Since I started my trip back in June, I've noticed the most outgoing and friendly people all seem to be Germans. The typical stereotype played up in most television shows and movies is that Germans are always hardworking, punctual, and utterly lacking in personality due to their cold hard adherence to facts and schedules. While I'm sure there are many Germans who fit this mold, in my experience such lunacy could not be further from the truth. From day one in Faro (and later Lisbon and Valencia) the friendliest people I meet all seem the German. I've greatly looked forward to finally visiting Germany especially since I missed out on visiting the country (along with Switzerland) while on exchange in Milan back in college.
Prior to entering Germany, I was told stories of how amazing and cheap things were in this distant land. As I suffered each day paying what amounted to ~$60 a night for a bed in a six person dorm room in Switzerland, I longed for the day when I wouldn’t blow my entire daily budget just on housing. When it came time to figure out my transportation to Germany, I was beyond thrilled to see that a four-hour bus ride from Zurich to Munich cost only €19 (my train just from Bern to Zurich was 59CHF or ~$70)! By the end of my first day in Munich, I was sold.
Germany > Switzerland
...I look forward to your complaints.
Switzerland definitely beats Germany when it comes to wonderful landscapes, but I'd go broke very quickly if I remained in Switzerland any longer. Munich, on the other hand, is by far a more exciting city than either Bern or Zurich and is full of exceedingly nice people, awesome inexpensive beer, and every kind of meat imaginable in tube/loaf form. What more could I ask for in a city?
Cholesterol aside, this is my version of Disney World.
My adventure in Germany began with the usual quest to find my hostel. Back in Zurich every traveler I met unanimously told me to stay at a place call “The Tent” while I was in Munich. I was a little unnerved at first, but since every single person has such great reviews, I needed to give the place a shot. As the name implies, this “hostel” is just a campground with two giant tents in the middle of a field with a bathroom and a small common room with beer and wifi. While this place is incredibly cheap, there are only three options:
Camping: You bring your own equipment (patch of grass provided).
The Tent Original: Find a few square feet of open floor space in the smaller circus tent and it's yours (blankets & sleeping pad provided).
The Tent Dormitory: Get the "premium" experience of sleeping on an actual bed in this giant 100-person circus tent (blankets provided).
I had some serious reservations the moment I stepped foot on the campground; the hostel gives off the impression of a giant commune dwelling a full of 18-year-olds. Even through I just turned 25, I’ve never quite felt like such an old fart in my life. To cap it all off, there were no free beds in the dormitory so I was going to have to spend the night on the floor in the smaller tent.
With a deep sigh of disappointment, I collected my styrofoam sleeping pad, blankets, and made my way to the tent. I entered the room and the entire place looked as if a bomb had gone off. There were clothes, bags, blankets, and people scattered everywhere in the room. The place was a free for all, but I rationalized that as long as I could find a decent spot on the floor the night would be okay - the only problem was finding it. How bad could it be?
I’ve slept in airports and train stations that were more comfortable... and warm.
I was horribly ill-prepared for that first cold, rainy night. The nice couple sleeping with their feet next to my head definitely had their shit in order though. Armed with multiple pillows and seven different blankets, they were able to build something akin to a legitimate bed; I could tell that, unlike me, this wasn’t their first rodeo. While they slept comfortably, I spent the evening tossing, turning, shivering, and listening to people cough uncontrollably. I enjoyed maybe 5 hours of uncomfortable sleep and woke up with a giant pain in my neck.
If I don’t develop strep throat in the next few days I'll be immensely surprised.
The following morning I went straight to the reception desk to request an “upgrade” to the 100-person dormitory (that is the first time I have ever uttered such a phrase in my life). Thankfully they had availability and after happily returning my sleeping pad and parting ways with €15, I moved my things to the luxurious dorm tent. While the 100-person tent shared the distinctly similar aroma of lingering BO, it was the best money I've spent so far on this trip; I felt like royalty.
