Before I get into my current goings-on here in the Southeastern USA, I have a few more stories to share from my recent European travels. If you won’t mind taking a trip back in time with me, smack-dab in the middle of my East to West, European traverse, after an incredible 8 hour train exodus from Venice into the heart of Bavaria, I arrived in Munchen Hauptbahnhof, one of the most impressive train stations I’ve ever witnessed. A true testament to the renowned German engineering, the station was clean, bright, organized and boasting one of the best food courts for a transportation depot I’ve ever experienced.
After milling around the train station for a while, enjoying the free WiFi (kudos Krauts), I decided to head out into the city and find a place to shack up for the night. I didn’t have to travel far, within 100 yards of the station there were no less than 5 quality hostels to be found. After snooping around a few and checking the rates I settled on the Jager’s Hostel (not sure about the relation to the frat-boy party liquor) and checked myself into your typical 12 bunk, one bathroom, coed backpacker Hilton (I did opt out of the 40 bunk room).
Since the sun was shining and I was running on the adrenaline high that a new location sometimes brings, I set out into the heart of the city to try and see a few sights. My main destination for the day: Englischer Garten. Slightly north of the city center, Englischer Garten, is one of the worlds largest urban public parks, larger than NYC’s Central Park. The name is obviously German for “English Garden”, but this is in reference to the style of informal landscape gardening used throughout the 1.4 square mile park, not, ” bad food, worse weather and Marry Fu@?!&$ Poppins!”. It’s an easy walk to the park from historic Munich, just head north from the Glockenspiel and you will walk through some tight city streets and monuments before emerging into open public park space. It was at this juncture during my walk that the sun disappeared and a chilly rain started to fall. Dressed in shorts, a tee shirt and a thin raincoat, I soon realized that my attire was inadequate for the change in temperature. I tried to stay out of the rain as much as possible, but cover was sparse. I ducked under trees, tunnels and awnings until I reached the park proper. Once inside the park there was little I could do to avoid the precipitation, but the tree canopy at least turned the steady rain into a light sprinkle. Heading through the park from South to North, one of the first areas you encounter is the Japanese Garden, highlighted by a pond surrounding a Japanese style tea house. On this particular day, despite the rainfall, there was a festival taking place. I couldn’t quite make out the specifics of the festival, but from what I could gather it was a type of Japanese heritage event that was mainly attended by German youths in all manner of strange Anime-type dress. Many individuals were dressed as Japanese cartoon characters, both human and animal. Interesting to say the least.
After getting past the festival tents and traveling to the Eastern edge of the park I came upon one of the most popular attractions in Munich, “The Wave”. The small creek that fed the pond in the Japanese garden turned into a steady stream and then into a full blown torrent. Where the artificial river begins, from a culvert under a city bridge, a raised concrete slab creates an artificial wave that surfers from all around Europe come to shred.
Even in the cold rainy weather, there were no less than 20 surfers that day clad in full wetsuits, lined up for their turn to jump on the break. Below is a short video I compiled of the riders that day:
I stepped inside the small building and bellied up to the counter to order a German specialty: Weisswurst. Literally translating to, “white sausage”, this is a Bavarian specialty that is usually eaten as a snack between breakfast and lunch. Most Bavarians eat their Weisswurst before noon because it is made early in the morning without preservatives and would typically spoil before nightfall. The sausage is made with a combination of veal and pork belly mixed with spices such as parsley, lemon, onions, ginger and cardamom. The sausage is usually served with sweet grainy mustard, alongside a soft salted pretzel. The sausage was light and soft to the taste and a bite with the sweet sticky mustard was a revelation. Since I was breaking the rules and eating my Weisswurts around 4pm, I also opted to add a German Radler to wash it all down. A Radler is a refreshing Bavarian creation of beer mixed with lemonade. I’m usually not the kind of guy to mix fruit in my beer, and I admit I was skeptical before trying it, but this particular blend is on point. Legend has it that it’s creation was a mistake, a sneaky bartender who was low on beer one day, decided to mix lemonade with his remaining brew in order to quench the thirst of the many parched cyclist that approached his tavern. To his surprise, the cyclists came back year after year to have another of these unique beverages and thus the, “Radler” (Cyclist), was born.
After filling my belly and getting as warm as I could, I set my bearing south and began to head back to my hostel. Due to my near-hypothermic state I decided not to explore the north side of the park, but I hear there is a fantastic Bier Garten in that section of the park called the Chinese tower. So if you are in Munich, I suggest that you don’t miss out on the Englischer Garten, it was definitely one of the highlights of my time in the city.