Munich…..

My trip from Salzburg to Munich on Monday, October 1, took about 2 hours and the train ride cost $31.00.  I had called  my girlfriend, Lydia and told her that I would be arriving around noontime. She said that she would meet me at the train station, like the last time.  Well, the last time was 28 years ago in 1984 when I was traveling through Europe.  That time, she met me at the end of the platform where the train came in.

When I arrived at the station this time, the train stopped way out and it was quite a long walk to the end of the platform.  I just put my head down and started walking to the end and Lydia!  About 5 minutes later, I got there so excited to see Lydia!!

Lydia and I have known each other for 35 years. I met her my first trip to Europe.  That time, I had been traveling for just 2 weeks and was in Munich for Octoberfest.  Upon my arrival in Munich, I had called the Youth Hostel and they had one bed for a female available.  They said they would hold it for me but I needed to hurry to claim it.  I was frantically trying to figure out which bus to take and asking people if they spoke English.  Lydia was at that bus stop, said that she could speak English and offered to help me.

We got on the bus together and were chatting away.  When we got to our stop, Lydia invited me to stay with her instead of going to the youth hostel.  I was amazed.  I mean, that kind of would never have happened in the US.  You just didn’t invite a stranger, who you had met 10 minutes earlier, to come and stay in your home.  Being on a real tight budget, I was very grateful and accepted.

In 1977, Lydia and her boyfriend, Franz were living together and were student at the University in Munich.  We spent a couple of days together and on Friday, I got up to find a note from them saying they were going away for the weekend, to enjoy Munich and the apartment and they would see me on Sunday night.  I was amazed that not only after talking with me for 10 minutes that Lydia would invite to say with her; but now, they left me alone for the weekend in their apartment…that just wouldn’t happen in the states!

I believe that I saw Lydia and Franz one other time during that.  Then, in 1984, I was in Europe for a second trip and spent time with Lydia, who was no longer with Franz.  Over the years, we have kept in touch through letters.  Lydia didn’t do email or the internet…so we communicated with “snail-mail” over the years, which, personally, I think is an amazing feat in this day and age!

Now in 2012,  I arrived at the end of the end of the train platform, excited about seeing Lydia after 28 years and I look around….but I don’t see her!  Oh-oh!  Where was she?  I should have gotten her cell phone number…which I failed to do!  How on earth was I going to find her?  It was Octoberfest, the busy Munich train station was much busier because of the festival.  There were so many people walking around!!  Many were dressed in the traditional Bavarian costumes of dirndl and lederhosen, others were travelers with backpacks and suitcases, others were dressed in business clothes rushing off to their destinations.  Oh my gosh, there were so many people!!  How on earth was I going to find Lydia in all of this?

I wandered around hoping that I would see her, I walked out to the front of the train station and she wasn’t there.  I walked back in and tried to figure out what to do.  That is when I spied a stairway that lead to a second floor with a small platform looking over the station.  I walked up and stood there hoping to either see Lydia or have her see me!  It worked!!! I saw Lydia…she was standing in the center of the mayhem of people and it was as if on cue, they all stepped back to reveal her! It was amazing…now, what to do???  If I ran down there, she would possibly be gone; if I yelled, would she hear me above all of the commotion?  I tried yelling anyway and she heard me…that good ol’ cheerleading voice has still got it!!!  It turns out that Lydia had walked out to where the train had stopped and she didn’t see me as I walked by!

We were so excited to see each other.  It was just wonderful and it was like we had just seen each other the day before…even after 28 years.  We share much in common but in other ways, we are so different.

The rest of the day was quiet.  We had a coffee with her friend, Caroline, who I had met 35 years ago, too. It was nice to see her after all of the years and to get caught up.  Back at Lydia’s apartment, we had a light dinner and then went for a walk around Nymphenburg Palace, which is near where she lives. It was a lovely walk along a canal that lead to the palace.  Sadly, the palace wasn’t lit that night.

The next day, we went to Dachau.  When Lydia first suggested it, I thought she was suggesting that we visit the concentration camp there.  I had no desire to go and see it.  35 years ago, I had visited Auschwitz in Poland and couldn’t make it through the whole camp.  It was just too disturbing to me.
However, Lydia said that there was a lovely palace at Dachau with beautiful gardens.  That sounded much better to me.  Dachau is a nice city.  We walked through the city and a park with nice canals then up a hill to the palace.

Although there has been a castle on this site since 1100, a four winged,  Renaissance styled building was constructed in 1546 and completed in 1577.  It was redesigned in the Baroque style in 1715.  Due to extensive damage to three of the wings by Napoleon’s troops, King Maximilian I ordered them to be demolished in the early 19th century.

