Buster Was Here, Too

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Buster and Andre on the camel outside the smoking lounge at Munich airport

Even though they didn’t figure very prominently in the blog posts, Buster and Andre Segovia were on this trip, too.  They just remained out of the limelight.  But they couldn’t resist the temptation to hop on the camel for a quick ride.  They didn’t  get very far but the perspective from the camel’s back was very different for what they are used to.

Another HUGE surprise at the airport was that Andre was confronted with many of his long lost relations.  He is still in shock as are we all.

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Hello, fellow piggies.

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Munich: Day 7 – Leavin’ On A Jet Plane

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Time really is relative.  It twists and turns and speeds up and slows down seemingly at random.  Where has it all gone on this trip?

In some ways, it seems like yesterday when we posed for our going-away-on-our-trip photo in Margaret and Travis’s front yard.  I wanted to have a photo of all of us being happy with ourselves and with each other before we began to get on each others’ nerves.  Turns out, we either didn’t get on each others’ nerves too badly or we were on best behavior when it happened because we are still smiling and still happy.

In other ways, it seems as if we have been gone longer than the 26 days the calendar indicates.  We have covered a lot of ground in those 26 days.  Not just geographically but also mentally.  Landscapes and cultures.  Food and drink. Modes of transportation. Interactions with people.  External and internal conversations.

I have asked both Michael and Kris what the highlights of the trip have been for them.  They found answering that question to be as difficult as did I.  It is almost as if we have been on three distinct trips:

London with its jet lag and newness and all of the walks and getting used to traveling together was wonderful.  Staying there for the first week turned out to be a major brain storm on my part.  We all were sorry when we had to leave but, I think, Kris was especially so: “I could live here,” he said.

But then, there was Wilderness Travel and Switzerland.  Oh, my goodness.  From the first moment we threw open the curtains of our hotel and saw the Matterhorn poking its head up into the sky, we were smitten.  Incredible scenery, perfect hikes and incomparable traveling companions. I hated to see it end.

And, finally, Munich.  Kris did us a big favor when he suggested we come here for Oktoberfest.  We have had a great time exploring here and there in between our trips to the festival tents.  I think Kris thinks he could live here, too.  And, he even tried out his long, unused German.  I am very proud of him cuz I know that isn’t easy.

For months before we left on this trip, I kept looking at the weather for London, Zermatt and Munich.  The forecasts were uniformly grey.  Cloudy and thunderstorms and, just generally, not nice.  However, once we were here, although not blessed with  unadulterated sunshine, we had plenty of excellent weather.  As it turned out, the weather was no problem for any of our activities.

Through all of our intensive time together, we have remained friends and have been able to laugh with (and at) each other.  I’m so happy that we were finally able to take this trip together.

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Munich: Day 6 – This is the End, This is the End, My Friend

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Buster getting ready to begin enjoying Oktoberfest . . . at long last!

Our last full day in Munich.  What to do before we have to begin the inevitable packing and looking homeward?

We all agreed that we should start the day with cappuccini and pastries at our local bakery.  Why change a good thing?  Then, I guess I decided that a trip to Munich just wouldn’t be complete without having seen the glockenspiel do its thing.  The guys went along with it and we were in Marienplatz along with a few thousand of our best friends to hear and watch the 11 o’clock spiel.  Okay, it may not have been the high point of the trip but it was fun and at least one of us was glad we had seen it.

From there it was no brainer to follow every other person in the square and end up back at the Oktoberfest grounds for our third and final time.  Weekends are quite a bit different from week days.  For one thing, I had to check my purse at the baggage place.  By the time i had taken all of my essentials out of it and stuffed them into my, and Michael’s, pockets, the purse was pretty much an empty shell.  But I shelled out the 4 euros to check it, went into the Oktoberfest grounds and then transferred everything out of our pockets and into the little stuff sack that I always carry.  Crazy.  The second thing about weekends is that they are crazy crowded.  But it was fun.  More beer, more pork, more carmelized nuts.  What’s not to like?

Michael discovered this morning that he had left his new raincoat somewhere other than our apartment.  We know he had it on Thursday but we can’t figure out where it went after that.  We asked at our bakery this morning but they didn’t have it.  And, he waited in the lost and found line at Oktoberfest for an hour only to find out he hadn’t left it there.  The up side to waiting in such a long line was that he heard many tales of much more serious losses, which put a raincoat loss into perspective, even if it was a new one.  He is convinced he didn’t wear it to Dachau yesterday; so, that narrows it down to BMW or the pizza place.  We’ll go to the pizza place when it opens tonight. If it’s not there it is well and truly gone.  In the big picture, a small aggravation.

