Sunday, May 17, 2015

Germany: Munich

Originally, I intended for this blog post to cover the 460 kilometers I drove today (285 miles). Driving that kind of distance can be dull. It can be painful. It can be tiring. I remember when I was in my early 20's driving down to LA (Disneyland, Long Beach or Orange) was HARD. I would keep myself busy to try and help the time pass, but the only thing you can really do to "keep busy" is eat, drink soda or smoke. Which is what I did. Every half hour, I'd allow myself one thing (a cigarette, snickers, coke) but 1) That's just stupid and 2) See 1. 

Now that I'm a grown up, I am mentally able to drive for long distances without getting bored or distracted. I don't check my phone, don't smoke at all anymore, don't eat and rarely drink water while driving. I just sort of settle into it. In Germany, in particular, staying focused on traffic is a MUST. Speeds are upwards of 140kph (80mph) in the SLOW LANE. But it varies and can drop down to 60kph in a moment. And if there is an accident 140 can turn into 0 very quickly. 

For the most part, my drive today (from 9:30am-2:30pm, with breaks for petrol and lunch) was smooth sailing. I loved the German scenery. Forests and farms alternating with the occasional small town view. The roads I took from Dresden to Munich stayed away from towns for nearly the whole trip. Here are some of my views. (Note: I would take my camera in my right hand when traffic was predictable and blindly take photos, not looking at the camera or aiming, keeping my focus on the road. These are the good photos.)

Plenty of space between cars to feel comfortable at high speeds
Look at that color. Gorgeous.
That yellow is a field of two foot tall stems with small yellow flowers on top.
I am convinced that these forests are so plentiful, Europe should thank Germany for its Oxygen.
Getting passed with great speed while I cruise at 140kph (80mph) in the "slow lane"
Ausfahrt means Exit in German...not "Aussie Fart" (p.s. it never gets old)

To mix up the view...windmills
Cute, small town surrounded by beautiful grasses, flowers and trees. 
What the?! In 400m, don't go 80 and get over to the lane where they can't go 50. 
These brown signs are very common and seem to say something about what's in the town you're about to pass, or maybe just something cool about Germany.
I tried 4 times to catch this sign. This is the best I got. It was one of those, "My life is awesome" moments where I just happen to be driving through Nurenberg to Munich. What? How did that happen?
More driving. It looked like this for 5 hours people. You try staring at this and not get bored.
Ok, one story about driving and then onto my evening in Munich.

It was 1pm and I had 1 hour left according to my handy, dandy GPS. I had already stopped once to get fuel and to use the restroom. I really didn't want to stop again, but I was getting hungry and didn't want to feel weak at any point while pushing through. I opted to stop at a Burger King, but when I pulled off the road to the Autohof (I think the translation here is car courtyard, but basically it's where everybody should stop to eat or pee, etc) the parking lot was FULL of cars and big rig trucks and dudes everywhere, so I just drove through and back onto the highway. There was another stop 500m ahead with a KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, gas station. I knew they'd have parking if they had all that. So, I stopped, parked, stood in line for a burger and onion rings (disappointing), ate and got back on the highway. As you may recall from that last photo, there was "no" traffic. Plenty of space to be going 140kph. Well, now traffic was going about 20kph. Steadily moving, but very slowly. It was strange. But not 1km up the road, the reason presented itself. There was a massive accident where someone ran up the back of someone else. The front end of the car was flattened. Someone had put out flares and road signs (I think all Germans carry this in their cars). Everyone seemed to be out of the damaged cars, standing on the side of the road. I thanked God for the lunch break, saving me from the accident and drove on to Munich.

I checked into my super cute hotel. The desk clerk was so helpful and nice. He carried my luggage up to my room and gave me recommendations of where to go to dinner, with extra excitement when talking about the Beer Garden up the street. It's not just a normal Beer Garden, he said, it's the biggest in the world with seating for 8,000. Sold. When dinner time rolled around, I took a 10 minute walk up the street to the Hirschgarten. This is what I saw on my walk and at dinner.

There is a huge palace (Schloss Nymphenburg) up the street from my hotel and this beer garden area used to be the hunting grounds for the residence of the palace. Now they have a special area for deer to live peacefully. 
Deer are my favorite animals.
So cute!
Ok, last picture of deer, I promise.
Big Beer Garden. Lots of seating.
The menu for the restaurant
My waiter wore lederhosen! Leather shorts.
Kässpatzen! German noodles, Swiss cheese, fried onions. So good.
Keep Driveway Clear!
Adorable neighborhood

Caution! And exit at a walking pace? Is google translate messing with me?

A bumper sticker I saw that reminded me of the fairy godmother. I don't know what it's for though.
Well, I had a lovely walk, an even better dinner and I bought a chocolate for dessert. And I don't know what's in it. Surprise for me!

Good morning from Dresden

I'm not sure what it is about me exactly, but a friend recently described it this way, "You seem to attract conversations." This morning at breakfast was no exception. I even had one headphone in, listening to a show on my iPhone. A very tall, older gentleman popped his head into the breakfast room. I noticed him because he had to duck to get into the room. He had a bald top and lot of fluffy white hair in that horseshoe men get around his head. He immediately looked friendly. It was in the eyes. He left the room. 

In two more minutes, he came back and sat next to me with a hand cupping his mouth saying "Guten morgen" in a jokingly loud way. Pretending to shout so that I would hear him over my headphone. I took it out and offered to share my carafe of coffee with him, explaining that I only speak English. He said, "Then this shall not be a problem communicating." We spent the next ten minutes having a good ol' chat.

We talked about where I'm from. I've been saying "California" to people when they ask, because my accent is clearly American and everyone knows California. If I say Australia, obviously they know where that is, but it doesn't make sense when hearing me speak. The nice man asked me what brought me to Germany. I said, "I have family in Arnsberg, so I thought I would drive around Germany first before seeing them." He said, "Pope not included." From my quizzical expression, he knew I'd never heard that one. "There is a saying," he said, "Americans want to travel through Europe in three days, Pope included." I laughed and said, "Well, I've been traveling around Europe for nearly two months. I even went to the Vatican. Pope definitely not included."

He then said, "The exchange rate should be good for you." So, I said, "I've been living in Australia, so not really." He expressed to me that the Euro is a foolish concept, giving the example of The Emperor's New Clothes. "It is amazing that only a few people seem to recognize that it doesn't work. It is Step 3 before Step 1." He went on to explain that different countries have different economic policies and cultures, and by making them all use the same currency, this will not make them all work the same, or think about money in the same way. This is so obvious now with the German/Greece situation (He did not mention this. This is my example). I asked him if he thinks Germany will revert to to the Deutschmark. "It is the smart thing to do." I thanked him for sharing his thoughts with me. It was the moment that Dresden (and maybe Germany) was emotionally saved for me. I'd been feeling grumpy and put off by so many little things. It was hard to go from Ireland (the friendliest, most accommodating country) to Germany (where no signs or directions are in English. If you're lost, you're lost. Done.). But this wonderful man reached out to me and brought me out of my little funk. It was quite nice. 

He ended our talk with this. He said, "America is in support of the Euro because it weakens Europe and therefore increases the value of the US Dollar." It was such a simple statement, but I cannot find fault with it. 

We wished each other a good day and I asked him where he was from. "Very close to Dortmund," which could be said for Arnsberg (where I'm going). I said, "Maybe I will see you again." He laughed, "There are only 7 billion people in the world. It could happen." I'm going to keep an eye out for him...just in case.