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Funny, the people you run into in Munich

July 10th, 2009

We spent the day Friday in Munich. We left behind our frustrations with Mobi. Hey, this is how memories are made: renting motorhomes that fall apart on you. In Munich, we had an awesome time and met some wonderful people. And you know how that feeling when you think you’ve met someone before? Wait for this story.

Downtown Munich is the perfect definition of a city that has a “there” there, with a marvelous beer garden/outdoor plaza/farmer’s market (every possible meat, fish, vegetable, fruit, herb and flower) and thousands of people in a good mood. And why not? They’re all drinking beer, even the musicians!

To be sure, Munich has its grand government buildings, spectacular cathedrals and museums, and a chic retail district. In the course of two or three blocks, we passed stores for Versace, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Dior, Chanel, Georgio Armani, Hermes, Ralph Lauren and Valentino. (No Costco, but maybe out in the suburbs…)

We started our walking tour in the beer gardens, and ended there. Seating was congested, but two other couples invited us to join them. Dominique and Jean, from Lyon, France, and Theo and Gudrun, from Solingen, Germany, were friends through the marriage of their two children, and were anxious to give us advice on which cities to visit in Switzerland.

When they left, another couple took their seats: Deon and Elsie, from South Africa, who  had just spent two weeks in Prague. They were especially happy to speak with Americans and after 30 minutes we had exchanged e-mails and promises (that we hope to keep) to visit them in their country. “We love American people,” Elsie said. “We are Obama fans,” Deon said, commenting specifically on how he admires our president’s efforts to tackle the economic nightmares. “It’s hitting everyone, everywhere,” he said. (And he should know; he is an investments advisor.) “Obama, he’s something special. His heart and soul is there.”

They each remarked how the world seemed to be getting smaller, what with technology and the growing adventurous spirit of people to travel.

As we all stood up to leave, and they made the first move to hug us, I heard a voice that seemed amazingly familiar. “Tom!”

It was a coworker, Ulf, a researcher for In Business Las Vegas, the leading business publication in Las Vegas (and a sister publication to the Las Vegas Sun, where I work). Ulf was visiting his parents, Gerda and Arno, who live in Klais, about 90 minutes outside of Munich.  He arrived a few days ago for a week’s stay. He had been hiking and today came into Munich. And there he was, sitting five feet from us! Weird. Really really weird.

Meanwhile, an Australian friend of Daughter (they connected in Dutch language classes; in Antwerp) who knew we were going to be in Munich today text-messaged her, suggesting we eat at the restaurant her aunt and uncle, Rosemary and Volker, operate a few miles from downtown Munich. What the heck, so we took the underground to the neighborhood, found the restaurant — it specializes in meals featuring potatoes as the entree — and had a wonderful dinner.

Today was a good day, enjoying a beautiful city filled with wonderful people, making new friends and finding a coworker  in a crowd of happy beer drinkers thousands of miles from home! Did I say it was weird? In a very very good way.

Tomorrow, on to Prague….

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