We had hoped to go to the Deutsches Museum this afternoon but we didn’t plan our time very well and really didn’t have enough time to make it worth the trip and the entrance charge.  As Kris said, “another time.”

We are at home relaxing, packing and preparing ourselves for our journey tomorrow.  We have a car picking us up at 7 a.m.  Sounds early!

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Glockenspiel at the new city hall

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Bavaria (blue and white) vanquishes someone

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Munich: Day 5 – Dachau

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This morning we went to Dachau.  It was a beautiful day, which seemed wrong.

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I found a rock that looked like a tortured face.

 

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Munich: Days 4 and 5 – Miscellany

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Late yesterday afternoon, after our infatuation with all things BMW began to subside and after we’d rested our feet a little and run the two-hour dishwasher cycle, Kris suggested that we go out for ice cream. Well, when he made the suggestion, he was thinking about an ice cream place that is just around the corner from our apartment.  I, on the other hand, thought he meant that we should Google Munich ice cream shops and find something sensational, which I did.

Turns out there is a place called Ballabeni at Theresienstrasse 46.  Shoot, Theresienstrasse is only two UBahn stops away from us on the U2.  We were off . . . albeit on a skosh more of a walk than we had anticipated.  We quickly found our bearings at the Theresienstrasse stop but discovered we were at about number 130!  Just a good stretch of the legs, right?  Right.

Our efforts were rewarded by two scoops each of delectable gelato:

Michael:  Schiaciatella and schokolade with a sample of black olive-lemon; Kris:  Schiaciatella and coconut with a sample of lemon-basil; Virginia: Lemon-basil and coconut with a sample of schokolade.  Each flavor was vibrant and intense and yummy.  Even the black olive-lemon was tasty although I’m not certain I would commit to a full scoop of the stuff.

Because it was such a balmy, wonderful evening, rather than merely retracing our steps we headed off in the opposite direction.  And then in another direction. And then in another direction.  The guys think I was just moving without reason; however, I was set on finding the Frauenkirche and I did!  They insist it was an accident . . . or worse, that Michael actually found it.  Don’t believe it; it was all part of the master plan.  We passed a loud political rally in Marienplatz and decided to keep on walking.  Eventually, we ended up in Karlsplatz, then back to the Hauptbahnhof onto the U2 and home by 9 p.m.

And speaking of me not being able to find anything:  Kris has begun playing “Where’s Waldo” with me when we get separated from Michael.  It turns out I frequently look right past or through Michael.  If he would only wear a red and white striped shirt and a beanie like a proper Waldo, I think the problem would be resolved.  Instead, he dresses all in dark, drab colors and, like a chameleon, just blends into the background.  At the BMW museum, he sat down to wait for Kris and me.  Kris insists that Michael actually waved at us to get our attention but I think he just looked inscrutable to blend in with a Japanese tour group.

This afternoon, Saturday, September 23, we headed out in search of lunch after our morning outing.  Another great walk even though Kris began saying “squirrel” as in the movie “Up” whenever I became distracted from our food mission.  Jeez!  The guys are beginning to pick on me.  I guess it’s a good thing that our trip is almost over.  If anyone suggests going out for ice cream tonight, I am going to follow docilely in his footsteps.

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Munich: Day 4 – A Very Necessary Change of Pace

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Shopping for a souvenir

Friday, another beautiful day.  We decided to do something different.

I was happy to discover that the liquid on the floor of Kris’s room and in the bottom of the laundry basket in Kris’s room was only water and nothing requiring a more thorough cleaning and disinfecting.  Apparently, at some point during the night, he stumbled out of bed and stepped on a bottle of water triggering a geyser.  He was in a rather sorry and apologetic state this morning.  “I’m sorry you had to see that,” “never again” and “I can’t believe I did that” were phrases that featured prominently in his morning’s conversations.  Although I can’t quite believe the last phrase because, by his own admission, he didn’t really remember what he had done . . . just that it was stupid. I give him full marks for that.

Once we were all up, purged, washed and dressed, we headed out to the BMW World and BMW Museum, which are just a few stops to the northwest of us.  What a change from what we have been seeing.  As those of you who know me know, I am not a crazy car person; to me, a car is basically transportation. But WOW!!  I may have been converted today.

Although I did like the fit and feel of the green M4 Coupe, I was more drawn to the cars of the 30’s and even the 1954 job.  Those cars were positively voluptuous; round  and curvy and gorgeous.  Then they got all boxy and square and unattractive and now they are some kind of combination of the two. Round, curvy and gorgeous is what cars and women should be . . . and I’m willing to settle for two out of the three.

