Last weekend, Greg and I went back to the scene of the crime.
Where we met 36 years ago.
You can't go home again, wrote Thomas Wolfe.
Apparently, you can't go back to Munich, either.
At least not the Munich of our memories.
So, for those of you who haven't heard the story of how Greg and I met, here it is. I've written it in blue so those of you who have heard the story can just skip this part.
I was backpacking alone through Europe, Eurailpass in hand. Greg had attended a NATO conference in the Netherlands and was traveling with Rick, a guy he met there. I was in Munich for one day, planning on taking the overnight train to Berlin to save money on a hotel. I hate to eat alone so when I saw these two guys, obviously Americans, discussing the menu outside a beer house, I asked if I could join them. When they had managed to get their jaws back in place, they said okay. We ate, we drank, we went on to the Hofbrauhaus without Rick who went back to the hotel where they were sharing a room. We drank some more.
We closed the Hofbrauhaus - I didn't know you could do that - and walked back towards the Haupbahnhof, the main train station. On the way, Greg decided to impress me by climbing - or attempting to - a statue with a guy on a horse. We got to the train station just in time to wave goodbye to the last train to Berlin. In fact, it was the last train period and we discovered my bags were locked in the left luggage for the night. Not good.
Greg suggested I was welcome to sleep on the floor in his hotel room. I've had better offers - much better offers - but it was the only one currently on offer so I accepted. We were spotted as we crossed the lobby to the elevator.
All those beers were making their presence known and so I swayed down the corridor to the shared bathroom. When I came out, the night clerk was arguing with Greg, saying something about "Polizie!"
When Greg saw me "There she is!" he all but yelled, pointing at me for good measure. Nothing like throwing a body under the bus.
On the way down in the elevator, just the clerk and me (Greg having staggered off to his hotel room), the clerk kept angrily lecturing me "Ein Frau und Zwei Mann. Polizei!" (One woman and two men. Police!) It slowly pierced my drunken haze that he thought I was a prostitute. For some reason, I thought this incredibly funny and started to laugh which only pissed him off more. Fortunately, I had enough German (just enough) to ask "Haben Sie ein Zimmer frei?" (Do you have a vacant room?) Commerce trumped moral indignation and he quickly took my money and handed me a key.
Next morning, I had breakfast with Greg and Rick and they went off to Innsbruck while I hung around waiting for the midnight train to Berlin.
And that would have been that had Greg not sent me a letter telling me he had a terminal hangover and I thought that was so hilarious I started to laugh.
Really, I should control that sense of humor of mine.
And so we figured we should go back to Munich before we leave Europe. We would have gone on August 27th, our 35th anniversary, but we check out of our apartment on the 28th and fly to Africa on the 29th so that would have been pushing it.
We stayed at the Intercity Hotel Munchen, which is connected to the railway station and a 10 minute walk to the Marienplatz, tourism ground zero. This time, I got to share Greg's bed AND we had our own bathroom ... quite an improvement over our last visit.
But this Munich was not the Munich of our memories. Something had changed in the last 36 years.
I think it was us.
We got older.
Like most European cities, the old city covers just a few blocks. And those blocks were just jam packed with tourists. I got incredibly sick of being slammed with backpacks and purses and wet umbrellas with nobody pausing for a quick "Sorry". So, that was change number one. I don't remember so damn many people milling about.
And I don't remember rain.
|Greg was cold so he borrowed my sweater. I think purple suits him, don't you?|
The Marienplatz is still there,
along with the Glockenspiel and we, along with a few hundred other tourists, indulged in a photo frenzy at the scheduled mechanical performances.
But many of the buildings, as elsewhere in Europe, are being renovated so the facades are hidden by scaffolding. Come to think of it, that's the way it's been any time we've visited Europe.
|Most of the scaffolding is hidden by faux facades painted to look like the real facade.|
We visited a couple of lovely churches and stopped to listen to a choir ...
and we toured the Munich Residenz, home to the Bavarian monarchs and the largest city palace in Germany. We didn't see it on our last visit.
|This was in the Reliquaries Room - you know, supposed bits of saints. This is a skull.|
The beer is still excellent and I, carnivore that I am, enjoyed my German meals but Greg wasn't impressed with his. I don't think he was quite so fussy 36 years ago.
|Ribs - yum!|
|Boiled pork - yuck!|
We tried to revisit the Haufbrauhaus but the room downstairs was so crowded, you couldn't get inside the door and so we headed up to the second floor and had a much quieter lunch there. After lunch, the crowd had cleared downstairs and I did get some pictures of the Oompapa band. The place was a lot smaller with more intimate eating places than Greg and I remembered. We had the memory that it was one huge barn of a place with long tables and benches.
|Too crowded to even get in.|
We looked around for the horse statue and found a couple of candidates. Time and beer have clouded the memory so we weren't 100% sure and Greg - old poop that he is - refused to climb either one.
|Don't let him fool you - he's only PRETENDING to climb!|
People watching will always be fun. This little girl reminded me of Katie ... and Noah. When we first met, neither Greg nor I wanted kids. We're glad we changed our minds on that one.
|All by my self.|
There were a lot of shenanigans going on in Marienplatz as the afternoon rushed to meet the night. It seemed that bachelor and bachelorette parties there are planned to cause the maximum amount of alcohol consumption and embarassment for the soon to be newlyweds.
|This photo is really fuzzy. But then, so were they!|
There are still a lot of fountains but some of them postdate our 1976 visit.
This tribute to Michael Jackson is new.
There are still lots of people dressed in Bavarian costume, although I wonder how many of those are tourists now.
And there are still plenty of souvenir shops selling cuckoo clocks and steins and Swiss army knives. (Swiss army knives?)
We didn't close the Haufbrauhaus this time. In fact, the only things we closed were our eyes and that about 9 PM.
We didn't find the memories we were searching for but we did manage to make a few new ones.
And, when I think of the 36 years' worth of memories we've generated since our first meeting in Munich, we really can't complain if Munich, grand old dame that she is, has moved on without us.
After all, she was there when we most needed her.