Munich = “toytown”?

So I’m going to try to get a quick post out of the way before I forget everything, because I’m sure I’ll have plenty to post about tomorrow (more on that later). I started work on Monday – nothing too exciting to report on that. I didn’t realize what a presence we (Infineon) have in Munich. Apparently we have about 5000 employees in Munich, and about 3000 at the office I’m at. Actually, we have more of a campus, taking almost a whole city block. The office is a much different environment than we have in Cary. For one, they are much older buildings, and whereas the Cary office is abuto 60F year round, the Munich offices have no AC at all. This hasn’t been a problem so far, but they say it will get quite warm next month, so everyone will start wearing shorts and t-shirts. Also, in Cary the building is basically just a big cubicle farm, with very few private offices. Here everything is walled off into offices, but they are maybe 10m x 10m to 10m x 30m offices with no walls, and several big desks set up, so you have workers right in front and behind you with no walls. Not necessarily better or worse…. just different.

Beer really is as pervasive here as is the stereotype in the US – it is everywhere. Every little gas station or pizza place has a wall for bier, and not 6 packs of Bud – liters in heavy duty glass bottles with porcelain tops. They serve bier at all the public gatherings – and none of it in plastic. All bier I’ve seen has come in large glass mugs, even at the street festival I happened upon on Sunday (so, yes, your conclusions were correct 😉 ) They also have beer on tap at our company cafeteria, right next to the coke machine. I was talking with an American colleague that summed it up pretty well saying that they think of beer as food, rather than alcohol, so that makes sense.

I got some reactions to my previous observations from Anke, a German native who is currently in the Cary office. She cleared up some of my questions, and confirmed some things.

  • When I ordered a Maß Hellas at the biergarten I went to on Saturday, yes, I was ording a “massive beer” – Maß is the size, which is 1 liter, or close to 1/4 gallon! Hellas is the kind, kind of like a lager. At the biergartens anrestaurantsts, they generally only carry one brand of beer from a single brewery, of the six major breweries in town. So you don’t have to worry about what brand you want, just what kind – hellas (lager), weis (white, or “wheat beer”), dunckles (dark), bok, etc.
  • The döner I had is from Turkey, so not exactly the Middle East, but close. Apparently more döners are consumed in Munich than anywhere else in the world.
  • The surfers I saw were on the “Eisbach” or “ice-creek”. Anke says “[In NC,] the water temperature of the creeks is like water in a bath tub. Not refreshing. It is to warm. But the water from the Eisbach is refreshing ;-)))”
  • Yes, the dogs are trained better (I even saw dogs walking around the subway station with trains zooming by, none of them on a leash), but the owner’s are not. According to Anke, “[Owner’s in Munich don’t] take care of s*** on the sidewalks. I like it that the people in Cary take the s*** away.” Well, I don’t know about the owner’s in Cary, but I certainly haven’t seen nor stepped in any dog crap yet!

A couple more observations from the past couple days:

  • The bike situation is still very weird to me. Like I said, there are a ton of bikes (there are 100’s parked outside my office everyday), but nobody locks their’s up! Well, that’s not entirely true – most of the people just lock their back tire to their frame, and leave the bike sitting next to the sidewalk. I guess the mentality is that no one want’s to steal a bike that can’t roll because the tire is locked to the frame. Even so, I’m making sure my Cannondale road bike is securely locked to a rack or something everytime I leave it. It is true, that 98% of the bikes are beaters that aren’t really worth stealing (I’ve really only seen a couple other people riding road bikes like I am), but still…..
  • Pedestrians and bikes are very well behaved. I haven’t seen anyone jaywalk or walk against a signal. Everyone obeys the walk and ride crosswalk lights, and like I said earlier, the cars respect the crosswalk signs too.
  • The subway/trains are kind of on an “honor system”. You are supposed to buy a ticket, and apparently it’s 40euro if you’re caught without one, but I haven’t seen anyone get checked. You don’t have to pass through any turnstiles or anything to get on the train – there are just some posts that you’re supposed to punch your ticket in. Of course, I don’t want to be sent to German prison or anything, so I’ve paid my fared dutifully.

