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Trains, Soccer, and Pork…

Less than one week into our busy lives in Germany, and we took a trip to Munich. I would have preferred to rest up a bit more before venturing out on a long trip, but we had a reason. Our friend and Dan’s host brother from high school, Fabi, had tickets to a live taping of the German soccer show Doppelpass. It’s like something you’d see on ESPN in America. It’s a very well-produced and popular program taped in a hotel lobby near the Munich airport.

Now, in theory, a trip to Munich should be no longer than a three to four-hour train ride. We are in the southwest. Munich is in the southeast. But, contrary to what most people know of Germans, they are not always as efficient as they can be. Even our German friends can’t explain why there is no direct train to Munich from Freiburg. We had to go out of the way to get to Munich making our trip seven hours.

We are traveling right now on a 30-day rail pass that allows us five trips around Germany. If we do a round trip in one day, it only counts as one trip rather than two. So, we decided we’d make the trip to Munich in one day. That’s right. Fourteen hours in one day. I was not too thrilled about this and suggested we divide it into two days. But, Dan really wanted to save the extra trip on our pass.

We decided to take the midnight train leaving Freiburg. It stops in Mannheim before arriving in Munich at around 7 a.m. I figured I’d get a few hours sleep at best on the second train and get by on adrenaline throughout the day. Wrong. The short trip from Freiburg to Mannheim was fine. It was quiet except for the drunk guy. But, he got kicked off in Heidelberg. It was also an ICE train, which are very nice and comfy. When we got to Mannheim, we learned that our next train was running late. What!!?? Germans running late?? Yes, in fact, when it comes to Deutsche Bahn, this is not too unusual. So, we waited for about 30-45 minutes in the tunnel area where it was freezing cold. The train finally arrived. I’m thinking, “Okay, we’ll get on another ICE train, it will be quiet, I’ll dress myself up in my finest sleep gear, and I WILL sleep.” But, no. It was the only yet-to-be renovated train left in Germany, or so it seemed from my experience. The train was not terribly ugly, just quite a bit ugly. It looked very 70s/80s-ish.

We managed to find a cabin with one guy in it. He seemed a bit perturbed that we were interrupting his sleep, but he didn’t pay for five seats, so too bad. The seats were hard and didn’t recline, and it was cold. Very cold. We didn’t bring a blanket. We did bring ear plugs, but the darn train was so rickety that they did little good. Neither one of us slept even a little. It just wasn’t possible. And, it was one of those evenings where, even though you’ve had very little to drink before going to bed, you still had to get up and use the bathroom twice.

We arrived in Munich tired and grouchy but glad to see our friend Anna, another friend who taught with Dan at Purdue. She now lives and works in Munich. We had a quick breakfast before catching another train out to the Munich airport (which is so far out of Munich it may be in Poland). Fabi was there waiting for us with our tickets for Doppelpass. This is what the set looks like:

Dan and I sat in the back because that was the only place with seats together. Plus we aren’t German-looking enough to be on camera that much. Good looking, yes. We were on TV during audience shots. Fabi’s mom and dad saw us from their home in Stolzenau. Fabi and Anna sat on stage right behind the host and guests. Here’s a TV shot of Fabi. Anna is just behind him.

It was probably a good idea that we sat in the back since Dan had to translate a lot for me. I get bits and pieces, but when you aren’t yet fluent in a second language, any interruption to the clarity of what you hear makes it ten times more difficult. For instance, the acoustics made it a bit tough to hear and one of the guests kind of mumbled. I can understand a lot more when I am looking at the person. Even Dan had trouble.

This is how they ended the show. No surprise from the Germans.

It really was a lot of fun even if we did have trouble understanding everything. Dan is a huge soccer fan and I am becoming one. He hooked me on it during the ’06 World Cup. In fact, we rooted for Germany over the US.

After the show, Fabi drove us into Munich for a typical Bavarian lunch that looks like this:

That’s schweinebraten. It’s basically just pork in a thin gravy. That hard thing on the top? Well, that’s good ol’ fried skin. Not my cup off…skin. So, I gave it to Anna. Germans think it’s great. I’m sure a few rednecks from back home would, too. It’s basically a pork rind without the dehydration. Yummy.

That pretty much ended our day in Munich. We had to catch our train back and we’ve both seen Munich a few times anyway. They are preparing for Oktoberfest, which we will not attend. The thought of being cheek-to-cheek with a gaggle of sweaty drunkards doesn’t sound THAT appealing to me. They’ll be plenty of genuine Oktoberfestin’ right here in Freiburg and Gufi.

Next blog: a little on the history of Freiburg, Gundelfingen, and The Black Forest. I hear it’s haunted by witches and werewolves. Yay!

–Frau Jones

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1) If you take an overnight train, avoid the ones that look like they are from the cold war era and bring a blanket and pillow. For the most part, German trains are very nice, but we ended up on THE ONE that hasn’t been renovated since Reagan said “tear down this wall.”

2) If you do take an overnight train, expect to come across very, very strange people.

3) You know what, just don’t take an overnight train unless they have beds. Just don’t do it.

4) Avoid trains on the weekend, or be prepared for this:

5) If you did take the overnight/weekend train and you are going to be on a German TV show, sit in the back where the camera rarely goes.

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