Starting off the morning being stranded at a train station probably wasn’t supposed to be on the schedule…nonetheless it was! This was our first lesson of the day in expecting (or maybe I should say embracing) the unexpected. Here’s the skinny. We were headed to Munich for a city tour and had the chance to explore a bit on our own. We left the hotel and moseyed on down to the Augsburg train station. Today was a big game day for the Munich soccer club so we presumed fans from across the country would be heading to the city. This presumption was readily confirmed as we hopped on our crowded Munich bound train and found standing room only. A couple of train stops up the road, Arielle noted that we could get off the train and move to another car in search of open seats. As the train came to a halt, nearly all of us jumped off and ran up to the next car. We were met by another crammed full car and then ran up to the next car. Again, it was crazy full. In a moment of panic, we tried to run back to our original car, knowing there were a couple of our group in seats on it and that the train would soon be pulling away. We made it back to our original car in the nick of time and hit the button to open the door, but it wouldn’t open. Much to our shock and chagrin, the train started to pull away. Luckily Arielle was there — wait a minute, wasn’t she the reason we got off the train in the first place? Rephrase — luckily for Arielle, we soon were on another train bound to meet with the rest of our group at a stop up the road. As I reflect on this, the situation is not unlike life. Sometimes the train’s gonna pull away and you’ve got to make a new plan. In the end, you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be albeit a little later than expected but with a memorable adventure under your belt.
With a memorable adventure under our belts, we were soon in Munich and on a tour of the city. Filled with citizens and many soccer fans, the streets were crowded as we walked through an open market and saw many of the historic city buildings. To my surprise (and another opportunity to embrace the unexpected), we encountered at least ten groups of street performers, all of which were very good and added a cool vibe to the city. As a musician and someone who enjoys picking at the ukulele and guitar for fun, I was impressed when one of the performers combined his vocals with music from the ukulele and the pan flute! I would have loved to sit down beside him with my own instruments, and in my heart and mind, I did.
While on the Munich tour, we all scouted out where we wanted to explore more during our free time in the afternoon. The Hofgarten, an Italian style renaissance garden in the center of the city, caught my eye. First though, almost all of the group went to the world famous Hofbrauhaus for lunch. I had previously been to the one in Pittsburgh with my parents, but the Munich location put it to shame size-wise! The restaurant was giant with three floors, each having dining areas and performance stages. With a group of nearly twenty, it can be a little challenging to find seating but after searching the first two floors, we were lucky enough to find the third floor nearly empty. A little hesitant if we were to seat ourselves, we made our way to one of the long tables, seated ourselves and started looking over the menu. With most of the menus in German, the one or two English versions were a hot commodity among the group. I decided on weisswurst and spätzle, both of which were delicious! I really enjoyed sitting and talking with those around, bonding over our lack of German language prowess. It’s moments like this where we’re enjoying the atmosphere and each other’s company, getting to know one another even better – where I realize how lucky I am to be here in this moment, with these people. I’m humbled and grateful for this opportunity and know I will think back fondly on it as my future continues to unfold.
Before leaving the Hofbrauhaus we made sure to take a few minutes to soak up the jovial music of the traditional Bavarian band that was playing on the first floor (in their Lederhosen nonetheless!). It was fun to hear the German patrons singing along as they drank heartily from their giant steins. With some free time on our hands, several of us made a stop at a local ice cream place and then headed in the general direction of the Hofgarten (situated beside the Residenz, the former royal palace of the Wittelsbach monarchs of Bavaria which we had earlier visited). At the center of the garden is a domed pavilion for the goddess Diana, built in the early 1600’s. A path leads outward from each of the pavillion’s eight arches, with one ending at a large fountain. I later learned that the garden was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt showcasing both the original formal design from the seventeenth century and the more landscape garden style design of the nineteenth century. This helped me make sense of the less formal patterns of colorful flowers I noted in contrast to precisely trimmed more formal rectangular bushes. Style aside, I couldn’t help but think about the incredible amount of time and love invested to upkeep a public garden in such nice condition. What a gift to the residents of Munich and to tourists like me.
After admiring the garden, we followed a trail into the nearby park, the Englischer Garten, in search of an infamous river surfing spot. We were bound and determined to find it after our tour guide had earlier mentioned that there was a place in the park where the streams met and formed a standing wave that’s perfect for river surfing. I later learned that the man-made standing wave results from the change from laminar to turbulent flow. Very cool! As an outdoors person, I loved walking the trail in and among the trees, flowers and the stream. Admittedly, we felt a little lost unsure where we were going but continued to embrace the unexpected. Our reward for doing so came when we rounded a corner and found the infamous river surfing spot. Much to our surprise, there were at least a dozen surfers in the stream or waiting to get in the water, and a lot of people watching. We joined the crowd for a bit and watched in amazement as one by one the surfers would jump in and perform tricks. What an unexpected delight to find a surfing spot in the middle of the city!
It was also an unexpected delight to find that the old beautiful buildings of Munich had been converted into modern shops and offices. It was almost comical to see places such as McDonald’s occupying such beautiful and historic buildings. I admired the new town hall building. Though built in the 1800’s, Munich’s new town hall was built in the Gothic style and thus looks to be much older. This amazing building features a clock with 43 chimes that plays several times a day in accompaniment with a set of 32 dancing figures resembling a giant cuckoo clock which we were lucky enough to hear and see. This historic and architecturally pleasing building had many modern tourist and retail shops on the ground level — somehow this takes me by surprise, perhaps because I’m so accustomed to the no frills buildings that businesses tend to occupy back in the States. Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed feel of Munich, despite the hustle and bustle of soccer fans, and know that we only scratched the surface of interesting and unexpected delights found in this beautiful city. Embracing the unexpected has definite rewards and it’s one of the life lessons reinforced on this Plus3 adventure in Germany. Grateful and blessed.