Thursday, June 21, 2012

Missiles from Munich

Today in Munich, we left our car in the garage and spent the entire day walking the Old Town. Some internet weather website had predicted rain today but it was actually another fine June day in this part of the world. And when the sun is shining down on Europe, it truly feels like nothing is wrong with the world.

Today was the one free day in this area and the choice was a drive to Bavaria or a walk around Munich. Much as we wanted to see both, it was a no brainer that we had to spend time in the capital of Bavaria itself -- especially for me, as I've read so much about the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, whose rather crazy family, the Wittelsbachs, had ruled Bavaria for centuries.

Empress Sisi, as she was more often called, grew up in a provincial castle in the countryside that was known for its natural charm but lack of any kind of order.

In fact, the quite sophisticated Austrian court ladies were completely shocked at first to learn that Sisi's father kept his own private zoo at home and the animals had free rein of the castle including at dinner time in the big hall.

So Sisi's immediate family lived in a very liberal atmosphere in this castle, but the head of the entire family lived and reigned from Munich; and it was from here, from the family seat in Munich, that Sisi journeyed to Vienna to be married to the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.

It was a royal love marriage, which was quite unusual in those days, but unfortunately Sisi and the Austrian Emperor were not a good fit at all. She was the most beautiful woman in Europe for a long time, and he was a dashing young man and perhaps the most powerful ruler in Europe at that time. Talk about all the ingredients for success. Unfortunately, they were so far apart in every way. This is what makes their story fascinating. Scroll down to read more about our adventures in Munich...


Anyway, from our hotel to the center of town it was a lovely 20-minute walk punctuated by stops every few seconds to take photographs. I'd brought with me on this trip a new Sony a35 SLR camera, and it was so light that I could use it the whole day with no problems. I probably took a thousand photos today for Travelife Magazine, in the course of walking about ten hours straight, stopping only for a light lunch in a 19th century patisserie that also happened to serve savory dishes.

My friend S ordered a plate of typical Munich weiner sausages and, although we knew what these were, we were still quite surprised that her order came literally as two thin sausages unadorned on a very plain plate.

Meanwhile, I'd chosen the beef stew and when I'd seen what had arrived for her under the guise of sausages, I'd drastically lowered my expectations for my own order. This was a patisserie rather than a restaurant after all so they could be forgiven for not doing a hot meal well. So what a surprise it was that my order arrived arranged very nicely, and it tasted delicious with a bit of puff pastry in the middle. I could even taste the wine they'd used to flavor it with.

What's on my iPod right now

Mike and The Mechanics


And what a beautiful town Munich is, with all roads leading to its picturesque square and city hall. I'd almost forgotten about this because I haven't been to Munich since I was a child -- and my strongest memory of it is of having delicious bratwrust for lunch at the Hofbrauhaus, one of Munich's most iconic taverns. And today, "slightly" older, here I was again in Munich with two of my closest friends.

It felt like a full circle, and I was really glad that A had insisted so much on visiting a car factory near Munich tomorrow. If not for him, it would probably have taken me another ten years to get to Munich again, just because there are so many amazing places in this world to visit and too few days, weeks and months to do so. If I'd had my choice, I would have driven to Poland from Prague, you see.

Meanwhile, even while talking with my two friends, I found myself thinking about a lot of things while I was walking. Some were happy things like more travels I was planning and jokes that made me laugh this week.  I also pondered on a couple of not very happy thoughts. There's one particular issue that's been weighing on me like a stone since last week, and what I would give to throw that stone over the river as soon as possible.


But someone up there is really looking after me. Just at exactly this time, He somehow arranged to have two of my dearest friends come along with me all the way to Europe. We're enjoying ourselves so much, and I have the added bonus of almost having a 24-hour support group exactly when I need it most. I'm not a particularly religious person, but I have to gratefully admit that there was a plan to all this.

Then there's my friend J and his really funny BBM messages that have so far made me laugh so much in a week not really meant for laughing. I can't tell you how nice it is to laugh over private jokes at a time like this.

The other day, J sent me a message while I was in the rather quiet and businesslike Cathay Pacific lounge in Manila waiting for my flight to Hong Kong. We'd been exchanging messages for a while when he sent me this one-liner. I'd burst out laughing so hard that everyone suddenly looked up at me. Practically everyday here in Europe so far, too, he's made me laugh about something, although I can't really blog about what these are because no one else would really understand what was so funny.

I wish I could say the same for him -- that I was making him laugh -- but this afternoon he told me that all I've been doing is throwing missiles his way. He was exaggerating, of course, as I think I'm always very nice to him; but just to try and make him laugh for a change, I updated my BBM status. He's probably the only one who reads it anyway. It now says: "Missiles from Munich."


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