
waiting for me. When she had asked us what we liked in the morning, she was
serious. I was only telling her that I drank Coke for breakfast because at
the time I use to do this, I was in college, and that is the kind of stupid
thing you do. But she took it seriously, went out, and bought a crate of
Coke.

I feel guilty. Do not misunderstand me, I appreciate every last bubble of
this sugary nectar. However, I can only imagine that buying a crate of
imported American Coke, in Bavaria, probably cuts into the amount of heat
they will be able to afford for the family next winter. She assures me it’s
fine and proceeds to pour. Coke in the morning is heaven in a glass to me,
and if I can only explain to her that it needs to be chilled first, all will
be well.

She drives us to the train station with the notion that we are late. I can
only think that is the notion she has, or else, the brakes have given out
and she is not telling us. We zoom through the countryside, pass other cars
and I think we even cut off a train at one point. I feel safe smashed
between the two backpacks in the back seat, but my head is exposed, and I am
sure it is at least the third or fourth most vulnerable place on my body. We
screech to a halt and I find that I have been doing a death-grip on the
backpacks. I think, next time she drives us to the station, I will nap
during the trip.

We get a “be careful” speech that would make our mothers proud. We are left
to begin another ride with Germany’s finest. Brian told us last night that
the train people are mean to everybody, so this makes me feel a little bit
better. Of course, if this is proven to me by seeing Chris get a dose of the
Germanic scolding, then I may be able to put it all behind me once and for
all. I still think it has something to do with my long hair or the fact that
I am wearing shorts. Prejudice knows no boundaries.

We arrive in Munich and wander the streets, trying to find a subway
entrance. It has just finished raining and the city has that smell cities
get, when everything becomes a little wetter but no cleaner. Wet dogs are a
good example. We finally find the subway and get off where the hostel is
supposed to be. We are at an entrance to a zoo, and though this makes us
happy, it brings us no closer to a bed. Due to a lack of signs, the hostel
remains hidden from us.

We wander up and down the street it is supposed to be on and I eventually
break down and ask a man selling fruit if he knows where we need to go. He
first points to the zoo and then offers to sell me an apple. Despite his
helpfulness, I do not feel like I have gotten any closer to an answer.
Finally, Chris says he thinks he has figured it out and we wander up a side
road, sniffing the wet-dog air, wondering how we are going to know when we
are lost.

Around a bend and through some low-hanging branches we see the hostel. It is
an impressive structure from the outside and the inside looks like a
purposeful mix of a YMCA and a Mormon temple. There is actually a large
sculpture in the middle of the lobby and huge staircases that lead up to,
what I can only imagine, are the honeymoon suites of the hostel world.

We book two beds, but find out that even though the beds are only twenty-six
and a half Deutsche Marks, the deposit is twenty Deutsche Marks. They do not
accept travelers checks and they do not accept credit cards. I assume that
they do not like losing the interest one pays when these items are cashed at
a bank. Personally, I do not like losing the interest either. Chris makes a
very profound observation. He says that these youth hostels do not make
things as easy as they think they do.

We go back to town to find a bank. On the way out, Chris notices that the
zoo is supposed to have penguins. We are not planning to go to the zoo, but
this bit of information seems to cheer him up a bit. I need to store this in
the back of my head for later. If I ever need to apologize for something, I
can just go out and buy Chris a little penguin thing, or at least make cute
penguin noises until he forgives me.

The bank screws us on the interest and we return to the hostel. The fruit
man tries to wave me down but I ignore him as best I can. Our rooms are on
the fourth floor. We go up in an elevator and I realize this is the first
one I have been in since our trip began. I do not think this is a commentary
on European conveniences. I just think we have been visiting places that are
vertically lacking. Our room has four beds in it and we are anticipating
what our roommates will be like.

I feel like I am in a football locker room. The walls and furniture are blue
and orange and give it a “Go Team!” atmosphere. Everything is very clean and
very neat and even the bathroom being at the end of the hall does not seem
like an inconvenience. No one else arrives and we assume the room is ours
alone. We wake up to find no one in the other two beds, but one of them has
a towel draped over it. I can only assume we have slept with ghosts who like
to shower.

We skip breakfast and head into Munich. Our first stop is the Museum of
Science and Industry
. This place is enormous and we are too excited that
they have allowed us in. Each floor is divided into sections, all
celebrating the inventions of cars, boats, rockets, airplanes and everything
else that was thought up at one time.

The whole place is a hands-on museum, with buttons to push, wheels to turn
and handles to crank. Chris is most excited to see the planes and jets that
are scattered throughout. I am more than happy to play with the glowing
balls that make my hair stand up.

