Another day on the job: deep diving (without a bath duck) into the German biotech ecosystem around Munich. Every now and then I remind myself of how grateful I am that somebody wants to pay me to do all this fun stuff.
I know it is late in the day and my brain is probably not at full capacity, but why is there a bath duck in Tirolean gear wedged into the shelf in my minibar?
I sincerely hope this duck has not been in a bathtub. According to a recent publication, the insides of bath ducks are happy homes for astounding amounts of bacteria, not all of them good for our health. While I am aware that our own bodies have larger numbers of bacteria than human cells, I do not favor any additional bugs in the minibar of my hotel room.
(Did some research. Apparently they are collectibles for charity. Points to Hilton for creativity, though.)
Beer, pringles, sausages, and sauerkraut. Accompanied with musicians in suspenders and/or lederhosen and happy schlager music. Indeed, what a cliché. And what an unashamed reality at Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
I do not like beer. There was no wine. The beer came in one-liter pints. In order not to shame the hallowed halls of the Hofbräuhaus I had to buy a one-liter pint of beer, one of the handful portions of beer I have ever purchased myself in my life. It was actually surprisingly tasty. There is a photograph as evidence but do not think I will share it here. Eins, zwei, g’suffa.
Sunday in Munich. The church bells toll as the ceremony is over and people flood out into the crisp November air. Inside the air is hazy from incense and candle smoke. The choir finish off their last hymn.
It is Sunday lunch time and no shops are open in Munich. Yet people stroll around on the streets. The thing to do after church in Munich is apparently coffee or lunch in the few rays shining over the rooftops before the sun sinks too low.
I join the crowd milling down towards the city gates and into little Platzl place. I am not a Municher but Schuhbeck’s bistro has a spot just for me. In the sun. Beginning with a mouthwatering risotto and ending with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
Sometimes it is impossible to find the time to explore new places. Land, cab ride, two days of meetings in a hotel, another cab ride, and back in the air again. But even then it is possible to sneak outside to stand in the spring sun, if just for five minutes, and to enjoy the forsythias, magnolias, and cherry blossoms. Frankfurt I heard your old town is gorgeous. I had no idea – and still don’t. Please keep it gorgeous until I return?
And sometimes a darling mother drops by with her own key, leaves a huge pot of yellow daffodils on the balcony right behind the door, and places an order for sunshine for the next day. Spring arrived at home, as well.
(Frankfurt, Germany; and Helsinki, Finland; March 2014)
How about Berlin, she said. Yes please, I said; let’s spend some days uncovering the layers. Let’s, she said; and how about a cabaret and some underground jazz? Sure, I said; you go ahead, I will meet you there.
And met we did, for a dinner. And half a day’s sightseeing, after which I was forced to exchange my not too uncomfortable hotel room for another room on the 19th floor, with fantastic views of Berlin. This is what I was told. I never made it to the window to enjoy the view. I spent most of my vacation in an adjustable bed receiving special treatment, hospital food, and the loveliest and most amusing care by the staff by the push of a button.
At the day of our departure she said, let’s go to the Schloss Bellevue. Let’s have strawberries in the sun and tea at the Tea house in the Lustgarten. Yes please, I said; let’s spend the day pretending I did not just undergo emergency surgery.
And I left my appendix at the Charité, heaved myself into the taxi with all three belly holes sutured up, and headed for the sun, strawberries, and finally, Berlin in the summer.
(My only souvenir from Berlin, Germany; July 2013)