Preamble – Childhood Memories
Childhood memories can be notoriously unreliable. Four small children sitting on a railway station in the very early hours, waiting for a connection to Konnersreuth. Kindly monks putting us up in their roomy monastery. First time under a duvet, which kept falling off. Easter Sunday with these lovely, gentle souls, who had made meringue lambs for us. And, of course, the main reason for visiting – for darling Ma to see Therese Neumann, the stigmatist.
We were living in RAF Pfalzdorf at the time, so that was a hefty rail trip with four little people, but I guess Dad probably liked the adventure too. He certainly made an impact on the trip, and a dear lifelong friend in Christiane Fuchs.
Luckily we were always well-behaved, observing with our big brown, slightly frightened, eyes. Maybe that charmed 1962 German people as they were certainly helpful and friendly to us.
Revisiting Bavaria has long been on my list of places to re-visit, though it ended up being a last minute decision with about three weeks’ notice. It was also a second trip on EasyJet so part of the plan was to travel extra light, relying on Ghost dresses, one pair of shorts, creams and potions decanted into teeny pots and one pair of flat glam sandals apart from Toms for walking duties to go with Gap black trousers, black bomber jacket and Rufus Roo substituting for a handbag. And, surprisingly, all that and more fitted into the reduced EasyJet cabin case of a ‘guaranteed 50x40x20cm’. Probably only possible in summer months though.
(If you get to the end of these snapshots you’ll see that EasyJet reneged on its guarantee.)
Another reason for travelling light, apart from not trusting EasyJet (with reason!!!) was chopping and changing hotels and spending a fair bit of time on trains.
En Route – Tues 05/08/14 – 4pm South Terminal
Retail therapy accomplished including the foolish purchase of a pair of rather pretty diamante flip flops… with massive soles. They took up a lot of the last remaining space in the teeny cabin case. Also foolish: putting my euros on a Moneycorp card. I ended up paying twice to get the money out of an ATM. (Back home, I am still not sure if there is anything left on the card and will have to go back to Gatwick to find out. God knows what I was thinking of.)
Having booked in online and got my boarding passes, I am unsure what to do now. I have tested my 50x40x20 and it fits easily into the bag checker. Phew! Now there’s all this time to kill.
After a late lunch, I finally felt (feel?) in a holiday mood. A small glass of wine might have done that, coupled with the expansive sight of an airport runway, and loads of excitable people.
However, having been woken (yet again) in the early hours (01:30hrs) by the screaming brats next door (40 minutes non-stop!!!), the screaming children in the airport threatened a serious downer. Thanks to those regular bad-tempered screams, I now almost cannot stand the sound of children at all. Yet once upon a time I used to be charmed even by temper tantrums. Never again.
Meanwhile: great time to remember I haven’t checked out how to get from the airport to the Ramada, and it’s too late to book a shared cab. Shall have to wing it.
The hotel’s website says to take the S8 to Daglfing and then take a bus. Can’t see me doing that late at night, and to make myself understood if no-one speaks English. But it’ll have to be something cheaper than a non-shared cab which is €60-70!
I rather wish I had planned this better as tomorrow I will also have to take the train from Munich to Nuremberg, which will also involve train travel of some sort. The Ramada is outside the city centre, in their business sector, right beside an exhibition complex. And, to make matters worse, I’ve also booked it for my final night. Changing it will mean losing my booking fee. Pox.
Still, I’m not that bothered about sightseeing in Munich as the grand plan is to get to Konnersreuth as well as see as much of Nuremberg as I can. Also on the wish list is the Krystallmuseum in Riedenburg – dependent on time and finances. Meanwhile, am sitting in the wrong spot for wi-fi so no chance of using the app to check in.
Past midnight so technically 06/08/14
Supper = one packet of peanuts (restaurant closed) and a glass of Merlot Grenache (bar still open) (wine=delicious) courtesy of the Ramada Munchen Messe. Bathed and in bed. Scribbling notes.
Well it definitely was not the easiest of places to get to. The cab was indeed €65 so I got the S-Bahn…which took a kind lady to sort out.
Aside: the S-Bahn is like our local mainline; the U-Bahn is the equivalent of our underground; and the DB Deutsche Bahn is longer distance national rail travel. I think.
Anyway, surprisingly, very few people speak or even understand English – even those in tourist locations ie the airport!
Even TV programmes have only a few news channels in English while sitcoms/ dramas are available in French, Italian, Arabic and even Chinese. Yet I remember working here in the mid-90s when plenty of people spoke good English. What on earth has happened? And so much for the EU when a major partner cannot even be bothered to cater for our language yet every other TD&H one is. Harumph!
But, back to the U-Bahn information desk. A very kind lady could manage a bit of English and took me down to the ticket machine where we had to work out how many stops there were to Ostbahnhof, where it would then be easier for me to get a taxi, which wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, to the Ramada.
