Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lindau, Germany to Munich, Germany: Bike paths, the Engineering Museum, and Couchsurfing!

When we last left off I had found internet (and warm breakfast) at McDonald's after just having crossed into Germany from Austria... after just having crossed into Austria from Switzerland.

I forgot to mention in my rain-weathered state that, as if in testament to the lack of stealth camping in Switzerland, within an hour of crossing into Austria I found a secluded bike trail that was a goldmine of places to camp. But, I was happy with the heated bathroom from the night before.


It did, thank goodness, stop raining while I was blogging, and later that day the sun would come out. In short, I biked to Munich. Notable things that happened along the way:
- More bike lanes everywhere, continuing the trend started by Switzerland. Hooray!

- Louisa (my bike) made a friend while I was grocery shopping

- I successfully made it across these railroad tracks despite having no idea what this sign said.

(I pulled the lever and the gate opened. On the other side I pulled it again thinking they would close. Instead a voice said, “Ja?,” I said I was just trying to close the gate, and then biked away terrified I'd done something wrong)

- Stealth camping is in full force. There are hardly any fences anywhere and it's... freeing. Mentally. I'm just not worried about finding a place to sleep.

- I did an England and found myself on a path better suited for hiking after trying to take a shortcut... oh well.

- I successfully acquired breakfast at a bakery despite not speaking any German. It was good, but they had no chasson aux pommes, and I was sad.

So anyways, now I'm in Munich, in a hammock in the apartment of my Couchsurfing host, Liviu. Liviu is awesome, I'm pretty sure we'd be best friends if we lived in the same city. He volunteers at a community bicycle shop, and his stance on stuff is much the same as mine: “Eventually you have everything you need and buying more stuff doesn't make you happier... except bikes, of couse. Buying a new bike always makes me happier.”

Liviu also has a few electric bikes, which I was skeptical about at first, but having tried them, I totally get it. They are fun. You still have to pedal, but you force is greatly multiplied – you can go up steep hills, or just really fast. And being fun means you want to bike more. And more people on bikes can only be a good thing. So if you've always been like, “biking to work would be nice but it's too much work,” then go buy an electric bike. They're awesome. Weeee!!!

Part of the reason I wanted to visit Munich was for the Engineering Museum. This was recommended to me by a friend whose review was, “I cannot possibly oversell it.” He was right. Imagine a regular museum; say, a museum of naval history and technology. Now make it huge. Huge. We're talking comparable to football stadium huge. Actual boats. Model boats. Dioramas. Demonstrations. Paintings of boats. Good. That's one floor of the Deutches Museum. It has 6 floors. Some of the rooms/floors include: naval history and technology, flight history and technology, energy history and technology, electrical history and technology, astronomy, math (including a room of puzzles), physics (including a room of interactive demonstrations), music, computer technology...

I was blown away. I spent 8 hours there, and I want to go back. There was just so much cool stuff.

One of the rooms on electricity.

Diorama of a hydroelectric power plant.

Fully detailed model ship.

Fluid drive.

Model ship structures.

Inside of a compass.

Submarine cutaway (actual submarine).

Diorama of divers recovering a submarine.

One of the rooms on energy.

Old globes -- the nearest is before Chris Columbus sailed to the Americas. Note the size of Africa -- mainland on the left and Madagascar just right of center.

Inside of a tower clock.

For super awesome bonus points, when I was in the music room, there was a proctor giving a custom tour to a blind person. The proctor would guide the hand of the bind person over the automatically playing instruments so he understood how they worked, then play them (my favorite was similar to a music box but it used discs instead of a cylinder). Then the proctor let him play the other instruments like the harpsichord and piano. This guy was a virtuoso on piano. It was wonderful to listen to.

I could probably write ten pages on everything I saw at the museum, but I'll refrain. Suffice to say, for a geek like me, it's impossible to oversell.

Grocery store stop on the way home: Bicycle culture alive and well.
So that was Monday.

Monday night I was craving Indian food and turns out Liviu sometimes goes to a Sikh temple where they feed everyone who shows up until they are full, for free (but you can donate). We went, donated, observed some prayers, and then sat on the floor with the other guests and the priest and had an excellent meal. Sitting on the floor is important – everyone there is equal; even if a king were to come he would be expected to sit on the floor. At the Golden Temple in India they feed anywhere from 10-40,000 people each day. Did I mentioned Liviu motorcycled throughout the Himalayas? So we geeked out about that too (in 2013 I spent three months in India volunteering as a bike mechanic).

On Tuesday we did a fat morning (recall that French saying...) but eventually made it to the bike shop where Liviu volunteers. He wanted to hack one of his electric bikes (stock, the electric assistance cuts out at 25 kph; with a special chip wired in, it cuts out at 99 kph) and I wanted to swap out a shifter cable and put more water bottle mounts on in preparation for the Middle East. Turns out I replaced the cable, housing, and the shifter itself, and also discovered my rear wheel was in need of replacement. It was bittersweet... but it was also free, since the shop is sponsored. Given all the volunteering in bike shops I've done, I felt right at home. It was a great few hours, fixing bikes, joking around, searching for parts, etc. I arrived with a bike whose rear shifter had to be pried out of gear every morning, and left with a bike that shifts like a hot knife through warm butter.

Hackerspace the bike shop shares.

Storage area for the bike shop.

Looking for parts. Right at home on top of a cargo bike.

Sad shifter cable.

Sad cable housing. From rubbing on the pannier? Not sure.

Happy cable ends!

Sad wheel rim -- notice how it follows the curvature of my thumb. It should be flat!

After the bike shop we went to a pizza place for lunch on me (thanks Liviu for hosting me!), stopping to dink around on the electric bikes on a steep hill on the way. After lunch, we went through the main square to a Couchsurfing get-together at one of Munich's huge parks – comparable to, if not larger than, Central Park in New York. It was cool to talk to other travelers (though I was the only one actively traveling, everyone on Couchsurfing has the travel bug, I imagine) – one from Bavaria, two from Italy, one from Mongolia, me from the US, and Liviu born in Romania.

Architecture in the main square.

Surfers on a water outlet right by the city center.

Couchsurfing get-together! At the end, there were 6 of us.

It's been a good few days. Nothing really dramatic has happened, except perhaps that I've made an awesome new friend in Liviu... and my bike is semi-ready for the next stage of travel (shifts – check. Can carry extra water – check. Needs a new rear wheel – sad face). Biking through Munich has been awesome – really nice bike lanes everywhere, tons of other people on bikes. I look forward to the bike paths I'm sure will lead me to Austria. Ukraine, here I come!

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