Let’s start from the beginning. I’m back in Munich where I belong and I’m not wasting any time. First item on the agenda: single-handedly sorting out the economy, trying desperately to give it that kick it needs, like a mad surgeon thrusting a shot of adrenaline into Europe’s economic heart. As you may be aware from the news, there’s still a long way to go. Thanks for shaking things by the way up Dave, I’m getting a lot of stick because of you. “Marcus vot ees heppaning viz zee European Union. Vot did vee do rong zis time?” The question remains: will Great Britain choose to go it alone? Anyway let’s immediately put that on the backburner and think about it again in 2015. Let’s just hope that there aren’t any ancient civilisations predicting our demise this year. That’s enough Mayan practical jokes for the time being, thank you very much.
This blog covers the period of time from present day all the way back to Wednesday the 9th January 2013 AD. Wednesday before last, Niklas organized a cheeky few drinks at the swanky Vanilla Lounge at Münchner Freiheit. A quiet evening was had and we learnt that Niklas’ great-grandfather was a Brit who immigrated to Finland and created the “Domino” a biscuit similar to the “Oreo” and a successful biscuit business which still runs to this day. Also it means that one of his names is “Domino”. I suppose, at the end of the day, there are worse things you could be named after.
After a hard working week, the young professionals of Munich want to let their hair down. On Friday evening it was time to tuck in dinner with colleagues. Of course, Planne-Charlotte made the reservation. What would we do without her? The reservation was at Ocui, an Italian restaurant at Sendlinger Tor similar to Vapiano’s (German version of Pizza Express) but far superior because Vapiano’ (whoever he is) is in my opinion overrated. Discussions about traffic, parking and other amazingly interesting topics were covered as well as a lot of talk about London from Espa, who met her boyfriend on her Year Abroad.
12.01.2013 Skiing Saturday @ Bayrischzell
There aren’t many things that get me up at 5am on a Saturday morning. Skiing, however, is one of the few things that can. Our resort of choice was Bayrischzell which is about an hour from Munich on the train (Bayerische Oberlandsbahn). Some of us brought skis, some of us didn’t, those who didn’t were able rent skis from the Skischule Bayrischzell for the very reasonable price of 20€. As an extra option you could rent sunglasses, goggles or helmets for 3€ each. It was really good value and undoubtedly a good deal overall. Then we got down to the actual skiing. Sudelfeld isn’t the biggest of resorts, but it did make for an interesting day of navigation as the visibility wasn’t great. I’ve been very privileged to have learnt to ski at a young age. I’ve skied as far north as Norway and as far south as Italy, as well as a lot in France (Puy Saint-Vincent). This snow, however, was like nothing I had ever experienced. Pure Bavarian snowflakes settled on the piste and created a fresh layer of sheer velocity. When pressing down on your skis, you could enjoy a smooth descent and as you turned them, they didn’t dig in or complain as you rounded the piste. The blades simply sliced through the snow like a knife through whipped cream. A few pushy Bavarian parents shouted at their children for not skiing fast enough or with sufficient technique, keen to make them professional skiers by the age of eight. Achtung – petrified kids with tunnel vision hurtling down the mountain for the next 200 metres!
Despite Maciek giving it the big talk on the train (or “givin’ it the large one” as Tom Margetson would say) he basically panicked at the idea of skiing off piste. He expressed a reasonable concern of danger so we decided to follow the piste down. Surprised by this change of tune, we continued down to the lift. As we sat on the two-man chair, the cliff face beyond the trees came into view and where I had pointed out a fun bit of skiing, we would have both surely disappeared down the side of the mountain, our backs broken on the rocks below and we would never have been seen again. From then on Maciek was trusted with the decision making. Late in the afternoon the visibility began to get even worse. Knackered from the skiing, Maciek and I felt like a snack was in order. Low on supplies, we sought out an eatery that we had seen on the map. As I once again led Maciek off into the abyss, trudging through snow, I felt like the great OA, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Unlike Captain Scott who reached the pole, but in doing so doomed his men to certain death, I decided to take more of an Ernie angle and put the safety of my men first. The map turned out to be useless, but our desperation to resupply was so overwhelming that we started to imagine figures walking in front of us towards a hut which would appear suddenly vivid and then promptly disappear in a cloud of snow.
