And we´re in München! Munich is referred to by cheeky bilingual natives as "the land of laptops and leiderhosen" because it is at once a very forward-looking center of technology and industry and a stubbornly traditional area steeped in the old ways. Fortunately for us travelers, we´re equally delighted by local beer and oompah as by cutting edge engineering and technology.
We arrived late last night to crash at the A&O Hostel, which was approximately a cross between a dorm and a tenement. (It´s sole redeeming feature was a wistful view of the distinctive Mercedes HQ above the skyline.) Would that we had actually bothered to read our guidebook for ideas before booking, apparently there is a Wombat Hostel in Munich; somehow I think that´s the place for me. Fortunately we´re booked into a much better one for tonight and tomorrow, the EasyPalace hostel.
Today was given over to tours, both vehicular and autolocomotive. We caught a quick doubledecker bus tour as orientation, then had time for a VERY brief "South Americanische" lunch (that´s what it said on the door). Though it was tasty, if over priced, we got endless kicks out of the liberties taken with the menu. Instead of chips and salsa they served bread with yogurt with chives. The salsa evoked hazy recollections of some similar sauce, and the fajitas were also accompanied with something that I was delighted to recognize as islandless thousand island. Seeing "Steaksausse" on the table I took a whiff, and handed it to Patrick with a quiz: " If you didn´t know this was steak sauce, what would you say it was?" He agreed with me; shrimp cocktail sauce.
The Mike´s Bikes tour was, predictably, fantastic. They screen their guides for enthusiasm and charisma so you can´t help but enjoying yourself. Patrick noted that he wished he could send his Engineering Ambassadors on one so they could see how it CAN be done, and we both agreed that we´d love to do something like this some time....whenever THAT would be. Adam, our guide, was an exuberent South African with a 100 mph (161 kph) delivery and wide-eyed excitement you just couldn´t help but love. The accent never hurts, of course. Among the interesting bits he related was that München´s famous Hofbraü Hauss beer hall was the site of one of Hitler´s first public speeches. During the period of Nazi ascendency swasticas were painted on the ceiling in honor of this occasion; years later the proprietors had a difficult decision to make. Swasticas were emphatically out of fashion, but the paintings had historical value. Solution? They worked the Bavarian flag into the swastica design, so enfolding it that its no longer visible if you weren´t looking for it, which we most certianly were. The bike tour paused for a good hour in München´s most famous beer garden, the Chinese Tower Garden, while we sampled some of the famous local product. München is where I first found a liking for beer so it was only fitting that I revisit this revelation in style. Plus, some of you remember that I owe Patrick a beer from Fribourg (when he declined it due to being under the weather). I paid in full, believe me. In the Hofbrau beer garden they sell beer BY THE LITER. If you wonder how much a liter stein is, make a circle with the thumb and middle fingers of your two hands and hold it nine inches off the table. (And then we got back on the bikes after that...) Speaking of hands and fingers, a note on tecnique: steins are very large, often glass, sometimes metal drinking vessels. For beer. Not for other liquids. They had large, manly handles on them. For drinking beer. Not for other liquids. Therefore they must be held appropriately. The "handle," as it was explained, it not for fingers, like you might think. No wrapping your fingers around it like a teacup. NO! Shove your whole meaty, manly hand into it and let the STEIN hold on to YOU! NOW you may swing it, pound it, and chug with impunity! PROST!
Tomorrow we´re headed to the Deutsche Museum, Germany´s answer to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the National Science and Technology Museum, and the Exploratorium all in one place. Legend has it that there are 10 miles of exhibits criss-crossing the campus, and that if you spend 1 minute at each exhibit youd be there 10 days. I certainly intend to give it a run for its money. Guten nacht and love to all!'
Edit:(And yes, to anyone who was wondering about my taking FULL advantage of a keyboard that has a an umlaüt "u" ("ü") on it. Power corrupts, what can I say?)