Saturday, September 18
Leave our house at 5:30 a.m.
Take a ride to the airport on the shuttle
Travel from our local international airport to Brussels, via JFKSunday, September 19
Travel via train to Munich
Check into Hotel Jedermann
Directions: From South exit of Hauptbahnhof, turn right onto Bayerstrasse and walk 8 minutes.
Monday, September 20
Explore Munich & Oktoberfest
Notes from the day:
Tuesday, September 21
Check out of Hotel Jedermann
The above excerpt is from the Itinerary we had for our trip. I remember being so excited for the trip that I couldn’t sleep. By the time I had calmed down enough to doze off, the alarm went off. Normally, it would have been hard getting ready when it’s dark outside, but we were both so excited that we could hardly stand it. We’d been waiting for this day, and it was finally here!
Of course, when you’re dealing with airports, you play the Hurry Up and Wait Game. We were ready and waiting for the airport shuttle. We’d arranged for someone to watch our kitties, and I was sad to leave them, but really excited for the trip. (Looking back from where I am now, I’m not sure how I would handle being away from Claire for that long. I’ve never been away from her…not even for a night. But, I digress…this post is about the past, not the present or the future!)
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Rick Steves, but one of our friends had given me a Rick Steves’ German/English Travel Dictionary. It fit nicely in the pocket of my coat, and it was invaluable. We’d also watched a lot of his shows and read some of his traveling tips. One of his tips was how to pack.
I knew from my college traveling days (particularly in Spain) that if you can’t pick up whatever you’re carrying and run as fast as you can to catch a train, you’ve packed too much. Rick Steves agreed. So, my hubby and I packed all we needed into these two bags:
[All packed and ready to go! No, Jasper and Merlin had to stay.]
That’s right. We only allowed ourselves one bag each. We packed an empty daypack, so that we could have a smaller bag for our daily adventures and use that same bag as an extra for the trip home. This way, we didn’t have to check any luggage. (Because I’m sure you’ve heard that there are two types of luggage – carry-ons and lost.) This gave us the freedom to change flights at the drop of a hat if we needed to. (We didn’t need to, but it was nice having the option.) It also made running to catch trains a lot easier.
This was post-9/11, so we weren’t allowed to bring nail clippers, etc., but this was pre-lotion sized weirdness. Looking back, I don’t think we had anything with us that violated those rules, but I may have had some lip-gloss and mascara with me…so we’d have to re-adjust for today’s rules.
We discovered these really cool packing folders for clothes (by Eagle Creek) that kept everything compact and wrinkle-free, and we packed all our unmentionables in mesh bags (just the cheapy mesh zippered laundry bags for “delicates” you see at Target). We’d heard horror stories of airport security officials getting their kicks by dumping the bags of unsuspecting travelers just to watch them flail about trying to pick up all their underwear off the floor, and we wanted things to be as contained as possible if that happened to us. Sure enough, on the way back to the U.S., we had a couple of officials that dumped our bags. You could see the look of disappointment on their faces when we stood there calmly, looking at our neat little mesh bags on the floor of the security check-point.
So, arriving in Brussels and traveling on to Munich was a blur. Traveling over so many time zones does a number on your brain and your system, but we tried to adjust. The train station to Munich is at the Brussels airport, so that was super-convenient.
It was on the train to Munich that we had a funny incident I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My hubby had said he would go get us food, so he left our seats and headed back to the food car. He was gone a *long* time, so long, in fact, that I started to get worried. I had told him that I would like some soup (or whatever he could find), and we’d discussed the word for ‘soup’ in German. I had no idea what was taking him so long. Just as I was about to get up and search for him, he came back to the seat. He had two bottled waters in his hand, and he looked very flustered.
“What happened? What took you so long?” I asked, trying not to sound judgmental or too worried.
“The line was huge, so I had to wait, and then the guy couldn’t understand me! I kept asking for soup, and he didn’t get it. So, I finally gave up and got us water. I at least know the word for water,” he said, referring to the fact that we’d also discussed the German equivalent of mineral water.
I could tell he was really frustrated (and hungry), so I said I’d go try.
I get back to the restaurant car, and I go up to the counter. That’s when I notice that the guy is standing in front of the biggest lighted picture of soup I’ve ever seen. I pointed to the picture and held up two fingers (being sure to use the European sign for ‘two’ – finger and thumb.) “Suppe? Zwei?” I asked.
“Uh, two chicken noodle?” the guy said in a really thick accent.
I nodded my head and said, “Ja,” grinning ear to ear. It felt so good to be understood, even if I was using Neanderthal German. (I think it’s Rick Steves that refers to using a “Neanderthal” version of languages by pointing and using key words rather than trying to conjugate verbs and construct complex sentences.)
The man punched something into the cash register and rattled off some amount. I looked at the number on the register display and handed him some of the Euros I had, and he gave me change and our two bowls of soup. (As detailed and controlling as I can be, I was pretty proud of myself for roughly figuring out the money and then not getting hung up on whether I was being given the correct change. I wasn’t skilled enough to determine if it was correct or argue with him if it wasn’t, and I’d made a conscious effort to not worry about it. I had learned pretty early on to be Zen when traveling…)
So, I headed back to our seats. The hardest part about this was walking without spilling any soup. I get back to our seats, and my hubby was thrilled to see food.
