Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I think I should bypass my last few weeks, unfortunately, because now I’m on Fall Break and so far it has been quite exciting. My Fall Break experience started last week, actually. My friend Erick, who is studying in Siena, Italy for a semester, came up to Munich to visit and explore the city. 

He was supposed to get into Munich at 1AM Monday morning and stay at a hostel in the center of Munich. I was a bit confused as to how he booked a train getting in at Fröttmaning station, which only has a subway line and buses on it, but I just gave him directions to the main train station, not a problem. When I hadn’t heard from him at 11AM Monday I was a little worried, but figured he was just sleeping off a bad train ride. By 5PM, when I still hadn’t heard from him I was pretty darn worried.

I called his hostel and asked if he had checked in. The woman said, “No, actually. He was supposed to arrive last night and never showed up. We’ve charged him for the night and given his bed away. Can you tell him that for us if you hear from him?” 

Uh oh.

I then went upstairs and asked Frau Volz what I should do. She said, let’s wait a little while and then go ask our policeman neighbor.


In the meantime I called Betty, our trip leader and asked her if she can find the numbers for Roy and Terry, the faculty leaders in Siena. We ended up contacting the heads of the Study Abroad program at Guilford and sending e-mails to people, asking if they knew know where he was or what his cell phone number is. No responses.

Oh jeez.

So I’m sitting in the kitchen thinking “Crap, he’s probably dead or sleeping in some random train station with no idea where he is and now idea where to go.” Bree’ went out to the main train station to look for him. Frau Volz went over to her neighbor's house to ask him what we should do. She came back and got some general info that he could look up tomorrow to check if he was in jail or the hospital.

Around 7:30 I get a facebook message for him “Finally in Munich, my bus broke down for 18 hours, I’m at an internet café in the center of town and don’t have much time left on my service. Can you meet me there?” Turns out he doesn’t have a cell phone in Europe.

I didn’t know where that café was, so I told him to meet me at Burger King in the main train station, where our group usually meets. I then quickly e-mailed all 7 people who I had contacted trying to find this kid, saying that I found him, everything’s okay. I met up with Bree at the train station, he wasn't in BK so we walked around the streets outside the train station trying to find the place he was. Absolutely no one had heard of the place, which did not bode well, but eventually things worked out. 

We got food in the train station and I heard all about getting stuck in the Italian Alps with Italians and Poles, none of whom new English. All he could get from their broken Italian was "Police...broken bus." It soon became apparent why his "train" was getting in at a random stop. Even though his ticket specifically said "train" it was most certainly a bus. Its pick up station in Florence was also in a random corner of the city and no one knew anything about it. The bus passengers ended up having to sleep on the bus and watching a horribly gory movie until things could be sorted out, it ended up being a 30 hour journey.

Since his hotel reservation had been cancelled Frau Volz offered him the couch to sleep on, which I assumed was until he booked another hotel room. But no, the next morning she came downstairs and told me that I should give him a different blanket the next night. When Bree, Erick, and I came home that afternoon she had made up a makeshift bed on the couch. This was a bit of a surprise since we had been told very explicitly that no one was allowed to stay the night. But, since Frau Volz is the head of the host families in Munich (as in she organizes them and sorts out any problems) I figure she wouldn't have offered if she wasn't really okay with it.

So Erick ended up sleeping on the couch for the rest of his stay. It was cheaper and reduced the hassle of trying to find a hotel instead of actually seeing Munich. So he got a place to stay for free, some free food, Frau Volz and he tried to talk to each other despite the limited amount of language shared between them, and we even rode bikes a little

We spent a lot of time at the Alte Pinakotheke, where I had two art history classes, and the Pinakotheke der Modern, where we went one afternoon after my classes. We went to a bunch of beer halls, ate traditional Bavarian food, and went to Kartoffelhaus, our Guilford German professor’s favorite restaurant, with most of the people on my trip. Heck, Erick even started figuring out a bit of the transit system on his own. In the process I had an awesome slab of schnitzel perched atop a mountain of french fries, a beer called the "Triumphator des Starkbiers," and climbed up to the top of St. Peter's tower, which has a great view of the city.
 Poster in the Kartoffelhaus

Friday afternoon was warm and sunny so Ben Heide and I took our guests (his was Patrick, who is also studying in Siena) to some historic sites. Erick watched the Glockenspiel in the morning then the four of us met up and ate lunch at the Augustiner restaurant in Marienplatz with Tyler and his parents. We then walked to Odeonsplatz, showed them where the Hitler Putsch of 1923 happened, went into the church on the square, then sat in the Residence garden listening to music and sipping beer. 

So despite the debacle that was Monday it still turned out pretty darn well. 

Part Two coming soon: Florence and Siena

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