Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to France

Hello! It's been a while again. But I have a plan this time! In an effort to post more, I am starting a new series of short posts. It is going to be called WTF. Let me explain: One of my classmates, after some latest French misadventure, realized that WTF should actually stand for Welcome to France. The general feeling of the acronym remains the same, but I love Welcome to France. It's so very applicable to the life of a foreigner here. I had no idea how often I would use it when she came up with that, but whoa. So I will begin posting WTF moments for your head-shaking pleasure.  I have a few stored up! Hope you enjoy! Again, all credit to classmate. I wish I could claim the brilliance, but I can only use it.

WTF #1: It's in English---HAHA of course it's not in English! Gotcha.

One would assume, would one not, that if a film festival's program and website both listed that a movie would be in Greek with French and English subtitles, there would in fact be English subtitles, right? And if the seminar title and description are in English, the talk will be in English, right? WRONG. WTF.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I finally went to Munich! One of the four universities in my program is in Munich, but the research is very specific and not my thing, so I won't get a chance to live there as part of this program. But I've been wanting to go and visit at least. Munich is, however, one of those places that is nearly impossible to reach from Montpellier. Europe in general is well-connected, but not always. So I had been putting off the trip but finally picked a block of a few days and decided I was going, no matter what. My flight options were crazy expensive, whether I tried to go from Montpellier or Paris. And the train? More reasonably priced, but 12 hours and two changes. The bus? Fine price, at least 20 hours. Mmm, tantalizing options, all of them. Not. I went middle-road and took the train, since the trains are actually comfortable and I can work or sleep, whereas buses are miserable. It took me this many train tickets to get to Munich and back!

So after 12 hours and three trains one lovely Wednesday I arrived in Munich! I was met by a classmate I love who was kind enough to "host" me, even though she didn't have an apartment of her own at the time (the Munich housing market it, to put it mildly, saturated). But enough classmates had apartments we could play musical beds and not get on anyone's nerves!  I arrived in the evening, so we headed straight to a beer garden. I immediately fell in love. They're not kidding with the whole garden thing--this one was outside and surrounded by a wooden fence, with plants and strings of lights along the fence. I had an awesome schnitzel and weissbier. Then I was given the night tour of Munich, which is very grand, with big open areas, wide streets, and some truly monolithic granite buildings. A very different feel from the windy streets and sandstone buildings of Montpellier. And the weather was cool! Absolutely beautiful early fall weather.

Thursday was nice, with more city exploring including a nice lunch in the market part of town (sausage and beer of course) and a trip to the top of city hall to look out over Munich (which is one of those cities which is short due to the rule that nothing can be taller than a certain building, in this case a church). But then, Thursday night, it was time for Oktoberfest!! Whoa. The whole thing is like a carnival, with rides and food and game trailers. I didn't really expect that! But Oktoberfest has the added loveliness of the beer tents. These "tents" are buildings though. They take them down and rebuild each year, which seems crazy to me, since they are real buildings. No canvas roofs here.

The outside of a "tent"

And the inside (from the balcony)
It was wonderful. Liters of beer were a staggering 9.10 euros each, and the waitress never gave you change for your 10 euro bill, but it was awesome. It's hard to see in the picture above, but there is a and in the middle playing, and everyone is singing along. They played everything from Sweet Home Alabama to German drinking songs to Happy Birthday to You. All the seating is big long wooden tables with benches to sit on, and people spent most of the night standing on the benches and singing. And wearing dirndls and lederhosen. I felt completely out of place not wearing one, they were so prevalent. It was great walking down the street and always seeing herds of people wearing what I previously considered a costume. But my friends who live there say it's completely normal to see people wearing the outfits anytime, whether it's Oktoberfest or not, Monday, Thursday, Sunday, whatever. I had no idea! It was really funny seeing fancy and random stores (Tommy Hilfiger anyone?) with lederhosen and dirndls displayed in their windows. And they're expensive! Whoa.

Friday morning it was off to see some castles. Specifically, we went to see Neuschwanstein, the castle that inspired the Disney logo. It's a two hour train ride from Munich through beautiful countryside to get there, then a short bus ride to a cute but not cutesy town that is in the middle of the valley between Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, castles on either side. And there's a gorgeous little lake you can see from each castle. It was just autumn enough that the leaves in the mountains were beginning to change colors. It was really almost too beautiful. We spent the whole day wandering around the areas, taking walking paths through gorgeous woods to get to the castles, climbing down below the bridge to the river, and finally finished off with dinner at a beer garden in the shadow of Neuschwanstein. Love.

Schloss (=Castle) Hohenschwangau
Schloss Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein again, picture taken from...

...this awesome bridge. 


 We had to get up early to get to the castles, so Friday night was lazy. On Saturday, my friend needed to send off some apartment-hunting emails, so I ventured off on my own and tracked down the English Garden (not hard, given it's one of the largest urban parks in Europe). I promptly fell even more in love with Munich. The Garden is huge and really varied, with everything from a huge flat open field to covered little streams and a huge Chinese tower with... a beer garden around it! There were even people surfing on the little river in areas where a bridge or small dam concentrated the flow! So cool.

Chinese tower beer garden
 After the garden I checked out the palace Residenz),  one of those crazy places with some rooms seemingly entirely furnished with gold and red velvet. Then it was off to dinner in the University area and back to Oktoberfest. This time we stopped for "one beer" at a sort of side-tent outside one of the big ones and ended up staying there all night. Much more relaxed, so a nice, different experience. Unfortunately, the next day it was time for me to leave. Such a good trip! Munich is very highly recommended! I think I'll have to go back sometime. Preferably soon...