Kinda like those people on Duck Dynasty.
Nevertheless, after taking a shower (which was surprising great) I was off to the races. It was a very dark, overcast day and the weather forecast showed an 80% chance of rain, but I was determined to make the most of my day. The weather seemed to reflect my mood quite accurately, but I made my way into the city center, purchased an umbrella, and walked around. As I stood in the rain debating whether or no to call it quits, the most delightful aroma wafted through my nostrils. Before I even saw the shop, I could smell that something amazing was nearby and like a bloodhound, I kept sniffing around until I found myself in front of a glorious temple of meat.
Definitely better than any cathedral I’ve ever visited.
I hopped out of the restaurant with some sort of sausage on a roll of bread with mustard and, now revitalized, continued my trek happily munching away under my umbrella. I could feel my mood improving with every bite. Whatever was inside that sausage, I needed more of it. As soon as I finished, I noticed a man walking by with what looked like another kind of meat on a roll. Once again relying on my nose to direct me, I found another shop selling hand cut baloney from a walk through window. Success! I walked up, purchased one of those fine cuts of meat and a coffee, and continued my stroll. By the end of my coffee I felt like a new man, excited about the day; I could hardly care less about the weather.
I spent the next few hours walking around town content as a bird and that’s when it dawned on me. This is actually perfect weather to be in Germany! I just need to find a beer hall! I piggybacked off a free wifi network and discovered the Weisses Bräuhaus beer hall was nearby. Even though I was alone and spoke no German outside of “Guten Tag,” “Dankeshe,” and “Bitten,” I wasn’t going to let it deter me.
Weisses Bräuhaus is the perfect place to spend an afternoon on such a depressingly dark and gloomy day. The vibe inside was lively and the moment I stepped in I felt at home. All around, waitresses ran around carrying giant glasses of beer as if they weight nothing and everyone was drinking giant, half-liter steins of beer in all sorts of colors. The warm, inviting atmosphere was filled with chatter like a high school cafeteria and the intoxicating aroma of sausages with sauerkraut wafted through the air. The walls of the beer hall were covered in the typical white stucco outlined in dark brown wooden support beams and the windows were made of beautiful stained class. Outside I could see all the unfortunate people running around with their umbrellas in the pouring rain.
The hell with that, this was where I belonged today. The rest of Munich can wait until tomorrow.
Completely dumbfounded by the German menu, I found a section that I looked like draft beers and arbitrarily pointed at one when the waitress came by to take my order. She smiled and later came back with a nice, big half-liter glass of this crisp, amber, nectar of the gods. Although I was all alone, I cheerfully sat drinking my beer and turned to my right where there were two older men speaking German. While their English was hit or miss, we chatted the afternoon away in what can only be described as a comical hybrid of charades and pictionary. When they departed, I noticed the rain was still bearing down, so I ordered another beer, some sausages, and sauerkraut.
I was in no rush to leave. This place had everything I needed to survive the storm.
Now this may have been because I just finished half a liter of beer, but the humble little dish of meat and picked vegetables presented to me was astonishingly good. Although society tends to focus on pairing the right wine with a meal, I would venture to say what I ate that afternoon was the best beer pairing I’ve ever encountered. The combination of the light, refreshing beer contrasted remarkably with the incredibly strong, acidic sauerkraut and the fatty sausage. I cannot communicate how amazing the dish was. I have never in my life smiled so uncontrollably because of a meal.
I even caught myself giggling as I ate, it was just that good.
If you asked me that morning how I thought the day would turn out, I would have told you it was going to suck. The weather was terrible, I was grumpy, and I knew nothing about the city. The odds, I felt, were stacked against me, but the wonderful city of Munich took me in with open arms and showed me an absolutely wonderful day in spite of all the difficulties. I am so looking forward to seeing what else this city has to offer, but if this first day is any indication, I’m so happy to finally be in Germany.