Munich still has storefront travel agencies. The kind with posters of warm, sunny beaches in the windows. They are on nearly every third block. Munich also still has bookstores, both a chain and independently owned. There is a bakery on every block, some chain-store and some little artisan shops with a still warm wood fire brick oven in the entry way. There are butchers and cheese venders and on nearly every corner a red tent selling eggs, vegetables and fruit.
Munich still has large, comprehensive department stores with a grocery in the basement. Munich still has newspapers and we have been told more then once to consult the classified ads section for something we want to buy or sell.
Bikes are everywhere but most often clustered around the Ubahn stop. While a lock and chain may run through the frame and the wheel, the bike itself is rarely locked to a fence or bike stand. The configurations for a mother to transport her young family via bike power are amazing and creative. Bike paths take up parts of a sidewalk and the riders fly by.
More often then not, when you enter a restaurant you chose your own table. You are served and then the check waits until you ask for it. You don’t tip but you do round up to the nearest dollar. You pay the waiter at the table when the check arrives. The waiter settles the account out of his or her purse, for the waiter will pay the house for your meal out of that wallet. You never see tap water on the table and beer is cheaper then bottled water.
There are no checks and little use of credit cards. We pay with cash or a debit card. The waiter will bring a hand held key pad where you slide your debit card and key in your code. You direct the bank to pay the rent or the furniture store by either sending in a piece of paper filled out or on line, entering codes to transfer money from your account to another. Buy tickets to see a movie and you’ll get your seats assigned to you. Row 3, seats 8 and 9. The popcorn can be bought in flavors, including “bacon.”
There appears to be no barrier to using a cafe or guesthouse’s bathroom when they are open. You may occasionally be asked to pay a little for the use and all the department stores have bathroom cleaners with little tip plates set out but most restaurants don’t seem to care. Perhaps its a gift of such a beer intensive culture. Everyone knows you only rent the beer.
All the stores are closed on Sunday, unless its connected to a train station or a gas station. Recently, they changed the rules so that you can only buy food from a gas station if you arrive by car. The presumption is that if you are a traveler, then you need to buy food. But if you are a local, then you need to plan ahead and honor the sabbath. Restaurants are always open. You bring your own sacks to the store or you buy one at the counter. I watch people come into the store with true woven marketing baskets on their arms, filled with empty beer bottles to be returned and then leave with the evening’s dinner supplies fitted together.
I watch young parents, the children running pell mell about their feet, stand and talk to each other for as long as the conversation takes. Take the Ubahn during rush hour, and you’d better step quickly least you be run down. On a Sunday afternoon, let go of your need for speed for people amble. Slowly. Three across, chatting.
There are rules about when we can make noise in our apartment. No noise on Sunday, and the rest of it only between 9 am and 11 am; 2 p.m. till 9 p.m. There are rules about which hours one can shake one’s duster out the window or lay out the bed linens to air. Life’s activities are prescribed here but there is a certain comfort in the order.
The worship service at the Expat church I attend takes around two hours. The rule seems to be whoever shows up with whatever gifts are welcomed and incorporated and if the service goes out to two hours then it goes out to two hours. The priority is relationships, not rigid order.
Six weeks to get a bed delivered, four weeks to get phones and internet installed and running. Proper food shopping takes three stops minimum. The Apple store is constantly mobbed but especially when the local high schools let out. Still, when its my turn to do a transaction, the conversation between myself and the clerk has as much a priority as the transaction itself.
Life does not move at internet speed here. At least not in my experiences of this place. Instead, this place keeps Slow Life time which is both infuriating and lovely. I have to have more trust that it will work out okay here. It just takes the time it takes. In the meantime, there is time togo for a walk, enjoy a beer perhaps, and talk to whomever I can talk to along the way.