“How did you do that??” he asked, amazed at my talents.
I told him about the huge colorful picture of soup behind the guy. I told him the man had said, “Cheeeken Noooodle?” and my hubby burst out laughing.
“THAT’S what he was saying?? He kept saying something to me over and over, and that’s what it was!? Chicken noodle!! Aahhhh, I just couldn’t understand him!!”
From that point on, we decided that he would get us to the right train platform, and I would order the food.
While on the train to Munich, we tried to soak in as much of the countryside as we could. It really reminded us of the Midwest, and I could see how my ancestors felt comfortable settling where they did. We also used this time to review the “Munich” section we’d taken out of one of our travel books. (Another travel tip we got from someone was to tear out the sections you’ll need from those huge travel books – like Fodor’s – and take those with you, leaving the rest of the big book at home. Each section isn’t as cumbersome as taking the whole book, and you’ll only have what you need. This idea was great and really helped us focus on each city at a time. We’d also done some research online, so I had those pages to use as reference as well. Because we were traveling by train, we knew we’d have hours to kill, and reading about each city and becoming familiar with it before we arrived was the perfect plan for us.)
We arrived in Munich that night and found our hotel with no problems. (You can see the helpful instructions they gave me, above.) We woke up the next morning and spent the day exploring Munich!
This little post on the blog will not do the city of Munich justice. We had a great time exploring, and there is so much more to Munich than we could ever discover in the few days we were there or describe in a few sentences. We made it out to the BMW museum, the Olympic Stadium, and the Frauenkirche. We took it all in and then some.
[The Frauenkirche is a famous symbol of Munich.]
Munich was also the first city where we had our first experience with reading a train map and figuring out how to purchase the daily passes. (The Eurail passes we had were for the main train lines from city to city. Each city has its own form of mass transit, whether it be busses or trains. Some cities require a daily pass and some cities offer a Tourist Card, which allows for free rides on the transit system with the purchase of a the card.) At that time, Munich didn’t have a Tourist Card, so we knew we had to purchase a daily pass. The automated machines were quite confusing, and we looked like total tourists standing there with our little pocket dictionary trying to figure out which pass we needed.
“See that? I’m pretty sure that’s the word for daily. But, kinder? Isn’t that the word for children? We don’t have any children, but it’s with the word for adult. Oh, this is so confusing. We look like total tourists.”
Just then, an elderly gentleman came up to us and asked us in broken English if we needed help. Sadly, my first thought was this was a trick. Who is watching us? Is someone else going to take advantage of us while he distracts us? Try not to look paranoid. Maybe he’s just trying to be helpful.
I smiled at him and told him we were trying to figure out how to buy a daily train pass that would take us as far as the BMW museum and Olympic Stadium. He looked at the machine and showed us where to insert our coins, and he pushed a big round button next to a very lengthy and completely German description. Out popped our tickets. He then asked us if we had a map for the trains, and we told him we didn’t. He reached into his satchel and gave us one. We thanked him. He then nodded to us, turned and walked away.
That was our first lesson in how not everyone is out to get you, and there are still some nice people left in this world. Or, we were just lucky.
We boarded the train, and listened to the voice announcing different stops. For some reason, I couldn’t find where we were on the train map the man had given to us. That’s when I realized that we were going in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go. We opted to get off at the next stop and look around before getting on the train on the opposite side of the platform. After getting on the right track (literally), we made it to our destination. You know you’re traveling with the right person when both of you can laugh at your mistakes, learn from them and make an adventure out of the day.
[Munich is so beautiful at night.]
That night, after a full day of exploring, we wandered over to the Oktoberfest celebration. I’d purposely reserved a hotel that was walking distance from the Oktoberfest grounds, so it was easy to find. Plus, there were hoards of people going that way. We just had to follow along. It would have been really fun to go with a group of our friends, but everyone was so accommodating and friendly. We had so much fun!!
Before checking out of our hotel the next morning, we decided to take advantage of the “free breakfast” that was being served downstairs. We’d slept through breakfast the previous morning, so we thought we’d give it a try today. If anything, we could grab a roll or something before heading to the train station. The spread that awaited us was amazing and defies explanation. There were little rolls of white asparagus wrapped in ham. There were hard boiled eggs. There were all kinds of pastries and cereals and yogurts and things we’ve only seen on the food channel. We couldn’t believe it! Who knew that a “free breakfast” would be so extravagant!?
When it comes to food, you don’t have to tell us twice. We didn’t miss another “free breakfast” the whole trip. A huge breakfast, coupled with miles of walking every day and a light lunch, followed by a nice dinner was certainly the way to go.
We made it to the train station with plenty of time to spare, and my hubby found the right platform for our departure from Munich, and we were off!
Next stop, Salzburg, Austria!