It is a warm and sunny day.  The gardens were still beautiful and the apple trees, in the garden, were full of apples ready to be picked.  There were a couple of ladders at the base of the trees suggesting that the harvesting had begun.  We walked around admiring the flowers and then made our way to the terrace of the palace for a coffee and cake.  We sat overlooking the garden, sunning ourselves, visiting and enjoying the delightful desserts for two hours.  Then it was time to walk back to the train station to catch the train back to Munich.  It was a lovely afternoon, although the cafe was a tad pricey!  I guess you really pay for ambience at the palace.  Our two coffees, two cakes and a bottled water came to $33.00 but the memories were priceless!

Wednesday, October 3, was German Unity Day, a national holiday that celebrates the reunification of east and west Berlin in 1990.  It was the day that Lydia and I went to see my friend, Kyle, in Passau, Germany, since he had the day off.  I met Kyle eight years ago when David and I lived in Beatrice, NE.  Shortly after meeting him, Kyle moved to Lincoln to pursue his masters degree in music.  Kyle has an amazing voice!!!  Today, Kyle is living in Passau, singing with local theater group, happily living with his husband, Michael.

We arrived in Passau at 9:30 to see Kyle waiting for us on the platform.  It was great seeing him again!!  He gave us a tour of his beautiful city pointing out the places of interest.  Passau is known as the “Three Rivers City” because it is at the confluence of the Danube, the Inns and the Ilz River.  You can actually see the “blue Danube” and the green water of the Ilz meeting.  Many cruise ships coming down the Danube stop in Passau to allow their passengers to enjoy the beautiful gothic and baroque architecture throughout the city.

On the Danube side, the Veste Oberhaus which was the Bishop’s fortress built in 1219 overlooks the city and on the Inns River side, the pilgrimage church “Mariahilf”.  The Mariahilf has a covered stairway of 321 steps referred to as the “heavenly ladder” to the courtyard of the monastery.  It is common for people to walk these steps saying the rosary at each one.  Along the walls and on the window panes are pictures and small tokens of thanks to the Virgin Mary for the prayers that have been answered.

The baroque style church of St Stevens overlooks the city center.  It stands majestically in the center of the old city and houses what is the largest cathedral organ outside of the United States.  The baroque design is stunning.

At one point, Michael, Kyle’s partner, joined us and we enjoyed a lunch at a beer garden, outside, under the “lethal” chestnut trees.  Goodness, those trees were dropping chestnuts and they really hurt if they hit you.  I had one hit me on the shoulder and several landed around us on other tables with a loud bang!  We had a very German lunch.  I had Semmelklöße or bread dumplings in a mushroom sauce, which was very good.  Lydia had Kartoffelkloesse, a German potato dumpling.  Michael had Weisswurst which is a kind of sausage that they boil and served with a pretzel and Kyle had a kind of potato salad that was made with mashed potatoes and sour cream and served cold.  Michael was kind enough to share his pretzel with me.  After more sight seeing, we went to Austria for dessert!  Passau is right on the border to Austria.  Kyle and Michael took us to Cafe Blaas in Freinberg, Austria.  Unfortunately, everyone else decided it would be a great way to spend the holiday by visiting the cafe and we couldn’t find a seat.  We did get to enjoy the view of Passau and watch a hot air balloon float lazily by.

It was back into Passau to the top of an office building in the center of town to Cafe Diwan where we had another stella view of Passau while enjoying coffee and German cakes.  It is interesting that the German pastries look like they would be very sweet but they aren’t.  I kept telling Lydia that I wanted a “sweet” dessert.  She would make suggestions and I, as much as I hate to admit it, would be disappointed.  I guess for this American, the sweet tooth is really strong.  Lydia thought they were great.  It is what you are familiar with and what you grew up with. I was raised on “bakery cake” frosting…the kind that is so sweet, it makes your teeth hurt.  Not that I like it that sweet but sweeter than what the German cakes are, is preferable!  I tried a taste of Kyle’s and Lydia’s choices and it was the same….not sweet enough!

Regardless, it was a lovely end to a great day spent with old friends and a new one!  Lydia and I caught the 5:00 o’clock train back to Munich and got there 2 1/2 hours later.  It was around 8:15 by the time we got back to Lydia’s apartment.  A long and fun day!  Passau was a delightful city.

Thursday, was a “lazy day”.  We slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the balcony.  The weather has been beautiful…cool evenings and warm, sunny autumn days!  That afternoon, Lydia was off to help her nephew at his organic farm stand that afternoon.  I headed downtown to the train station to inquire about a ticket for Bruges, Belgium.

