I arrived in Brussels Thursday morning with four hours to spare until my flight to Munich to visit Anna. Between answering all my messages now that I had Wi-Fi and napping away jet lag, I almost missed the flight! You know when you keep waking up during a nap because you know you have to get somewhere? Well I woke up about every 5 minutes for an hour until the fifteen minutes leading up to my flight when I completely knocked out. I was awoken by an elder lady and her husband poking me in the arm, staring me in my sleepy eyes asking if I was suppose to board the plane to Munich. Gah! I thanked them and quickly threw on my oversized backpack.
Landing in Munich was a breeze. The airport is quite easy to figure out. I boarded the ‘S-Bahn’ train line to ‘Moosach’ passing adorable German homes and very green strips of land along the way. You can’t really tell when you’ve reached the downtown core of the city, as Munich is basically just a huge village. The city has air rights restricting any high-rise buildings or skyscrapers from being built. There are a few but they are definitely no higher than 30 stories or so.
With no phone and no Internet, I wandered around until I could find a way to reach Anna to announce my arrival. I stopped for a coffee and struggled through my order having absolutely no German language skills. I ended up finding a Wi-Fi connection at a hotel that wouldn’t let me use their phone (so silly). I stood outside the hotel until a tall blond stopped in front of me and smiled. Anna! We hugged and jumped around, a little taken back at the fact that we were both in the same city again. We walked literally across the street into her apartment. I felt so silly for having wandered around for so long.
After a long two days of travelling, Anna treated me to a home-cooked meal, which was so nice as I had only eaten at restaurants and fast-food places in the past couples of weeks. We sat down and chatted away and actually never stopped chatting until I boarded the plane back to Brussels the following Monday. We had kept such a good relationship since going our separate ways from Jaipur last April that nothing had changed.
We thought we’d start out the beginning of the weekend on a very German note by going out for a beer. We took the tram to Marienplatz and walked along the touristy sites of the Glockenspiel and Frauenkirche, the biggest church in Munich, taking a stroll within its walls to admire the beauty. Of course the outside was under construction, as I am cursed with being surrounded by construction when I’m on a sight seeing vacation. Although I did used the Acropolis in Athens as an example to someone when explaining my curse and they hilariously replied with “it’s permanently under construction”.
To avoid the obvious tourist bars and pubs including the Hofbrauhaus, which I already had the pleasure of enjoying back in 2013, we decided on Kilians, an Irish/Australian pub. One side is super Irish and the other is extremely Australian. It's basically the same menu throughout both pubs but the décor says it all. We spent most of the night in the Irish part dancing to some funk music performed by a group of old foggies and drinking Augustine, a Bavarian beer that I quite liked. It’s an easy to drink lager with a fruity finish.
Anna had class the following morning so I planned on doing some touristy things; maybe even buy some cute new accessories for my dirndl! That didn’t happen. I woke up at noon and was greeted by Anna around 2:30pm when I walked to the café across the street for my first meal of the day. Between the jet lag and German beer, there was no way I was leaving the haus before then.
Anna insisted I try currywurst for dinner, a Berlin specialty sausage prepared with curry powder, so we travelled by underground to Olympia Park to a good restaurant she liked to go to during work breaks. With no set plans or need to get anywhere quickly, we walked around the BMW building set in the middle of the park, sitting in each car and pretending we knew a thing or two about the brands products. It was super windy and getting quite dark outside so we couldn’t walk around the park too much but we did go up the Olympia Tower (the view pictured below). The whole park is quite cool though. The architecture is pretty modern for something built in the 70’s. Dinner that night consisted of all things German including currywurst, pork schnitzel, salad, pretzels and white Bavarian beer.
The night started young with beer, sparkling wine and friends sitting around the kitchen table at Anna’s flat, discussing music, travel and all things German. Anna’s roommate Niele was easy to talk to, as she was an experienced English speaker with a clear accent to understand, but the other girls and Anna’s very Bavarian roommate were more of a challenge. We left the flat around 11:30pm to catch the tram downtown. While Anna and I quickly tried to purchase our tickets, the tram counted down the seconds to its departure. We ended up running out of luck and it took off without us, taking our friends along with it. We jumped on the subway and sped through the very miserable and rainy 10-minute walk from Marienplatz station to the club of choice for the evening, Rote Sonne. The security guard seemed very interested in the fact that I was Canadian and I am still not sure if it was suppose to be ironic or it just happened to be a coincidence that after paying the 5 euro cover fee, the entry stamp he placed on the inside of my wrist was a deer...
The music inside was all deep house music, which I do like, but it is much more enjoyable when every since person in the club is the best Euro house dancer I’ve ever seen. They were all shuffling and letting loose. Some I didn’t even see buy a single beer all night, they were just grooving! I tried to copy their insanely music video worthy dance moves but looked so foolish. Luckily nobody was watching me because no one cared. Everyone was in their own world enjoying themselves and no one was on their phone. How veird right?! We ended up leaving at 5:00am, still full of energy.
