Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Munich

More loose change about Munich:
  • I do love that public transport. Ain't cheap but what is these days?  And it is friction free.  You buy a ticket with a credit card, from the machine. It works first time, unlike Paris, where it never seemed to work at all.  You get a multi-day pass; you validate once and then Bob's your uncle: you hop on, hop off as convenient.  If you go bare you risk being tagged with a 40 Euro fine but in a week, I never saw an inspector.  I suspect the main risk is that someday you just forget to put the ticket in your pocket.
The whole system is well signed and it is hard to make a mistake but that's the beauty part: if you do make a mistake--get on the wrong trolley, get off at the wrong stop--you can just debark and try again.  No fumbling for change transfers, etc.
  • But now, about bicycles.  Munich is flat and so bike-friendly (except, I suppose, in snow).  Like Amsterdam, but that's the interesting part: Amsterdam cyclists chug along on old clunkers at a crawl. Munich wheels are fancier (though not as fancy as you might expect from the town that invented the BMW).  More important, Munich cyclists like to go fast.  It's not as if they are trying to hit you; they just assume you know the rules and if not, why then it's your problem (and guess what: most pedestrians, not fancying death or mutilation, just get out of the way).
Bike lanes?  Strictly speaking, yes, and everywhere.  But this is the one part of the system that really does not work.  One, the markings can be really obscure, especially at corners or crossings.  And two, the cyclist's attitude is, ahem, casual. One would think the lanes sort into "bike" and "non-bike."  But for the cyclists, the choice seems to be "default" and "whenever convenient."
  • One more--actually, two more--stories that confirm our prejudice about Germans.  One, a 70ish lady knocking back a coffee at the train station. At her elbow is a backpack--I'd guess 50 pounds.  She is carefully decked out in sensible travel togs and I'm betting the pack is sensibly decked out also.  Thing is, this is not a street person: she's just a citizen on walkabout.
And two--Mrs. B noted this one--couples on the transit. Elderly, which is to say a bit younger than ourselves. Both lean, and both tanned.  Well, it is July, so just back from holiday?
This is puzzling, particularly because of a third fact that comes to mind. That is: Munchkins (yes?) aren't as fat as I remember them. Ten years ago they had stereotypical beer bellies (at least the guys).  These days, a few.  And yet you still seem to see them kicking back with those industrial-strengh glasses (I'm betting the name is "medium").  Sometimes for breakfast.
  • And now, two more gustatory insights, but more bewildering. The  subject is food.
One, dignified lady in her 50s in for a late lunch.  She ordered, and them demurely devoured (a) a piece of Sacher torte; (b) a cup of cocoa; and ( c) a glass of prosecco.
Two: another one of those dignified older couples--lean again and this time tall. They ordered giant iced coffees mit  schlag and, I think, a dollop of vanilla ice cream. She honors the treat's arrival by upending into it the sugar canister. Go figure.
  • And a surprise.  Food's pretty good, actually.  Of course we were eating somewhat high end bit the stuff in the supermarket was at least acceptable, often much better than that.
  • One puzzle: what's this about dressing up for the opera?  You see dressy people at the Met, but also tramps (that would be me, your honor).  San Francisco is mostly tramps.  Munich--well, I guess they don't throw you out if you show up in tee-shirt and jeans, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone in the lobby mutter the German equivalent of "you're not from around here, are you, buddy?" 
So, lovely place.  Pity about the Nazi past.  We did listen for a while to a tour guide--woman of 40 or so--who talked frankly about the evil years, pointed out the (beer hall?) where the party got its name, described the route of the comic-opera putsch.  She also showed us the site of the 72 Olympics and waxed lyrical about what a success they were. Yes, but.


Tom said...

As an American expat living in Germany, a few comments:

Munich's excellent public transport system is even more shocking when you consider that the city only has 1.3 million people - about the same as the urban area of Milwaukee. Even more shocking is to look at the extensive public transportation system in a city like Rostock (population: 200,00) which is significantly better than the public transport in Chicago even.

Inspectors are rare but they definitely exist, if you commute regularly you will see them at least once a week. Also much of the ticket checking is done by under-cover inspectors (this is how I got caught once). But to be honest, the inspectors aren't needed - the vast majority of Germans (even young ones) always buy a ticket, and this is of almost religious importance to them. The only exception here is in Berlin.

If you get caught and don't pay by the time you're supposed to, they typically then hire out some private collections firm to get the money. The company hired to do this in Berlin is known to send people carrying baseball bats to collect the money. They don't actually make any threats, but supposedly the success rate went up when they started using the baseball bats.

German bikers are so cavalier because they effectively have the right away. No matter how stupid you are on your bike, cars will do everything in their power not to hit you. It's truly amazing.

Your prejudices about Germans seem correct to me.

Ralph said...

Just some additional notes:

Münchner Verkehrs- und Tarifverbund serves an area with approx. 2,6 million people with a total of approx. 650 million rides / year.

Riding without a ticket does not bear only the risk to be charged 40 Euro. That's just the increased fee, not a fine. It is punishable with imprisonment up to one year under Section 265a Penal Code. And those charges are not just in the book, the DA office brings them frequently to trial - but usually not for first time offenders.

German cyclists act usally pretty reckless compared by City of Davis standards just because the rules are not enforced against them. With strict liability for automobiles on the other hand, cyclists are very well protected.