The weather eventually cleared and we found ourselves a wooden panelled pub where we could shelter from the elements. We ordered bread and sausage, so we weren’t exactly expecting miracles, but when we got a mouldy crust of bread and two Frankfurters you could say we were downhearted. Still, the mustard masked all flavour, thank God. Also with us on the trip was a lovey dovey couple who didn’t make too much of an impression on us. There was a British girl and a Norwegian guy who were both horrendously smiley people. They kept on bizarrely grinning at each other and dramatically embracing each other. When we tried to make conversation, Maciek didn’t exactly help by starting literally every sentence with “So”.
Couple: “Are you a student?”
Maciek: “So I am studying at LMU.”
Couple: “Oh, right, what do you study?”
Maciek: “So I am studying medicine.”
Couple: “That’s great do you enjoy it?”
Maciek: “So I like it very much. Yes.”
Having polished off our disappointing meal, we opted to get back on the slopes as the weather cleared up. The resort wasn’t huge, but we all know it’s not size that matters. It seemed great for young families, lots of drag-lifts and shallow gradients. And for a day of skiing you certainly couldn’t complain. On a clear day the view from the top of the mountain is apparently fantastic. By the evening we were back in Munich and tucked up in our beds. Here are a few things I learnt along the way from my polish friend.
The world according to Medical Maciek. (Pole Position)
- “The British love to make these ‘stag parties’ in Krakow, you know these parties, Marcus?”
- “Belvedere is best vodka in world but very expensive.”
- “Polish girls are most beautiful in world.” ~ Eastern European girls in Munich have been a letdown so far for the boy.
- “These English and Irish football fans were very very well-behaved during UEFA Euro 2012.” ~ Well done boys. You’re a credit to us all.
On Thursday it was Nath’s 21st and he opted for some quiet drinks at Kennedy’s Irish Pub. If you’ve been reading the blog from the start, you’ll know that Nath is a fellow Leeds student. Not only that though, he happens to be the newly appointed Match Reporter for 1860 München, the second biggest football club in Munich. As part of his job he gets to interview players and managers. Unfortunately, it won’t be possible to get former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson out for a few beers as he is longer running for the job of manager. As the evening progressed, so did the propensity to sing. Yes, there was Karaoke services available and yes, we did partake. I lead the charge with a hearty rendition of Country Roads – West Yorkshire. As I approached the stage, I shot past a waitress a bit too enthusiastically and rather embarrassingly smashed an entire tray of empty pint glasses onto the floor. This dramatic introduction spurred me on to even greater things and after I had finished this world première I had an Irishman and a Yorkshireman approach me. The latter gentleman, claiming to hail from Wakefield, approached me and had incorrectly but understandably assumed I was from God’s own county and cut to the chase: “So wha’ parta Yarkshire ya fram?” Thinking that “London” would be too cheeky an answer, I refrained. Instead, I politely explained how I had studied the past two years in Leeds. Having exposed me for the Southerner I am and with that unable to hide his disappointment, the man in question gave me a brief synopsis of his current employment in a software company and soon after was on his way. The highlight of the night was yet to come: it turns out Nath does a great “Wherever you will go” by The Calling. I remember shouting: “Don’t forget to start off low!” Needless to say he did start stir the crowd with his husky recitation: “So lately, I’ve been wonderin'”.
20.01.2013 Skiing Sunday @ Garmisch-Partenkirchen
On Sunday, I travelled faster than the speed of leather to Garmisch–Partenkirchen alongside colleagues Snowball Sascha and Teutonic Tilman for my second skiing experience of 2013. Sascha works for BMW Bank and Tilman is an expert on the motorbikes we sell, how they are put together etc. Two great lads. We left from our Wohnheim at around 9am and we were on the slopes by 10am. This is because in Germany, instead of having a maximum speed limit, on some roads they actually have a minimum speed limit, some sections of road where you must travel at least 80km/h for example. This was perfect as Tilly had rented a BMW 330d which ripped down the Autobahn at 160km/h leaving nothing but a few grams of CO2 and a thin trail of diesel in its wake. I love how this country has stretches of road with literally no limit on the speed. Think about that for a minute. Limitless speed. What does it feel like? Well I don’t know exactly but I can tell you whatever it feels like it is made more comfortable nestled in the leather of a premium Bavarian automobile.
