Munich: the story

Neuschwanstein castle in Germany

A wonderful place and an unexpected experience

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After my experience in Rome, I immediately got the travel virus. Rome has, in my opinion, the gift of making you love sightseeing; it gives you so many options that you cannot leave unhappy from there.

Also, for me, it wasn’t a great cultural shock. Maybe because it’s a Latin nation, as the Romanian one; maybe because there were so many Romanians in there, so I heard the language almost everywhere; maybe because I was able to understand a little bit the Italian; I am not exactly sure why, but I didn’t quite feel that I was, in fact, very far away from home.

Well, the more you go East or West, the more differences you’ll find. It’s also not bad going North or South either, but it should be at least one country between the starting point and the ending one for the trip so that the difference can be easily spotted. Call this the Searching for diversity theorem, if you will. Yeah, I’m sure you liked maths and you missed theorems so much.

Things were also very different in Munich. My expectations about Germany were very low; this was the case mostly because I was so enclosed in my tiny universe, that I was also very biased and had so many childish and inappropriate prejudgments. You’ll see that in me on the way, I won’t hide anything, especially since I’m going to explain how I lost them, with or without help.

For example, I used to think people in Germany are cold, distant, workaholics, they don’t ever have fun and they hate foreigners with all their power. Yeah, I know, you have to be very obnoxious to think such things, but you’ve got to appreciate the moment when you’re not like that anymore.

We decided to go to Munich for a very good reason: we have a good friend there, he has been living in Bavaria for the last ten years. The poor guy made the mistake of inviting us, he probably didn’t think we’ll be up for it.

Well, kudos to that! We decided easily, especially since I finally had a job that was paying more than the minimum wage (not a lot more, don’t get excited). To level this salary raise, I had that type of boss that, if you had a vacation for a Friday and a Monday, plus the weekend in between, he was saying that you have four days of vacation, and he also used to ask you why do you need those days.

For example, he asked me why I needed 6 vacation days (of course, there were four and a weekend), for my brother’s wedding, which was taking place in Cluj, and the Bucharest – Cluj trip is an 8-9 hours drive, on Romanian roads. I still don’t have a proper answer to that question, but I promised I would send him the answer, once I have it.

But yes, in this context, we bought our plane tickets; we thought that the worse that he could do was to fire me, in which case I’m not quite sure I would have been upset or disappointed. We decided to leave Thursday and come back Monday evening, taking advantage of the lower fares and that we didn’t pay for the accommodation.

Arriving in Munich

That day, the guy that is now my husband took the baggage with him at the office, since he was working closer to the airport, and I only had a small backpack. The plan was to meet at the airport after we had left the office at about 4 PM.

He took a taxi and was on time, but I was a little late because I decided to take the bus. It took me about two hours to reach the airport, where he was waiting for me in the security line. After a decent run, I reached the security line, where they stopped me for a random check-up.

This was probably to let me know that my first flight was the most uneventful one, so they checked me and my baggage for explosive materials and other dangerous goods. Of course, there was nothing wrong, but you’re still panicked when this happens the first time. The flight itself was smooth, and I still remember the flight attendant that, seeing that we were analyzing a transport map, told us that he could help us if we have problems finding our information because he was born and raised in Munich.

It felt nice of him to say that and it also felt like a first stone thrown into my window of prejudgments. But the driver-less train that took us from one terminal to the other, and taking the train that was going under and over the ground level, and that had also the nerve to be on time, this train was the first brick that led to the above-mentioned theorem.

First day in Bavaria

Our host never stopped taking care of us. The first day we went, at his recommendation, to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the inspiration for the Disney castle.

We brought a group Bavaria pass since it’s already cheaper to buy this if more than one person is making the trip, and this ticket gave us the right to use any means of transportation in Bavaria, and I mean the trains, buses or trams. We entered the train, with my giant coffee, my almost closed eyes which wanted more sleep, but with the beautiful place, we’re going to see wondering through our minds.