Some strange looking ticket emerged, having paid €12.50 using the Moneycorp debit card with my €uros on. Apparently, when I start my journey, I have to shove it into a blue ticket punching thingy which marks it with date and time. Then no-one looks at it again. Well at least not at that time or on that route.
Seems I was not the only non-German totally perplexed by the how, where, what etc of getting a ticket on the U-Bahn. But I got on the right train – confirming with fellow travellers that I was on the right one – and, after about 30-40 minutes, I arrived at Ostbahnhof and looked lost, yet again.
Struggled, yet again, to find someone who understood enough English to point me in the right direction, but did, heading up the stairs hauling the 50x40x20 (another reason my gratitude for its small size kept increasing, as I did quite a lot of hauling it up non-moving stairs!).
There were two cops at the top of the stairs but even they could understand ‘Taxi, bitte?’
Sure enough, there were plenty of taxis and it ended up costing me around €20. I was a little worried that the guy had the meter running and had no idea where the Ramada was, but he said the equivalent of ‘don’t worry’ and turned off the meter while he studied the map I had brought. (Glad I printed all those off as they were sorely needed!)
And within about 10-15 minutes, I was in the hotel. A strange pokey reception but a very large restaurant area and plenty of seats bordering the main window. Practically all with seated Muslims – and one in the queue ahead of me.
When it was my turn to check in a smiling lady upgraded me as I was still a bit shell-shocked at the hotel being rather out of the way, and I could no longer get anything to eat. Hence the peanuts. The wine was gratis.
Oh I forgot to mention that all those teensy pots of melasma lotions and potions and a spray of hair conditioner and ‘fat hair’, got me stopped at airport security. I fully expected them to be confiscated (hence the teensy pots) but they waved me through after taking my word that they were what they actually were/are.
Everyone at the airport was incredibly kind and polite, even when I got grumpy with Moneycorp.
But, back in the Ramada – a fabulous shower unit. It had multiple options on the showerhead so felt nicely massaged as well as clean. Apart from totally drenching the outside floor from angling it incorrectly…
Don’t mind so much coming back to this hotel on last night.
On the S8 to Ostbahnhof from the airport, I did have a brief chat with a lady who understood a teensy bit of English. I told her about Konnersreuth and she said there was a joke about it but wouldn’t translate it. Said it wasn’t funny anyway. I bit my lip to stop responding re German sense of humour.
Aside: practically no-one tourism-related had heard of either Konnersreuth or Therese Neumann. By a total fluke, the man who sold me the Bayern Ticket to Marktredwitz in Nuremberg Bahnhof did and made a sign on his palms to signify the stigmata. He clearly was a very religious man and asked me to pray for him.
Having planned most of this trip to be on the go, I do feel slightly worried at the equally multiple options for train tickets and lack of English speakers. Am scribbling a rough plan for tomorrow (ie later today 6/8/14): walk to the U-Bahn at Messestadt West, take tube to Munchen Hauptbahnhof. Find a ticket office for the D-Bahn and get a return to Nuremberg.
Flicked through a million channels with only BBC World in the Queen’s English (as opposed to CNN and Bloomberg and some other American and Australian news channels). Lots of American sitcoms but all dubbed. Peter Florrick and Rufus Sewell speaking in German accents didn’t quite work for me, so I slept.
Day 2 Wed 6th August
Later the same morning (6/8/14), having checked out, I did indeed walk down to Messestadt West and needed yet another person to translate the ticket machine so I could get the right ticket (and remember to get it stamped), heading off to the Hauptbahnhof.
Actually, typing up all these notes, I am surprised I got anywhere at all because I think German tickets are way more complicated than they need be. They must think so too given the printed paper directions including times, platform and other gumpf that accompanies the Bayern Tickets (like an all-day travel card but dependent on which zones – or something like that).
It was also cheaper to buy a Bayern Ticket to go to and return from Nuremberg. If I had been cannier, I could have made better use of its flexibility, stopping off en route or whatever. Or maybe not, given I was carting along my 50x40x20 case and wearing the delightful (not) Roo.
So… I got out of the tube (U-Bahn) and carted the case up the escalator to the mainline ticket office and had the misfortune to get a Korean-looking Rosa Klebb. Boy, talk about unhelpful.
ICE – the fast train – is €110. I paid for the ICE ticket only for her to demand a credit card with my name on as proof as the Moneycorp was simply an unmarked card holding my cash – not a credit card. All non-tube tickets apparently need your name on them. You have to write it on the paper ticket though I gather some of the tickets can be shared – hence including name/s. Or something like that.
Anyway, having paid, but not acceptably, for the ICE, she gestured for me to put the Moneycorp card back into the machine so she could give me my money back. (And all because they want proof of your names and date of birth before they’ll issue you with tickets – could you imagine the same in England getting a return to Birmingham from Victoria?)
