11 awesome, useful and amusing things I learnt about Germany
How much do you know about Germany?
Having spent three weeks in Munich, Germany, we discovered a few awesome facts or amusing things about Germany.
I hasten to add, some of this may only be relevant in Munich or Bavaria.
Disclaimer: This is what I experienced and may not be 100% correct.
11 awesome, useful and amusing things I learnt about Germany
1. Germany is mainly a cash society.
2. Transport and commuting works like a charm.
3. Germans don’t wear outdoor shoes in their houses.
4. Most places are closed on Sundays.
5. Grab a car for a couple of hours and drop it off when done.
6. Germans are allowed to cause mayhem on New Year’s Eve with fireworks.
7. Germans can get headaches from the Föhn.
8. German men sit down to pee.
9. Don't throw away the bottle! Use the German Pfand system.
10. Germans have beer mug lockers.
11. Surfing in winter is a thing in Munich.
Germany is mainly a cash society.
Although there are some areas that you will be able to use a credit card, you are often expected to pay with cash. It is worth being aware of this and having some cash at hand as you could end up washing dishes at the end of your meal.
Transport and commuting works like a charm.
Coming from a country where public transport is virtually non-existent, we found that commuting was a dream. We never had to wait for more than about 8 minutes for a bus, tram or train but usually only 4 minutes. We mainly used three modes of transport extensively: the tram, the train or underground and the bus. We also used the train to travel to a few towns outside of Munich.
The long-distance trains can be full, so make sure to get a seat early and don’t sit on seats that have been reserved.
Germans don’t wear outdoor shoes in their houses.
The minute you step in the front door of a house, you have to remove your shoes. Because of the grit or salt used on the roads and pavements to prohibit you from slipping when it is icy and slippery, it is a custom to remove shoes when entering houses or apartments.
Although we walked around inside in our socks, some of the markets sell the cutest of house shoes.
Most places are closed on Sundays.
Most shops and a few restaurants are closed on Sundays, their quiet days. If you are self-catering, make sure you have enough supplies to last till Monday.
If you’re in dire need to buy something (in Munich), the Hauptbahnhof usually have a few shops open.
Grab a car for a couple of hours and drop it off when done.
Grab a car and drive where you like in Munich. When you’re done, just park it. It’s slightly more involved than that but that is basically the concept. It is a car rental service called car share. You hire a vehicle by the minute, so don’t waste time, if you’ve already booked it.
We used Car2go and found it really useful. You download the app, search the availability of a car close to your proximity, pay for it, find it and drive off. When you’re done, you can park it just about anywhere, within reason and certain regulations. Really nifty for using around Munich if you don’t want to use public transport!
You will need to validate your driver’s licence.
Germans are allowed to cause mayhem on New Year’s Eve with fireworks.
By law, Germans are allowed to set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve between 6pm and 7am on New Year’s Day.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. It made me think of my childhood days in Cape Town. We used to gather on the Sea Point grass before the promenade. They built an enormous bonfire and we could buy a few crackers and small rockets that in reality probably only shot up to a maximum of about 3 meters but that seemed so much higher.
This however was completely different. We gathered near the Angel of Peace and let me tell you, she had no peace that night. It felt like WWIII had broken out. It was utter organised chaos. The paramedics and police were on high alert and there had to be at least a few incidents of injury, but it was a spectacle that I will never forget.
Here are some videos of the fireworks.
NB: I believe the cities are wanting to clamp down on fireworks, for numerous reasons.
Germans can get headaches from the föhn or foehn.
The Föhn or Foehn – a hot and dry wind, which we would call a berg wind – affects people and animals. Apparently some people suffer from tension and migraines because of it. It has also been said that cattle don’t want to graze or eat. Other people dispute it and require solid scientific evidence. At the very least, it makes a great topic for a debate.
German men sit down to pee.
Don’t shout me down, that’s what the book says! Actually, it is more than likely optional.
German Men Sit Down To Pee And Other Insights Into German Culture is a tongue-in-cheek guidebook to German culture which is probably worth a read if you’ve never visited Germany and plan to visit someday.
Don't throw away the bottle! Use the German Pfand system.
Germans are doing their bit for the environment by recycling. When you need to dispose of a bottle (or at least a few at a time to make the trip back to the store worthwhile), you return the bottles either to the shop where it came from or deposit it into a vending machine. Once you are rid of your bottles the machine spews out a slip with an amount that you can redeem at the counter. Clever!
Germans have beer mug lockers.
You can lock your beer mug away. There are tankard lockers in some of the beer halls. Some of them were handed down from generation to generation and are stored in small lockers.
Surfing in winter is a thing in Munich.
Not only do they surf in rivers in the English Garden in Munich, as if that isn’t crazy enough, they surf in freezing, snowy conditions! We had fun watching them, but I can tell you, they must have suffered from frost bite, or drunk litres of glühwein to keep warm.
There you go! Learnt something new?
What we saw and experienced in Germany
Living like a local in Germany - Lebe wie ein Einheimischer
Our visit to Germany was essentially family time. Although my husband has been back to Germany on numerous occasions for business since our first visit, the last time I was there was in 1993.
We lived like locals, discovering what everyday life was like but also managed to do a bit of sightseeing.
I spent my time enjoying the moments and storing memories, rather than acting like a true blogger, therefore didn’t take too many photographs except for tons of family snaps. Even so, between the two of us we still had about 2000 photos!
Hubby and I had our very first winter Christmas – and we’ve both been around for sixty years. Living in the southern hemisphere, we’d always had our December Christmas holidays in summer, with a scorching festive season. As much as I was hoping to have a white Christmas, we didn’t but we certainly saw snow for the rest of our time there.
