OK, maybe “epic” is a bit dramatic, but it certainly has been an full and eventful week, and yes, it did include some epic portions. First off, though, I would like to thank Anke, my German co-worker in Cary, once again for providing some very useful feedback to my “Dining in Deutschland” post a couple weeks ago. She wrote me and offered some insights and answered a couple lingering questions. Most importantly, as you all may have noticed, I’m making sweeping generalizations the way people eat and live here, while I’ve really only experienced a small percentage of a single town in a single state (well, a couple towns). I guess this would be akin to a visitor to the United States driving around and eating in Alabama for a week, then concluding that in Boston and San Francisco there is a Bojangles on every corner, fried chicken it the mainstay of American diets, and it is considered customary to wear NASCAR hats at dinner (sorry to my faithful Alabama readers, I could have just as easily used NC! 😉 ) For example, the bier Prost+THUD is generally reserved for bars and biergartens, and you give a much more civilized “cheers” in real restaraunts. And getting water, Anke’s reasoning is “I can go to the bathroom and get water out of the sink, why would I ask to pay for it!?”, and I can’t say I can argue with that one. But the heavy knife usage at the table stems from the cultural value that is taught to all German children that you are always to have both hands on top of the table while dining – it is rude to have hands under the dinner table. So as long as you have both hands on the table, you might as well give them something to do, like push food around and slop gravey on meat with your knife!
But onto the last week. I think I mentioned that Alisha arrived last Monday, and we’ve been busy busy busy since then. In addition, I started German lessons 3 times a week last week, so that takes up quite a bit of time in the evenings. But last Thursday we took the night out and went up to the Munich Olympic Park in the north of the city for a free rock concert and some fireworks. We took the U-Bahn up to Olympic Park, and as we got closer to the park and the train got more and more crowded, I realized this was going to be more than a small show and fireworks display. My suspisions were confirmed when we got off the U-Bahn and walked towards the parks and saw 10’s of thousands of people in the park with a full size carnival/fair going on, complete with a giant ferris wheel, rows of art and food vendors, and lots of lights and noise. We wondered through the park a bit, tried to see what band was playing on the main stage but couldn’t really see through the crowds, so just found an open spot on a hill to wait for the fireworks, which were spectacular when they came. More interestingly, I think, though is the several bits of history behind the construction of the Olympic Park. First, if you go there, you’ll notice that it is constructed on several quite large hills, whereas the surrounding areas of Munich are relatively flat. Turns out, after much of Munich was destroyed by the Allies in WWII (and over 200,000 citizens killed in this city alone, btw) they dumped all the rubble and debris into a big open area north of the city. There was so much debris it made several sizeable mountains, so at some point during reconstruction they decided to turn the mountains of rubble into a park, so they covered it with dirt and grass, planted trees and made several lakes. Then Munich was chosen for the 1972 Summer Olympics, so they made the entire Olympic Village on the site of the former WWII trash pile. I guess that’s called turning a negative into a positive, eh? Of course, unfortnately we all know what the 1972 Munich Games are most famous for now though….. Another interesting fact about the park, though, is that the suspended translucent tile roof that spans all the buildings through the park is (or was, I don’t know about now) a world record for largest roof. As you can tell from the picture it’s quite magnificent.
So then on Friday night after we ate dinner downtown we were headed back home through Marienplatz, the central city square, debating whether we wanted to do something else or just go home. Neither of us were really up for going out anywhere else, so we just wondered through the square back to the apt. There are various street performers all over the place – a couple per block at least, most of them not really worth the time to stop and watch or listen, or to mention on here. But we peeked over the back of one good sized crowd to find a couple guys on guitars and singing. We stopped and listened for a bit, and we ended up standing there for over 1.5 hours! The guys, The Bastard Brothers, were just really captivating. They played and sang very well, but they were very entertaining and captivated the audience otherwise with lots of interactivity. So our Friday night’s entertainment basically consisted of standing in the city square watching live entertainment for almost 2 hours, and it only cost us the change that was in our pockets! Not a bad deal.
Anyway, we planned out a good ride for Saturday, and we caught an early S-Bahn out to Holzkirchen with our bikes. We jumped on some backroads and headed south, in search ofÂ mountains. The mountains came pretty slowly, actually, and it was mostly very slight gradual climbs south though several picturesque Bavairan villages on the way towards Tegernsee Lake, just into the foot of the Alps. The weather was great though, and we were feeling good on our bikes, so we enjoyed the leisurley pace for the first 1.5-2 hours. When we got to the lake, we found it to be a thriving and bustling tourist area, and seeing as this was the Saturday of a 3-day public holiday weekend, the tourists (us included, I guess) were out in full force.
The road around the like was pretty full of cars, and seeing as how we hadn’t yet satisfied Alisha’s thirst for some good climbing, I got out the map and found a road a little south of the lake that looked to be up a good mountain – and boy was I right. I knew I was in trouble when I ran out of gears within the first 100meters of the climb, and Alisha was already starting to pull away. We went up about 1/2 mile and ran into a parking lot crammed with other cyclists. Turns out, we rode ourselves right into the middle of a hill-climb bike race! The parking lot was the start of the race, and there was 2 more miles of straight uphill for the race course. We were basically the only ones on road bikes – everyone else was using mountain bikes (i.e. almost twice as many gears with much lower ratios). We got there in between races, so we just headed on up the hill – the mountain was closed to cars, so there were just dozens of other cyclists going up and down the hill, starting or finishing their particular events. Alisha enjoyed the opportunity to show off her climing prowess to all the German rider dudes, and I took the opportunity to consider how much easier the climb would be if I was carrying about 40lbs less with me. But I managed to make it up without dismounting or anything, and Alisha met me with 500meters to go, after she had already reached the top and come back down, ready to go again. We got to the top, snapped a few pictures, (I don’t know why the pictures in the gallery are so hazy – it was really very clear up there) pulled our jackets and arm warmers back on in preparation for the decent back down the hill. The rest of the ride went pretty well, and we upped the pace a little to get back into town as a reasonable time.
That climb was nothing compared to what we’d run into in the following days, though. BUT, that’s going to have to wait until later – here I have already typed for an hour, haven’t even gotten to our trip to Salzburg on Sunday and Monday, and haven’t studied my German lessons tonight! That will have to wait for another night, so in the meantime, check out the Salzburg trip photo gallery and come back later for more.