I then got two separate slips which I didn’t understand and she didn’t explain but which someone else told me was one taking the money and the other refunding it. By gum, they use up a lot of paper and toner on all these print outs.
Then I went off the idea of dealing further with her. The unsmiling sourness of her face made me distrust her totally.
Wandered across the hall only to be told that those counters were just for local travel – again in German, btw. I guessed from what she was pointing at. So back I crossed but went to another counter. A bloke. Sat like he had a poker up his rear and spoke in much the same manner but he did tell me (in English) I could get a cheaper ticket on a non-ICE train (much cheaper – €50).
This too however required a pint of blood. Okay not quite, but date of birth and the equivalent of a pint of blood in questions so I paid cash and had a coffee and sandwich while waiting (ages) for the train which he said would take three hours and which I could not deviate from and I would have to wait two hours for it to arrive.
Except I didn’t wait ages, being an impatient critter, and an untrusting one. Went to another information booth (there are a lot of them) (all needed!) and discovered that there was not only an earlier train but that it was much faster than the 3 hours quoted by poker bloke.
Got on it – along with a zillion others. Trains are very popular in these here parts!
There is something utterly timeless about the Bavarian countryside. Unlike cramped England, there was endless space and fields which looked as unchanged as they must have appeared in 1962 when we last travelled part of this route as a family. And chocolate box houses nestled among lots (and lots) of trees. All very calming.
Holiday Inn Nuremberg
No wonder my memory retained that trip to Konnersreuth from 1962. How my parents managed with four small children, speaking no German, and from much further away (RAF Pfalzdorf) is beyond me. But then both of my parents were extraordinarily determined human beings – and where there were challenges, they’d just ask God for help. Who invariably obliged through some sentient or other.
I want so much to go there but the hotel and various tourist information booths tell me it would involve taking two trains, two buses and that there are complications on the line, meaning delays. So, no sooner do I get there but I’d have to turn around and come back.
However my mind was fully convinced (about not bothering to go) when I popped into a Catholic Club here in Nuremberg Altstadt and even they had never heard of Therese Neumann – and barely of Konnersreuth.
First Proper Evening Meal
Food is mostly stuff I can’t eat but had a delicious papaya salad and a few mouthfuls of red rice. The smells were all delicious and evocative of eating with relatives in South India.
I can recall what I ate during the day, just not which days. However, one thing – semi-vegetarian. Virtually everything is stodgy and fattening. I suppose the only reason I didn’t come back three times the size is because I walked so much.
Re the semi-vegetarian bit: since the car crash in 2002, I have had grilled fish of some description about 4-6 times a year. This is partly because so many vegetables are currently off my diet due to allergic reactions. No nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillies). No spinach, and even broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can bring me out in a painful rash if undercooked. No rice (though I do like to tempt providence from time to time). No soy at all. All a bit tedious really.
So, as all forms of nourishment are sentient life to me, I will now eat fresh fish from time to time to save from starving when eating out.
Day 3 Thurs 07/08/14
On Train To Marktredwitz
After yesterday’s defeatist attitude, I awoke with the bright idea of taking a direct train to Mitterteich (also a very strong memory) and getting a bus or taxi to Konnersreuth from there. Nope. That too involves multiple train changes. So I asked a woman at the information kiosk what the distance was from Marktredwitz to Konnersreuth. 14kms.
Do-able by bus or taxi. And it’s a fast-ish train from Nuremberg. Hence sitting in this carriage waiting for the off.
And, finally (as mentioned earlier), the guy who sold me the Bayern Ticket had actually heard of both Konnersreuth and Therese Neumann, making a gesture on his hand to indicate the stigmata. He wished me God speed, and to tell him about it when I returned. A good omen, I felt.
(Aside: I remembered but didn’t spot him.)
Meanwhile, I finally sussed what the Bayern Ticket was/is. A one-day travel card (Ed: yes I know I have mentioned this earlier.) throughout Bavaria – or at least this region of Bavaria.
There is Lower Franconia, Upper Franconia, Middle Franconia, Upper Pfalz, Lower Bavaria (oddly in the upper half of the map), Upper Bavaria (oddly in the lower half of the map) and Bavarian Schwabia or Swabia. Nuremberg is in Middle Franconia, as is Konnersreuth, and Munich is in Upper Bavaria. Well at least that is what one of my maps said, although a guy in one map shop said they were often changed.
By the by as I am now on a moving train to Marktredwitz.
Such gloriously unchanging hop fields – or at least that is what it seems like – until brought into foul modernity with an expanse of solar panels. Peace and tranquillity disturbed.
2pm On Train Back To Nuremberg
Marktredwitz is completely unremarkable but in a pleasantly tranquil way. I had a spot of lunch at the Meister Bär Hotel while waiting for the taxi, organised by the lovely receptionist who also spoke rather good English. (Yes, a quiet backwater where someone speaks good English versus a metropolitan city where most appear not to.)
