Germany has public transport down to a tee. The train ride to Munich was comfortable with its plush seats and tables. We watched the lovely green countryside rush by as the coach rocked ever so gently from side to side, with occasional stops at stations along the way. Even the cities and towns held attractive visages of local graffiti that were much more clever than simple ‘tags’ scrawled onto walls facing the tracks. We passed massive railway yards dotted with empty passenger cars in various degrees of repair and pulled into the Munich Hauptbahnhof before long. Donning our packs, we followed the mass of people as we exited the train. Which way do we go? Our Rainbow connection was to meet us at the Marienplatz, the city’s heart.
Meeting our host
The Marienplatz station was only a short, two-kilometer U-Bahn train ride from the Hbf, and soon we were looking for our contact. We must have been pretty obvious (plus I gave a detailed description) since our ‘Rainbow brother’ found us almost immediately. We all introduced ourselves, and he said that on our short walk to his house, he would point out a few of the exciting features of the city.
“Over here is the Mariensäule, dedicated to St. Mary as the “patron saint of Bavaria.” He began, pointing at a high column topped with a golden figure of Mary. “And this is the famous Glockenspiel. Oh! It’s almost time for it to play! We should wait here for it.” he had continued. A crowd of people began to gather to watch. Since 1908, the carillon with 16 figures and 43 bells has been reenacting the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renate of Lorraine in 1568, when the Bavarian knight defeated his Lorraine opponent in a jousting tournament. As it played through its story and the bells clanged, it became apparent why this was such an attraction. Even the locals stopped to watch!
Here Be Dragons
“And over here,” he continued, “See that dragon? It used to be on another building but ended up over there after Saint Michael chased it around the Marienplatz.” Donna and I looked at each other and thought he was pulling our leg or a little crazy. We continued to his home, where he explained he was living in the attic of his parent’s home.
The home was a vast German mansion in the center of town. The entire building belonged to his family. The interior was brimming with massive hand-carved furniture that could have been from the 17th century and tapestries that could have easily been at home in any great museum. Paintings of ancient family members that famous artists could have produced adorned the walls. Donna and I were amazed as we followed our host through the rooms and up the staircase to his attic dwelling.
As ornate and opulent as the home below appeared, the attic was quite the opposite. Dusty and unkept with boxes and furniture pieces shoved into the corners to make a ramshackle living space in the center. I put my pack down and went back down to get Donna’s. The stairs would have been too much for her with the heavy pack. When I returned, I saw that Donna had claimed the chair, and our host sat cross-legged on the floor, where I joined him.
“So, what do your parents do?” we queried.
“Oh, they are both Psychyarists,” he said dismissively. “The house has been in the family for years. I don’t care for it myself. I prefer a simple life, so they let me stay in the attic. Anyway, I’m safe from the ‘brainstorms’ up here.”
“Brainstorms?” we asked.
“Yes. Once a brainstorm blew through this house and stole my mind away to somewhere in Spain. It took me nearly a year to track it down, but I managed to get it back!” He explained.
“Oh! Okay.” Donna and I looked at each other, thinking perhaps our first assessment had been correct.
“But that’s enough about that! Let me show you where you’ll sleep!” He pointed to a mattress under a big round window overlooking the city. “I’ll get some fresh sheets for you! Make yourself at home!” And he disappeared downstairs. As he reappeared with the linens, he said, “You must be hungry after your travels. Let’s go get something to eat.” The rest of the evening, while filled with bizarre stories of brainstorms and demons, went by quickly, and soon we climbed back up to the attic and went to bed. Donna and I asked ourselves what we had gotten into as we drifted asleep.
Back on the Street
In the morning, our host woke and was immediately off to buy some bread. While he was gone, we discussed if we should stay with our slightly deranged host or take our chances at finding other dwellings. We had faith that there was someone else out there waiting for us. Upon his return, we all feasted on the bread, cheese, and marmalade. We thanked our host and made excuses about the stairs and that we would find another place, but thank you.
Hitting the street, Donna and I had devised a busking plan. We realized that the vast cobblestones at the Marienplatz would appear as giant request buttons if I wrote the names of bands on each with chalk. It worked well as people would tap the band of choice and drop some coins into the guitar case. I would then play a song by that band.
The police wouldn’t allow us to stay there all day, but by mid-morning, we had quite a stash of coins! We went to a little cafe for lunch and decided we needed a sign. So, on the back of a piece of cardboard, we wrote, “We are financing our way to an International Peace gathering in Slovenia with music.” The sign also worked pretty well. We talked to people and played music.
One man passed us a few times, dropping a couple of coins each time. After a while, he came back. “My family and I are going to Austria soon, which would be in your direction if you would like a ride.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind. But we must stay here a few more days to build up some funding for the journey.” We replied.
“Okay.” and he walked off. Shortly thereafter, he returned with his family. “Where are you staying tonight? We have an apartment not far from here where you could sleep if you like.”
Donna and I looked at each other and said, “Why not? That would be nice!” And we packed up for the evening and followed them home.