We arrived at Garmisch and we needed to rent skis. Everyone knows the standard German stereotypes, but do they hold any truth at all? Yes. Yes they do. The Germans have an airport-style system when it comes to ski rental. Why? Because “skiing iz no laughing matter”. It must be “so efficient like possible”.
- Step 1: Rental check-in.
- Step 2: Payment and Identification
- Step 3: Ski fitting and collection
Lunch is expensive at these sort of resorts so naturally for our lunch break we ate our packed-lunches and listened to Schläger (German hits) outside a cafe on the slopes: “Da wo früher mein Leber war ist jetzt ein Minibar” being a personal lyrical highlight. After a few beers and we were skiing even better in the afternoon.
I wasn’t in the most international of moods and grew weary of overhearing Americans regaling stories among their friends, a significant proportion of whom were invariably called Brett. I bumped into Bilingual Brian who I went skiing with the week before with Maciek and the Erasmus lot and who acts as an antidote to the poisonous American stereotypes. He was there with Ludo, very randomly. At the end of the day, we met at the Schwegelift. A few people turned up late including an out of breath Peruvian snowboarder who was desperately searching for his friend. When he found that his mate was settling down ready to sip a warm hot chocolate he started shouting:
“Why did you left me alone, man. I almost died”. (sic)
On our return journey the sun did that thing it usually does and sank beneath the mountain, leaving only a dark silhouette of the jagged peak visible. Our BMW xDrive day out was brilliant, utilising the features of the car and just sitting back and relaxing. To see the dynamic lighting system Fernlicht (full beam) is an amazing step forward in technology. The motion sensor allows the adaptive LED headlights to automatically follow the curve in the road and turns a section of the light off when it senses a car is coming in the other direction. Thus the oncoming vehicle isn’t affected by your beam, enhancing the comfort of your own vehicle whilst improving the safety of other road users. In a decade or so this feature will likely be standard across the board in the automotive industry and may even be obligatory, but it really is fascinating to be witnessing the cutting edge technology of tomorrow, today. On our journey back I spotted that the village of Oberammergau is in possession of one of our beloved red phone boxes. They either stole it or it was yet another object that fell out of the sky during WWII. Either way, they now keep it outside their pub, perhaps as a sort of trophy.
One evening in the week I was cycling to the driving school when I bumped into a Ghostly Greggers who had been sent on a mission by one of his housemates. The objective being to replenish the supply of washing liquid which he had plundered (presumably without the neccessary permissions), or else. I pointed him in the direction of Lidl and Aldi and wished him the best of luck. I really hope he found what he was looking for. On Thursday evening we all headed to Lardy in Münchner Freiheit for a couple of drinks with the team. It was time to decide, are you a Praktikant, or a Prakti-can?
25.01.-27.01.2013. Skiing Weekend @ Lenggries.
This past weekend has to be one of the highlights of my Year Abroad so far. We were very lucky to be invited to a skiing trip with the university. We boarded the coach at Universität and withing minutes we were on our way into the mountains. During the journey Good Deal came on twice so I took that as a good omen that the weather would be great. The group leaders were swigging Augustiners on the bus to the resort.
Hostile Hostel. We arrived at the hostel which was clean, well built, I’d even go so far as to say it was pleasant. The only thing was that we were ordered to remove our footwear as we came in. Only the Germans amongst us had remembered to bring their house shoes, the rest of us were left barefoot or in damp socks for the rest of the weekend. The first evening was spent night skiing after which we used a snowboard as a minibar on top of a
Here are the boys, up to no good as usual.
A little bit of dancing did take place.
Apres ski on the slopes.