Sitting in the warm conservatory, nibbling a slice of salty, herby garlic bread and sipping a decent red, I felt all tension disappear. The taxi would be no more than €30 for the journey there and back with him waiting for me for about ten minutes. (It was circa €28 plus I gave him a reasonable tip as he waited considerably longer.)
I know realise we probably never visited Konnersreuth at all and certainly did not stay over. Easter Sunday mass was held in something akin to a cathedral – with Therese Neumann seated behind the altar. The monastery where we spent the night had huge rooms – or at least that’s what it felt like to a 10 year old.
Konnersreuth is small, clean, elegant and tranquil. But tiny. There is a church but it too is small. Definitely unlikely we ever came here at all.
The cemetery is also small.
But I paid respects at Therese Neumann’s grave and then the taxi driver motioned that he wanted to take a photo (yup – no English and we ‘conversed’ with me using a dictionary!) Hence the photo to the left of this. I can assure you I was totally respectful and prayed for loved ones and those who asked for prayers.
Prayers for me included miracles re ‘you know who!!’
I think we stayed in either Mitterteich, since it resonates strongly still in my mind, or Waldsassen, though that name is less strong in my memory. I had neither time nor finances to hike around either to find the monastery or cathedral, so got him to take me back to the railway station.
Again feeling calmed by the spacious, uncluttered fields.
Apart from the solar panel farms. I could feel my mind expand with every mile of glorious Bavarian countryside.
Got back into a very hot Nuremberg (after a very chilly Marktredwitz) for late lunch. Had to get more euros from the ATM and pay a fee – again – feeling distinctly miffed. Never again. Plus there seemed to be no mechanism to check how much you have taken and how much is left. Never again!
Tomorrow is Third Reich Day and tonight is Piggy Night.
After some retail therapy, I headed back to the hotel, only to take the wrong route, going north-west of the old town. Very beautiful and very classy but way out of my way and, after going round in circles for a bit, I found the right track and got back.
After a long shower, I had my fully-justified piggy meal in the Holiday Inn restaurant. The food here was more than quite acceptable and meant I could use my credit card instead of the fast disappearing euros.
Piggy Night is the one night in the holiday week when I have more than normal to eat and drink, kicking off with some kind of exotic cocktail, a main meal of garlic omelette and green salad with red wine, finishing off with a massive fatty pudding. Probably not hugely piggy by some standards but a lot for me.
As it was still light and hot out, I went to walk off the pud. I did a quick tour and then, as I headed back, I saw a woman in the street near the hotel wearing the tiniest thong and even tinier top. Trying to avoid making eye contact, I looked straight ahead and went directly into the hotel.
The highlight of the day was definitely the kind woman in the Meister Bär and the taxi driver trying to add a little weight to the visit to Konnersreuth. A real lightness of being, despite being adjacent to a red light district.
Tomorrow there will be lot more walking…
Day 4 Fri 08/08/14 Third Reich Day
Aside: I am surprised at some defeatist attitudes here. First it was with trying to get to Konnersreuth and being told it was too difficult and to give up. Then deciding to walk to the Documentation Centre. Oh it’s too far many people kept telling me. Take Streetcar 9. Take the U-Bahn somewhere or other and change. Too far on ‘fuss’. (NB umlauts don’t seem to work here.) And so on.
It was, it must be admitted, a dull walk, mostly along the main road, but an extremely straightforward and easy walk. It was only because of its dullness that I planned to take the bus back but I actually discovered a better route walking back, and took it. I’m guessing it was about 2-3 miles each way, so not far by my usual Sunday constitutional.
Best of all, despite the scorching sun, I didn’t even work up a sweat… until I climbed the almost vertical steps to the Documentation Centre – with even more, going up ever higher, inside. And all the steps had gaps so you could see how high up you were. Didn’t do my height fright any good at all, but I kept going, praying I wouldn’t fall down or miss my footing.
All for not a lot really, as I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. It was a bit dry, dull and emotionless – even the remains of the Congress Hall didn’t resonate with those massed voices and past powerful energies.
Nuremberg Trials Court Room 600
As I had to pass the hotel, I had a brief pitstop to clean up and then headed back out again to walk to the Nuremberg Trials Court Room. Again, they thought I was mad to walk even though Furtherstrasse was only a couple of miles from the hotel on the outskirts of the Altstadt.
Unfortunately, I ended up misreading the road signs and headed north where practically no-one seemed to know where either Furtherstrasse was or the Justice Palace, despite it being on or off a main road. In the end, a Jewish lady (she was wearing a Star of David) guided me back in the right direction.
A straight road almost from the hotel… so not entirely sure, even now, how I ended up going off the beaten track. Perhaps too much heat and, even more, too much walking. I was certainly exhausted by the time I found the ‘palace’ – where nothing looked open.
An older Australian guy leaning heavily on a walking cane was also looking for the entrance. Practically nothing was signposted but we eventually found it. Cue him taking the lift and me – tired feet notwithstanding – walking up three flights of stairs.
