Nicht mal wieder das Haus verlassen, ohne die Kamera!
Don’t leave the house again without the camera!
I went for a wander today and, after 1 or 2 days wondering whether I’d made the right decision – that’s normal when you move country, right? – my pigheadedness was reaffirmed.
After wasting €5 on a daily card for the MVV, when I eventually ended up buying a monthly card 1 hour later (more on this maybe in another post), and after having finally bought a convertor plug for my “British” devices, I decided to take a trip on the U-Bahn to Max-Weber-Platz, the station I used to travel from when I last lived in Munich. There was one café-bar which I really wanted to visit, as well as to take a walk down memory lane – or, Steinstraße – where I spent that decisive August 2004 which has stuck in my memory over the last 4 years as the point at which I decided I absolutely had to return to live in Munich.
Before going on, I have to point out that the area of Munich known as Haidhausen, where I’ve just spent this happy evening, is extremely up-market and, well, posh. There are always pull factors in these areas which really make you want to live there. That said, the service industry in Munich, or in Germany as a whole, not forgetting Austria, is exemplary.
I went to Café Wiener Platz to relive one of my previous traditions. I entered the café, sat down, waited for the waiter to deliver me a menu, and ordered a Weizen (or Weißbier, as they call it down here). Maisel’s Weisse, to be precise. One fun thing I noticed was that the prices don’t seem to have changed in the last 4 years (or if they have, not by more than 5%) – a 500ml glass of wheat-beer cost me a very reasonable €3.20. I looked at the menu, which told me the name of the beer on offer, the size of the glass and the price, and ordered it from the waiter who brought it to my table. And didn’t wait to be paid: I’ll do that when I’m ready. On top of that I had a Butter-Brez’n, one of those famous giant pretzels (well, this was medium size), cut across and buttered on the inside (costing a mere €1.70).
I spent a good couple of hours enjoying my beer and closely studying the multi-page A4 brochures I’d picked up during the day at o2, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile, etc.). Needless to remark, o2, as always in Germany, offered the best value across the board compared to the other major providers. I decided finally to go with them for my mobile contract as well as to take their mobile broadband offering, 3.6Mbps for €25 per month. I’ll talk more about this maybe in a separate post. During my couple of hours of learning, various seemingly well-to-do folks dropped in and out and sat conversing at the tables around me. One man at the bar talking to a lady was over 50 and seemed not-so-well-to-do, with a cigarette tucked in behind his ear, but he was the exception. Two guys beside me joked over ordering the “Touchdown” (I think it was a burger) and continued to make jokes in English in that hilarious overexaggerated American accent that most Germans have.
When I was finished my studying, and after I’d flicked through the free kitchen and cooking magazine I’d picked up at this fantastic shop full of shiny pots, pans and knives, and after I’d studied property prices in another free magazine I’d picked up at the Deutsche Bank, I signalled to the waiter that it was time to pay. My bill was €8.10 and I rounded it up, giving him a modest 40 Cent Trinkgeld (tip) – more or less the going rate, despite the excellent service. I’d like to add that the old saying of “I’m too busy shouldn’t be in a waiter’s vocabulary” (I think it was in a film somewhere) completely apply here. The serving staff do their job to maximum standard (well, with minimal smiling, but that’s not entirely un-German), and happily accept a small token “drinks money” (Trinkgeld) on top of it. That is, you’re not giving them enough to buy a drink, just they will have a couple of drinks’ worth at the end of the night. So none of this ridiculous 12.5% “because it says it on the menu” crap that you have to add to overpriced food for brutal service from waiters – whose skills in the Polish and Chinese languages are exemplary, I may in their defence add – at your average low-end-high-price restaurant in Ireland.
Leaving the Wiener Platz (Vienna Place) and its tall blue-and-white-stripe spikey thing (common in Bavaria) behind me, I took a walk down Steinstraße, my old home. It hasn’t changed much in 4 years. The roadside is still dotted with glitzy Mercedes SLKs and the left side is still full of Boutique salons, fancy concept lighting stores and funky furniture pads (although there’s a fancy furniture store with nothing on show in the place of a former boutique dress shop, just a couple of doors down from my old house). On the right corner still stands the supposedly posh and expensive French restaurant. Which it is, for its location. But as a Dubliner, I found their 3-course set menu for €22.50 advertised on a blackboard outside to be quite the Schnäppchen (good deal). My old house of course is just as it was, lights on upstairs and the windows ajar, a couple of doors down from the owning bakery. The owners of the bakery provide the house to the apprentice bakers they take in every year. I was living there during the summer between 2 batches of apprentices. Excuse the baking pun. The bakery itself was (obviously, given it was 21:30) closed, but the window lit and decorated with various Brezen, Semmerl and other pieces of bread and cakes, some very Bavarian and some not. It was pretty and I really regretted not having my camera.
I went left on to Preysingstraße then right-ish again onto Wörthstraße in the direction of the Ostbahnhof (East station), walking by more boutique art, jewelry and furniture stores, not to mention numerous French-style café-bars. Then I came to Bordeaux-Platz. Notice the whole area has a bit of a French feel to it. This is a long, wide street with fine Altbau buildings on either side, parking and roadways along by the buildings, then working towards the middle, tram tracks, and in the very centre an elongated green space with a water feature, all well lit. It was a beautiful scene and I need to return to take a picture. And it was somewhere between that café on the Wiener Platz with the Bavarian wheat-beer and the excellent service often taken for granted in Germany, the streets aligned with boutique shops, the ubiquitous tram lines constantly reminding you of the fantastic infrastructure and the irreplaceably pretty Altbau architecture that reminded me why I fell in love with this city 4 years ago. And reminded me, as I walked down the street and across Orleansplatz towards the Ostbahnhof to take a train home, the biggest smile on my face that I’ve noticed in a long, long time, why I still love this place and why I made absolutely the right decision. This place is great. The standard of living is (by my questionable measurements) twice that which I’m used to in “the 2nd richest country in the world”.
And this is why I think I’ll be staying quite a while to come.