We’ve come to Germany (Munich to be specific) for a month. Asim has a work project here and so Elhaan and I have tagged along. I was pretty excited as it gave us the chance to ‘live’ in another country as opposed to ‘visit’, but without making too much of a commitment.
We drove here from England through France. Although we were there only for a night, I was excited about the chance to ‘use’ some of my French. Even if it just amounted to ordering lunch at a creperie or asking for directions. The creperie, a cute little place called La Petite Hermine, was in a small town near the German border called Soufflenheim. The staff was super friendly, perhaps because I was making such an effort with my baby French. Buerre d’escargot on the menu sounded interesting but I couldn’t be sure what sort of butter this was. The waitress kindly drew a SNAIL on her notepad for me!
That’s for French but learning German is another matter altogether. The language seems really intimidating at first impression. Asim bought a phrasebook and it almost gave me chestpain skimming through it. The words seemed so bulky and so harsh sounding (almost like Pashto!). But just by looking at signs and labels (EVERYTHING is in German), you do begin to pick up a few things. The thing I’ve noticed about German is that while written down, it seems very different from English, when you actually say the word its a lot closer to its English counterpart. As opposed to French where the written word is sometimes almost the same as it’s English counterpart, but it’s pronounced very differently. So for example, “Das Wetter ist gut” is “The weather is good” which when said out loud is even closer to English than it is when written.
I still haven’t come to my impressions of Munich because to be honest, I don’t know what to make of the city yet. It’s interesting and beautiful, relaxed and rushed. But I feel like I don’t have my finger on it. You can’t really give a review in the middle of a movie, can you?
So I’ll share a few very random observations. I love the city centre (the area near Marienplatz) where I can spend hours just randomly walking through the streets and outdoor market and the many cafes. I love the cafe culture here. Unlike England, where it’s very difficult to find a cafe open after 6pm, here the cafes are open almost as late as restaurants and bars. Oh and also the gelaterias serving the italian gelato. There seems to be a lot of Italian influence on the food culture here.
Sometimes it seems there are more dogs than kids on the streets. Every second person on the street has a dog with them. To the extent that you’ll even see them in restaurants or cafes which we’re not used to at all coming from England. I will not say Pakistan, because there dogs are a totally different matter. Considered unhygeinic and ‘polluting’, people would have a mini heartattack seeing one at a restaurant.
Having the lowest birthrate in all of Europe, German people seem to have an extreme reaction to babies. Mostly they’ll dote and fawn over them and random strangers will smile at you if you’re accompanied by a baby. I thought people were very smiley, but our friends who lived here pointed out that it’s just because of Elhaan. Normally strangers won’t make so much eye contact or smile at you. Some have even stopped to comfort Elhaan on the bus or even on the street if he’s crying a lot. But then there are others who find it annoying when a baby is crying on the bus. We dragged Elhaan to a cafe past his bedtime one night and he was super cranky and loud. One old guy literally shoved his fingers in his ears and kept on grumbling in German glaring at us until we actually rushed out of the cafe! But I would like to believe that’s the exception rather than the rule.
On the topic of babies and dogs, they almost seem interchangeable though. I was pointing out someone’s dog to Elhaan (hoping to instil a love of animals in him), when the person stopped and said ‘Oh this is great. I wanted to look at your baby. So now you can look at my dog and I can look at your baby!’. I burst out laughing thinking how someone in Pakistan would respond if their baby was just equated with a dog.
A word on travelling with a baby. It is NOT easy. At least this baby of mine will protest and scream and get his annoyance conveyed to you in the loudest possible manner if his naptimes are sacrificed for sightseenig or if he’s pushed way past his bedtime. Also it was a big mistake to leave his comfy pushchair behind with the sunshade and footmuff and instead bring the lighter ‘travel-friendly’ stroller. It is impossible for him to fall asleep in it and when it’s cold, he is miserable and crying to get out of the stroller.
We went to Salzburg and Vienna over the weekend, and the whole time Elhaan was miserable with a runny nose. Just our luck it had snowed that very day and it was frrrreeezing. The only time he was happy was when we let him push his own pushchair and walked at a snail’s pace through Vienna’s city centre or at the Belvedere Palace. The Palace is beutiful and majestic without being imposing or intimidating. Asim put his finger on it when he said the architecture and the landscaping has a calming effect on you rather than leaving you awestruck. This is where a lot of Klimt’s paintings are hosted, but we didn’t have the time to actually go inside or visit any museums. My homage to Klimt is in the form of a beautiful umbrella I bought from Salzburg with his artwork on it.
Both the cities are amazing though. Salzburg, Mozart’s hometown, has a beautiful mix of architectural traditions and I’m sure it’s gardens and streets would be breathtaking on a less snowy and grey day than the one on which we visited.
Vienna is just grand and beautiful and has so much character. I wish next time we get a chance to relax and enjoy it rather than just rushing and stressing with a cranky baby. Vienna is world famous for it’s coffeehouses. But for us trying out the coffee and sacher torte seemed more of a tick on a to-do list than a pleasurable activity.
Some day we’ll go again and laugh about how bad our last trip had been to this beautiful city.