The 11:52AM Munich train from Bologna Centrale left right on time… and that’s not simply because we were on the super efficient Deutsche Bahn (the German national railway line). Maybe we were just lucky, but all the trains that we took in Italy were on time, too. And even their labor disputes are handled in a civilized manner. When the trains stop running because of a strike, it’s announced ahead of time, and they only stop running between the morning commute and the evening commute. After all, people have to get to and from school and work.
Our only problem was that we missed a stop on our first regional train trip because we couldn’t figure out how to open the door – and the train stops for only a minute or two.
The train doors in Italy are like the toilets used to be 40 years ago – they all work differently. For years, American travellers in Europe were baffled and intrigued by the mindboggling number of ways there was to flush a toilet. Back home, no matter where you went, all the toilets had a lever on the left side, behind the seat. But in Europe, there were chains hanging from above, push buttons in the most unlikely places, peddles on the floor, etc… it’s been written about ad nauseum. I’m sure there’s been a book published about it.
The first-class car to Munich was nearly empty for the 6 ½ hour trip, so we spread ourselves out. Steve had his own personal “business” compartment where he could work on his blog in solitude, Debra and I got comfy in a 6-person compartment, and Kelly split her time between the two. The bar car was only one car away.
We only booked 2 nights in Munich, as usual. I can’t handle any more than that, because of all the weisswurst, bratwurst, spaetzle, wiener schnitzel, schweinshaxe (crispy roasted pork knuckle), sauerkraut, and dumplings. I love all of it, but how can anyone eat that way for more than 2 days in a row?
And then there’s the beer. I know that some Americans believe that our micro-breweries make the best beer - their primary argument being that there is such a wide variety of styles, flavors, etc… Someone actually told me once (he’d been to Germany once for one day) that the Germans only made 4 or 5 different kinds of beers. Seriously??
First of all, the variety issue is a misconception brought about when someone sees only one brand of beer in a beer hall. I guess that it's not apparent that most beer gardens and beer halls are associated with a single brewery. If you got to the Augustiner beer garden, you’re going to get Ausustiner beer; if you go to the Hofbräuhaus, you're going to be served HB beer; if you to go the Weisses Bräuhaus, you're going to get Scheider Weisse (my favorite!). And so on…
If you have time to get around the city a little, some of the different styles of beers that you might see in Munich include Weisenbier, Weißbier, Weizenbock, Roggenbier, Berliner Weisse, Leipziger Gose, Hefeweizen, Kristallweizen, Kölsch, Helles, Pilsener, Altbier, Export, Spezial, Bock, Maibock, Eisbock, Märzen, Cloister beer, Altbier, Schwarzbier, Dunkles, Dunkler Bock, Rauchbier, Doppelbock, Weihnachtsbier, and Kellerbiers (unfiltered beer). And these are not wimpy beers, the alcohol content ranges anywhere from 5.2% to 12.5%.
But personally, I don’t need 100 different kinds of beer anyway. I drink draft beer in Germany because I like the way it tastes and I like the buzz it gives. I don’t drink much American beer because I don’t like the way it tastes. It’s that simple.
On our last night in Munich, we did manage to eat a non-traditional German meal. It can be done. Like in any big, cosmopolitan city, restaurants in Munich cover a spectrum that offers a wide range of creative, appetizing culinary styles. And we even had wine with dinner.