A good deal of apres ski was fitted in, sometimes paradoxically even before any skiing had been done.
Korean man hit the dancefloor so enthusiastically when Gangnam Style came on I cannot even explain.
In the club, I decided despite being dressed in a loose shirt, jeans and snow boots, it would be a good idea to approach a table of Germans, to see how long I could last, so to speak. The aim was to have a chat, you know. Since 90% of countries in the world have been invaded by the British party due to our determination to seek out good weather, I was quietly confident in my task. I took a deep breath. And I plucked up the courage to go up to the table. Three blondes, one brunette and two serious and “cool” chaps. I assumed a seat next to what my agreed to be the most attractive of the pack but I was dealt the “boyfriend card” all too soon in the conversation, little did she mention that he was on his way to the club. “He plays for the German national Ice-hockey team, you know”, she explained and as I looked up, the guy was stood right in front of me. Feeling a bit like an extra in Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag, I tried to plan an exit so I could scuttle away. But it was far too late. Having imagined him to be big through word of mouth, he turned out rather disappointingly small but he did have a scary tatoo on his neck which I thought might make him more the fighting type. I could see his girlfriend desperately trying to explain that I was just some guy who had randomly come up to her. The ice-hockey player was clearly angry and confused, but thankfully he wasn’t at the time in possession of any sticks or blades. He was completely unarmed apart from the cap on his head. Time for plan B: neutralise the target. I extended a friendly handshake for what felt like an eternity but alas, it was completely overlooked. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Nath and the others keeling over with laughter as they watched the painful drama unfold from the balcony seats. When champagne arrived and I noticed there weren’t enough glasses for me, I knew then that I had been officially rejected from the group. An Englishman knows when he isn’t welcome as soon as he stops being offered drink. There was only one option left : I had to get out of there. Still managed to defy Nath and Co. Half an hour on the clock, though. Not bad.
In the duration of the evening, Nath and Phil somehow managed to fall out with a fairly dangerous Estonian man who claimed he had a gun and the morning after we awoke to a rather biblical message on our door threatening to do nasty things to the “British guy with glasses”. You might think that the description fits me but it was actually referring to Phil the Canadaian who ahd been wearing glasses that evening, but been unfortunately mistaken for a Brit. This story is made all the more confusing because I am a Brit and a Canadian who wears glasses. Anyway, no Canadians or Brits were harmed in the making of this low-budget Estonian horror film. The trip was well organised, although it was worrying to see that most of the organisers seemed to have some form of alcohol problem. I suppose that’s what made the trip such a success. Apart from the occasional mishap, a great weekend was had by all. We were back in Munich by dark and looked forward to resting after the hectic weekend of drinking and skiing.
Workwise, I have the unfortunate news of announcing that Ingo, Anne-Charlotte and Prince Charming are leaving us this month. Such sad times. but we will always have the memories from Oktoberfest, Austria, Hamburg and other trips around the city. Ingo will be remembered for his fabulous idiomatic phrases (Sprüche/Sprichwörter). We will try to plan as well just like Anne-Charlotte did, in the process earning herself the nickname Planne-Charlotte. Prince Charming will be remembered for his love of partying, princesses and Porsches. I look forward to making a trip to see how he’s getting on in Prague in the coming months.
Why am I learning to drive…
- in a foreign country
- on the right hand side
- in the snow
- where they have no speed limit
…I’m not quite sure. Maybe this will all become apparent in the future. I have now had my first driving lesson. I’m being taught by a Jäger on a Mini Cooper. His title translates roughly as rifleman or fighter but literally he is one of the elite German “hunter” troops. He was stationed in Northern Afghanistan for 4.5 months and he seems to be quite a good teacher.
In other news, Far-Eastern Felix has a new Chinese friend (aww Chinese friend) is called Tschi Bing (what like the search engine? Yes, just like the search engine). Rémi le Roi is back in Munich this week, returning to destroy some job interviews and we have very big things planned for the weekend. That said, a big week lies ahead in Bavaria starting with a reservation for fourteen at Cosmogrill, voted Munich’s best burger house by American Airlines.