The Englishcher Garten
I awoke late today, after a long night training my replacement in the book shipping business back in Colorado. Lets just say she was not amused that I had failed to leave her better instructions. But at least we were still talking to one another at the end of the evening, which doesn’t always happen when I try to explain computer operations to that lovely lady. (She finds it unbelievable that anyone would pay me for my teaching skills, and I find it unbelievable that anyone could use a computer for 15 years and still not understand how windows work, but we have agreed to set aside our differences for the sake of economic necessity.)
The weather was spectacular again this morning, but I’ve lived in Colorado long enough to know weather like this can’t last this time of year. I decided I wanted to catch what could be the last of the good weather at the Englischer Garten, which I had heard is a haven for sunbathers. I couldn’t wait to get another peek at those men in their thong bikinis. They made such an impression on me estray, I believe I dreamed about them all night long. At least there was a good deal of tossing and turning and crying out.
The Englischer Garten is one of Europe’s largest city parks. It is something on the order of Central Park in New York City. It is located near the Studentenstadt (literally, “student city”) where Brian lives. The park consists of grassy areas and woodlands, with streams running through, and dozens upon dozens of bike and foot paths winding their way from one end of the park to the other. Beer gardens are found on either end of the park and are a reward for all that unseemly exercise. But beer is not why I am here. My guide book suggests “the grassy areas are crowded with nude sunbathers in summer,” which sounds like something I ought to make it my business to see, given my reporting duties here.
But, alas, the men are gone. (Perhaps exiled to places like the Tennisplatz, it occurs to me now.) Here one finds only lithe young men and women, cavorting around nude. Well, alright, maybe they are “cavorting ”only in my imagination. In reality, they are just laying there getting a bit of sun, and at that, too far from the paths to really see much of anything. It’s OK, but it’s not nearly as exciting as yesterday, that’s for sure! The thousands of other clothed bikers and walkers in the park don’t seem to be paying any attention to them, and finally I decide that’s what I’ll do, too. Besides, I’m too busy worrying about whether I am going to make it to the next beer garden before I collapse of thirst!
|Englischer Garten: A view of one of the grassy areas in the Englischer Garten. Myriad bike and foot trails wind their way through the park, along with the occasional stream. It seems like a good place to go birding, but I’m guessing an Amerikaner with field glasses would not be welcome here.|
Good Beer and Good Jazz
Since I knew I would be walking quite a distance today, I put my CD player and German language CDs in my bag this morning. As I walked along, I listened to (and repeated) German phrases. Apparently the ear phones, which are good ones, don’t allow you to know exactly how loud it is you are speaking, because I got more than one strange look this morning as I walked along mumbling, “Nein, ich bin nicht ein Amerikaner. Ich bin ein Janpanier.”
Anyway, my language skills are increasing by leaps and bounds. I feel like one of those 18-month old children who learn dozens of new words each day. It’s startling to be having a conversation with yourself and have German words just appear out of the blue. (Could this be that high-school German finally kicking in?) The odd thing is that I speak nearly fluent German when I am mumbling under my breath, but as soon as I have to speak out loud to someone other than the numerous German dogs running around loose in the park, I completely freeze. Sounds come out that are not anything like what I am intending. It is very disconcerting. I feel great empathy today for all those people with speech impediments. To me it sounds like someone trying to speak guttural German with a Spanish, or possibly Italian, accent. Here in Munich I can just pretend it is Bayernische, a local dialect virtually no one else in Germany can understand. But it will give me some problems if I travel far from home, I’m afraid.
I was thinking about this as I finally reached the end of the path, and the beer garden, in the Englischer Garten. There were a number of items on the menu, and I was hungry, but I couldn’t quite work up the nerve to ask for something I hadn’t practiced on the dogs 10 or 15 times. Finally, I said what everyone in Germany understands: “Ein bier, bitte.” There is sometimes some nonsense after this, when the person taking my order tries to ask me what kind of beer I want, “dunkle ur weiss”, etc. But I just stare at them and say “Ja.” Sooner or later they get the idea and bring me a beer. I don’t care what kind it is. They are all great.
