Day 09 – Wed 14 Apr 2010 – So in Love with Munich

The lens and some securing screws fell out of my specs so I went to Pro Optic not far from the Hauptbahnhoff for a quick repair. Optician had perfect English, no problem to fix it and at no cost. Today is the first wet and miserable day of the trip. Took the U-Bahn to the Olympic site but not able to walk around that much due to the cold and wet conditions. The former athlete’s village consists of big blocks of apartments which are now things like student accommodation. Has a very large sports medicine campus and some shopping centres and industrial developments such as BMW but seems to lack a little bit of life.

Olympia-Einkaufszentrum – The Olympic U-Bahn Station (Photo: FloSch)

Caught the U-Bahn back into town and went to the Munich Stadtmuseum which gives a lot of good history of the city. Had an excellent film sequence in particular of the 50s and 60s which emphasized an increasing feeling I’m getting about the city. It’s a place I’m growing to love and will be very sorry to leave. It’s got an energy that is difficult to describe. Most people associate the city with Oktoberfest, but it runs much much deeper than that. It’s an intelligent place that is traditional, modern, placid, passionate, fun and intelligent; all at the same time. They talk about Gemutlichkeiten (sort of warm, cosy, friendly), but even that doesn’t do justice to the zeitgeist of the place. It’s the sort of place that can’t help but produce great art and literature. It’s alive and full of intelligent and confident people. It’s unafraid of who it is. It seriously rocks. I’ve haven’t felt so energized by a place for years.

Munich Stadtmuseum (Photo: Maximillian Dorrbecker (Chumwa))

I keep going on and on about the German transport system but this morning I saw something that confirmed it even more; its capacity to easily cope with a major disruption. The Hauptbahnhof area has the main station, huge in its own right, plus two U-Bahn stations underneath at right angles to each other, plus an underground S-Bahn line Anyway while I was coming out of the opticians earlier I heard lots of sirens. About a minute later I was in the underground concourse of the station complex and noticed one of the U-Bahn lines was being closed and announcements were sounding for passengers to evacuate.

What was interesting is how the system coped with all of this in late peak hour. The Deutsche Bahn Sicherheit staff (sort of equivalent of Cityrail Transit Officers) not only told people what to do, but suggested specific alternative routes to people unsure of how to get to their destination. Most either transferred to other lines or to the trams on the street above to get where they needed to go. Police were in attendance and most interestingly about four of them suddenly ‘materialized’ out of the crowd by donning tabards over plain clothes. Within 30 minutes, the incident had been resolved and the U-Bahn Line was back in full operation. Very impressed.

Munich’s Fire Service getting to work at the U-Bahn incident

There is a very classy section of Munich around Marienplatz with lots of stores like Tiffanys and Cartier. Oddly though, rich Munich women don’t seem all that attractive to me; they’re just a little too ‘made-up’ and jewel-bedecked for my liking. But walk into the adjacent areas and it’s another story. The general population (admittedly I’m probably only noticing the females) are strikingly good-looking, and not just in a superficial way. They look very fit and very healthy. Jeans, boots and jackets are commonly worn and they look great. And they quite commonly make eye contact with you, like I’ve almost never seen other girls do. It’s quite momentary, just a simple friendly acknowledgement that you’re there; and it’s delightfully natural. I thought it was my imagination at first, but it kept happening all the time.

There is virtually no fear detectable on the streets. There’s none of that tension you feel in London at all. People are very respectful and courteous; in fact, almost courtly to each other. When you buy something they say the price out loud, and place your change and the receipt on a special plate in front of you on the counter, so you can inspect and check that it’s correct. This happens regardless of what sort of shop it is, or how large or affluent it is. If they can’t speak English when you ask, they’re almost apologetic. And when English is spoken, it’s almost always perfect. The occasional one (usually a former backpacker) even emulates an Aussie accent (and a real one too, not the strange exaggerated rubbish Brits or Americans usually attempt).

It also suddenly strikes me that I have seen few fat people here. Maybe it’s all cycling. Actually, did see two fat girls at one stage, but as they went past they were speaking English with American accents!

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