I honestly thought I was going to catch some sleep while the train was moving but I cannot sleep if the train doesn’t do the special sound it does in Romania. What kind of train is that? Trains in Germany are silent? But how do they sleep, if the train doesn’t rock them like babies?

I calmed down after I had started to see, in the distance, some beautiful mountains. Surrounded by large and green fields, with lakes that act as mirrors, these mountains left me speechless, which rarely happens – really, everyone who knows me knows that already. After we had looked a little bit for the return options and took the bus to reach the castle, we took our place at the end of a huge line to get the tickets for the Neuschwanstein and the Hohenschwangau, the two castles we wanted to visit, which are different sides of the megalomania Ludwig the second of Bavaria suffered from.

Yeah, I don’t exactly remember why we didn’t have on-line tickets for it, but I remember this line like it was yesterday, this is how much it took out of my life. When we had the tickets, we started going uphill, while lots of tourists were staying in another line to use the bus, for a decent price, of course.

Even though it was some distance to climb, everything was covered in asphalt and there were plenty of trees that provided enough shade, so we just stopped a little bit on the way up to have some ice-cream, because we felt we deserved it after that huge queue. We eventually arrived near the top, a place that has the best view over the greenest panorama I’ve seen in my life, guarded by a blue sky and some painted clouds.

My eyes still hurt since I tried to hug that whole view with one look. After this, we moved to another platform so see another great view: the imposing castle, built almost at the top of the hill, surrounded by mountains, forests, waterfalls, and lakes. There, in all that beauty, and a sea full of tourists sticking their selfie sticks in the air the abyss, there I was proposed to.

Say what? Yes, you read that right, this trip was both beautiful and surprising, and not only concerning the places we visited. That’s why I cannot tell you a lot of stuff about this day, because I immediately started to cry like a loser and then I had a mental black-out.

I honestly don’t remember anything from that castle’s interior. I asked him about that day, so I could still write the article, and I started to remember a few things, but not a lot.

For example, at one moment, we reached a balcony with a nice view of the mountains that were surrounding a lake, and a nice lady offered to take a picture of us. She took two, both of them foggy.

After, we chose an alternate way to reach a bridge that was offering a very nice view of the castle, which was, of course, filled with tourists. We reached the second castle after a walk in the woods and we almost managed to understand something from the tour, even though there was also a group of three people, and only one of them was speaking English, so he was translating to the other guys while the guide was still telling her stories.

After that, I have no idea how, because I’m afraid of deep water, we went for a ride with a boat, but not before managing to fell on my knees because the guy that was taking care of the boats decided to push me in the boat instead of just keeping it still while I try to get into it.

The lake was amazing, with the water being calm and clean, guarded by mountains all around and by para-gliders from above (my boyfriend, now my future husband, is also a paraglider), and also with the incredible quietness nature’s going to offer if you don’t intrude too much.

I have no idea how I kept breathing on the lake. He says I didn’t even complain too hard, which is a thing I rarely do. I have no idea, I think it was the magic ring that gave me the strength to get over this.

A little bit of this magic passed when we reached the train station, after a huge meal at an Italian restaurant, because we didn’t eat anything else but the breakfast, and we discovered that our last train had left already. We did check the schedule when we arrived, but we kept in mind that it was one train per hour, and we thought it was enough.

It wasn’t; after 7 PM the schedule was different and it didn’t include a train to Munich anymore. Of course, we panicked. We called our friend, but he didn’t answer. We asked someone at the train station, but he didn’t know how to help us. We finally found a nice young lady who helped us: “Come on, let’s look at the ticket machine. Select the destination. This is the itinerary, does it look good? OK, let’s print it then, you already have the ticket for the whole day.”.

That was it. We had tickets. We had to make a change in a different train station, but the itinerary also included the platform we needed to go to, and it was very close. We did get back the same evening, even if it didn’t look like that three hours before, being interrupted only by a ticket checker that told us we had to also write our names on the ticket so that we could not use it for more than five people as allowed.