I went to the information center and was able to purchase a ticket for first class at about 50 Euro less than what Lydia and I were able to purchase when we looked online!  I don’t know why it didn’t show up online, but I won’t complain.

Since I was right downtown and hadn’t really explored it since I had arrived in Munich, I walked to the shopping plaza area.  The weather had changed to cloudy and rather cool.  I walked through the pedestrian mall that has shops and the Rathaus or Town Hall that has the infamous Glockenspiel.  I thought it played on the hour and since it was 3:30…I decided to wait until 4:00. I continued to wander around…I found an outdoor market area not far from the Town Hall and explored the various shops and stalls.  As it got closer to 4:00, I made my way back to the plaza to watch the Glockenspiel and the characters twist, turn and dance around.  4:00 arrived and nothing happened…4:15 arrived and still nothing.  I googled the Glockenspiel on my iphone.  It only plays twice a day at 11:00 and 5:00….it was starting to rain and I wasn’t going to wait another hour to see it. Besides, I had seen it several times years ago.

Dinner was out at a local Italian restaurant, Il Trullo, Albrechtstra. 32, Munich.  It is right around the corner from Lydia’s apartment.  We each had thin crust pizza.  Mine was veggie and Lydia’s was tomato sauce with extra garlic.  We shared a salad and washed everything down with a glass of wine. It was a nice restaurant with a warm atmosphere.

The name, Il Trullo, is after the shape of the brick oven that they cooked the pizza in.  It was entertaining watching them prepare the dough for the pizza, actually tossing it in the air, spinning it into round discs.  A trullo is a small hut with a stone, cone shape roof that was popular in the Apulia region on the southern part (the boot heel) of Italy.  During the 1800s, the trullos were built as temporary field or storage dwellings and also, as small permanent dwellings for small agricultural laborers or small business owners.  The oven in the restaurant was cone shape.

 Friday we went to the Pinakothek der Moderne (Munich’s Modern Art Gallery) to see the photography exhibit by Blossfeldt.  Blossfeldt was a German photographer and sculpture known mostly for his close-up photographs of plants.  He had made a camera that enabled him to take photographs of plants magnified up to 30 times their actual size.  The results was a unique, intricate look at the plants in an artistic light.  

We wandered around the rest of the museum and enjoyed art work by Andy Warhol,  Ernst Kirchner, George Braque, Alexej Jawlensky, Henri Manguin, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Henri Matisse.  There were several other artist who I didn’t care for, as well…modern art can be challenging to the eyes sometimes….like the video exhibit of workmen walking along an I-beam. They artist had videoed the workers from below. The workers had work boots on and nothing else, so we, as the viewers, got a full view of their penises!  Art is in the eye of the beholder, no?  This wasn’t art to me!!! 
It was mid-afternoon when we left the museum and we made our way back to one of Lydia’s favorite cafes, Ruffini, Orffstrass 22-24.  It was run by Austrians and had more of the feel of an Austrian coffee house….people were enjoying their coffee while reading the local paper at length.  They had a deck to enjoy the coffee and treat in the sun.  We both had a very generous serving of apple strudel served with cream over it.  It was a great way to end a relaxing day.  
Friday night is Lydia’s volleyball night at the Olympic Park, which is near her apartment.  The park was built to host the Olympics that were held in Munich in 1972.  After a dinner of ratatouille, she left to go to her game.  I decided to stay at the apartment. I listened to some of her music and read. 
Saturday was our last day together.  After breakfast, we walked over to Nymphenburg Palace, the baroque style palace that was the summer residence for the rulers of Barvaria.  It was built in 1675 with additions added over the years.  We walked through the gardens and made our way to the Botanical Gardens.  Since it was the first of October, most of the flowers had passed in the garden.  They did have hot houses that had beautiful orchids and other plants from various countries around the world.   
Another part of the gardens that I enjoyed were several statues of these birds made from Nymphenburg porcelain.  Porcelain has been made for 260 years at the palace.  When they attempted to make it in Munich in the 18th century, porcelain was only available from China and during the baroque period, it was a desirable commodity used mostly for decorating.  Today, each item produced is made only by hand.  
We had coffee and cake – I should have titled this section….the “cafe tour of Munich”….with Lydia’s friend who wanted to practice her English with me.  She lives in the same apartment building with Lydia and had lived in Los Angeles in 1980s.  Her English was very good….much, much better than my German!  We met at Ruffini’s again…
The rest of the night was spent organizing my clothes and packing.  Sunday, was the day I headed to Bruges, my final destination on my month of traveling.  It was such a wonderful week to spend with Lydia. It was just a coincidence that she had the week off!  I just hope it isn’t another 28 years before we see each other again!

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