Paris to Munich
I managed to get a reclining chair on the overnight train to Munich, and so slept tolerably badly. When I went to sleep I was the only person in my carriage, but when I woke up I was surrounded by commuters, who looked as if they felt far too respectable to be sharing a carriage with a shabby backpacker. After a 10 hour journey, we rolled up exactly on time München Hauptbahnhof.
I had absolutely no idea what Munich was going to be like at all until I walked out of the station. For all I knew, I could have been arriving in a German Birmingham, but thankfully Munich is actually a really nice, clean, pleasant city. I wandered around town until I could check into the youth hostel at 1pm.
Once I’d checked in and slept for a couple of hours, I went back into town, via the super-efficient U-bahn. I headed for the Englischer Garten, a huge park stretching along the east side of the city. It proved surprisingly difficult to find, and after some while wandering up and down Leopoldstrasse, I ended up in the Hofgarten instead. There was a sudden heavy rainshower, and I took refuge in a small covered spot in the middle while I consulted my guidebook.
Eventually, the rain stopped and the sun came out, and despite a monstrously unhelpful map in my Rough Guide I worked out I was right next to the Englischer Garten, so I gathered my stuff and set off. I was glad to leave the Hofgarten: It had been quite pleasant, until a Ukrainian violinist appeared, and began tuning up. After about 10 minutes, he stopped, paused, and began again. I realised he was actually playing a tune, and made a rapid exit.
The Englischer Garten was well worth finding. On this warm May evening, it couldn’t have been nicer. The park has wide open spaces, rivers, lakes, islands – basically everything you want in a nice park. I headed towards a strange tower on a small hill. According to the spectacularly useless Rough Guide to Europe (of which more later) this was the Monopteros. What it is for or why it is there was not explained. Still, it looked quite intriguing, so I went to have a look.
A quick dash up the little hill leads you to a fine view over the park. There are no clues on the Monopteros itself as to what it does, so you just have to appreciate it for what it is. But strange towers on little hills are OK by me, so I sat there for a while in the evening sunshine. There was a group of percussionists playing away to the left, and I could hear a brass band somewhere off to the right.
From the Monopteros, I wandered off towards the sound of the music. It turned out to be coming from the Chinesischer Turm, a huge pagoda type of thing surrounded by trees. There was a traditional Bavarian band playing, all in lederhosen and silly hats. Almost overwhelmed by stereotypes, I wandered on up the park.
Having sat around for a while by the Kleinhesseloher See, the lake at the top end of the park, I wandered out of the park through the back streets to Ludwigstrasse. This road passes through the heart of the university, and many grand old buildings line the way. They looked fabulous in the late evening light. All in all, I was impressed with Munich, and even the rat which ran almost over my feet as I made my way back to the hostel didn’t dent my good mood.