When we reached home, no one noticed the ring, and not even the fact that I was dizzy didn’t raise any question marks, because it’s not a huge difference from the way I usually am. Yeah, a nice castle I assume, too bad I don’t remember anything about it.

The second day in Munich

Because the second day was going to be a rainy one, we decided to spend it in the largest technical museum in the world, Deutsche Museum. And I can understand why it’s being considered the largest one.

At the underground level, they have a mine put together, where the temperature is similar to the one in the mine, it smells like sulfur and you can easily see how each ore is extracted.

After that, you can enter into a large ship and visit everything above and below the ship’s hold, including engine and command rooms.

Above this ship, there are some flying devices, including the one developed by Traian Vuia (Romanian inventor).

In other rooms you can see different types of water and windmills, how did the houses look in different ages, how’s the metalworking done for each type of metal, and how is glass or paper made, including live demonstrations.

You can also find out the history of musical instruments, and you can hear the newest and shiniest piano model singing by itself; also, you can see huge chapters about telecommunications, computers and mobile phones, together with large spaces made specifically for scientific experiments that anyone can attend.

A huge area is designed for medicine and pharmacy, the evolution of medical methodology, casts and 3D simulations of different cell types or full-grown organs (I saw how a mitochondrion looks like, my Biology teacher from high school would be proud of me) and also we analyzed different medical instruments.

The last floors were designed for space research, so they were full of telescopes, star maps and videos with different experiments, one being a Big Bang simulation.

The museum is fascinating, we spent an entire day there without getting bored. Unfortunately, we got tired until we reached the third floor, and we couldn’t enjoy it the same after.

It was also the first museum where we had the chance to try things, and it was us and the seven-year-olds that were touching absolutely everything. For me, the interactive museum concept was a new one; the fact that “Don’t touch!” was replaced by “Do you want to try?” was mind-blowing.

Maybe more kids would like science if they would see these types of museums. I am still sad that the exhaustion broke us so bad that we didn’t fully enjoy the whole museum. Next time we’re there we start with the last floor and maybe, MAYBE, we’ll feel we have covered everything properly.

From there, we barely walked to a sports store because I wanted to buy some boots for the snowboard (the best moment to buy these is in the summer, I know. And yes, I did bring my empty trolley specifically for this, so our entire luggage was actually a backpack), where we met only nice and helpful people, that advised us extremely well and made jokes, so they made us feel really special.

I know it is part of their job to be nice, but these people looked genuine and they could have been professionals without being funny and sweet. This was another brick thrown into the black glass of my prejudgments, and I started to see a little bit about how’s the world behind the blinding glasses of ignorance.

I’ve been told, in other contexts, that this area is Bavaria, and not Germany, that people are different in there, but I didn’t have the chance to compare for now.

We reached home and, even though we asked our friends to join us for dinner downtown because we wanted to thank them somehow for their generosity and warmth, they still didn’t want to get out with us. Still, we witnessed an interesting scene between them: our friend bringing a bouquet of parsley to his wife, and her, while we were rolling on the floor laughing, being very happy for the gift.

We were already thinking that this is how a couple looks like after some years of marriage, glazing into the future, but then we found out that they rarely find parsley in the stores, and usually in the Arabic style ones, which made that gift very special indeed. I have to specify that, in Romania, parsley is widely spread and used, mostly in soups, so it’s a pretty important ingredient in multiple recipes. With a lot of effort, we convinced them to join us for a dinner out the next day, after I waved the ring (no, no one noticed until that time).

Third day in Munich

The next day was going to be casual, so we visited some specific gates (tor), which we looked for throughout the whole city.

After that, we were happy to visit a Pinacoteca, which was formed out of open art galleries, Saturday, for a small amount of money like one euro, so that everyone has access to art and culture. We choose a classical art exhibition, thinking we weren’t exactly ready for modern art, and we had the chance to see impressive paintings.

It was my first time seeing the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, Boticelli, Raphael, Da Vinci or Titian. Of course, many paintings were representing religious themes, and it wasn’t very interesting for us, but the working methods, the dedication and the level of detail impressed us both.

