The Europe We All Know

“In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the World”–President Barack Obama


Munich and Paris.  Cities we all know and would like to visit.

There isn’t too much that I can write about either of these cities that can’t be read elsewhere online.  I’m more or less drawing a blank here so I suppose I’ll just recap what I did during my brief stays in both Munich and Paris.

Firstly, I should mention that my stay in Bavaria or Bayern (Germany’s southern, largest and most famous province) did not start in Munich, rather it began in a small town called Moosburg an der Isar.  I traveled there via the Deutsche Bahn to visit Dani once more for New Year’s Eve.  She and I went to Moosburg to spend the occasion at her friend’s house where she was hosting her family.  Shortly before midnight we ventured into the city center to celebrate with the townspeople the dawning of a new year.  Yadda, yadda, yadda, there were fireworks and champagne and loud German house music.  It was a small celebration but one that I was glad to have been able to enjoy.  Knowing that I was going to be on my own for much of these 5 ½ weeks, I was really glad that I was able to spend NYE with a friend.  I couldn’t imagine a more depressing way to spend NYE than in an amazing city with no one to share it with.

Munich is a very German city.  “Obviously”, you’re undoubtedly thinking to yourself.  What I mean by this is that Munich seems to value efficiency over anything else.  It’s truly a city built on the premise of function over form.  A bit stereotypical perhaps, but nevertheless I think it’s a fair characterization.  To be frank I didn’t do a whole lot in Munich.  I had only 1 full day in the city which is more a consequence of my terrible planning skills than anything else and was thereby limited in what I could experience given that my constraints were not just time-based but also financially as well.  I should’ve considered more heavily the effect that Amsterdam, Munich and Paris would have on my wallet.  Despite my brief tenure in what I consider to be the heart of Germany, I was able to see most of the famous landmarks centered around the Marienplatz and was also able to walk to the relatively distant Olympiapark where the 1976 Olympics were held.  These Olympics were of course more famous for the Israeli hostages that were killed by Palestinian terrorists.  Cheery stuff.

Paris.  City of lights.  City of love.  Anymore overused nicknames we can use?  I can’t think of anymore.

It pains me to say this because I have a very complicated relationship with France and the French but Paris really is a beautiful city.  It’s grandiose streets near all of the landmarks are indeed impressive and the general atmosphere of the city is one worthy of envy.  I stayed in the Montmartre neighborhood which I think is widely regarded as the best neighborhood to stay in when visiting Paris.  If I am wrong and someone has a different recommendation then I’d be happy to hear it.

Besides doing my now routine surveillance walk of Paris upon my arrival I did something else in Paris that I found quite enjoyable and will probably try again in the near future.  As I was eating breakfast at my hostel I picked up a pamphlet from the pile of brochures that anyone who’s ever stayed at a hostel will surely know about and read about the FREE walking tour that I could embark on at 11 am.  Free?  We all know nothing is free or at least nothing worthwhile.  But seeing that my funds were running low at this point and I was just going to try and give myself my own impromptu walking tour, I figured why not?

It was a good experience.  The tour started at Fontaine de Saint-Michel and apparently I wasn’t the only person who had been intrigued by this “free walking tour” pamphlet.  I’d estimate there were about 40 people of various ages, but mostly within the coveted 18-24 demographic, present and clinging to their oversized cameras.  My group (we were divided into 2 English-speaking tours and 1 Spanish) was assigned the Dutchman Onno as our tourguide.  Onno explained that he had been born and raised in Amsterdam but had left his home 2 years ago to spend a summer in Paris.  He soon decided that being a freelance tour guide would be his chosen profession and he has thus been doing just that ever since.

On our walking tour we saw the obligatory landmarks.  Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris?  Check.  Palais du Louvre?  Check. Le Tur Eiffel? Check.  I found this good because I hadn’t much more planned for Paris.  As far as I was concerned Paris was just a place to stop at on my way back to London.  O yea, I should explain how the tour was technically a free tour but as everyone knew it was going to be, it wasn’t.  Some tour company apparently came up with the idea to allow the customer to pay what they’d like for the services of each tour guide.  The universal honor code and the ensuing guilt that comes with not adhering to it are the soul mechanisms used to generate income for these freelance tour guides.  And for this to happen on a continent where tipping is less than common.  Shocking.  I paid Onno what I could at the time which was about 10 Euros.  I think anymore than that would’ve been a little stupid.  Ah but yes, I digress.

As has been the theme over these past 4 weeks (God it’s gone by quickly) I awoke at the crack of dawn to catch the Eurostar back to London where I would finally be able to get a hot shower for as long I’d like and do some much needed laundry.  It’s the little things that matter the most when you’re living out of your suitcase.

And, yea, those in a nutshell were my experiences of both Munich and Paris.


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