I’ve gone out the past 2 nights. Last night I met Lee, and American Ccolleaguesauge who is here for 6 weeks, at a bowling alley with some of his German friends. I tried to ride the U-bahn (subway) there, but couldn’t figure it out, so I rode my bike the whole way, and I was very late, and of course it started raining again. Afterwards, they helped me buy a week-long ticket for the trains and pointed me in the right direction. Tonight I met another American who is in Munich for 3 years downtown for dinner. I took the U-bahn and transferred to the S-bahn (above ground train), and got confused there, so I was late again. But on the way back to my apartment I went well out of my way and made several unnecessary transfers, just so I could get the hang of it. I think I’m a U/S-bahn pro now! It’s pretty cool – they are timed to the second. At least 2 times at a transfer, I walked off one train immediately as the other train was pulling up on the other side, so I walked straight across the platform to the transfer train. All in all, I never waited more than 4 minutes at a stop.

So, finally, what’s going on tomorrow? My department at work is having a “team event”, where we are all meeting at an S-bahn station at 9AM with our bikes, taking the train south of Munich about 30km, then riding at the base of the Alps for 70km! We’re stopping halfway in a small town for lunch, then having dinner at a famous biergarten, then taking the train back. It should be quite an experience, and my first venture into the Alps on my bike. I’m trying to scout out places for Alisha to ride when she get’s here next month. I’ll have my camera and will take plenty of pictures.

Oh yeah, one last thing, concerning the title of the post. Dave, the guy I met for dinner tonight, pointed me to toytownmunich.com, and English speaking website for people in Munich… or a website about Munich for English speakers, or something. Anyway, the very title of the blog again confirms several of my observations. From their section on “Why ToyTown?” –

The name “Toytown Munich” comes from the observation that Munich is not a real town. Real towns have litter, crime, visible poverty, heroin addicts lurking at the railway station, vomit on the pavements, and so on. Munich has none of this. Munich is not real. It’s an ideological town where everything is perfect. The environment is clean, crime is very low, and the public transport runs on time to the second. Yes, the quality of life here is very high. In fact, Mercer Consulting rate Munich as the fifth best city in the world for quality of life. Hence the name “Toytown”.

I have to say, so far I completely agree, and I love it!

more tomorrow

7 comments

  1. So tell me, are you 6 hours AHEAD of us? So right now it is almost 9PM Weds. and there is almost 3AM on Thurs? Right? No wonder you are confused and getting lost so much. I think you are doing good to be getting out and about. So, is it safe feeling there …like here at night…we tend to stay in more. How is it there? Also, for entertainment…what is there to do? Have you been able to tell that yet? In your room do you have the ablity to cook there? Your place looks really clean. I was impressed with that. And have you been to a grocery store yet? I bet that will be interesting to see. Are there open markets? I am so curious about it all. Oh and recently in my Scrapbook magazines it mentioned making Blogs for trips to later scrapbook. So you are teaching me something with this site. You are always teaching me about computers!
    Debbie

  2. See, everyone wants you to post more to your blog… when are we going to see pictures from your ride yesterday? Deb and I are WAITING!!! ;o)

  3. Yes, Joe we are WAITING!!! And we’re not very patient either. I want to see pictures of this ride you went on. Okay, I’ll say please if I have to. PLEASE!

  4. ok, finally some replys to comments!

    1) yeah, we’re 6 hours ahead. I’ve been so busy i’ve been posting a lot late at night, so yea – the latest post was at about 2:30AM here. I wanted to get a post out before I did the bike ride on Thursday, because that would give me lots more to talk about. And as usual, that post was a lot longer than I thought it would be. I got about 5 hours of sleep on Wed night before the 70km ride on thursday, bud did just fine. Of course, you will see it is now 1:30 Friday night, and i’m still up. I’m going to make another post or two tomorrow.
    I haven’t been to a store yet, but yes, there are open markets everywhere, and everything looks really good at them. And yes, everything is very clean – my apartment is clean, the busses and trains are extremely clean, and there is no litter or trash anywhere int he town.

    2, 3) OK, OK! i have several more things lined up for a couple more posts. You’ll have to wait till at least saturday afternoon though. Sorry!!

  5. Get yourself hooked on weis bier. I don’t think I’ve had much German wheat, but I am a huge fan of Belgian. I’m sure they couldn’t be too different.

  6. tl – there’s way too many biers to drink to get hooked on one, but yes, weisbier is good. It’s pretty wheat-y – good flavor. There are also drinks i’m going to blog more extensively on later called Ratler and Russ, which are Helles and Weisbier, repsectively, mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with lemonade or Sprite. Surprising good, and very refreshing. It sounds kind of like a “girly american” beer, but it’s actually just right, for example, in the middle of a 70km bike ride.

    cass – thanks for reading! glad you’re enjoying it – i’m about to make another post about my bike ride to the alps, and have several more in queue that i’ll try to spread out. It may be too late to save the hella big bier belly – i wasn’t exactly slim when I left!

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