Munich Diaries #1 – Arrival and the First Weekend1761 words • 9 minute read
I can’t believe it’s finally happening
After months and months of excitement, applications, planning, signing and handling paperwork, on the 1st of October, I finally arrived in Munich to take part in a year-long Erasmus+ Study Abroad Exchange Program at the Technical University of Munich’s Department of Informatics.
My mother and a friend of hers drove me out by car from Budapest, as we “haven’t traveled together for so long”, a good roadtrip-bonding is always really nice to have, and of course it was a tremendous help with moving all my stuff two countries away.
As I landed at the Biederstein Dormitory – the best dormitory in Munich1 – on Friday, October 1st, I was full of excitement. Everything was new, and everyone was lovely, helpful, full of life and full of smiles, ready to have the time of our lives. I already signed the contract that lets me stay here for exactly one year. I felt like I’m finally done with all the paperwork, and now it is the time to make the most out of my stay. (And although I still feel strongly about the latter, o’ boy, how wrong I was regarding the former.)
Having my priorities in order for the first weekend
- Buying a router
- Buying a helmet
- Going hashing
- Wine tasting
Buying a router
Later that day, I set out to buy a router, because – just as we were told beforehand, – the dormitory rooms are equipped only with an ethernet outlet, and we have to set up our internet connections for ourselves.2 Actually, regarding their internet usage and online presence, Germans are peculiarly conscious. Their fines in regards to illegal copyright infringement are notorious.3
Also, sometimes Germans also practice sending out activation codes to ones home address via post when registering on a website or online service. Or even better, sending out plain text passwords in the body of an email, or attached in a PDF for official administrative matters.
I was told that in Germany everything gets done in due time, you just have to get a feeling of how stuff gets done around here – it’s never after the deadline, although usually it’s not too much before that either.
Anyway, I was officially given 8 public IPv4 addresses, and received seemingly strict instructions to assign exactly one address to all my internet-capable electronic devices, and what other networking-related parameters have to be set up.
Buying a helmet
Maybe I just got too easy-going with all the packing place I had, while moving with a car, but I just couldn’t leave my rollerblades at home.
After successfully buying a router in a nearby consumer electronics store (and not getting thrown out for wearing skates), I decided to stay safe and go to a sporting goods retailer on the other side of Munich. I already had top notch protective gear, the only thing (and actually the most important) missing was a helmet.
I skated through the city there and back, and enjoyed not just the beautiful night in the city, but also all the lovely people that came my way both in the city and then when arriving back at my dormitory room.
Friday was a day well spent, and I laid down peacefully, but also full of excitement on what the next couple of days will bring.
The Munich Hash House Harriers
I couldn’t have wished for a better second-day program.
During the winter times, the Munich Hash House Harriers gather at 15:00 somewhere in Munich’s vicinity. This Saturday, the meeting point was a parking slot in northeastern Munich. As I felt like I should put my running shoes to good use5. I always feel awesome when I have the chance to run in a beautiful place, especially when exploring it for the first time. The English Garden (Englisher Garten) is probably one of the best things in Munich. It’s not only an enormous, lush green park in the heart of the city, but also a really well thought out, looked after and diverse area.6
By the time I made my way enchanted by the sight, and all the happy-looking people just enjoying a Saturday early afternoon in the garden, I ran 6km, so I was perfectly warmed up for a social jogging experience.
The hashers welcomed me with the utmost friendliness and openness. It simply felt awesome to be in their company. As it turns out, many of them are expats7, and to my slight surprise (even though there were also native German people), everyone spoke English. There were people from all over the world: USA, Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, and the list goes on and on.
