Munich Loves You! That’s the endearing slogan dreamed up by this city’s eager tourism bureau. Maybe it’s because we came straight from Italy where babies and language barriers are accepted and embraced, and where it’s considered inhuman to pay more than one Euro for a coffee. Or maybe it’s the unseasonably shitty weather (only 13 degrees Celsius). Or maybe it’s just us. But from the moment we set foot here, we haven’t been feeling any love from the Bavarian capital.
At our Fawlty Towers-like B&B, a fellow guest was sternly warned against approaching the shaggy dog hanging around the kitchen – “he doesn’t like people!”, she was told. Then, at dinner, our waiter managed only the thinnest of smiles at Rocky’s friendly babbling (in Italy, he’d have insisted on holding our baby while we ate). And on our way home, a large black van narrowly missed ploughing us down as we walked on the sidewalk. Over beers with our host and a cool Chilean couple back at our accommodation, we discussed these impressions and pondered how we’d spend the next day, our one day in Munich.
Because we’re poor planners at the best of times, we had absolutely no idea about what we’d do once we got here, aside from the obvious (sampling beer and sausages). This morning, after a hearty breakfast (our heavily overweight B&B host explained that it’s very important to start the day off right by eating ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING), we made our way into town and parked for the day in an absurdly overpriced lot. We half-heartedly gazed at some impressive Gothic buildings and marvelled at how NEW everything looks for a European city founded in the twelvth century. (Most of Munich was destroyed by allied bombs in WWII, but rebuilt in the same way thanks to meticulous photos the Nazis took of each building. This is in contrast with Frankfurt, which was also destroyed but rebuilt in a grid, like Manhattan.)
The dinky ballet flats I was wearing were totally inappropriate for the gross weather Munich had in store for us, so we spent a good chunk of time searching for some more suitable footwear. This was no easy task; unlike Italy where you’d be hard-pressed to find a shop selling unattractive shoes, Munich was exactly the opposite. I finally settled on some stark black high-tops that ended up giving me blisters. Natürlich.
We found our way to the Viktualienmarkt, a big outdoor market where everything costs three times more than it should. Shivering and wet, and feeling like we should try out the local specialty of Weißwurst (white sausage), we finally came across a stall with a covered tent and heat lamps. No one acknowledged our presence so we simply picked a spot and sat down, parking our stroller between two tables until we could ask whether there was a better spot for it. Suddenly, a snarling waiter appeared out of nowhere and BARKED at us that he COULD NOT WAIT ON US, OR ANYONE ELSE, because our stroller was in the way. Not caring for his tone, I elected that we should simply bite our tongues and go elsewhere rather than try to argue with this lunatic. The place we chose instead was slightly more accommodating and we laughed about it over hot food and cold beer.
Munich was instrumental in the rise of Nazism. Hitler made a name for himself giving fiery, hateful speeches at this city’s famous beer halls. We would have been interested in strolling past some of the key sites, just to get a sense of the chilling events that went down in these very streets. But the cold and rain drove us to seek shelter instead in the Munich City Museum, which houses an exhibition on the very subject. Unfortunately, all the captions were in German, but it was fascinating and sobering to lay eyes on faded propaganda posters and amateurish watercolours done by Hitler himself. One day, we’ll come back and try to make sense of it all.
Riccardo had some work to do so we popped into a bustling kaffeehaus. The joyless cashier insisted she did not understand when we asked (in English) whether they had wifi. When a nearby local took pity and explained what we wanted, we were told in no uncertain terms that wifi was NOT available. So, we found another spot and I strolled around with Rocky and tried to think of something awesome to do next.
Luckily, I came upon a restaurant near the Viktualienmarkt that my cousin had recommended – Zwickl. After one hostess told me it would be impossible to get a spot without a reservation, a kindly manager (finally!) offered to shuffle things around and seat us at the bar. As we enjoyed an excellent riesling and some local-organic-blahblahblah fare,a couple strongly resembling Santa and Mrs. Claus sat near us and beamed brightly whenever Rocky cooed at them. Then, I noticed a tight-lipped lady with a blonde bob giving us a proper stare-down, presumably because we had dared to bring a (quiet, totally awesome) baby to a nice restaurant. Hardly shocking, at this stage!
The final straw came, of all places, at H&M. Just before closing time, I ducked in to get a pair of shorts for Rocky. On the way out, Rocky spotted himself in a mirror and I paused, like ya do, for a quick game of peekaboo. Unmoved by his adorable giggles, a delightful cashier felt compelled to interrupt her transaction and inform me that the store was CLOSING NOW! There were still people milling about, I was clearly just seconds from exiting, and I was being reprimanded for playing with my baby. My momentary confusion turned to blind rage and I heard myself demanding WHAT exactly the problem was and why she felt the need to be SO DAMN RUDE! I then remembered I was wearing a baby and decided to back off… that is, until the next and final episode of the day, when the parking attendant insisted we pay 4 more Euros for taking an extra five minutes to exit the parking garage. Riccardo could only laugh at the guy until he finally gave up and let us out.
I’m confident that our experience is not typical and I’m not saying it’s an epidemic. But at this stage in the day, I was starting to get the impression that despite the cheery tourism bureau slogan, Munich didn’t love us all that much at all. Maybe it’s just us.
Tomorrow, we’ll give the city a final once-over before moving on to the next stop on our whirlwind tour… Prague!