Just typing these notes is making me feel exhausted. I must have been nuts. Or trying to work off the stodgy food eaten.
The top floor had a lot of interesting information about the trials. To do justice to it, I would have had to spend considerably longer there but as I was feeling severe information overload, I did a rapid circuit then down to Courtroom 600.
Not a lot to say about Courtroom 600. It wasn’t very big. There was – again – no sense of history. Mark you, that could be down to there being a bus tour and a bunch of sweaty-smelling people. It is very difficult to tune in in such circumstances. So my visit there too was definitely in and out.
Day 5 Sat 09/08/14
Hallerwiese – Pegnitz Canal Walk
Dreadful night’s sleep due to all night-party outside my bedroom window. Second night of high jinks outside. Holidays are supposed to provide a mental hiatus from the usual stresses and strains, but I have not managed to switch off at all.
And yet Nuremberg really is a very attractive city in a chocolate box kind of way. Staying in the Altstadt has meant everything historical has been within walking distance, so no excuse for lazing in the hotel or worrying about cab fares.
That said, this morning, the romance of Nuremberg is fading as I decide to do a Pegnitz (canal) walk. A strong smell of pee invades my nostrils and the sun no longer hides a multitude of sins.
Walking beside the Pegnitz via a non-canal extension to Hallerwiese (park), the Hesperides Gardens and St Johannes Friedhof (historical cemetery), and back into and around the Altstadt feels autumnal, sadder, with diminished hope after the optimistic blazing sunshine of the last few days.
Following the Pegnitz wasn’t quite the river-hugging walk I had believed though. It cut through the old town – dividing the Sebald Quarter from the Lorenz Quarter (defined by their churches) – under and around the old city walls and involved walking back and forth across various bridges (there are lots of bridges), through tunnelled pathways, park areas and city buildings, and got me thinking that Nuremberg’s old town wouldn’t survive long if there was a serious flood.
(Typing up these notes, detoured to google ‘Nuremberg/floods’ … Seems World War 2 did have some benefits in flood defences being built along with all the other extensive post-war regeneration work.)
I did have a pitstop at 10am, desperate for the loo. Nothing was open till 11am despite it being a Saturday and despite it being holiday season. Still, a kind bloke, at a restaurant beside the Kaiserberg, let me use their toilet.
Next challenge: to find somewhere to have breakfast prior to resuming the canal walk.
My notes indicate being severely unimpressed with German waiter skills. I sat and sat and sat… then moved to another place partly because the menu was rubbish and there was a heavy smoker near me. Then I sat and sat and sat (beside the rather manky looking river though the ducks seemed happy enough) despite the manager telling the girl to serve me. And it wasn’t even busy. So I moved again.
Service really is dire here though they are unfailingly polite and friendly. Just disorganised and slow. As for anyone asking ‘Are you ready to order/ Do you want anything’ …forget it. It just doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind, that little thing called ‘customer service’.
Wandered off again and spotted an Australian Bar and Kitchen – which also did breakfasts that vaguely resembled our own. The others didn’t, and I was going to have continental stodgy stodge of some description. In the end, I had something that passed for scrambled eggs and then it was back on the very long river walk.
Not sure where all my energy came from given the second night of interrupted sleep from partying outside the bedroom window, though partying is infinitely preferable to those screaming bad-tempered brats.
13:30hrs and back in the hotel after a brief pitstop for a beer (unfinished) and veggie sushi (picked at and half-eaten. Drinking red wine now to (a) get rid of the beer taste and (b) to help me have a pm snooze to make up for last night.
Post snooze plans: to do the sketches of river walk then go out again. Or maybe not. I’ve now gone past my holiday threshold, despite there still being plenty of things to do and places to visit. Perhaps if I come back, I’ll hire a car and be more nomadic…
Did I mention this is cyclists’ heaven? They even have over half the pavement marked out as theirs. Pedestrians have to scrunch into the remaining bit along with the overspill from shops.
16:15hrs – Had around an hour’s kip, didn’t do any sketches and went out again. As I walked towards the centre, barely five minutes from the hotel, I could hear loud massed shouting. Such loud group shouting so near to the Nuremberg Rallies was slightly disconcerting. I asked an old lady what the noise was and she said ‘fussball’ (umlaut not showing) and shrugged her shoulders.
It was actually a few hundred Yazidi protesters.
My first thought was it was an anti-Israel protest. I asked the head polizei (the only one wearing a different uniform and clearly in overall control) if it was anti-Jew or pro- or anti-Christian. Neither. He smiled widely and said ‘no, no, no’ and proceeded to launch into an explanation (in English) why they were protesting.
Mark you, I’m not exactly sure what I would have done if they were anti-Israel or anti-Jew. Knowing me, I would have waded in somehow. Just as well my brave foolhardiness was not needed.