Saturday morning was spent being toured around some of the historic sites of downtown Munich including the English gardens, which are beautiful even in winter, the markets outside of Marienplatz, which are extremely adorable, and circling Odeonsplatz. It was such a beautiful day for walking around. At about 14 degrees Celsius, which is apparently very rare for January in Germany, it gave me a perfect opportunity to check out a good view of the Alps as well. We travelled via “S-Bahn” train to Starnberg, being greeted by a beautiful lake as soon as we stepped off the train. We walked out onto one of the docks to take photos and “ooo” and “aww” over the sightline. In the distance were rows and rows of beautiful mountains, dusted in snow; the German Alps. We ended up talking to an older German gentleman who was sitting at the end of one of the docks who invited us to join him as he sat eating oysters and drinking wine. Could he be more cool?!
Our trip to Starnberg was short and sweet. It was beginning to get dark and we needed to catch a bus at 6:00pm going to Stuttgart as we had planned to spend Sunday in Heidelberg to meet up with a friend of mine, Josh, that I had met in New York in summer of 2013. With about 20 minutes to spare after walking around the lakeshore, we stopped at the yacht club, which was open for outdoor service. We sat along the water looking out at the Alps with warm drinks in hand.
The bus to Stuttgart was about 3-hours, which I napped and ate through. We had packed dinner for the ride including turkey sandwiches on dense German bread, salami sticks and pretzels (of course). Dominic, Anna’s boyfriend, picked us up at the bus station in Stuttgart. We were planning to do a drive through of the city but unfortunately it was pouring rain, so we did a quick trip up one of the bigger hills so we could check out the lights of the city below. We stayed at Dominic’s family home that evening which I absolutely loved. His parents were a hilarious couple of Germans who instantly fed me späztle and beer upon arrival and joked with me in English. They were so sweet and we all shared some laughs on the couch before bed.
Rising early to make it into Heidelberg before noon, we all sat down at 9am for a breakfast of boiled eggs and fresh breads served with jams, butter and Nutella (obviously I chose the pretzel bread with Nutella as my topping). We said our goodbyes and packed up the car for a quick stop at Ludwigsburg Palace and then on to Heidelberg. The palace is beautiful. Modelled after the Palace of Versailles in France, it is painted pale colors, surrounded by beautiful gardens that I am sure are all types of colorful in summer, with a huge fountain in front of the entrance. Apparently in present day, German brides wait years and years on a waiting list to marry within its romantic walls, and pay a couple grand to do so.
The most exciting part of our drive to Heidelberg was experiencing what 200 kilometers per hour feels like. Germany is home to quite a few highways with sections of absolutely no speed limit. Surprisingly even though you can drive as fast as you want, Germany is on par with about every other western country in terms of road accidents. Clearly speed is not the problem when it comes to accidents; it’s shit drivers that are!
Our meeting spot in Heidelberg was the central station, which is probably not even a quarter of the size of Toronto’s Union station; it’s very petit and very adorable, as is everything in Germany. It was a little cold Sunday but the sun escaped the clouds every 20-minutes or so to warm us up. Josh arrived with his friend Nikolai via tram from Mannheim, where he lives and works in the hospital. I instantly sprinted into a running hug, filled with excitement to see him. They were both hung-over, having been out a little too late on Saturday night, which was a great reason to torture them throughout the day with long walks and lots of photos. We started the day off by walking the longest shopping and car free zone in Europe, Hauptstrasse. With brick roads and colorful buildings, I definitely felt like I was in the middle of Europe. We took a turn further up the street to head up to the Heidelberg Castle. Josh introduced the two ideas of how to get to the castle, which sits high on a hill watching over the city. Number one is of course to walk it or number two, take a short train ride. As hangover torture, we chose to walk, which I’m sure they weren’t thrilled about even though they smiled through it. Most of the castle is pretty destroyed but the balconies give you a incredible view of Heidelberg.
We stopped for bratwurst on our way back down the steps. Taking a stroll over to the river, we were able to get some good shots of the castle above, as well as the adorable homes and shops lining the river. The cold wind was starting to get harsh so we headed into Vetter’s for some Heidelberg-brewed beer. One beer quickly turned into three (and technically that depends on how you were measuring). Anna and I shared ‘mass’ mugs all afternoon, which fit one litre each. I taught everyone how to play King’s Cup, the infamous drinking game, with a pack of cards from the pub that were clearly made for a specific card game as the pack only included cards 7 and up. We ended up just applying our own rules to each card, which made the game even more hilarious.
The day ended too quickly and it was soon dark out again as we made our way back towards central station. I hugged Josh and Nikolai goodbye, while summing up our quickly made up future travel plans that may one day include adventuring through Berlin, Spain and possibly a road trip across Canada. “In Germany, you always meet twice” Nikolai reminded me.
What a coincidence that I was meeting two German friends for the second time in their home country…
Monday in Brussels was cold and exhausting. I boarded a bus to the city in hopes of having the energy to run around from site to site but my legs lagged and my back began to ache from over-packing my obnoxious pink backpack. It must have been 20 pounds or more. I walked passed the Royal Palace from the bus stop and my legs started to give out. I thought it was about time to feed my tired body. I passed a few more sites including The Halle Gate when I realized my phone was out of batteries and out of photo storage. If that's not a sign to go back to the airport and rest, I don’t know what is.
I am currently sitting in a very young and hip hostel in the middle of downtown Delhi, Zostel, near the New Delhi train station. The trains honk every minute therefore I am unable to sleep and my shower was freezing. All I can do is laugh and remember why I love this place so much. You just have to deal with what you are given and soak in the whole experience.
I'm home mother India!