We learn how tunnels are dug, bridges are built and how a dam is
constructed. I get to play on a contraption that weighs different parts of
my body and my head is somewhere between five and eight pounds. I jot this
information in my journal in case it should come up later. You never know.
Chris has also learned quite a bit. He now knows how the footings for
bridges are placed. We spend the entire day in here and even manage to sneak
up to the roof at one point and have a nice, birds-eye view of the city.

Eventually the museum closes and they kick us out. The thought of hiding and
being locked in here is tempting, but we figure they probably let dogs loose
at night, and what fun would that be.

Outside is a man making Crepes. He is cleaning up to go home, but the look
of hunger on our faces must get to him, because he agrees to make us some.
They are a concoction of tomato sauce, ham and cheese. These are the best
things I have ever eaten.

We decide the next best thing to do is go to a beer-garden, or Biergarten,
as the locals call it. Unfortunately, it starts to rain again and we decide
that it is no longer beer drinking weather, at least not outside in some
garden anyway. We make our way back to the subway, taking turns trying to
remember the words to the songs in When Harry Met Sally.

Chris's cows
Near the subway, there is a giant sculpture of two cows, or maybe they are
oxen, standing near a waterfall. I cannot figure out if it is a tribute to
livestock, farmers or just something they thought would look nice near a
waterfall. Either way, Chris has decided that he wants a picture with them
and clamors atop one of the beasts. He is very high up and very visible in
his green and yellow jacket, waving at me to take his picture. Afraid that
we will have to apologize to a police officer for this behavior, I hurriedly
take his picture and yell at him to get down. One more cool picture for
Chris. Damn!

Capitol building
We walk some more, crossing over the river that divides the city. On the
bridge, there is an awesome view of the capital building that is reminiscent
of what one would see in D.C. The riverbanks are overflowing with green
trees. The water is reflecting the gray sky above and the rain has stopped
long enough for me to be able to capture this moment on film. We decide that
the Crepes did not do their jobs and end up in a McDonald’s. This is the
first time we discover they serve beer in McDonald’s.

We are off to Vienna tomorrow. The check out time is nine in the morning,
which sounds early after being able to sleep in at the Termonds. I wake up
with enough time to eat breakfast. Our routine is that I shower first and
then head to breakfast, Chris likes to head for breakfast and then cleanse
himself. I have to have my shower first, otherwise I am too nervous that
time will run out. Not being able to bathe, to me, is the type of tragedy I
do not like to even think about. Chris likes to make sure he has his morning
meal before the day begins. I guess this shows exactly where our priorities
lie.

The breakfast is amazing. I am in a cafeteria with hundreds of other
backpackers. There is a line for trays and the food is spread out like a
buffet. They have cereals, eggs benedict, porridge and fruit. They even have
a woman who is passing out small cartons of milk and juice. It feels weird
to sit with a table full of people I do not know, but after we exchange
pleasantries, it is apparent that most of them have not eaten this well in a
while. We dig in with smiles on our faces. After everyone has started
eating, a nice woman walks around with a bucket full of oranges. I tell her
no thank you, but she insists I take one, for later in the day. The coffee
is weak, but four cups of it later, I feel like I can face my day.

Due to a lack of speed on my roommate’s part, we miss the first train to
Vienna and have to hang out for an extra half an hour. I inform him that he
has started the day on my shit list. I soon forgive him though as our train
turns out to be very clean and very empty. We ride through an amazing green
landscape, the overcast skies making them even more picturesque. The
conductor is a very nice man. He stamps our passports and then tells us
thank you. This train ride has undone all the evils of earlier German train
rides. Of course, there is a slight possibility this is a loaner train from
Sweden and the Germans just forgot to tell them how to blend in.

Chris has decided that his wisdom teeth are coming out. He says the right
side of his mouth is really hurting, especially when he bites into hard
bread crust. He also thinks he is developing a sore throat, which he
attributes to either sleeping with his mouth open or drinking coke instead
of water for days on end. He adds to this the fact that he burnt his tongue
this morning. He drank some tea that was scalding hot, but instead of
spitting it out in front of a cafeteria full of people, he forced it down
his throat. Thinking it over, he has also decided that the left side of his
mouth hurts. Perhaps, he says, something has ruptured.

Normally this type of complaining drives me nuts, only because I am the one
that likes to do it. He is making me laugh though. There is an air of
creativity about it and he seems to be enjoying the fact that he is pushing
on despite these near-debilitating afflictions. I rally to his side and he
makes it apparent he can go on, the poor dear.

Next: Vienna »

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