Meanwhile, the sun came back out and I made the most of my last evening here. No more long walks – no more stodge, so no need of long walks either – says she quaffing an iced coffee which is mostly cream and ice-cream!
The Yazidi protestors came back. With Saturday shoppers still out in force, my wariness of crowds kicked in and I headed back to the hotel for supper by way of the Kaiserberg to work off the ice-cream.
Supper was not so good this time, despite the usual prompt attention and friendliness. The ‘green salad’ came topped with tomatoes. Although they changed it, I am sure they just hoicked the offending toms off as my skin did later erupt (and, more than a week later, it still has rashes and various food-related blights).
Day 6 Sun 10/08/14
Back to Ramada Munich-Messe
On train back to Munich. More drunken arguments outside the window last night so very tired indeed. I left the hotel early and walked to the Hauptbahnhof not knowing what train I would be catching.
It was not as sunny but still pleasant weather and I thought I’d do some sight-seeing in Munich. Not a lot as I was wearing the Roo and carting the 50x40x20.
(As at time of typing, 10 days after the event, this is all now like some alternative dimension. I can barely remember much at all, so just as well I made some notes. I can recall walking to the Hauptbahnhof from the Holiday Inn but have only a slight mental image of waiting for, then taking the train to Munich.
As usual, I do recall asking more than one person if I was on the right platform and then on the right train, but then I do that in England as well, so no change there!
I do also recall trying to find the U-Bahn the same way I came but instead going a different way. Anyway, my notes were scribbled at 21:30hrs in bed.)
21:30hrs in bed – A bit of a challenging day.
I mistakenly got off the tube (from Munich Hauptbahnhof) at Messestadt Ost instead of West (and this is despite the woman in the information booth telling me it was West and even underlining it on the map – but then I was very tired).
Instead of getting back on the wretched tube, I walked around – and around – the Halle (huge exhibition centre) in the blazing sun for about an hour before the Ramada hove into view.
Out of the five people asked only one man running with his girl-friend (who ignored me) told me to keep going and then turn right. Another man told me to go back on the tube as it was too far. Another said ‘nicht fichtstehen’ and seemed terrified of making eye contact. A Halle security guard told me to go down into the railway area and take a taxi.
Yet the actual distance from the tube was probably only two miles maximum. Obviously just a few hundred yards if I had got off the right blooming stop though.
I decided to walk slowly, enjoying the ‘scenery’ – well the road was straight, tree-lined and clean – and, when I walked into the hotel, I joked about my failing to follow instructions to the receptionist. Not a word did I mention about checking in.
Strewth! Got an unsmiling Teutonic bark about not being able to register till 3pm (it was around 12-ish) and could barely get a word in. Except I did. I was hot, I was sweaty, I needed the toilet and I was not going to let anyone – anyone! – talk to me like that.
In my best loud RP voice, I said if I was too early she should have told me to take a seat until I could register, that she was very rude and to please call the manager. Oh and that I wanted to use the toilet. NOW. She pointed me in the right direction and said I could leave the case with her. Absolutely not, I replied. Given that wretched welcome, it would not surprise me if she let someone walk off with it, I fumed.
When I came back upstairs again, the duty manager was waiting for me, all smiles and regrets. I explained that that was no way to talk to paying guests and that a simple explanation would have sufficed. Perhaps a spot of training might help, I added.
No rooms were ready as yet but to please wait (as indeed I had suggested) and they would bring me a glass of wine. I went to sit at an outside table and they did bring me a glass of wine which I was going to pay for but it was another gratis.
The Valkyrie also came out with my (upgraded) room details and was hugely apologetic. She gave me some sort of heart shaped magnet – but I hadn’t a clue what it meant even after some explanation about something or other or whether it was meant to be kept or used in some way or given to someone else. I ended up leaving it on the table.
I must admit, I was still grumpy but could see they wanted to make amends so smiled and tried to resurrect my usual good grace.
Drink finished, room assigned, I went up to take a long, very long, shower. Hunger pangs kicked in and I went to try and find somewhere to eat. Not in the main restaurant. Closed. The ‘brasserie’ didn’t serve omelettes or anything eggy, so I went to the H2, a sister hotel next door.
That said, for the second time this holiday, I felt totally at peace and at one with the world. (The first time was in Marktredwitz in the MB Hotel.)
It was scorchingly hot, probably intensified by the four multiple-storeyed walls hemming in this patch of greenery. I was alone out here and there wasn’t even a hint of sea or swimming pools, yet the sense of holiday relaxation was immense. If only I could have bottled it!
Came back to the Ramada ‘brasserie’ for coffee and pudding and decided to finish my holiday with a German pancake – yes, more stodge. Oh dear. Totally inedible. And I have never before seen a pancake look like large bullets of fried flour! (See photo.) Quite revolting but I paid as I had eaten the fruit that came with it and was pleased not to have added to holiday weight gain. (I don’t think I did because of all the walking…)
Went upstairs for another shower and hair wash and a strong desire to be back home. I half wished I had gone back into Munchen for that last minute sight-seeing but most of me was overfilled with seeing places and doing touristy things.
