So I’m going to try to get a quick post out of the way before I forget everything, because I’m sure I’ll have plenty to post about tomorrow (more on that later). I started work on Monday – nothing too exciting to report on that. I didn’t realize what a presence we (Infineon) have in Munich. Apparently we have about 5000 employees in Munich, and about 3000 at the office I’m at. Actually, we have more of a campus, taking almost a whole city block. The office is a much different environment than we have in Cary. For one, they are much older buildings, and whereas the Cary office is abuto 60F year round, the Munich offices have no AC at all. This hasn’t been a problem so far, but they say it will get quite warm next month, so everyone will start wearing shorts and t-shirts. Also, in Cary the building is basically just a big cubicle farm, with very few private offices. Here everything is walled off into offices, but they are maybe 10m x 10m to 10m x 30m offices with no walls, and several big desks set up, so you have workers right in front and behind you with no walls. Not necessarily better or worse…. just different.

Beer really is as pervasive here as is the stereotype in the US – it is everywhere. Every little gas station or pizza place has a wall for bier, and not 6 packs of Bud – liters in heavy duty glass bottles with porcelain tops. They serve bier at all the public gatherings – and none of it in plastic. All bier I’ve seen has come in large glass mugs, even at the street festival I happened upon on Sunday (so, yes, your conclusions were correct 😉 ) They also have beer on tap at our company cafeteria, right next to the coke machine. I was talking with an American colleague that summed it up pretty well saying that they think of beer as food, rather than alcohol, so that makes sense.

I got some reactions to my previous observations from Anke, a German native who is currently in the Cary office. She cleared up some of my questions, and confirmed some things.

  • When I ordered a Maß Hellas at the biergarten I went to on Saturday, yes, I was ording a “massive beer” – Maß is the size, which is 1 liter, or close to 1/4 gallon! Hellas is the kind, kind of like a lager. At the biergartens anrestaurantsts, they generally only carry one brand of beer from a single brewery, of the six major breweries in town. So you don’t have to worry about what brand you want, just what kind – hellas (lager), weis (white, or “wheat beer”), dunckles (dark), bok, etc.
  • The döner I had is from Turkey, so not exactly the Middle East, but close. Apparently more döners are consumed in Munich than anywhere else in the world.
  • The surfers I saw were on the “Eisbach” or “ice-creek”. Anke says “[In NC,] the water temperature of the creeks is like water in a bath tub. Not refreshing. It is to warm. But the water from the Eisbach is refreshing ;-)))”
  • Yes, the dogs are trained better (I even saw dogs walking around the subway station with trains zooming by, none of them on a leash), but the owner’s are not. According to Anke, “[Owner’s in Munich don’t] take care of s*** on the sidewalks. I like it that the people in Cary take the s*** away.” Well, I don’t know about the owner’s in Cary, but I certainly haven’t seen nor stepped in any dog crap yet!

A couple more observations from the past couple days:

  • The bike situation is still very weird to me. Like I said, there are a ton of bikes (there are 100’s parked outside my office everyday), but nobody locks their’s up! Well, that’s not entirely true – most of the people just lock their back tire to their frame, and leave the bike sitting next to the sidewalk. I guess the mentality is that no one want’s to steal a bike that can’t roll because the tire is locked to the frame. Even so, I’m making sure my Cannondale road bike is securely locked to a rack or something everytime I leave it. It is true, that 98% of the bikes are beaters that aren’t really worth stealing (I’ve really only seen a couple other people riding road bikes like I am), but still…..
  • Pedestrians and bikes are very well behaved. I haven’t seen anyone jaywalk or walk against a signal. Everyone obeys the walk and ride crosswalk lights, and like I said earlier, the cars respect the crosswalk signs too.
  • The subway/trains are kind of on an “honor system”. You are supposed to buy a ticket, and apparently it’s 40euro if you’re caught without one, but I haven’t seen anyone get checked. You don’t have to pass through any turnstiles or anything to get on the train – there are just some posts that you’re supposed to punch your ticket in. Of course, I don’t want to be sent to German prison or anything, so I’ve paid my fared dutifully.

I’ve gone out the past 2 nights. Last night I met Lee, and American Ccolleaguesauge who is here for 6 weeks, at a bowling alley with some of his German friends. I tried to ride the U-bahn (subway) there, but couldn’t figure it out, so I rode my bike the whole way, and I was very late, and of course it started raining again. Afterwards, they helped me buy a week-long ticket for the trains and pointed me in the right direction. Tonight I met another American who is in Munich for 3 years downtown for dinner. I took the U-bahn and transferred to the S-bahn (above ground train), and got confused there, so I was late again. But on the way back to my apartment I went well out of my way and made several unnecessary transfers, just so I could get the hang of it. I think I’m a U/S-bahn pro now! It’s pretty cool – they are timed to the second. At least 2 times at a transfer, I walked off one train immediately as the other train was pulling up on the other side, so I walked straight across the platform to the transfer train. All in all, I never waited more than 4 minutes at a stop.

So, finally, what’s going on tomorrow? My department at work is having a “team event”, where we are all meeting at an S-bahn station at 9AM with our bikes, taking the train south of Munich about 30km, then riding at the base of the Alps for 70km! We’re stopping halfway in a small town for lunch, then having dinner at a famous biergarten, then taking the train back. It should be quite an experience, and my first venture into the Alps on my bike. I’m trying to scout out places for Alisha to ride when she get’s here next month. I’ll have my camera and will take plenty of pictures.

Oh yeah, one last thing, concerning the title of the post. Dave, the guy I met for dinner tonight, pointed me to toytownmunich.com, and English speaking website for people in Munich… or a website about Munich for English speakers, or something. Anyway, the very title of the blog again confirms several of my observations. From their section on “Why ToyTown?” –

The name “Toytown Munich” comes from the observation that Munich is not a real town. Real towns have litter, crime, visible poverty, heroin addicts lurking at the railway station, vomit on the pavements, and so on. Munich has none of this. Munich is not real. It’s an ideological town where everything is perfect. The environment is clean, crime is very low, and the public transport runs on time to the second. Yes, the quality of life here is very high. In fact, Mercer Consulting rate Munich as the fifth best city in the world for quality of life. Hence the name “Toytown”.

I have to say, so far I completely agree, and I love it!

more tomorrow