This was the first time I experienced it first hand what Munich being a multicultural city truly meant in practice. And also, what it means to be inclusive, open-minded, respectful and sincerely interested about each others cultures.8
Without going into too many details, we ran in an unbelievably beautiful scenery on the outskirts of the city, passing by fields of wheat, and horse riders. Then the path slowly transformed first into a beautiful lake with people sunbathing, and then into a forest, where it finally went uphill a bit, only to arrive at a truly admirable view of the city in the distance. (“See, behind us are all the affordable places to rent.” – told half-jokingly a middle-aged gentleman as we were taking in the beautiful sight.) In the meantime, someone popped open a bottle of almond schnapps, and small paper cups were going around with a round for everyone. (Yes, really! Told you – drinkers with a running problem.) Then after the obligatory group picture, we continued our path back to where we started, passing by a lush embankment, brooks and creeks, when finally the landscape transformed into a cityscape, and the dirt road into pavement.
After arriving back in the parking lot we started our journey from 10km and 2 hours ago, it was time for the conventional after party. We gathered in a circle, drank beer, sang songs, the first-timers were welcomed “properly”, and without giving away all the fun and lovely details, it was actually a surprisingly well-oiled and authentic experience.
Then we closed the party by visiting a lovely Indian restaurant nearby. During the run, I already had the chance to learn a lot about the world and what’s going on in other people’s countries, but the dinner absolutely took the cake. It was really interesting to hear the way other people think, act and also to hear the extremely different journeys they are on, bringing everyone there that night.
After calling it a night, I actually headed into the night, venturing on the journey back home. Actually, I didn’t check on my way there, whether the English Garden has any public lighting.
Anyway, I still had my phone for navigation and acting as a flashlight. Still, it felt a bit nerve racking, but after passing only two cyclists during my journey back home, I somehow managed not to drain all of my battery, and arrived safely back to Biederstein.
On my third day in Munich, it turned out to be a blast to meet up with a fellow Hungarian for the first time. He texted me after finding out that we got placed in the same dormitory. Turns out we are not only from the same university, but also have a lot of similar interests. Small world!
After a delightful stroll in the English Garden (which I still can’t believable is literally just around the corner…, we attended our first “official” event in our dormitory: the wine tasting on the cozy terrace of Biederstein, just atop the “aquarium” – a big social room that has glass windows on all sides.
The wine was great – especially coupled with grapes and bread sticks –, and the people were lovely and welcoming. Most of the people here were German – or at least spoke the language really well. But as also many of us were from other countries, everyone was extremely keen to speak English – just like pretty much everywhere in Munich so far. I definitely felt the rust upon my German knowledge. Although everything I learned back in high school was coming back pretty quickly, I didn’t quite have the vocabulary to express myself truthfully. This was the first time I found myself speaking Gerlish – starting a sentence in German, but finishing it in English, mostly due to a lack of vocabulary, or at least a suitable expression.
Everyone was quick to socialize, extremely kind, helpful, and quick to explain anything that came up – be it language, customs, or just what the best spots around are. Witnessing this warm and inviting welcome I absolutely believed the friendly guy telling us, newcomers that this was the best dormitory in Munich, and the best place to be at.
As the week drew to an end, I was happy to be exactly where I was, and to look forward to the next week in Munich, and all the people I was about to meet.
At least told so by an absolutely impartial and unbiased fellow biedersteiner on Sunday during a wine tasting. ↩︎
Of course, after having studied Computer Engineering for 3 years now, I felt extremely happy to understand more than half the related jargon, and be done in under 1.5 hours. I’m not sure how that (and the quality of my finished setup) compares to others, but I really feel like all the time that went into completing those Communication Network classes back at my home university are finally starting to pay off. ↩︎
It is actually so common that almost everyone seems to know someone who got fined for up to 1000€ for illegally downloading/uploading copyrighted materials. Even the welcome lectures strongly pointed out not to infringe on copyright while in Germany. ↩︎
And honestly, not being able to buy my 201.6€ semester ticket due to not having received my student card yet proved to be a somewhat influential factor too. ↩︎
Did you know Munich is also a surfing paradise, and people love surfing in the English Garden? I certainly did not – and actually thought at first that the person mentioning the awesome surfing waves in Munich was joking, when I first heard it, which is on me. ↩︎
expat: a person who left his/her foreign country, to live abroad in a foreign land ↩︎
Yeah, and drinking seems to help too. ↩︎