The day ended with yet another (eating) challenge.
Oh dear. I was so looking forward to a good meal to end an interesting visit to Bavaria. Instead I got something in tomato juice with lots of tomatoes and peppers, despite saying I was allergic to them. They assured me that they didn’t just hoick off the tomatoes and peppers but re-made the meal. Unfortunately, as I ate – very carefully – I spotted a huge hair on a piece of cucumber. Cue end of meal.
They didn’t charge me but, waiting for the bill (a long time!), it left a sour taste so I wasn’t minded to leave a tip despite intending to leave a hefty one. I got a horrible feeling as if I was to blame for everything from the unwelcome welcome to this – as if I was trying to pull a fast one. Me, who takes honesty to stupid degrees sometimes!
It wasn’t as if the place was crowded either, though I didn’t take it personally. I just think from my overall experiences – and observing them in general – that Germans have a different attitude to ‘waiting on tables’ to say the Italians or French. Even Brits at least pay you attention.
Wi-fi was even dodgier than the Wi-Fi in the Holiday Inn so I gave up trying at 21:13hrs and decided to try and sleep.
Aside: why were there so many large groups of burkha-clad women in the Ramada – and apparently also in the Munich Holiday Inn?
I just want to add here that the staff at Ramada Munich-Messe did try to make amends, and quite quickly. However, I have kept the notes as is in the interests of veracity.
Day 7 11/08/14 + End Notes
Munich – Dachau – Home
09:20hrs – Sitting in Henry’s in Munich – parallel to the Hauptbahnhof. An early night meant an early morning. Hence being here so early. For a Monday morning it is exceptionally quiet. And wet. No commuters. No cyclists. Just rain.
I decided against having breakfast at the Ramada and checked out. The previous evening’s guilt about being given a free meal – albeit unfinished on spotting the hair – remained. So I gave one of the girls €10 to give to the staff who served me last night. I presume they did.
It was raining as I walked to Messestadt West – the correct U-Bahn stop! All the previous days of scorching sun instantly became distant memories. But cooler damp weather was in fact a big benefit as I was now wearing my travelling clothes and carting the 50x40x20. Well perhaps not with canvas Toms – which ended up soaked.
I had previously bought a ticket for four hours travel anywhere which I thought would be enough to do a spot of sight-seeing in Munich. However, I was too cold, wet and more than a little fed up for that. I also was not enthralled with Munich either before or now.
Unfortunately, I also had HOURS to kill before the EasyJet flight back. So I went back to the information desk to find out what I could do hereabouts, bearing in mind that my ticket would have to take me wherever and then back on the s8 to the airport.
The nice lady told me to pay a euro more for an all-day ticket instead and then I could take the S-Bahn (S2) and a local bus to Dachau instead. So I did.
That S-Bahn plus local bus trip was not as wearisome as it sounds though I did stand on the wrong platform and found myself going in the opposite direction. Luckily, the S trains like the U trains come fairly frequently so it was a short wait for the train back and then a short hike up some stairs (still with 50x40x20 in tow) to the right platform and the right train.
Just in case, I did a double check and asked a friendly-looking woman, who was with her family. They were Americans, also visiting Dachau. Exiting Dachau station, there were suddenly hordes (well, a lot) all waiting to catch the local bus out to the concentration camp memorial.
The local bus was not just for tourists and stopped several times. But it was still relatively quick so I felt a little less tense about travelling times. I think the bus fare was just under €2 but you couldn’t buy a return.
On arrival at Dachau, I said goodbye to my American fellow travellers as I knew I would be heading back well before them (or any of the other tourists).
In fact I spent most of the time there in the gift shop, wanting to buy something Jewish or Israeli. Got a ‘hand’ with a Star of David on. Then followed a quick walk up to and partially round the camp – still dragging the 50x40x20…
11:45hrs Dachau bus stop – waiting for bus back to the station.
Having been to Auschwitz, Dachau with or without crowds doesn’t have the same – or really any – emotional impact. Even the words Arbeit Macht Frei are on a small gate that is barely noticeable.
13:10hrs – On S8 to airport. Yes, WAY too early but am so tired of crowds, lifting the 50x40x20 up endless steps and trying to fill time just to say I’ve been somewhere.
As I was about to descend into the S-Bahn, a major lard bucket reversed her bulk without looking where she was going, knocking my case and hitting my foot. Instead of saying the equivalent of ‘sorry’, the fat schweinhund kept saying ‘scheisse, scheisse, scheisse’. Needless to say I slammed straight back with ‘same to you’, mentally thinking ‘You great big fat brick shithouse.’ Obviously, discretion got the better of me and I kept that little retort inside my head.