We left Johannesburg in the sweltering heat of about 35 degrees Celsius and a Highveld thunderstorm brewing. Just carrying our thick jackets was enough to raise our core temperatures into the 40’s. It was hard to believe when we got off the plane, we would need to wear them.
When flying, take as little hand luggage as possible to make your life easier and to save time.
Going through security checks at airports are a nightmare. If I could give anyone advice, take as little hand luggage with you as you possibly can. Unpacking laptops, cell phones, iPads, belts and sometimes taking off shoes delays the process & extra bits like gloves, scarves etc encumbers you. Some people even manage to lose a glove at the airport. It wasn’t me….just saying.
Arriving in Munich, Germany
We were thrilled to see some residual snow lying on the ground as we left Munich airport via train. We even had a light snow storm the next day and were excited and fascinated how crunchy the snow was underfoot.
During the three weeks we picked up a few more German words. My knowledge of the language consists of 2 years of school German learnt 45 years ago. My brain registered a few phrases and I understood parts of a conversation. In a simple manner I could ask for something but if someone responded with a question I was usually stumped because I couldn’t think fast enough for an answer. My son said I gazed at them with a blank look on my face. Generally I would look at him for guidance. Majority of the time though, people could speak in English.
In Europe they drive on opposite side of the road to us – the right-hand side. As a result, as a pedestrian, it took a while for us to remember to look right first. To crown it all, you had to dodge bicycles, as they have their own lane on the pavements, so you have to know where to walk. Once you’ve survived that you have to beware of trams. The first few days our son tried to march us in a military manner with typical German precision. We of course behaved in a haphazard manner, considering we are hardly ever pedestrians, as we followed him blindly. He was used to it and knew where to walk, but we had a few narrow misses.
One of my favourite pastimes when visiting another country is looking at their food and produce. I loved walking through the Viktualien Markt. Everything was so fresh and looked absolutely delicious. Some of the prices were pretty steep for us though.
Another favourite pastime was walking around Munich, not always with an objective in mind. Wrapped up for the cold it is quite a mission to remove gloves and dig amongst our layers for cameras, but I still managed to take a few photographs.
The days are short in winter and the sun sets at around 4.30 pm in the afternoon. That doesn’t mean people go indoors to retire. Life goes on. Walking in the park at night was a unique experience for us. We had great delight the first time we saw lights bob up and down in the dark, then suddenly change direction. These were dogs chasing balls or just running around in the dark, and their collars were lit up so their owners could see them. Another ingenious idea.
Torpedo kids (or adults) on sleighs
The last few days we had quite heavy snow. On the day we left Munich some of the flights were even delayed including our eldest son, Jacques’ flight. We were lucky to be able to take off on time.
When it snows, the Germans come out to play. I’ve included some videos for you to watch. Make sure to listen to the sound of people having fun. Coming from ‘Africa’ we don’t experience much snow, although there often is some on mountains and high lying areas and we were fortunate enough to see some when I celebrated my 60th birthday in the Drakensberg.
I’m not ashamed to admit I behaved like a 5-year-old in the snow. We had such a laugh, making snow angels for the first time ever, having snowball fights and just having fun! It was our first attempt at making a real snow man too.
Hubby was dying to go sledding down a hill, but we didn’t have a sleigh. Some children and their parents were sliding down the kiddie’s slope in one of the parks and their bum board ended up at our feet. When we returned it to them, our son asked their father if he would object to loaning their sleigh for us to try just once. His first question was, would our bones hold if we fell off. Germany safety and concern!
He very kindly allowed both my husband and I to use his sleigh. He gave us a few tips and told us what to do and we took turns to slide down the hill. We used the kiddies slope of course! Even so, it was quite exhilarating. I bet the regulars had a laugh at our first attempt!
We took three day trips by train to see Starnberg, Nuremberg and Rosenheim.
On the banks of Starnberger See, one of the five lakes of Bavaria, lies the wealthy town of Starnberg. It was home to Ludwig II and I can see why. It is a beautiful, picturesque town.
We spent a day in Nuremberg, one of the towns we’d seen before. It was about 28 years ago since I was last there. We walked up to the Nuremberg Castle, strolled around the grounds and looked at the view over the city. Like most of the castles, this one was on top of a very steep hill.
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the Christmas Market either. Hubby was lucky enough to get a beautiful photo over the market.
It was just a fleeting visit to Rosenheim, but another pretty town and I’m pleased I saw some of it. If you thought Amsterdam has many bicycles, I think Rosenheim is on a par with them.
Bavaria and Austria
We hired a car for two days and took a road trip to see a few sights in Bavaria, near the German Alps and Austria. Some of the towns we drove through were Schwangau and Reute as well as Bad Tölz, Achensee, Zillertal and Kufstein.
If you were wondering, yes, we did visit the Neuschwanstein castle along with hundreds of other tourists. Did you know the castle is on top of a hill? A very steep hill that we walked up. But we made it. At times I was a little concerned that it would be slippery from the ice. We were sweating under our thick jackets. Schwangau was busy and filled with tourists.
We didn’t enter the castle though, as we had limited time. Still, I can tick it off now, can’t I? I will admit, it is a beautiful castle.
Roaming Fox, a happy vixen gloating over her grown up cubs
Our sons left the den a good few years back and are scattered in two opposite sides and hemispheres of the world. This fox thoroughly enjoyed having both her cubs in the youngest’s den, a first, and the four of us under the same roof for Christmas – something that hasn’t happened for a long time. We laughed, built memories and had a delicious Christmas lunch cooked by Philip.
Our sister and brother-in-law from the UK joined us for a few days, which was also a great treat to catch up and spend time with each other.
What’s more, we were spoilt by lovely friends and colleagues of our son and we thank them for that. We were even given a tour of the company where our son works. It was great to meet the people he works with and now we can visualize where he spends his days.
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