Munich is the sort of place where one not only gets regular last-minute dinner invitations, but also where it’s possible for those invitations to turn into next-day picnics or impromptu Alpine hikes.
I had one such dinner invitation a couple of weeks ago when some friends were hosting an American Couchsurfer. Their surfer was only in town for a couple of days and expressed an interest in seeing the Alps. She hadn’t planned on visiting the mountains, hadn’t brought proper hiking shoes, and had no idea where to go or how to get there, but just thought it might be fun since she was so close.
I sent my German neighbor a message asking if she knew of any easy hikes appropriate for complete beginners who lacked proper shoes and she replied excitedly, explaining that she had just gone on a company hike to Tegernsee. It was very close to Munich, accessible on the Bayern train ticket (€26 for two people all day), and “not so much of a hike as a scenic walk” (more on this later). It sounded perfect and since I had no plans the next day and had also been meaning to see the mountains myself, I offered to take her.
We met the next morning, travelled to the main train station, bought our ticket, picked up some sandwiches, double-checked the schedule, found the right platform, and even secured good seats. However, I made the (incorrect) assumption that if we got on the train at the right platform that it would take us to our intended destination, and shortly after we’d started moving I realized that the screen displaying the upcoming and final stops did not include Tegernsee.
Now, I know enough German to handle daily tasks, offer information, make sense of basic written material, and ask questions, but when it comes to receiving information verbally, things can get a bit tricky if that information is much more complicated than ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ numbers, or gesturing. This is generally exacerbated by the fact that the people who don’t know English are usually also the ones with thick Bavarian accents.
I approached the man checking tickets and explained, in German, that we’d like to go to Tegernsee and asked if we were on the right train. While speaking very quickly, he gestured in such a way as to suggest that we should get off the train, said something about “four minutes,” and then gestured about getting back on the train. It seemed like we could just get off at the next station and hop on the next train that would be four minutes behind us.
We gathered our bags and got off the train at the next stop. When the man stuck his head out of the train to signal to the conductor that the platform was clear, he saw us and looked surprised. But he’d already signalled, so just shrugged and said ‘ok.’ It was only at this point, as we watched the train leave, that we realized that my interpretation might not have been exactly correct. We waited on the platform for about ten minutes, reassuring ourselves that there was no other logical meaning we could have taken from him. But the train schedule posted at the station clearly indicated that we’d be waiting for an hour for the next train.
On the upside, we did get to tour Siemens’ office park in Munich’s suburbs for an hour… When the next train arrived, we just got on and hoped for the best. Three stops later, there was an announcement, in both German and English, explaining that the train would stop for four minutes (!) to allow passengers to make sure they were on the right car. Apparently the train would split apart and the back car would end up at Tegernsee. Given this information, the schedule above makes perfect sense, but I really think it should be stated somewhere explicitly.
We filed the delay under ‘inevitable setbacks in a foreign country’ and proceeded with our plan. When we arrived at Tegernsee, we only knew the name of the hike we wanted to do, but nothing else. There was a map and a few signs pointing to various hikes (none of them ours), but we were nervous about getting in over our heads by heading into the mountains, especially since neither of us was equipped for any serious exertion.
We followed the signs pointing to the visitor’s center into the town center when we realized that we’d found Bavaria. There were public workers repairing telephone poles in lederhosen and leather vests. One worker was even wearing a feathered hat. In Munich, it’s not uncommon to see men wearing lederhosen, felt hats, and a fancy mustache, but usually only in the evenings and in the beer halls. Otherwise, you only see people wearing lederhosen and dirndls if they work in the beer gardens, during festivals, or if they’re tourists.
After touring the city center, we decided to have lunch since we weren’t sure how long the hike would take. We shared a table with a couple of local women. They clearly lived in the area and were enjoying a typical German afternoon cake and conversation. They laughed at us while we tried to take pictures of the lake inconspicuously but were helpful in instructing us in the proper way to eat Weißwurst; apparently you don’t eat the casing or the locals will make fun of you.
Next was the hard part…
About viewing photos:
Flickr has recently improved their service, perhaps making it worth it to simultaneously post my photos there. I’ve tried to link to the Tegernsee album where possible, but any photos I post in a group (the ones that look like a mosaic or appear in a slideshow) can’t also act as a link. If you click on any of the stand-alone photos, though, it should take you to Flickr where you can see all the photos better.