I took the train to Munich, to see what I could see.
The first thing I saw was that the train was going waaay too close to the edge of the tracks. With my head near the window, it always seemed as though some lamppost or metal railings was about to hit me in the face. If the train was rocking and squealing as much as the BART trains in Berkeley do, those pieces of metal would be up my nose for sure.
Then I realized they weren’t rocking. Then I realized they weren’t squealing either. In fact I could have held a conversation in a normal, “inside” voice and people could have understood me.
I hear they have engineers in Germany.
I got off the U-Bahn at Marienplatz, in the self-proclaimed City Center. The two most conspicuous buildings one sees upon climbing out of the subway are the old Rathaus, which now seems to be a shopping center including a charming courtyard café, and the Spielzeugmuseum which might once have had some other purpose but now showcases children’s toys, boardgames and the like. I wandered around the streets, running into a few Catholic churches, the Viktualienmarkt (what it sounds like) and an array of familiar modern clothing shops. Apparently I went in the completely wrong direction for the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus, the iconic beer hall that is one of Munich’s greatest tourist attractions: the story goes that in the seventeenth century, they talked the King of Sweden and his invading army into not burning the city to the ground by buying them off with a few hundred thousand barrels of the state brewery’s Weißbier. I’ll make sure I see it sometime during this trip.
There was live music in the plaza, playing while people sat at shaded tables drinking. The live music was pan-African world beat, colorful and enthusiastic. A few streets down they had 1950s-style jump blues, though, sadly, there were no Lindy Hoppers bombing it. There were plenty of smartly dressed young men and women, but there were more piercings than dirndls and lederhosen, and only the buskers were playing accordions. A zombie procession staggered through, with their dead gray eyes and leering, serrated grins drooling blood; I lost my presence of mind in photographing them until the end, missing, among other zingers, a couple of undead loons lurching hungrily after a brain on a stick.
I noticed a few patterns. First, what I saw in Garching wasn’t an anomaly: Munich loves trees, and while there were fewer of them in the city center, they were given pride of place among the sidewalk cafes and old churches. Second, Munich seems like a very vertical city. By that I mean most of the pictures I liked had a longer aspect ratio up-down than side-to-side; there was no other way to get all the towers and spires in. This may be in contrast to other European cities I’ve seen so far, like Paris. Finally, as I suggested above, I saw a globalized, multicultural modern city where it was difficult to tell which elements were “authentically” Bavarian, if that even matters anymore. The dirndls, the accordions, the shop awnings lettered in Fraktur, seemed more as though they belonged at a Renaissance Fair than a music festival in a modern city, and I’m not familiar enough with traditional German culture to instantly recognize other visual elements. I suppose I’ll get more touristing in later in the trip and see to what extent my judgment is really fair.