Departure Day!

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
Trip End Oct 02, 2012

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

27 August 2012

To begin with, I should reiterate the same introductory comments as my previous Blogs. My intended and seemingly growing audience is somewhat diverse, so some parts of my trip may not be of interest to everyone.  However, I'll do my best to keep it current and interesting for all. It will probably take a few days to get up to speed and comfortable with Blogging again so be patient and bear with me.

AT LAST, the wait is over and departure day is FINALLY here!

28 / 29 August 2012
I anticipated that I’d have a hard time sleeping, which is usually the case the night before departure day, but I slept reasonably well this time.  The ride to the airport went well, with no disruptions in the highway construction zone.

 When I received my boarding pass, I was pleased to see that I had in fact been assigned Seat 12J in the "Economy Comfort" section for my KLM flight, which I had paid extra for. The flight to Calgary was about 40 minutes, and it was a bit different to be on a 737 this time, rather than a DH-3.  I had to get another Boarding Pass in Calgary for the Amsterdam-Munich leg, as the girl in Kelowna wasn’t able to issue it.

Upon arrival in Calgary, I was pleased to learn that my KLM flight would be departing from the same section of the airport so it wouldn’t be necessary to go through security again.  The KLM flight was a twin engine A330 aircraft, and I found that my seat was located just behind Business Class.  After doing a brief "walkabout" on the plane, my impression was that Economy Comfort seating really did seem to be an improvement over the "sardine class" seating.  I'll definitely consider that again for the flight home.  One other nice thing was that there was no one seated in the next (aisle) seat, so I had both seats to myself (the seating arrangement was 2-4-2).

Although the flight arrived in Amsterdam at the appointed time, it took about 15-20 minutes to taxi to the terminal.  That’s a big airport!   One nice thing about being seated just behind business class, is that getting off the plane is usually fairly quick, which  was certainly the case on this occasion.  Schipol is a single terminal airport, so it’s really easy to get from one part to another, but lots of walking is involved.  Unfortunately, I did have to go through security this time, and it was unusually chaotic.  The staff seemed to be more stringent here, and wanted to see everything, including taking my Camera out of the bag.  The security staff seemed to be a bit "agitated" so the process took some time.

Just prior to departure from Amsterdam, there was a PA announcement about a security incident, which was disrupting some flights.  I found out later that a Vueling aircraft had been forced down by F-16 fighters after it failed to respond to calls from the tower.  Authorities were worried that it was a hijacking, but that turned out to be false.  This situation may have been why the security staff seemed to be somewhat “ruffled”.

The flight to Munich was a short one hour or so.  Upon arrival there was a bit of a wait for the baggage, but it appeared eventually (which is always a good thing when several connecting flights are involved).  I managed to find the S-Bahn station,and as it turned out an S-1 was waiting and departed within 30-seconds!  That was good timing!  The S-Bahn ride seemed to take forever.  It was “muggy” inside the car, and the train made frequent stops which prolonged the trip.  Had I not been tired and anxious to get to the Hotel, it probably would have been a more pleasant experience.

I had a general idea where the Hotel was located, but rather than wander around aimlessly hauling a heavy Backpacks, I resorted to the GPS and found that it was only about three blocks from the station.  The street where the Hotel is located could be considered by some to be a bit “seedy” as there are numerous strip shows, various ethnic shops (seemingly mostly middle eastern or Pakistani), cell phone shops and Internet Café & Phone shops, as well as numerous small take-away restaurants offering a variety of ethnic foods.  In a few buildings on the street (including right next to the Hotel), there are very attractive women loitering the doorways, some very nicely dressed and some not wearing much at all.  The neighborhood doesn’t bother me in the least, as the Hotel is clean and safe.

As I was checking-in, I had a short visit with a couple from Australia.  They had tried to make reservations “on the fly” from the rail station using their iPhone, but lost the net connection when they were part way through the process.  They weren’t sure whether the reservations went through or not?  As it turned out, it hadn’t worked, but they were able to get a room for one night.  It amazes me that people use the “on the fly” system for Hotels, as it can be very inefficient.  After their one night, they’ll have to use valuable holiday time looking for another place to lay their head.  It seems like such a waste of valuable touring time to me.

I asked the Desk Clerk about the WW-II bomb that had just been found in Munich, and was told that this had been dealt with.  It was found in Schwaben, which is apparently close to the University.  The experts decided to detonate it where found, and judging by the news reports I saw later, it was a rather spectacular explosion!

My room was a typical European single room, with a small bed and bathroom.  It was very clean and comfortable, but I found that even with window open it was somewhat "muggy and stuffy".  I asked the girl at the front desk if they had a Fan, and she delivered one to my room while I was out for dinner.  The Fan made a BIG difference which made sleeping much more comfortable.  I found that I had to close the window, as there was just too much street noise – horns honking, people yelling, loud motorcycles, sirens, etc. which continued well into the wee hours of the morning.  With the double pane windows closed, the noise isn’t really a problem.

After a short nap, I made the familiar walk to Marienplatz and found it without any trouble at all.  The route seemed so familiar and I was thrilled to once again see the Glockenspiel as  reminder that I was really in Munich.  I wandered around for a few minutes to re-familiarize myself with the area and then started looking for somewhere to have dinner.  Since I was “in the neighborhood”, I decided to try Opatija Restaurant again.  While it's a Balkans restaurant, they serve a variety of types of food.

As it turned out, I was seated at the same table as my last visit, facing the door.  The meal was fantastic and I’m really pleased that they've maintained their quality.  It wasn’t overly busy, but the waiters were running at times.  They really provide such great service!  The salad was served with two small pitchers of dressing, one a yogurt-base and the other a balsamic vinaigrette.  I tried both types and they were excellent.  I was a bit shocked when the Spaghetti Carbonara arrived, as it was a VERY large portion.  They did offer a smaller portion, and I should have ordered that.  I’ll make a note of that for next time.

As I walked back to the Hotel, I encountered a crowd gathered around an Accordion player (his name was Ivan).  His performance was somewhat “animated” and very good.  It amazes me that anyone can actually play an Accordion, as it has a full keyboard on the right hand as well as 100 keys (20 across and 5 deep) that have to be operated by the left hand, all without looking.  In addition to that, both keyboards are constantly moving while he inflates the bellows.

I don’t remember this from past visits, but one thing I’ve noticed already is that there seems to be LOTS more African and Middle East people here at the moment especially in the neighborhood around the Hotel.  Some of the women are wearing Hijabs while others are wearing a type of Burqua with only the eyes showing.  There seems to be lots of people from Africa also, with the women often dressed in very bright multi-coloured clothing. Munich seems to have become more of a "multi-cultural" city since my last visit.

Those are some of the details of my first few days.  More to follow.....

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Les on

As usual Ken, I feel that I am there just by reading your blog, have fun

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