I couldn’t quite figure out the Le Man 24 hour winner.  Was it a car or a fortune cookie:  “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT,” “Lack of charisma can be fatal,” and, my personal favorite, “The unobtainable is invariably attractive.”

 

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Munich: Day 3 – More Oktoberfesting

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Hohenzollernplatz

A lazy morning but a beautiful one:  Blue skies and sunshine.  Too beautiful to stay in very late but we didn’t make it out to the street until 10:30. Explored a bit around our Ubahn stop of Hohenzollernplatz.  Everything looks so different under a sunny, morning sky.

Having nothing better to do in this big city, we headed over to Oktoberfest again.  We do know there are many worthwhile things to do and see in Munich but, for today, our motto was “embrace the festivities.”  Unfortunately, some of us embraced them with less restraint than others.

First thing we had to do was to find some leather clothing for Kris.  We happened by a shop and almost before one could even pull one’s credit card from the wallet Kris was decked out in finest Bavarian style.  Michael said he looked like a big Pinocchio without the long nose.

George from New Jersey,  my seat mate on our bus tour yesterday, told me that he had eaten the best roast pork ever at the Spaten Brewery festhalle; so, feeling a little bit piggy that’s where we went.  The very cute Andi found us excellent places to sit and I had no more gotten “drei maß bier, bitte” out of my mouth when three large beers appeared before us.  It’s just like magic.

The pig knuckle was just as delicious as it looks; the sweetest, most succulent flesh covered in the crispiest, crunchiest cracklings. Heaven on a plate, one leg at a time.

After lunch, Kris wanted to go back to the Löwenbräu tent, which he did, while I shopped for the perfect giant lebkuchen heart.  By the time Michael and I made it to Löwenbräu, Kris had met up with some guys and was having a grand time with them.  We left him there and continued our wandering for another hour and a half.

I didn’t want to be too much of a party pooper but we eventually directed our wanderings back to where we had left him.  No Kris.  We texted.  No response.  We went outside.  And spotted a very fuzzy eyed replica of Kris standing with a group of other leather clad lads.  No longer worried about being a party pooper, I walked over and put my arm around Kris’s shoulder.  When his eyes finally focused on mine, he said he thought it was time to go.  Those were the last coherent words out of his mouth.  On the way to the subway, he was a Pinocchio whose strings had been cut but whose limbs aren’t quite working right.  But we made it back safe and sound and the guy is now soundly sleeping in his new leather jammies.

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Munich: Day 2 – And We’re Already Leaving Town

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Virginia and Neuschwanstein from Marienbrücke

Excuse the giant Virginia head at the top of this blog, but I decided I was being underrepresented in the photos in this blog and thought everyone should be reminded of just whose perspective you are sharing:  Mine, me, me, me.  Okay, enough about me let’s get on with it.

When we decided to come to Munich for the end of our European follies, I thought it would be good, maybe even mandatory, to do two day trips:

One to Dachau to remind ourselves that the horrors of all of the current wars throughout our world have terrible predecessors in the not very distant past. And, perhaps, to make us reflect in a different way on what it is we can do to try to make the world a place in which descent into such barbarism isn’t tolerated.

The second,  the polar opposite to the first, to Neuschwanstein because, after all, we come from the country that gave the world Disneyland and Disneyworld and all of the other Disney accretions and King Ludwig II’s fairy tale castle was Disney’s inspiration for HIS first fairy tale castle (and, yes, I did capitalize “his” because Disney is a god).

We determined that we should begin with the lighter of the two options and joined a GreyLine bus tour that covered not only Neuschwanstein but also Linderhof Castle and Oberammergau (not to be confused with OberZ’Mutt, which will always remain one of our favorite Swiss villages).

This is touring in the style of the masses.  I am happy to report that our guide did not carry an umbrella with a sunflower duct taped to the top but we knew where she was all the same.  We were 46 in our group and it turned out to be a perfectly fine way to see the castles.  As far as we were concerned, they should have left out Oberammergau and given us more time in Linderhof but a small complaint.

A larger and more pungent concern with traveling with the masses in a confined space turned out to be flatulence.  WHOA!!!! I don’t even want to imagine what some of these folks had been eating but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was dozens of pickled eggs.  I think the photo below best describes the situation:

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To say it was disgusting would be an insult to disgusting.  I don’t know why Michael is smiling . . . or perhaps I do. . . hmmmm.  But enough of this digression.

