The journey to Munich begins by taking a bus to Florence, Santa Maria Novella: a familiar bus station, which also was the start of last weekend. However, this time I take a train into Pisa Centrale in order to get to the Pisa airport. This may sound crazy, but because my flight is early Friday morning and I arrived at the airport on Thursday night, I decided to sleep overnight at the airport. Even though this sounds unorthodox, there were actually several people who did the same thing I did. This made me feel a little more comfortable. Then, awaiting my flight into Munich, I meet a guy who is from Florence and on the same flight. He asks me questions about where to go, what gate we are leaving from, and how to get through security. It turns out this was his first ever flight, and he was around the age of 28. He was actually very interesting, originally from Romania and now living and working in the heart of Florence. He can speak several languages, including Spanish, Italian, English, and some Portuguese. This was an unexpected transition into a new culture, as he also lived a different lifestyle than any other Italian I have met. He works nights at a restaurant, but takes time off whenever he wants to travel places in Europe. Living life by the day and not on a prescribed career path, it was certainly something different.
After flying with my new friend into Munich, it was also obvious that Germany was different from Italy in a lot of ways. One of my first sights at the airport was the clothing that one man was wearing, an unusual outfit that is not uncommon to see on Germans.
This was my first taste of the unique lifestyle of Germany. Finally, I met up with my friend Bret at the airport and we drove into the center of Munich to explore. The weather was another difference from Italy: it was not hot and sunny like I was used to the past few weeks, but rainy and cold. Because of this, we decided to walk around the city, stopping into restaurants and biergartens. A biergarten is a restaurant with outdoor space that also brews German beer, something the country is known for. Its translation is literally “beer garden”, for the drinks it serves and containing an outdoor area. Most of the early part of the day was spent eating and drinking. I was able to try German food, specifically sausage. Later, we continued walking around the city and using Munich’s metro system to get around. On the way out of a metro stop, we came upon the town hall of Munich, an interesting structure that has a medieval appearance. On a part of the town hall, there is a display called the “glockenspiel”, which is a moving set of figurines in an opening on the exterior. It is a short event, but attracts a large crowd outside the town hall at certain times it occurs.
We also discovered a museum worth visiting that was mentioned by a tour guide we ran into. It was the BMW world and museum, appropriate for both of us because we are interested in cars. The museum is a facility that already exists, but BMW world is a new building. The museum was fascinating, not only containing unique BMW cars, but engines, motorcycles, and history on production. BMW world was similar, but had several interactive stations where people can simulate driving cars and learning about the automobiles.
BMW World and Museum
Inside BMW World
Another Interior View
BMW Engine Display
Bret's Dream Ride
My Dream Ride
Outline of Car Formed by Steel Ball Bearings
Main Contents of the museum: Cars!
After the museum, we spent some time in our hostel that we stayed at overnight, and then went out to experience Munich nightlife. As another fan of clubs and techno music, Bret showed me a great time, as well as a few dance moves.
Saturday turned out to be better weather, so we decided to walk around the city more and see what we missed the previous day. Similar to yesterday, we ended up at another museum, this time a contemporary art museum called Museum Brandhorst. A colorful assortment of metal rods composed its exterior, evoking a minimalist quality, similar to the artwork inside.
The museum contained works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman, among many others. One piece I liked most was essentially a long cabinet made of metal shelves and a glass enclosure. I cannot remember the artist or name of the piece, but will find this out soon. The unique part of this piece was that it had thousands of pills lining the shelves, all individually placed. The pills were all of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Half of the shelves could be seen clearly, but the top half were above eye level, so the reflection of the pills of the shelf below were visible. This was a neat visual trick and made the piece more visible to the viewer.
After the museum, we decided to take advantage of the nice weather by going to an outdoor garden complex called Englischer Gardens. The gardens reminded me of Central Park in NYC, containing mostly open green space, trees, and pathways. There is even a creek that runs through the gardens, and at a point the current is strong enough for people to surf! The main part of Englischer Gardens is an area near the Chinese Tower because it contains a large biergarten.
We ended up spending the rest of the day at this biergarten, drinking German beer, eating pretzels and sausage, as well as conversing with another group. The few people we met work for Disney and give tours to people all over Europe. I learned that It is not necessarily talking about Disney and its movies, but the company has tour guides who show guests around certain cities in Europe. The night ended with us talking with them about their job and what their experiences in other cities were like.
I have one last note about the German culture, after experiencing it for a weekend. I mentioned several times that I drank beer, and to Americans, this might make me sound like an alcoholic. I should clarify that in Germany, drinking beer is not seen as a sinful to do it often. It is actually common to drink beer during a meal, even during the day. Similar to Americans drinking water with a meal in a restaurant, Germans order beer as a casual drink. This is another aspect of German culture I found interesting, and also explains the fact that I prefer beer over wine!
On Sunday, after a great weekend in Germany, my next stop is Pisa. I arrived at Pisa Centrale after taking a train from Pisa Aeropuerto. My ultimate goal is to make it to the Piazza del Miracoli, the main space in Pisa containing the three important buildings: the Bapistery, the Pisa Cathedral, and the ever-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa (in Italian, it’s the Battistero, Duomo, and Torre Pendente). The whole city was rather small, and easily walkable. It also has the Arno River running through the city, making the views very picturesque. One nice piazza I passed along the way was called Piazza dei Cavalieri. It was a fairly large open space with a palazzo and church along one end.
Arno River through Pisa
Piazza dei Cavalieri
Upon arriving at the main piazza, it was flooded with tourists. This is clearly a popular tourist destination, and today was a beautiful day to see the Pisa monuments. I spent an hour or so walking around all the buildings, experiencing the entire space they are located. I really enjoyed the open greenspace that are part of the piazza, as it creates a nice ground plane for the white buildings to sit on. The whole piazza is very picturesque, as the white color clearly stands out among its surroundings. In addition, the unique position of all the buildings so close together makes it a much more interesting sight. The Leaning Tower was a great structure to see in person, as the angle it is tilted is evident and precarious. It was also funny to see a lot of people taking pictures along one side of the piazza as if they were holding up the tower. If you look at them from the sidewalk, they look like they are just holding up nothing, and very entertaining to watch.
Piazza del Miracoli
Duomo and Leaning Tower Beyond
The "Leaning Tower Poses"