The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

December 24

Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas day in a number of countries in Europe, and that is the case for Germany. Nevertheless, the Christmas market was open until 2 pm, as were a number of tourist shops around there. This was good news for us – because we had put off the majority of our ornament purchases until then.

We had breakfast at a crowded little bakery right next to a big collection of booths. Then we began our ornament hunt in earnest. This little guy? We’ll take him! That little thing? Yeah, two please! Goodbye money, hello stuff.

After purchasing some things we rounded a corner and looked up at a tower. There were people at the top, and it looked like an amazing place to take in a great view of the city. We walked to the entry, paid a few Euros, and up we began to climb at St. Peter’s Church (again, right off Marienplatz). Up, and up, and up. There were quite a few stairs to get to the top, and it was narrow enough that you’d occasionally have to step aside to let others go down. But I think after about halfway up a lot of people wished there were more reasons to step aside, because I saw some people looking pretty gassed. ‘I didn’t realize I was so unfit,’ was heard from at least one Brit. (A rhyme!)

At the top of the tower there were two or three people with brass instruments playing Christmas music. We were able to enjoy that while circling the tower, taking in the Alps and the city of Munich. Below us was also that giant beautiful Christmas tree and so many people and booths full of beautiful Christmas decorations. Yes, the tower was a bit of a climb, but it was definitely worth it.

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In one store that was jam-packed full of tourists we were admiring the cuckoo clocks (like you do). A woman was waiting very excitedly for the bill to arrive for her to pay for one she had picked out. We talked with her some because she seemed a chatty lady, and she had an American accent. It turns out she had done her research and shared with us all kinds of cuckoo clock knowledge (like you do, part two). Also, she was from Sugar Land, Texas, which was a small world factoid as the wife knows that place well. We looked at a number of different cuckoo clocks with an employee at the store and we ended up picking the winner. Yes that’s right, we’ll be (when it arrives) proud owners of a cuckoo clock. Look out world! (Also, you can silence them at night.) It’s got two little rams that come out and butt heads on the hour, and it plays some song. The woman who helped us was delightful … she was funny and kind of nuts, very high-energy but without it being annoying.

One thing I really appreciated everywhere we went was how little store employees cared about our presence. If we asked for help, they happily helped. But you weren’t asked, “how are you?”, “how may I help you?”, “what’re you looking for today?” or any of that as soon as you entered a store. It really makes shopping much more enjoyable.

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We ran to our hotel, dropped off our growing collection of stuff, gave our suitcases wary glances picturing traveling on the train the next day, and then we headed back to the Christmas market area. We had decided to have a carnival style lunch, getting a little of this, a little of that, from the different food booths. Except, unlike a carnival, this place smelled nice, the employees were friendly, cheerful, didn’t elicit fear, and sold good stuff. Like a carnival, it was a lunch of foods that are not at all good for you. Gluhwein, water, sausage sandwich, some sort of fried potato on a wafer with apple sauce on top (weird but delicious), french fries. Oh yes, it was tasty tasty.

After lunch we took it easy for a while. This was an easy decision because everything was closed. I wandered aimlessly for a bit snapping photos and trying to disguise my large tourist camera (my fancy new DSLR). We also watched a bit of TV which was delightful.

1 – The German Who Wants to be a Millionaire has incredibly difficult questions, I was rarely right (partially this is because I don’t speak German). They were cross-promoting another show, Winnetou, which is a cowboys and Indians show. It was odd to see the question asker wearing an Indian headdress, and then the guest shooting a toy bow and arrow … in the middle of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

2 – The championship of darts was on … oh my. What a show. During the snippets I watched on EuroSport (it was either darts, hockey, or downhill skiing on that channel) I was consistently amused by something so silly (like a lot of sports). A lot of yelling out numbers, and high drama, and two overweight, awful shirt wearing, usually English dudes, sweating and chucking dart after dart. I don’t know if I would’ve watched as much if it had been in English, I think the confusion and trying to pick out the occasional German word added to my enjoyment.

For dinner we had made reservations at a place around the corner from our hotel. It was Christmas Eve which meant not many places were open, and tourists like us probably had booked up a lot of those seats. When we had made our reservation they asked if we would be ok if we ended up sitting by other people, and we said yes.

Our dinner companion, seated at the same table, arrived a little late. He lived there in the Munich area, but he was originally from the German speaking portion of Switzerland (he also spoke French, and English). Next to us was a German (?) family, and on the other side an English couple. The man seemed delighted with the idea of chatting with us, his wife less so (in the end, they chatted with us very little).

When our Swiss pal sat down we asked if he spoke English, he hesitated and then said, “a little.” Pft. Yeah, ok. “A little” English by European standards appears to mean fluent. I think there were two times he struggled to find the right word. In contrast, I think there were five times I struggled to find the right word and all I speak is English.

Our Swiss buddy, it turns out, was eating alone because his wife had died the year prior. He did not want to eat at home and so began driving around the city looking for a place where he could eat. The ball and chain and I were happy that we were able to provide a little social activity for him during a painful time of year, thinking of his recently deceased wife.

One funny note: Our Swiss pal talked about how his job was delighted to learn he spoke French so that he could do work there. He then said he wasn’t thrilled about this, because he doesn’t care for the French. He had experiences in Italy and France where things ended up being unnecessarily delayed when he got there. In France, this drove him nuts and he voiced a couple times during dinner that he did not particularly care for the French. In Italy, somehow, this was delightful. An Italian would pull up a chair, tell him to relax, pour him some coffee, and they’d chit chat. What is striking about this is we heard the same story about Italians from a couple in Switzerland we chatted with, and a fella from Prague. Italy has an artistry when it comes to delaying people.

The English couple did end up chatting with us at the end of dinner, telling us that they found it funny, everywhere they went they ran across Brits apologizing for Brexit, and Americans apologizing for Trump.

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