Linderhof:  Fountain erupts . . . enter castle for tour . . . put on sunglasses to counter the glow from all of the gilding . . . be gobsmacked by how much ornamentation could be packed into such a relatively small space . . . but be delighted with it in spite of its excesses . . . marvel at the chandeliers . . . leave castle at rear for obligatory photo of water cascade and Poisidon fountain . . . walk back to front for fountain erupting . . . make way to WC’s for erupting fountains of our own devise and then back to bus.  Very efficient.

Oberammergau:  Forget the typical Bavarian houses, ignore the traditional wood carving souvenir shops, pass on the knock off wood carving souvenir shops; we want food.  Two ham and cheese sandwiches on fresh rolls: Five euros. Three single-scoop cups of the best gelato we’ve had on this trip: Three euros thirty.  We aren’t in Switzerland anymore!  Back to the bus.

Neuschwanstein:  I was here in 1971.  At that time, I was a fit and, if I do say so myself, fabulous 22-year old goddess (once again, I exaggerate for effect) and I rode my bicycle up the steep, winding road to the castle.  Yesterday, while cherishing my 46-year old memories, I paid my one euro eighty and took the shuttle bus (along with some garlic breathing folks . . . this trip is going to be one of olfactory impressions).

Unlike in 1971, however, this time I could afford to go inside the castle and it was worth the price of admission. None of the gold and mirrors of Linderhof, which was Ludwig II’s little Versailles; Neuschwanstein was built as a tribute to Richard Wagner and you could fairly hear the Valkyries screaming from the painted walls.  I loved it.

Two hour drive back to town during which farting was replaced by snoring.  We will travel on our own from here on out but this was an easy way to pack in a lot of territory.

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Munich: Day 1 – Getting Our Bearings

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Virginia, Kris and Mikey doing some physical therapy for Kris’s wrist at the Löwenbräu tent

Or, in other words: How do we get to the Oktoberfest grounds from our apartment?  Obviously, we found a way; and it was so simple I feel certain that we will retrace our route at least one more time while we are here.

What you do is this:  Get off of the UBahn or SBahn somewhere within ten blocks of the festival site at Theresienwiese and then just follow the hordes of dirndled damsels and lederhosened lads until you see the big welcoming gate and the masses of security people.

For a person such as myself who greatly admires a finely turned male leg, watching men in lederhosen is a revelation.  They are the next best thing to watching World Cup Soccer.  There is something about a well-muscled, tanned leg poking out of leather that can get the oldest heart palpitating. Of course, the guys in our group weren’t exactly short of eye candy either.  Those lovely lasses with their beautiful bosoms on display were nothing short of titilating . . . well, maybe a little short of titilating but definitely interesting.

Having arrived late in the morning, we were able to wander around in most of the big tents and got a good dose of ompah bands and “prosts” before we settled in at the Löwenbräu tent for beer and food.  Two highlights of the time spent there:

First, a little red-headed girl dancing while sitting on her dad’s shoulders.  She had all the moves and a sense of rhythm second to none.

Second, a guy with a roast chicken hat the legs of which flapped and twisted with almost as much rhythm as the little girl.

After our meal we wandered some more.  Kris found the perfect Oktoberfest hat and had his first encounter with a horse. And this was one big horse; it was one of the biggest draft horses I have ever seen.  Each brewery has a huge wagon with beer barrels outside of its festhalle and each wagon has four to six beautiful horses in splendid tack harnessed to it.  Spectacular.  Their feet were the diameter of large pies.

Oktoberfest is not just beer and roast chicken and music; it is also a carnival and Michael saw at least six different rides that, in his words, “there is no way in hell I would get on that.”  So, maybe, a chair lift doesn’t seem so daunting any more.

 

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Guarda to Munich: Where Did All The Mountains Go?

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Arrival at Munich main station

This morning we were in beautiful, quiet, peaceful Guarda, surrounded by snow dusted mountains and enveloped in sunshiney calm. Then, down the hill we went to Guarda station . . . a relatively grandiose term for the quaint little station by the tracks.  We made it onto the train (going in the correct direction, Stewart, thank you very much and I apologize for spelling your name wrong in every earlier post) and we slowly began our journey out of the mountains of contemplation and into the plains of chaos.

We are now in Munich and my shoulder muscles are already beginning to seize up.  I’m hoping a few gargantuan beers at Oktoberfest will release all of this new tension.

Our apartment is perfectly ade1uate. Is that damning it with faint praise?  I don’t mean to do that but it IS compact.  I think it would fit into our room at Hotel Meisser but perhaps I exaggerate for effect.

I think you can understand, however, that, upon seeing the light fixture in Kris’s room, I thought we were back in the mushroom rich region of yesterday’s hike. You be the judge:

 

 

 

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