Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Of Munich and of crying in public

I stood this evening, alone, in the central market place in Munich, close to Marienplatz with its magnificent town hall and rather lovely shopping area, and shed a little tear. I'd spent the last half hour walking through the slowly closing shops around and across the market square. I'd walked into the cheese shops, at least four of them, each specialising in a different area of Europe or Germany. I'd gone into the butchers, where they had told me which small, local farms the chicken, ducks and geese came from, and which forest the game had been taken from. I spoke to the woman selling vegetables in one of the stands and found that all the vegetables had their origins labeled and that there was both plenty of locally produced food as well as lots of exotic produce, including perhaps 5 varieties of chili and almost a dozen of mushroom. This along with the shop devoted to honey,  and the bakeries selling the most amazing array of seeded loaves had just tipped me over the edge. On the way to the market I'd gone into the second hand camera shop with its several hundred lenses eyeing me up from the window which had already put me in an emotional mood. So I stood, surrounded by amazing food and the people who care for it, and I couldn't help but grin like an idiot for a few minutes, taking in the possibilities as my eyes welled up.

I really really like this place. I think that part of it may be due to the way my stereotypes of Germany are not playing out, at all The people smile on the streets and strangers say hello. There IS definitely a sense of humour. Munich doesn't seem to be as horrendously expensive as I'd been led to believed. I just picked up a couple of bags of clothes which fit me! something I've had a very hard time doing for several years!. The appreciation of good food is everywhere. I've just come back from a sichuan hotpot meal which would have satisfied the most critical of Beijingers (actually, it did), and I've already spotted where I can get what looks like a great bibimbap: just round the corner from the Vietnamese restaurant. This is all of course partly because I'm now living in a highly multicultural city of a million people. The Bavarian fare itself is a heavy, but very tasty mixture of dumplings, sauerkraut and pork in various combinations, but the two or three times that I've had this so far, washed down with a vast glass of beer, it's been fantastic winter fare.

So, I'm a week or so in, and have managed to get a fair number of the tedious admin jobs seen to. Today was tax office day. It was also the first occasion that I'd met someone who didn't speak English (I'm learning German now, but it'll be a while until I'm in any way conversant) - in general people claim not to speak much English and then put me thoroughly to shame with their vocabulary and perfect grammar. Anyway, the guy in the tax office didn't speak English and when i asked, he waved his hands saying 'vid aams', 'vee do vid zee aams'. I thought at first that he was sending me away to find someone else who could help with this ignorant foreigner (and he would have been quite right to do so) until I realised from his waving and his big grin that he was saying that language wasn't important - 'we do it with arms'. And so we got through the tax form 'with arms', and frankly without a problem at all. At the end, when we'd got through the questions he gave me another grin and bade me farewell with another 'see, vid zee aams'. I love it. People who are just willing to try, and make a fool of themselves if needs be. This I hadn't expected from Bavaria, but then, as I move slowly around the world, I'm learning that my preconceptions are almost always entirely baseless.

Work is also picking up quickly and I'm working in parallel on three or four projects here now. The group is big, and dynamic, with a great range of skills and knowledge and I'm feeling like I'll both be able to contribute, and learn from my time here. Work here along with a few other work visits mean that the first three months of 2011 are pretty much full already!

Anyway, that'll do for now, but I hope to update soon on the flat-hunting situation and if I make it into the Alps, just an hour away, I'll post some photos for sure.


Anonymous said...

but you miss the pimientos de Padrón....just a little wee bit, don´t you??

Jonathan Shock said...

Yep, that's very true - that and pulpo, and tortilla, and a good few other foods!