Germany is one of the largest and most central countries in Europe, and it's been a classic backpacker's destination for yonks. Home of giant bratwurst sausages, sleek and powerful luxury automobiles (and incredible roads to complement them), and Bavarian beers by the stein, every corner of the land offers something just a little bit different. All connected by an efficient train network, that runs on time to-the-second, in that grand tradition of German efficiency. Just don't mention the war!
Collin is a Scotsman who's been living in Spain for the past 3 years, where he works as a high-school English teacher. I met Collin on my flight to Madrid this morning, while sitting in the departure lounge during the delay. Collin says that he flies with Ryanair all the time, but he admits: "I hate them, they're absolute bastards... I just can't stop booking flights with them, 'cause they're so damn cheap!" Good to have some company, amidst the never-ending delays and the chaotic scene that was this morning's flight.
This morning was my first-ever experience with Ryanair, Europe's favourite and most dodgy discount airline. I thought the easyJet flight was basic; but it was nothing compared to this. Flying with Ryanair is a joke, end of story. They're cheap, they're no-frills, and they get you there. It's best not to think about the rest.
I didn't have long to spend in Frankfurt — just tonight — and I made it a quiet one. I did a little bit of shopping in the area around Frankfurt Hbf (central station): it's a seedy and unattractive red-light area; but it's also packed with numerous indistinguishable cheap variety stores, where I was able to finish off some of the things that I still hadn't replaced since losing them (e.g. new headlamp, new combination padlocks). The free pasta dinner at Stay and Learn was good: and I met an interesting Brazilian guy over dinner, as well as a big group of Italian students (mainly girls), with whom I had a nice shmooze. Other than that, it was just a bit of online time — I met a random Peruvian girl at the cafe down the road — and then off to bed, in preparation for tomorrow's early start.
Hostels really don't get much more conveniently located than Stay and Learn: it's across the road from the train station! It seems that the owners of this hostel are prepared to admit the truth: Frankfurt's a big boring city, and most people only come here in order to make some kind of transport connection (generally a flight). I guess that, due to its name, many people also stay in Frankfurt in order to learn some German — because there's nothing else to do here :P. Considering that it's in big commercial Frankfurt, I found Stay and Learn to be surprisingly fun and colourful, for the one night that I was here. The common room upstairs is very friendly, and the free all-you-can-eat dinner (on some nights) is not to be missed.
Today's trip from Kitzbühel to Frankfurt marks the end of my time spent travelling on a Eurail pass. My Eurail Select 5-Country Pass — which allows 10 (not necessarily consecutive) days of unlimited travel, within 2 months, within 5 neighbouring countries (I chose Italy, Switzerland, Benelux, Germany and Austria) — has been tremendously handy, and has been used in place of around €600-€650 worth of over-the-counter tickets (not bad, considering that it originally cost only €350). Backpacking by train in Europe has been a great experience: generally speaking, it's comfortable, reliable, and flexible — and there are trains literally everywhere.
The long 3-legged train ride from Kitzbühel to Frankfurt took up most of today. From Kitzbühel-Hahnenkamm station (the secondary station at Kitzbühel, where there's no office or ticket machine, just the platforms and the tracks), I jumped on the 10:55am local train back to Wörgl; and from there (with a mere 6-minute change gap!), I caught another local train up to Rosenheim, which is just over the German border. Then, it was 4½ hours on an InterCity train, direct from Rosenheim to Frankfurt (via Munich, Stuttgart and Heidelberg). Not the most eventful of days — but no problems on the trains, and I reached Frankfurt at a reasonable hour.
During our tour of Munich today, Ozzie shared with us some interesting if alarming facts about beer and Bavaria. Bavaria is officially the beer capital of the world: not just by reputation, but also by the irrefutable weight of statistics. Have a look at some of these hair-raising facts, and you'll see what I mean.
Mr. Miller is an 84-year-old, Polish-born Munich local, who shamelessly (but not regrettably) interrupted our tour of Munich today in the Marienplatz. He staggered up to Ozzie, totally wasted on Glühwein (waving his Glühwein mug around); and wouldn't leave us alone until he'd told us his life story (at times, in surprisingly passable English), and sung us a few songs in G-d knows what language. You gotta see it to believe it: so check out the video below.
Weißwürste (lit: "white sausage") is a Bavarian specialty: it's made mainly from minced veal, and stuffed into a skin of pork casing. It's eaten without the skin — you either suck the mince out of the skin, or you slice the sausage in half — and is usually served with beer (and often with a big baked pretzel). I tried weißwürste on my tour of Munich today, in the Viktualienmarkt beer garden. Sadly, I did not adhere to the Bavarian tradition of eating the dish before noon: I missed the deadline by about an hour. Tasted great nonetheless.
Did you know that the word "Aussie" has 4 different meanings, here in Germany? First, it refers to Austrians — Germans have been calling their southern brethren "Aussies" for yonks. Second, it refers to Australians — naturally, who the hell doesn't know our affectionate national nickname? Third, it refers to East Germans, whom their Western brethren sometimes like to joke about. And finally, it refers to Ozzie! At least, that's according to Ozzie himself (yep, that's his name): the (allegedly) quarter-native Bavarian, 100% black, 110% crazy tourguide who took half of Wombat's on a tour of Munich this morning.