Monday, March 23, 2009

Munich, Germany - Day 1 - Arrival

So, we arrived in Munich a little disorientated and pretty tired from lack of quality sleep. We had left San Fran in the evening and with the length of the flight and the difference in time zone we arrived, I think, in the afternoon (2 or 3pm rings a bell).

As Sha was using her British passport, she went through the Euro customs border, whereas I went through the 'everyone else' border. Needless to say, it was a lot quicker for her.

At the border entry, I was asked for the purpose of my visit, I said "I'm on the way to the UK to find work". The guy behind the counter gave me this strange look and wished me "Good luck". Many months later, I came to understand what he meant.

As I pushed my trolley laden with suitcases out, I past some security/customs people. With nothing to declare, I simply walked straight past them. They stopped me. Then they asked if I had any alcohol or cigarettes in my bag. I said I didn't smoke and there was no alcohol in my bag (more's the pity). They then seemed more interested in what country I was from and what I was going to do in Munich. If I was in France, I'm sure they would have asked me to do the haka! However, they did help me by pointing out where to catch the bus from.

On the other side, I quickly spotted Sha - turns out, she had no hassles with the freeze dried coffee she had declared. Ironically, Sha had purchased it in America when it was packed and sent from Germany in the first place! I think the whole 'declare any and everything' stems from living in NZ, where the biosecurity thing is taken very seriously.

We then headed outside to wait for the bus. As soon as we got outside, we noticed how cold it was. Freezing! America was warm, Munich was not.

Now, Sha and I were both guilty of not learning any German before our brief stay. This wasn’t too much of a problem as everyone here seems to speak (or at the very least understand) English to some degree. I do think that next time we travel to a non-English speaking country we will learn some basics!

The first person we encountered outside was a roughly dressed little man, who wandered towards us and asked something about ‘da boos’. We just nodded, said ‘ya’ and pointed to the pick up point. This seemed to satisfy him as he then shuffled off, turned his back, pulled out a bottle and proceeded to fill it up. I guess it beats using the facilities inside the airport! I was a little taken aback, especially as he then put the bottle into his little rucksack. As Sha mentioned, maybe this is normal behaviour for men like him. The now full bottle could also act as a hot water bottle – heaven knows it was cold enough!

The bus arrived and we began our trip to the centre of Munich. A 40 mile trip, so gave us plenty of time to watch the scenery fly by (no speed limit on the highway over here). I think it was around 4pm or so, and rapidly getting very dark – I’m not used to it being dark so early, I tell you!

The bus driver was quite gruff and not really interested in talking to two tourists whose grasp of the German language was zilch. When we arrived at our destination (outside the Munich train station), we took a look at the instructions of how to get to our accommodation and tried to get there. We asked the bus driver for help and he pointed us down the road, but in another direction to the instructions we had and the language barrier made it even trickier. We then wandered around through the train station and eventually found our way to the hostel, although it took much longer than we had anticipated. Turns out the directions from the travel website, were, of course, slightly wrong. Guess that means the bus driver did know what he was talking about after all. Hmmm, maybe we should let the Flight Centre know that they're instructions aren't that great...oh well, I'm sure other Kiwis will get to experience this for themselves! It’s always hard to find your way around when you have just arrived, are cold and tired and are dazzled by everyone speaking a non-native tongue.

Wombats was a studenty type hostel – as we were both exhausted, we checked into our room as quickly as we could. It seems they had mucked up our reservation and given us two single beds, but not to worry as we could change it the following day. We had a quick look around the hostel before sleeping until Wednesday morning, where we had a walking tour planned. Sha and I are now firm fans of the walking tour as they give you a bit of history and context of a new place and afterwards you are free to explore for yourselves, without feeling like a complete tourist!

One of the perils of writing up the trip so late - I can't remember if it was this night that we went to a lovely Italian place for dinner. Anyway, at some point, we had an awesome Italian dinner. Actually, we had Italian twice while we were here.

Well, next post (yes, will be up much quicker than this one) will be tomorrow! Join Sha and me for a walk around Munich. And a talking moose (or was it a reindeer...?)

Update 30/3/2009: Ooops, I made two mistakes in the above post (doesn't surprise me really). It appears that it wasn't the Flight Centre that had the instructions wrong, but the (non Flight Centre) website we got them from. It also appears we arrived a lot later in the day than I thought - It was around 5 or 6pm. Good to get these memories correctly recorded for posterity!

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