On Wednesday night in Munich, I was sat outside in a movie-theatre-cum-restaurant. All of the menu was film-themed, I chose a hamburger and because of my love for Pulp Fiction I chose the Big Kahuna Burger from what was on offer. Except the waitress corrected me: it was not Big Kahuna it was Big Kahlúa. I had a feeling the restaurant had confused Pulp Fiction with The Big Lebowski, but ordered the burger anyway.
Fortunately, it did not contain Kahlúa.
I’ve been in Munich since Sunday, for a conference about Drupal — it’s my first time in both Munich and Germany. I should get extra adventurer points for visiting two new cities in the space of two weeks, and points for visiting a new country. I deliberately booked a flight out of London early Sunday evening so that I would have time to go to my Dragon Boat training in the morning, and still get home, showered, changed and to the airport. I’m reluctant to let things get in the way of my Dragon Boat, although it isn’t always easy.
(As a brief aside, the Dragon Boat training is coming along well — I have been to half a dozen training sessions so far, and I will be taking part in a regatta in London at the beginning of September.)
London was in the grip of a heatwave last weekend, and my journey to Heathrow was too hot as I was overdressed as normal, hoping that dressing smartly would possibly get me upgraded. As with Dublin, there was just enough time between checking in and walking to the gate before boarding, but I should have checked in online earlier in the day — I was stuck in the dreaded middle seat, with no others available to change to. The plane sat on the tarmac for way too long, it was stuffy and hot and the air blowers overhead seemed to only blow warm air. The captain made some announcement, but it sounded something like there was engine trouble, which sounded worrying and couldn’t possibly have been right. Eventually we were on our way, the blowers started blowing cold air, and I went to sleep as usual — though the person next to me woke me up when the cabin crew brought some food or pretzels round. I refused them and went back to sleep. It’s quite a talent to be able to sleep when your flight is only an hour.
As we began to descend on Germany, I was looking across past the man in the seat next to me and down onto the fields of Bavaria. I can’t remember what the man said to me any more, perhaps it was just “Look, it’s Germany” — but I do remember thinking he was right, in his own stating the obvious kind of way. I enjoy landings more than take offs, just for the view — you seem to be below the clouds for a lot longer, and I like looking at the land. I get a strange sense of peace looking at the cars with people going about their daily lives, oblivious or indifferent to the plane overhead — just like I am every day. I also like the contrast of how different countries look from above. Returning to England, I never fail to be struck at how green it looks. Germany seemed to be a country of autumnal colours — yellows and oranges and browns.
In Munich airport it occurred to me that this was the first time I had ever been in a non-English speaking country on my own. While there would be colleagues at the conference, I was on my own until then — and my heart started to beat a little faster when I remembered that I don’t speak a word of German. My brain would unhelpfully dredge up Italian, Spanish and French phrases I’ve learned when faced with the indecipherable signs.
Dramas were all averted despite this — I bought a drink of water, collected my bag and even got a taxi. Although my white-haired taxi driver and I had a few minutes of language barriers, as I pronounced “Westin Grand” with a “W” rather than as a “V”. We drove in silence for the 45 minutes to the hotel, until we had almost arrived when he attempted to tell me in what little English he knew that the Audi he was driving was new, although it was not his own car. I tried to be polite and tell him it was a very nice car. He unloaded my luggage, gave me the long bag containing the pop-up banner I’d brought for the conference and attempted to ask me if I was a snooker player. He also asked if I was American. He’ll be writing in his taxi driver blog about the silent American billiards player that was his fare.
In the days that have followed I’ve spent all of the daytime working — on our conference stand, doing the usual marketing thing. The evenings have been spent doing things like visiting German beer gardens. I imagine a beer garden to be like in an English pub: a small garden or just a pub car park with a dew tables outside. In Munich, the beer garden we went to seemed to be an entire town square just filled with people: sitting, drinking, eating, talking. I read somewhere it could hold up to 700 people. The other nights of drinking aren’t worth going into detail about: there was the pub meetup of the UK Drupal people: they said they’d found a British pub. It wasn’t, it was an Irish-themed bar. But it was fun all the same. We came in to this post at the outside cinema/restaurant: something London could do with — and we’ll leave there, too.
There had been thunderstorms predicted for days, that never arrived. Tonight after several days of heat, it finally rained.