Munich: Diary Extract pt.1

June 18, 2015
There is an abundance of homeless people here, some with peculiar deformities. In reality there are probably only 10-20 visible nearby, but the way they line themselves up on the road connecting the Hauptbahnhof to Karlsplatz really makes you pay attention. I don't mean to dehumanise these people but it can make the walk quite unpleasant as you side-step jingling coffee cups. I know, boo-hoo/poor me, but making that walk so many times a day it is far too easy to become desensitised to their suffering. Almost like the familiarity of knowing which step not to tread on at night so as not to wake the house with a loud creak. I walk this street often, and sometimes my cynical mind wonders if they are in a kind of friendly competition with each other.

How do you choose who (if any) to donate your 20 cents to? There is a man who is missing the last third of both feet who sits himself right in the centre of the narrow street. He kind of shuffles around and makes you worry he will grab your ankles if you step too close. There is a young, slender woman with one leg so bandy it stands 5 inches separate from her body. She steadies herself using a crutch and stays relatively silent. One man has just one leg and it makes me consider how it would be to find yourself in need of medical attention in a country without a National Health Service. If you are poor and require a limb to be amputated then that's pretty much it for you. It makes you feel so (hashtag) blessed to come from the United Kingdom - probably the only place you can go to the emergency room for a minor injury. I think the lady with the bandy leg collects the most money. 

Aside from being 'politely' harassed by foreign men several times a day, I feel very at home here. More at home than grand London, or artsy Brighton, or even the land of "yummy mummys" in Leigh-on-Sea. Perhaps it is the comfortable silence I am allowed in a city whose mother tongue is largely unfamiliar. Despite the language barrier I never feel lonely. They say ignorance is bliss and believe me - there is nobody more peaceful than the bullish English native speakers as we babble brazenly in our own language without even a simple "entschuldigung" to hedge our questions. 

The pride of the Bavarians makes me feel every day I have picked a wonderful place to live. Outsiders call it arrogance but I have never met a friendlier bunch or people than these. When I say this I am often met with the retort "it's because you're a white girl". The phrase "Mia San Mia" (which is emblazoned on every Bayern Munich football shirt) is actually a very accurate description for the Bavarians. Though it sounds Spanish or Italian it is Bavarian for 'we are who we are', literally translating to "we are we". This is shown every weekend as the town is filled with proud men wearing lederhosen. They are not worn as a funny costume like the drunken stag-do-goers at Oktoberfest, but they wear their €1000(!) lederhosen with such a sense of national pride that you daren't question their intentions. Munich just celebrated its birthday with a weekend long festival in the town square. This happens every year. 

One public holiday (since I arrived there have been four) there was a traditional brass band in my favourite bier garden - Augustiner Keller - and the punters knew the words to all the songs. At the end of each cheery tune there is an after part where the beery Bavarians held up their maß (meaning measurement, said like 'mass' - to us aliens they are the famous one litre steins) and sing "Prost!" about five times before the band pick up their own maß and take a hearty gulp. If you don't want to seem like a tourist then the correct way to drink is as follows: pick it up with your right hand - not like a teacup you silly Brit! You must put all of your fingers through the handle and grip the beer at the front. Your thumb should rest on top of the handle and if you are drinking good'n'proper then you should wake up the next day with a bruise from the handle. Have I said handle enough? Can you handle it? The beer should be an extension of your hand - not a burden. Before drinking you must say "Prost" and 'cheers' the bottom of your glass (not with every sip - pick your moments. If there's a lull in conversation this is the time!) 

I feel great, even though I haven't eaten a vegetable in weeks. If you don't count sauerkraut that is. My beer tolerance has gone up remarkably - the other day I drank 4 maß whilst playing cards with some young Bavarians. Drinking is different here. I have yet to step foot in a bar not belonging to a hostel yet alone a nightclub. Here you begin and end early. 

One thing I have learned and come to be frustrated by (come on, this is my home!) is when people say this is traditional German culture. This is wrong - it is Bavarian! I am trying to come up with a British equivalent for the difference; many people say from other parts of Germany say they have difficulty understanding the dialect here. Maybe it is a little bit like England and Scotland. I certainly have required subtitles on Scottish movies before. Yes, this is not Germany. Go to Berlin and it could be anywhere. You certainly wouldn't get street vendors selling replica gas masks in Munich - but that is a subject for another time. 

It is not quite a toy town as the place is busting with modern types but for me it is magical. I am so pleased that the sunny city I visited for my 21st birthday wasn't just an illusion. I feel very safe and happy. Girls wear less make-up and aren't afraid if anything. Maybe I made that last part up but it certainly feels that way. The sky is always visible because the buildings are not sky-scrapers. 

Nobody really seems to mind me liking both Chelsea and Bayern Munich - particularly when I explain that the main reason I am here was to be near Bayern. I just try not to mention the notorious Champions League final - I couldn't say so without smiling. Nobody laughs when I tell them the reason. The fans here are exceptional. On a Wednesday night in a beerhall in off-season a Bayern chant was started and quickly spread throughout the room. Granted they were calling BVB (Dortmund) sons of bitches but the sense of pride is incomparable. The atmosphere on game day is electrical and palpable all throughout the city. I like that. The English are too self-conscious when it comes to football. 

1 comment:

  1. As a Brit living in Germany I can relate to this post a lot. Although having previously lived in Frankfurt, I'm just getting used to the life in Munich. It most certainly is different, but I love it.

    P.S. The song about BVB isn't purely a Bayern song. Eintracht Frankfurt fans don't mind belting out those few lines either.


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