Gute Reisen

Part One

As it happens, Matt was the perfect person to be my first visitor. Sadly I’m still in my bad WG, and my life is still in strange shambles, but he came just in time to save me from a dark time. Literally the day before he arrived I had my first broken-down, crying, “oh shit I’m not going to make it” phone call. There was a massive misunderstanding at the Immigration Office, and they thought I was trying to start a business, and I was so flummoxed and over-whelmed as they talked to me, and made short asides about me, that I left, sat in the Marienplatz drank a coffee, and tried to let the fear go, and reorganize my resolve for the next phase. I walked around Munich for a few hours, hiding at the library, and waiting for it to be late enough back in America to call and dump some of this anxiety over there. Finally I did, and realized I would have to go back and straighten out the record on what I was actually looking for.

The next day Matt arrived. He flew to Frankfurt because it’s much cheaper and grabbed a quick train to Munich. He arrived in the afternoon surprisingly un-jetlagged, and we walked. We walked to a beer hall, we walked through the Marienplatz, we sat on the banks of the Isar in the warm sun and drank beer and shot the shit. I’ve been desperately clinging to podcasts lately and it’s because it’s like having someone to talk to while you walk around. Now I had the real shit, we’d wander, and I’d translate things, or we’d decide on where to go, and after 2 weeks of being a tourist in this wonderful area, I feel refreshed a bit. Not renewed in the sense that everything is new, but refreshed as in ready to instill a new routine, to get back on this massive project, and to keep forging ahead. The longer I’m here the more terrifying the prospect of going back is. 

So Matt and I had 2 weeks of incredible weather and great adventures in Germany, Austria, and Oslo.

Naturally the first few days were spent over-coming jet lag, though Matt didn’t seem too affected. We cycled around the city, drank liters of beer, went to some museums I had been saving, walked the palace grounds at Nymphenburg, and generally just got situated. We met a friend at a Ramen place and now I’ve got some new great soup in Munich to add to my dinner roster. And we got drunk. Neither Matt nor I are big partiers, so this was really it for getting too drunk and stopping for fries. We drank lots and regularly but never quite to the extent of that early night. I had been saving some tourist attractions and museums for visitors, and they didn't disappoint. A new highlight of any visit I think will be a museum on mining. Yes, really.

The first weekend was a whirlwind tour of northern Bavaria, Saturday we took the train to Bayreuth, to see Wagner’s Opera House and the Wagner Museum which was closed when I was there 2 years ago.

The tour of the Opera House was fun, last time I took it there were only 2 visitors, this time there was a group of 25 or so Germans and then Matt and I. At each stop our tour guide would chatter on, and then we’d shuffle to the next location and I’d relate to Matt what I had understood. It was fun. A grumpy old man complained about all these new directors coming in with their visions when Wagner left us designs for exactly how to stage the operas. 

If the Wagner Museum weren’t 2.5 hours away by train I’d be a member. Really incredible, costumes and props from the first complete performance of the ring in 1876, a interactive audio catalog of over 100 years of Wagner recordings. Areas of the museum dedicated to Wagner’s clothes. Hand written pages from the operas. And in the basement a giant book/video projection and a killer sound system that lets you see in the score what’s going on in the music while the music plays. I stood in this dark room with 5 people around me, tears in my eyes listening to the opening of Rheingold and watching how the chords built. Amazing.

Wagner's house. Willa Wahnfried.

Wagner's house. Willa Wahnfried.

We stopped and had Gluhwein and enjoyed German pop radio before taking the train to Nurnberg. We checked into a great little hotel and took a little detour. As it happens Nurnberg has a killer Tiki Bar, and I’d been curious to visit it for some time. We had dinner there, and a few bright sugary cocktails. It’s called Kon Tiki:

Matt told me later that the girls we were sitting next to were checking us out. He’s got a girlfriend, so no great lost to him, but come on help a buddy out.

Just one of the many rooms at Kon Tiki.

Just one of the many rooms at Kon Tiki.

Nürnberg is a beautiful city, but on the south end of town is something really weird and ugly. The Nazi Parade Grounds and Kongresshalle. We visited there and after that the Germansiches Museum which I had done last time I was in town, but it’s endlessly fascinating. It’s a museum of the people that made up Germanic culture, not Deutschland, the nation. One of my favorite parts is the full reconstructions of the insides of rural German farmhouses. I was happy to come back with my camera and get a few photos.

Over roast Bratwurstl, which are a specialty in Nurnberg, I got real with Matt and expressed my concerns that I wouldn’t be an exciting enough tour guide in Germany. For me the best is wandering around, staring, listening, soaking up little stuff, I was worried he’d be bored. The last thing you want to do is travel with someone only to find out later they were disappointed. Matt reassured me, and oddly this was enough, I was never really worried about his boredom after that. 

Sunday night we returned to Munich; it felt like we’d been gone a long time.