So I sat down with my beer and a big pretzel (probably 15 inches round) and all of a sudden a jazz quartet started playing. I guess I thought jazz was an American phenomenon. I really didn’t expect to hear it in Munich, and especially in the middle of Oktoberfest. I guess I was expecting polka music, something like that. This was a pleasant surprise. The music was wonderful, the day was wonderful, the people around me were wonderful. Only my German was lousy.
|Jazz at the Englischer Garten: Nothing like a sunny day in the Fall, smooth music, good beer, and a big pretzel to cause you to relax. It’s nearly enough to get your mind off your problems. But, of course, I still had to get back to my apartment and life is always an adventure.|
An U-Bahn Lesson
Just when I was starting to feel a bit comfortable riding on the U-Bahn, I learned another little lesson about the trains. They don’t exactly run on weekends the way they do during the week. If my guide book mentioned this, I failed to see it.
During the week, if I want to go home, I can jump on any U6 line going north to Garching-Hochbrück, the end of the line, and within walking distance of my apartment. I tried that today and about two stops from home I noticed that everyone got off the train in my car, but me. I thought that was a bit odd, so I started to look around. Everyone had gotten off the train! Except me!!
And, of course, by this time the doors had closed and I was locked in. The train pulled slowly out of the station, onto some side tracks, and stopped. Oh, my goodness. I had no food, just a swallow or two of water, I’m locked in a German train for God only knows for how many weeks or months, and I can’t even remember the German word for “Help!” I was in serious trouble.
Finally, I remember Brian telling me that if you ever got in trouble with the Munich police you should just act like a stupid American, they fall for it every time. Well, it was a reach for me, but I used to be in community theater, maybe I could pull it off. So, when the driver came walking by on his way to lunch or--I don’t know--holiday, I just smiled at him and gave him a little wave. He stopped dead in his tracks. Then I guess it hit him: “Amerikaner.” He told me to sit there for 10 minutes and then I would be released. Now I know I am suppose to look on the front of the U-Bahn train as it approaches and only get on trains that say Garching-Hochbrück. That’s the price you pay for not having public transportation in America.
I’m not sure how I knew this, perhaps from Brian’s previous experience in Germany, but I realized that most of the shops and stores in Germany are closed on Sunday. And, in particular, if you are thinking of eating anything on Sunday, you had better stock up on Saturday. So yesterday when I returned from Munich, I made sure I went to the food store before it closed. I thought I would celebrate my first weekend in Germany by cooking myself a little celebratory meal.
But, of course, after I got to the food store I realized that I hadn’t really done a thorough inventory of the kitchen, so I had no idea if I could even cook or cut a vegetable with the materials I had at hand. So I thought I might just go for one of those ready-to-eat meals that you pop into the oven or microwave (I knew I had both of those). I surveyed several in the store. I couldn’t read the directions on any of them, of course, but I saw 18 degrees centigrade on one, and “nur fünf minute” on another, and I thought anything that can be done in five minutes was OK with me.
Besides, the one I chose, the Beef Kabob, had a lovely presentation of the meal on the box. Meat on the left, rice on the right, a nice salad and some kind of creamy topping that looked good to me. Near the rice was something I thought looked like a squash dish. I was getting hungry just looking at it.
So this evening, after a late walk around the part of the village I hadn’t discovered yet, I came home all set for a nice meal. Imagine my surprise--not to mention disappointment--when I opened the box only to find a single bag of meat. Apparently--and I am certain it doesn’t say this on the box--you have to buy and cook all those other things separately. Here is a picture of my big meal. Welcome to Germany!
|Celebratory Meal: If anyone knows how to say “Better Business Bureau” in German, please let me know. I’m going to be filing a truth in advertising complaint. My celebratory meal turned out to be a bust (although the kabob was quite tasty) without the rest of the promised ingredients.|
Copyright © 2006 David W. Fanning
Last Updated 11 January 2006