This morning we met Felix and Nadine at the "Rathaus Glockenspiel", a famous attraction in downtown Munich. Every day at 11AM and 5PM, the clock tower in the town hall comes to life with bells, chimes and animatronics.
As we watched old figurines dance and spin, knights in shining armor joust, and a wedding procession stuck in a never-ending merry-go-round, Felix explained that the building the spectacle is housed in (the town hall) was built to look much older than it is. Even though it seems like something constructed in the 15th century, it actually just over a hundred years old!
While nifty, the clock tower was a bit long-winded, running for a full fifteen minutes. We'd seen more than enough after ten, so we wheeled our bikes to Felix and Nadine's favorite breakfast place. Unfortunately, it was closed. Instead, we headed to Hofbräuhaus, one of Munich's famous breweries.
The service was unusually slow. We waited at least half an hour to be served our drinks, and the food came even later. None of us had eaten anything, so it was a little frustrating when several people who were seated after us got their drinks and food first. Oh well. I think our waiter was having a bad day.
We quickly forgot about our misfortune when the food arrived: weisswurst sausages served in porcelain pots of piping hot water. Along with it, we each got a little ceramic bowl of sweet mustard and a big chewy pretzel. I think the last time I had a giant pretzel was at a local skating rink for a party in grade school! I've been missing out. It was really, really good. While we ate, Felix pointed out that normally you're supposed to have a white yeasty beer with this meal, but after last night, none of us were particularly interested in this part of the tradition.
When we were through, we took a mini tour around the interior of Hofbräuhaus. Lots of people were dressed in traditional Bavarian attire: lederhosen and dirndl. The scene was so stereotypically German, it felt like we were in a movie. One of the coolest things about Hofbräuhaus (to me) is that some of the regulars have a sign with their name on it above the table they frequent! I assume this is reserved for people who have been visiting for several decades?
Another service for regulars: storing your own beer stein in a little mug-locker until your next visit! I knew Germans took their beer drinking seriously, but wow.
On our way out, an Oompah band in the middle of the cafeteria started playing a tune:
After listening to the music for a bit, we headed outside to ferry our bicycles over to Felix and Nadine's. We'll be staying with them for a day or two! On the way, they gave us a whirlwind tour of the city.
We stopped in an incredibly ornate church which had been rebuilt after being almost completely destroyed in World War II:
Just outside, a quintet of buskers were playing. They were all extremely talented, and I was thrilled when they consented to my taking a recording. I held my mic about one foot away from the string bass for the duration of Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie" (famous in pop culture for its appearance in the film A Clockwork Orange). I've never been able to put my finger on exactly why, but listening to classical music live always makes me want to cry. I didn't want to leave!
While Nadine and Tara visited the church, and I was busy recording, Felix made himself right at home with our gear!
One our way back to their flat, Felix took Tara's bike for a spin. He reports it is easier to ride than push! Back at their apartment, we dropped our things off, they grabbed their bikes, and we headed out for another ride (this time unloaded!). The sunny skies lasted all day, a welcome change of pace from the weeks of rain which have prevailed here lately.
The first stop was a local gelateria. We all enjoyed our ice cream, sitting on a stairwell outside the shop. I really miss gelato!
Our next destination was the local surf spot, where we wanted to watch our friend Helen carving some waves! Munich is famous for (and may be the birthplace of?) river surfing. One of the city's rivers is dammed(?) in such a way that it provides a continuous wave to be ridden. Apparently the practice used to be illegal, but since the place was constantly inundated with surfers, the law has been repealed.
Everyone lines up on either side of the water, waiting patiently for their turn. Once a surfer us up, their round lasts until they fall, or, if they are very good, when they decide to give up the wave.
We watched Helen for awhile, marveling at the concept of surfing in a river, and then continued onwards. As we rode, Tara and I constantly remarked to one another how much fun it is to zip around town unloaded with a group of cyclists. I see road bikes in our future!
Our next stop was Olympia park (the site of the '72 Summer Olympics) for a music festival. On the way, we stopped to visit the hermitage of a strange old monk that lived on the grounds. After World War II, he just appeared in Munich, saying he was a Russian monk.
He made himself a home amidst the hills of rubble (to re-build Munich, they first had to dispose of the bombed mess, which they carried far into the outskirts of town and piled up in big hills). Out of nothing, he built a house and church, lived with his nun/partner/girlfriend, kept bees, and worked in his garden. Cool guy!
This is what the place looks like today.
We both loved this photo of the monk and his ladyfriend:
He looks like a nice guy, though a bit eccentric!
The church was really weird, and the whole ceiling was covered in tinfoil. Maybe for insulation? Decoration? Waterproofing? Who knows.
Through with our tour, we rode over to the park that threatened to take over the man's property until enough people in Munich (in the 70s) signed a petition to ensure he could stay there.
What a beautiful afternoon! Perfect temperature. Perfect light. Great friends. Lots of bikes. Good beer and sausages. Great conversation. What more could you ask for? It was heaven.
I guess there is one thing I might've asked for: better music. Most of it was terrible! Our favorite song was "Nice Pants", during which two German girls bobbed their heads up and down and sang "Nice Pants Nice Pants! Nice Pants Nice Pants!" over and over again. There was also a line in there about her horse, and how it was her best horse, and that she couldn't sell him. Weird.
We love Munich, and we love our new friends.
When we had had enough of nice pants, we headed in the direction of home. But, were again waylaid by an additional stop. This time, we climbed a really steep hill (feeling like superheros on our unloaded bikes) to see the view over Olympia park.
After a fantastic, full day, we rode back home for yet more good beer, and and a dinner of leftovers from the gathering last night. Often our trip feels like a job (an incredibly rewarding one, but a job nonetheless). Today, it was a carefree holiday adventure.