From there we went to the Nymphenburg Palace, which we didn’t have time to visit also inside, but we had a small walk in its gardens, together with the ducks and swans that were having a walk near us, freshly out of the pond. The birds were very relaxed, walking near people without fear, probably being already used to large groups of tourists nearby.

As a large and presumably violent rain was approaching, we left the place and we went to meet our friends near the old Town Hall, which is a monument itself. The dinner took place where they recommended us, a Bavarian-style restaurant, and consisted of a pig’s leg with cabbage and apple pie with vanilla, paired with the smallest beer mug of a quarter of a gallon; as a comparison, the breakfast consisted in some pretzels with Weisswurst (a specific Bavarian sausage) with honey mustard and a beer.

Yes, at breakfast. Maybe that’s the reason we weren’t hungry until 7 or 8 PM. And maybe that’s why everyone considers the Bavarians being the nicest ones around.

The last day in Munich

The last day was spent in a rush because we had to catch the flight back so we visited my first zoo park. I know, it’s horrible I like to go to zoos, I already feel awful for this, you don’t need to throw things. At least this park showed me that this can be done another way.

Here, animals are not kept in cages; they have large spaces at their disposal, surrounded by a small river and a 1.5 feet tall fence. Also, animals that go together in the same habitat in their environment, are put together here, if they don’t use the other guys as food, of course.

In here, I had the chance to see everything I didn’t see before – giraffes (those are the first in my list, and I already dream to visit Kenya to see those up close), lions, polar bears, elephants, penguins, rhinos, zebras, flamingos and different types of reptiles.

The soon-to-be-my-husband entered a dark cave where bats were flying around freely, and he was relying only on their echolocation system that he won’t get hurt.

I saw types of fish I hope to see while snorkeling, one day. I saw the saddest polar bear that looked like it was on the sets of Coca-Cola commercials. We entered an area which was covered with a net mounted very high so that the birds can fly freely, and another one which had the temperature similar to the one from a tropical zone, very hot and humid, where we saw a small lizard on a trash can.

We also saw something called a petting zoo, a place where children can play with the animals, usually small sheep, and goats. There are some pictures in which I, the fearfullest person alive, am touching with my finger one goat’s horn, or I hold one straw to feed to the sweet animal. I’m so strong, right?

In the same photos, in the background, you can also see some five-year-olds, with their hands deep down into the goat’s mouth, or playing with the animals like they’re fluffy toys. So what, I’m still strong!

We also saw some wolves in the sun, tanning, and how penguins and lions are fed. We saw the best monkeys, lots of species, some of them posing for the cameras or hanging on some ropes; some of them were carrying their children like they were humans and some others were not so highly educated and were scratching their you-know-what.

For me, this was impressive, I saw what I didn’t see in the rest of my years on this planet. After this episode, I couldn’t go to the Zoo in Romania again, since I couldn’t bear (bear…haha…see what I did there?) to see how those guys are keeping the animals.

Coming back

We left Munich in a hurry because I was too mesmerized by the giraffes and spent too much time in there. While taking off, we had the chance to see the nice view of the city from above. And after we went above the clouds, we started to think we have to organize two important things in our lives.

The first one would be the wedding. As an irony, when I went to an interview after a few months (you didn’t think I spent more time at that job, with that great boss, right?), I met Andreea. Andreea was usually interviewing people for the whole company, not only for her team. But that day, she had to attend an interview to fill in a position in her team. Somehow, we touched the subject of the wedding, and I found out she was proposed to at Neuschwanstein.

She showed me her engagement ring and, on the inside facet, the name of the castle was written. She had the wedding date set and it was a month after our wedding; yes, by now we already knew our date. An instant connection was created between the two of us, and it was the way that karma decided to let me know that was a good job for me. Karma is, as you will also see in other articles, rarely this good to me. But in this case, it was.

And the second thing we had to organize is still in the making: I’m talking about our marriage, which is still ongoing.

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