Monday, May 14, 2012

The Legal Alien's Return - The Goldbergs in Munich Day 1

I had several reasons for my longing to take an extended trip to Munich this year.  One being the desire to return to the city that had captured my heart and changed the course of my life when I was expatriated by Siemens at the young age of 23 in 1999.  Second was wanting to share the experiences I held so dearly during that 2 year time period with my now wife and best friend, Hannah.  You may remember her from the Goldberg's Adventures in Australia.  The third was to discover if 13 years and countless life experiences later I still held the same fondness for the city and country who's storied and controversial past seems to forever loom in the minds of those that have never taken the time to really get to know and understand it and its people.  Hannah knew how important this trip was to me and for my 35th birthday I received a 5 Euro note and the promise that I'd get to spend it in Munich....and a year later the trip became a reality.

We arrived in Munich to torrential rains in the early morning of Saturday, May 12, 2012.  The long planned trip was afoot...and the happy couple, in much need of a vacation and an escape from reality, tried our best to put the real world of the New York City rat race behind us.  We knew full well that the pace of life in Europe was slower and more emphasis exists on life than work, and as a whole, the people work to live, not vice versa.

As soon as we landed and got off the plane I immediately remembered exactly what we needed to do...head through immigration, get our bags, get to the S-Bahn, take the S-Bahn to the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), get a Weissbier (white beer) and Weisswurst (white sausage), the breakfast of all German champions.  All of the memories of countless trips in and out of this beautiful, seemingly always empty airport came back to me.  What also came back to me was just how easy getting from place to place in Munich is, the trains are immaculate, always run on time and frequently, and there is no shortage of signage (or sausage).  Once you get used to reading the subway maps, there is no part of the Munich area that isn't accessible.

We had a few hours before we were allowed to check into our apartment, so we eased the pain by taking a stroll through the beautiful Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt.  This area is best seen on a Saturday or Sunday morning, as soon as the shoppers descend it becomes more frustrating than relaxing to take in the fairy tale like buildings and sites.  Feeling that strange jet lag hunger that seems to come out of nowhere and makes you commiserate with the Donner Party, we ducked into one of the only local establishments open at this time, Schneider Weise Weisses Brauhaus.  Here I introduced Hannah to her first true Bavarian Breakfast of the aforementioned Weisswurst and Weissbier...of course she was more thrilled with the pretzels and sweet mustard.

As we made our way back to the apartment, we stopped again by the Viktualienmarkt to pick up some fresh fruit for the apartment.  When the seemingly nice (but apparently evil) Bavarian women told us in German how much the cherries cost, I smiled and told her I understood.  As she picked up the mango, held it in her hands, put it up to her nose, took a deep breath and smiled, we knew we were in good hands, she would never steer us wrong.  We asked her for half a kilo of cherries, a mango, and a tray of strawberries.  I handed her a 100 euros, she gave me 30 back.  As we walked away, both counting the change in our head, we looked at each other with a mutual feeling of panic.  Why had we just spent 70 euros on fruit?  Apparently, the cherries were from the King's private stash.  Now, I would have taken this as a life lesson, and sucked it up...thank god for my wife...she encouraged (forced) me to go back, explain that we didn't realize the cherries had golden pits, and we wanted our money back.  After much back in forth, neither of us understanding anything the other was saying, we won....or didn't get defeated, depending on how you look at it. 

After the cherry situation we made our way by S-bahn back to our apartment at Bayerstrasse 79.  The apartment was perfect, beautiful, well situated close (but not too close) to the main train station, and large enough to allow us to make us feel at home.  Actually, relative to the size of our NYC apartment, Bayerstrasse 79 is a palace, complete with washer/dryer, dishwasher, and a kitchen large enough for two of our NYC kitchens.  The apartment also boasts free landline calls to the USA so Hannah can call home every 5 minutes for 4 minutes, and also wireless internet so Hannah can Skype with her family in between phone calls home.

After a much needed siesta we headed to meet our good friends, Ciaran, Danka and 2 year old Finian Murphy, who had recently returned to Munich from New York City.  We had a very light meal of Schweinbraten (pig) and Schweinhaxe (pig shoulder) and a few of Munich's best Helles at Hofbrau Keller at Wiener Platz.  The best part about the Hofbrau Keller is the children's indoor play area so the kids can entertain themselves while their parents get tanked and eat sausage.

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