As if to tell me my seven days of peace were finally coming to an end, this entire journey to the airport was discordantly accompanied by a bad-tempered child, whining and shrieking. The entire forty-odd minute journey. Oh joy. And something to look forward to (not) with the Ps next door. Double joy.
14:40hrs – In the terminal, pre-security, giving up on getting something I can actually eat without some reaction and ending up with a glass of wine and a cherry roulade cheesecake. (Note: a week later and my skin is still reacting with rashes and hives to all this food I don’t normally eat – cannot normally eat.)
Better to while the hours away here in the airport than traipsing the streets of Munich in the rain.
Cleaned up my feet in the loo and massaged them with a ginger and cardamom potion I bought in Müllers which made them tingle a bit more than was strictly comfortable.
Just as well I spent the money landside as Munich duty free is sparse – and more expensive than Gatwick.
Feeling mellow, at last. No longer concerned about home and other people. But decided to go through security and chill out on the other side.
No problems passing through customs but when they asked if I had any fluids the numbers on the lock wouldn’t align so I could open the case. They weren’t bothered and waved me through, but I made a bit of a fuss as I couldn’t open the damned thing for my own benefit.
One of the airport guys tried and couldn’t open it either, so yet another tried and eventually succeeded. I immediately took off the lock and left it in the case.
16:20hrs – parked near a runway, STILL hours to kill though there is free Wi-Fi here – you just have to provide your inside leg measurements first and if you are too slow, you have to re-register. I didn’t bother as I managed to access all I needed to bring me up to date before it wanted another pint.
I will however have to give in to eating stodge or more stodge as I am starving. Finally used up remaining euros on a bottle of water and a huge pretzel thing which almost gave me lockjaw. Gut-clogging, tasted revolting. Constipation is now guaranteed for the next three days. (Aside: my jaw is still sore over a week later!)
19:05hrs – and either Private Eye has suddenly become laugh out loud or I am losing it big time. But the time really has gone by quite quickly.
Bloke who was snoozing a table away from me has now woken up and is staring at me. Looks vaguely familiar. Like Rod Liddle. I went off to the loo and then he lumbered off somewhere so I’ll never know.
All those burka-clad women are now in the airport. Practically all the little girls are very pretty and very mischievous. The mothers swarm the loo and the shops en masse. Later, an air hostess looks about to have a nervous breakdown as the gates are closed (at least three times) while said women continue to saunter around. Twenty minutes later, they deign to go to the plane, still in no rush whatsoever. I presume they must be related to some Omani Croesus to be quite so arrogant.
Finally the gate is called and EasyJet reneges on its ‘guarantee’ to allow the 50x40x20 on as cabin luggage. The case fitted easy-peasy into the tester thingy in Gatwick but refuses to go into their minute checker here in Munich.
I am outraged and make sure every man, woman and dog knows. But the Spanish bat sticks a luggage label on which means I still have to haul it to the plane where it is then taken away from me to go in cargo. (As of typing this my ‘fume’ has started re-fuming…)
Not only was the plane was delayed a lengthy time, there was also a cockup as the bus took us to the plane. Flying EasyJet was altogether not an experience I ever want to repeat – even if the fares are much cheaper. The one and only time I have flown before – to Jersey – I went deaf in one ear for nearly three weeks.
On the plus side, I sat next to a chatty chap, an ex-prison officer, who told me all about his football away trip/s and his time in the prison service. He kept chatting all through the flight so the time passed quickly and, more to the point, my mind was distracted from worrying about my case and picking up my car.
Thanks to crap EasyJet, another day had been added to my car park fees.
Finally arrived at Gatwick and the hordes of hell. Where have all these people come from at this hour of night? However, by a stroke of luck, my case was waiting on the baggage carousel, so I headed straight out for the car park bus.
Finally I’m at exactly the right spot where I parked my car only it has decided to be invisible despite trying the remote lock. Deep breaths. Walk up and down the gangway. And there it is. Not invisible anymore. And the remote lock works.
One last palaver: the pre-paid ticket is no longer accepted and there is a demand for £110. In a pig’s ear! I leave the car at the barrier and take another deep breath before telling the woman inside that the plane was delayed, the bus was delayed and the car park bus was also delayed hence nudging into another day. She didn’t say a word. Fiddled around with her computer screen… and then gave me an exit ticket without having to pay that huge extra.
As I was finally heading home, a guy who was on the car park bus said ‘You were right!’ as he too went to get his over-payment nullified. I wished him luck as the barrier rose, letting me out.
Uneventful but slow drive home, cul de sac filled with cars as expected, but I was home.
If I am honest, I had to force myself to do those quick sketches, and even to take the not very good photos. Despite loving Nuremberg, Marktredwitz and Konnersreuth, it did not poke the creative muse at all. Well, that’s my excuse for the poor images!
And some other photos:
PS The camera was playing up so the dates and times on the photos are obviously incorrect. I travelled 5-11 August 2014.