This morning was taken up by chores, and after a late lunch we took a walk in town. We headed off down Goethe Strasse from the Hauptbahnhof, and found ourselves in an odd neighborhood. Interspersed with restaurants and groceries selling Turkish food were porn video palaces and sex toy stores. So we made a left turn and in one block found ourselves surrounded by medical book stores. Of course there was a medical school there, and the street was blocked off, with a parking attendant in a booth in the middle, only allowing hospital staff to enter and park. But we walked by as pedestrians, and eyeballed the doctors going in. It was a pediatric hospital. Then we reached the ring road and instead of going to Karlsplatz we turned right a couple more blocks to the Sendlinger Tor underground station which took us right back to our hotel, but we didn't see the Sendlinger Tor, or gate. This entire area had not been stressed by our guide books, but made an interesting walk with lots of quick contrasts.
Rather smugly, we hold ourselves distinct from the inhabitants of tour buses as we visit the same sights, clutching our guide books, perhaps taking a detour down a side alley. But we never seem to learn all the tricks of a city during our visits.
We have been using cities as hubs, staying in hotels near the train stations, buying transportation passes for each city, and occasionally making train excursions to outlying areas. We hope to get some feeling for the geography, the history, and especially the people of the regions we visit.
Big complex cities like Vienna and Munich would take months to understand; our observations and judgments are based not only on our observations, but our imperfect knowledge of the history and language. Sometimes our discoveries are small and immediate and piquant.
At the entrances to Munich subway stations, there are usually stairs and an escalator. Sometimes the escalator is stopped. It took us a while to learn that it isn't broken. If you step on it, it starts up and gives you a ride. But it took us even longer to learn that this is true whether we're going up or down. So if the escalator is going in the wrong direction, we can wait until it is empty, and stops, then step on and it goes the other way.
Of course we can also take the stairs. This is often a better idea, because just when the escalator is going to be empty and capable of reversing direction, someone may step on it in the direction it is going and of course it has to give that person a ride all the way to the end.
The Germans are very clever, making an escalator go both ways, but one has to wonder whether the cost in human frustration is worth the technological achievement.
Speaking of escalators, there's a store in Regensburg which has groups of three escalators; either two up and one down or vice-versa. We haven't figured that one out yet.
Shopping carts are chained together, and you need to deposit a coin to unlock one. Incidentally, the stores don't provide bags to carry your groceries: those are extra.
Apothekes are not the same as Drogeries. Drogeries are little stores which sell mostly cosmetics, feminine hygiene products, scented candles and herbal remedies. Many of these products are also available at Reformhaus, which appears to be similar to Body Shop.
In the Apothekes, kind, friendly, and earnest pharmacists tell you that Sudafed or Tums or hydrocortisone cream (all available over the counter in the U.S.) is not on the list of German-approved drugs, even with a prescription. They'll also be happy to recommend some other drug instead, and give you a free packet of tissues with your purchase.
Most of Munich seems to get their breakfast and lunch at Steh-Cafes, where you buy your sandwich and coffee and stand at a tiny table to eat.
Munichers drink beer in the morning, afternoon and evening. Seven million people come here for Oktoberfest, which ended just before we arrived. There are big tents and carnival rides and people drink beer for 16 days. Younger U.S. business travelers are happy to join in the beer-drinking, which is one of the biggest businesses in town.
In Germany there are paths for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, which gets pretty hairy when they all cross. To make matters worse, everybody drives, rides, or walks where they're not supposed to; many's the time we've been startled to see a Big Truck bearing down on silly us, who thought we were safe in the Pedestrian Zone!
You can get dry cleaning done in three days, but a bundle of laundry takes eight and is billed by the item. Of course you can get it faster for an extra charge.
Transport works on the honor system. You'd better have a valid card with you or you're liable to a $30 on-the-spot fine. But we've never seen anyone check peoples' cards. They probably know what cheaters look like.
We have seen the police and border patrol check immigration papers of those who look like they come from the Balkans.
We saw two Hare Krishna disciples, orange loinclothes, pigtail and all, passing out their books. in front of the Theatiner Kirch.
We saw a van picking up handicapped persons from the neighborhood. They were all waiting, at different points, in their electrically-powered wheelchairs. Eventually, the similarities of their handicaps registered: these are the Thalidomide babies, now being cared for as adults.
Germany likes its practical jokes. The Bavarian Wolpertinger is a fanged and horned rabbit, similar to the California Jackalope, only vicious-looking. We have seen several stuffed ones. Grimm's Fairy Tales and the Pied Piper are other German legends. The fancy about demons extended to the artist of the middle ages who painted a face on the rear end of a green devil.
We don't draw any conclusions from these disconnected observations, but they sure make our travels more interesting!