Saturday, July 15, 2006

July 15th, 2006 - Munich, Germany

I packed up the bike in the morning and set out to find my way back to Karl Maier BMW. Well, who knows what the deal was with those directions because I found it on the same road as the hotel about 2 km away. I asked them about a tank bag for the bike. I had figured out the day before that the nifty magnetic one I had brought from home was not quite going to work on the plastic tank of the F650. The guy behind the counter (Karl?) said something in German, but I thought I heard "borrow." Sure enough, he yelled to one of the other guys, and before I knew it they were fitting a nice, large capacity bag on the bike. While there, I also got some advice on my route for Sunday. It seems the one had been planning would be very crowded on a holiday weekend. I gathered that the next couple weeks were a popular German vacation time at the lakes south of Munich.

Back on the road from Karl Maier, I saw signs for Munchen about 20 kilometers away, so I figured I would just try to follow the signs into town. And as luck would have it, those signs took me right onto the Autobahn. Well, that sure got that experience out of the way. I had rationalized that my decision to skirt around the high speed German thoroughfare in favor of smaller local roads was intended to maximize my connection with the small towns and scenery. In reality, my decision may have been more based on my fear of getting “Fahrvergn├╝gen’d” by a speeding Porsche. After all my paranoia, it really wasn't that bad. I stayed in the right lane with the trucks and went between 100 and 110 kilometers per hour. That ends up only being about 70 miles per hour but on my fully loaded bike, that felt plenty fast. And sure enough, Audi's, Mercedes, and BMW's were blowing by me in the left lane like I was standing still. By the way, in the urban areas, speed limits were posted (100 kph I seem to recall). It’s only out of the towns that you’ll find the unrestricted sections that feed into the legend the Autobahn.

I followed signs for "zentrum" figuring this was either an enormous stadium where I could catch a David Hasselhoff concert or the center of town. I thought if I could get to the center, things would start looking familiar from the night before. Well, they didn't. Trying to use the sightseeing map printed on the back of the train schedule, I managed to go around in circles for more than an hour missing turns, going the wrong direction, and generally getting all turned around. I finally stopped at a place that advertised tourist information and got a better map. Or so I thought. Even with the new map I couldn’t figure out which direction was which and ended up going in circles again. Many of the main streets would suddenly become pedestrian plazas as they approached the city center.

At one point I saw a woman carrying a surfboard and remembered that someone had told me there was a spot in a river in town that could be surfed like a standing wave. I spent the next little while trying to stay close the river and looking for more surfboards. When I spotted one in the passenger seat of a Miata driven by a guy in one of those and anti-chafe surfing shirts, I followed him for a few blocks right to a bridge with people looking over the side. I parked and went down a path under the bridge and indeed saw an amazing standing wave with people taking turns entering from either side and riding this thing on surfboards. No foot straps, no fixed line to hold onto. The shape of the wave just allowed them to cut back and forth on it and stay in place. That is until a weight shift miscalculation or bona-fide wipe out caused them to be spit out the backside of the wave to swim frantically to the bank and hike back up to get in line again. Very cool in landlocked Munich to have this great surf spot.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

After a welcome break, it was time to get back to trying to figure out where the hell the hotel I had tipsily booked the night before was. I once again tried my systematic process of exploring all the options and approaching from different directions, but it still took me another 2 hours of looping around before I found it. I was feeling completely dehydrated and was very happy to see that familiar hotel sign. I checked in and went upstairs to chug refill after refill of small, sanitized hotel-bathroom-size water glasses and snooze in front of German TV coverage of the Tour de France.

Groggy but determined, I awoke a couple hours later with a mission of finding the real beer gardens in Munich. I stuck the mandolin I had brought from home in my backpack figuring I might pick a little in the park near the surf wave. As I walked into the Englisher Gartens on a warm summer afternoon, I was amazed at how many people were out enjoying the day. Downstream from the surf wave, people were floating in the current everywhere like it was a water park. As the path (reminding me of something in Golden Gate Park) opened up on a grassy field, there were people as far as the eye could see in large and small groups, drinking beer and having picnics, lying in the sun and jumping into the flowing water. It struck me that for these people, this was the closest thing they had to a beach (a thought that would come back to me 12 days later in Berlin). For now, equally frightened by the naked sunbathing men and the hot German women in bikinis, I kept the mandolin in its case and walked towards the increasingly loud sound of polka music, the tell-tale sign of a beer garden.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

I found the source of the horns three or four levels up in a Chinese pagoda overlooking a collection of tables that made last night's beer garden look like a window sill spice box. I can't even estimate how many tables of people there were, but the large majority seemed to be German-speaking people who had come to this great spot here in their city park to hang out, eat sausages, and drink beer from huge, liter steins. When in Munich, right?

I drank a liter and ordered a brat with pommes (sausage and french fries). A liter is roughly equivalent to two pints but that clean German beer was going down like water, so I ordered another. By that point, I was feeling pretty loose but thankfully opted against joining the only English conversation I could hear which consisted of three drunken southern frat boys regaling each other with tales of their debutante conquests. Instead, lost in thought after the Gillis Brother's rendering of "Sweet Thing" coming through my iPod headphones, I noticed that the polka band in the pagoda was now playing "Amazing Grace" and felt like that meant it was time to go.

As I thought I might, I stumbled back to my centrally located hotel and somehow managed to type and send an email to everyone at home. The next day, I would head south to start my tour of the Alps. First stop was to be Imst, Austria by way of Linderhoff which I recalled my guide book saying was the castle Disney based its "Magic Kingdom" on. The days after, I planned to work west towards Interlaken, Switzerland where I had it on good authority there was a hemp store that would give you a bag of weed if you ask for "potpourri.” It reminded me of the Kentucky Fried Chicken back home in Mill Valley where you’d get the same if you asked for "extra biscuits." It's a small world after all...

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