Tenth Email- Regensburg and the first days in Munich

Sent 14.1.2006


Quick reminder that this is the third in a series of emails, so it is best if you read them in order. All of the older ones can be found at www.nd.edu/~dmcgee/abroad/. Vienna was really nice besides the weather, so I'm glad I spent some time there. I probably could have used another day there, but the way the schedule started to fall into place there wasn't much room for that. My goal was to be in München (Munich) for New Year's Eve, and I was going to spend two nights in Regensburg with my friend Michael.

EC, or EuroCity trains, are the fastest trains in Europe besides the very expensive high-speed services. The EC trains only stop at main stations. The train I took from Vienna to Regensburg was moving at 200 km/hr at one point, or 125 mi/hr. That is pretty quick, and I made the over 400 km to Regensburg in 4 hours. I arrived just in time for Michael and his girlfriend to meet me in the train station. We then walked over to his apartment, which is currently being used by his brother while Michael studies in Dublin. Regensburg is home to a big German university, and there are quite a few people here in Dublin that study there. It was quite cold walking there, even though it was only 10 minutes away, and cold was the theme of Regensburg for the next two days. When we got to his apartment, Michael introduced me to one of his favourite Bavarian beers and we sat around and talked for a bit. His girlfriend studies English and French, so she was able to join in as well. We then headed off to an Italian restaurant in town, where we each had a huge pizza and a Radler, which is a 50/50 mix of a lager beer and sparkling lemonade. Sounds weird, but it is actually pretty good. The whole dinner and drink came to €8.50, which you couldn't even come close to doing in Dublin.

The next day I woke up and went breakfast shopping with some of Michael's roommates. We got the traditional meal, which consists of pretzels and weißwurst (white sausage). The sausage is not too bad. Me and Michael then headed out to tour Regensburg, which like most German cities has quite a few sites to see if you look for them. We walked over to his University, which is a lot like UCD with concrete buildings. It's not terrible, because it is just a place to attend class. They have the entire city to relax and enjoy themselves in. We then headed to the city, which had a nice atmosphere to it. "Old but vibrant" might be the best way to put it. We went and saw the cathedral, the stone bridge, and spent a fair amount of time inside because it was so cold. We were guessing somewhere in the range of -15°C, which would be 5°F. It was quite windy as well. We eventually headed back to his apartment, where he beat me pretty bad in NBA Live for PS2. We then spent 2 hours watching MTV Germany, which was quite funny to see some of the stupid stuff Americans do, as most of the programs on the network come from the American MTV. We then bundled up to go get some dinner at the grocery store, and eventually headed out that night to some local bars, where we found one of his friends bartending and got a few good deals on drinks.

Michael and his brother were throwing a big New Year's party the next day, so I helped them do some of the shopping for that. It ended up being a total of like €150, but the impressive part was how much food and drink this money actually bought. The same stuff would have been at least $200 in the US if not more, and probably €300 here in Dublin. After that, it was off to the train station to go to Munich. Michael and I walked really fast so I could make a certain train, and I get there and quickly buy the ticket with about 3 minutes to spare. Of course, we did all this rushing and the train ends up being delayed by 45 minutes, which quickly turned into almost an hour late. It also switched platforms twice, just to add to the frustration. However, this was really the only time the whole trip that I had problems with the trains. I also really had no set time to be in Munich either, so it wasn't a big deal.

The hostel was right around the corner from Hauptbahnhof München, so I checked in and dropped my stuff off. This was the only hostel I reserved ahead of time the entire trip. I headed out of the hostel to find some food and just walk around the city. The last time I was in Munich it was just a lunch stop, so I didn't get to see a whole lot of the city. I slowly walked from the train station towards Marienplatz, the centre square of the city and the location of the new and old city halls. Along the ways I passed several interesting buildings, the ice skating rink at Karlsplatz, and a few churches. Once I got to Marienplatz, I stood there for a while just taking everything in and enjoying the atmosphere. I then walked north towards the Dom, Residenz, and a few other churches. I was able to learn the city pretty well even at night, and could find my way the next day without looking at a map every minute.

So here I am in Munich, not speaking a whole lot of German. Where to go to celebrate New Year's Eve? I had done a little research on the internet dealing with Munich pubs for two reasons: one was New Year's Eve, the other was watching the Fiesta Bowl. I found a place called "The Arc Pub", which is owned by some Australians and seemed to be a hangout for English speaking people. When I got there, it was nice to hear English being spoken. Since I didn't know anyone there, I just did the standard "order a beer and wait". I've discovered that you can walk into pretty much any bar and order a beer, and before you are halfway finished someone will ask you your name and where you are from. At this point, you have some new friends at the bar and will talk all night. I made about 6 friends that night doing this, and it worked elsewhere as well.

It was a fun night, both before and after the New Year. They were having a karaoke competition, which are always interesting to watch. In a complete reversal on my usual stance, I actually got the courage to sing my first karaoke song ever. Don't ask me why I did it, but my new friends were very good at convincing me to get up on that stage and sing. I guess it was better there then either at home or in Dublin. The chance I see these people again is slim to none, so I don't have a whole lot to worry about. That wouldn't be the case back here or at home. Just before midnight we all headed outside to watch the spectacle unfold. Germans are crazy with their fireworks on this one night of the year, and they didn't disappoint. The streets were full of people lighting off things in every direction, and it was constant explosions and sparks for a long time. The next day a lot of the snow along the streets was red from the firecrackers lit off the night before, and there was fireworks debris everywhere. We then headed back inside the bar to continue the karaoke and celebrate 2006. I stayed out a little longer but headed back to the hostel at a reasonable hour so I could get up the next day and tour the city.

Just as I did in Vienna, I bought a day pass for the local public transportation, which consists of the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and trams. It makes it really easy to get around a bigger city like Munich, and runs very frequently. I started the day by walking a route similar to the one I had taken the night before, seeing everything in the light. I then walked a bit more around the city centre, and then headed to a U-Bahn station so I could head out to Olympiapark, the site of the 1972 Summer Olympic games. It was also the site of the Munich Massacre, one of the worst tragedies to happen at the Olympic games. However, the grounds were great to walk around, and very pretty. I was able to visit the Olympic Stadium and walk around inside, and also saw the large Olympic Hall and the swimming pool. I then went and climbed the large hill in the park area, which gave a great view of the whole area. I then rounded out the day by visiting Allianz Arena, the new stadium in Munich for both local football teams. It is also one of the arenas that will be used in World Cup competition in the coming year.

Next up: another few days in Munich, then back to Austria and some ski-jumping in Innsbruck.

Keep in touch,

Dan McGee

Mobile: +353 87 056 4163