Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tour of Europe: Part 1

I’m fresh back from Munich. Well fresh isn’t exactly a description I’d use. I arrived at 3 am yesterday and had about 2 hours sleep last night – waking up bolt upright at 4 am this morning was a particular treat.

Anyway…Munich is a great city. I’ve been once before many years ago but didn’t really see the centre. This time I had the chance to wander around in between meetings, and it’s very pretty. A very typical European city.

There’s something about walking round cities that really allows you to get under the skin of the place, I think. As you walk around you get to hear bits of conversation, make eye contact with people, look around at the architecture, breathe the air (very fresh and crisp at minus 6!) and really soak up the atmosphere. Maybe that’s why Dubai feels like it has no soul – even with my current walks to work, opportunities to walk around are few and far between, and that’s always been my favourite part of visiting any new city.

Some of my thoughts and observations after walking round Munich:

Munich has some beautiful old buildings. The main square has a town hall which reminded me a bit of Manchester’s in style. Very Harry Potter.

Church Bells
In a very alpine way, the church bells pealing each hour made me come over all Sound of Music. I especially liked the little wooden people who appeared at the front of the clock in the main square, chopping wood, etc, or whatever they were doing. It was hard to see from where I was standing.

As it was so very cold and icy (piles of snow at the sides of roads) there was grit everywhere. They obviously take this very seriously in Munich. Not like the UK where snow always seems to take everyone by surprise and there’s about one teaspoon of grit to dot he whole of the M6.

I saw a couple of homeless people during the day – not a sight you’ll ever see in Dubai. Very humbling and sad.

Binge Drinking
As I walked past a local hostelrie at 9.30 am I was comforted to see many people inside in the warm nursing not steaming mugs of coffee but giant pints of beer. Not just the Brits that like a daytime tipple then!

Trams and Transport
There are lots of trams in Munich, and they were all being used. It made me smile remembering Manchester trams and the familiar ‘parp’ and ‘honk’ that I used to hear dailty when walking to work. In case your’e not sure, the ‘parp’ is their usual warning sound, the ‘honk’ was much louder and usually reserved for some imbecile scally who wouldn’t move off the tracks in time, or people on i-pods who couldn’t hear the ‘parp’. (Guilty as charged on the odd occasion myself, most embarrassing.)

There’s also a lot of people on bikes, and bike lane running through the centre of the city. There was even a branded bike outside the hotel for patrons to use. Needless to say, my buttocks did not grace the saddle.

Well, I had to report back on this one, didn’t I! As you probably know by now, Dubai is not very dog-friendly – the complete opposite is the case in Munich. Big ones, small ones, some as big as my head. And I saw my two favourites: a bassett hound AND a pug. A treat!

So, that’s my summary of Munich. Next stop: Barcelona, again with work. Again, over a weekend. You’d really think my insomnia would have disappeared due to plain old fashioned exhaustion, but sadly not….

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