Schwaig Bei Munich.
Schwaig Bei Munich now is practically a home away from home. We fly from somewhere and go straight to this tiny place after a long tiring journey. It’s nice and quiet, with practically nothing but a few hotels, some houses scattered along the highway, and the airplanes whooshing by every minute during the day. Yet there is a very nice church, a school, a kindergarten, a post office and some restaurants, which clearly indicate the existence of civilization. Even walking along the road we meet a few pedestrians, some young parents with strollers; there is some construction going on in places, and some work done in the surrounding fields. Schwaig is actually a district or a division of Oberding, the municipality where Munich Airport is situated. Last time I just walked by myself along the road, looking at the pretty houses along the way and snapping a few pictures. This time we walked with my husband. He somehow always knows where we are and how to get back. Blessed or cursed with a bad case of topographic idiocy, I can only backtrack. So we walked leisurely turning this way and that (which I never do when out by myself), and we soon came to a lovely little river or stream. It was busily running along at a really fast pace. The high banks are now covered with clumps and whole patches of multi-colored crocuses, or maybe e correct name is croci as per the Latin plural nouns rule. Well, cactus (singular) – cacti (plural) sounds Ok but croci probably doesn’t. Floating on the water were lots of very large ducks busily dipping their beaks into the water and obviously grabbing something edible. We stopped on a tiny bridge and watched the unfolding tragicomedy. The biggest brightly colored male duck loudly shooed away the smaller ones and then sort of strutted around, if one can strut in the water, preening and quacking to impress the females. Meanwhile all the other ducks would stealthily creep back. I guess it’s spring, the courtship season. Isn’t it amazing that in Nature, only the males are usually brightly colored, and they do all the work to win the modestly plumaged grey female, while humans do it so differently? Men may look like nothing on earth and yet consider themselves God’s gift to women, and women spend a lot of time and effort on make-up, clothes and accessories to attract men. Actually I think most men wouldn’t recognize an accessory if it hit them in the face. Like in an old joke: Wife, to husband: Honey, I need so much money for make-up, manicure, dresses and shoes, all to look beautiful for you!
Husband: Aren’t I lucky, I was born handsome, so I don’t need all that stuff!
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, which means that every time you come to visit you are sure to find something new. There are lovely residential areas with the houses built in that typically northern style, with plenty of white stone buildings and lots of ornaments. There is a lot of carefully-tended greenery. If you walk through any park, you will see lots of plants, birds, ducks and sea-gulls or maybe they are river gulls. Many buildings have quite original statues placed on their fronts. There are also lots of long stretches of covered walkways which reminded us of Italy, and in fact of many other areas where it rains often. Naturally if you like architecture you should see the City Hall, Rathaus, and visit its beautiful inner yard with the fountains and statues. The tall tower of Alte Post, the Old Post-Office, can be seen from far away, as well as the new TV tower which dominates the skyline. It is clear that the people who built this magnificent city wanted to live in a beautiful place created by their own hands.
Hamburg is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is large and beautiful, and each time we visit it there is always something new. We have been to the celebrated Port in summer once, and now we decided to see it in winter. Though it was a bit chilly, lots of people walked around enjoying the sights, snapping pictures, buying souvenirs and eating snacks. It is possible to step down to the water’s edge and see the many ships and yachts, or just stand on the top promenade and have a panoramic view. As chance would have it, I read about Hamburg Harbor City on one of the flights in an onboard Lufthansa magazine, so I was quite curious to see the new buildings. The area is really impressive. All the land transportation is nearby, with the short bridge which leads to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn station. As in many other places, we saw a zillion little locks decorating the railings. I have no idea where and how the tradition originated, but they seem to be ubiquitous today. The incessant babble and shrill cries of the sea-gulls swooping around, searching greedily for any food scraps, completes this seaside picture.
Schwaig by Munich, Bavaria.
Schwaig is a familiar little place in Bavaria, not far from Munich airport. It lists four (4) attractions, all of them in nearby towns. Street signs tell me that there is a school, a sports center, and once I actually found a tiny post office. I could see a couple families with children in tow getting out of their houses, so obviously there is some population. Schwaig proper is mostly hotels catering to air travelers and motorists. You arrive from anywhere, stop by at the large Edeka supermarket right there at the airport, buy up all kinds of foods including delicious turkey frikadellen, hot chicken, soup and salad, sweets and drinks, and of course breads and cakes. Then you follow the signs to the hotel shuttle bus stop and spend a few minutes getting to your hotel. If you wish to stay at a town where there are some nice buildings, a cathedral and other places of interest, not to mention cafés, restaurants and shops, you may wish to choose a hotel in Freising, a charming tiny town not too far from the airport. If all you need is a good rest in between your flights, stay in Schwaig. Our hotel of choice is Holiday Inn Express. It is completely affordable, breakfast is always included into the nightly rate; it starts at 4am, convenient if you have an early departure. The shuttle runs every half hour; it takes you to and from both terminals. There is a kettle, cups, tea and coffee in every room. Reliable free wi-fi makes it easy to stay in touch with the world. A computer and printer are conveniently situated in the hotel lobby, so you can register for your next flight and print out your boarding passes.
When we arrived on January 6, we were rather astonished to see snow everywhere. It does not happen too often in Bavaria I think, so I walked around a bit taking pictures. Practically every minute a rumbling started somewhere above gradually growing in strength until an airplane appeared still high above in the bright blue sky, descending swiftly. That’s quite an impressive spectacle and an attraction in itself, especially for boys aged zero to one hundred. It’s a nice place where one can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet which have become such a rarity in the modern world.
Travel and Languages.
We came to Germany and spent a considerable time waiting in line for passport control. The guards were very efficient and polite, but many of the newly arrived passengers held up the lines due to their inability to speak German or English. So the guards would politely ask the requisite questions like the purpose of the visit, where people were going, whether they had a return ticket, was anybody meeting them. And adults would reply loudly in their own languages, in the widespread belief that if you speak your own language very loudly others would understand you. No, they did not understand the questions while the guards could not understand the answers. When we finally neared the booth, the line stopped again with two women trying to figure out what they were supposed to do. I stepped closer and translated for them and several others who eagerly rushed forward pushing me aside in the process. The young woman behind the glass never lost her patience. When we managed to step forward, we had our passports and return tickets ready. We had all the necessary information in English, so it only took a few seconds for us to pass through. And we said “Danke” and “Frohe Weihnachten”, which is German for Thank you and Merry Christmas. She beamed at us and said, “Same!” How do we know what to do? All the information can be found on the internet; any airline magazine also tells you what to do when you arrive to a new country. You can use Google translator, either learn how to pronounce a few phrases in the language of the country you are visiting, or simply have a printout ready. The purpose of your visit, an invitation if applicable, your return ticket. Saves a lot of time and effort to yourself and others. Learning a few sentences or even words in a foreign language is made easy today with the help of various web sites. It is common politeness, especially during a holiday season.
We have been to Freiburg a few years ago. When an opportunity arose recently to visit it again, we were looking forward to seeing this lovely university town. The Old Town is not large and perfect for leisurely walks. There is the famous red-stone Muenster, the cathedral which dates back to the 13th century. The university was founded in mid-fifteenth century. The two Town Hall buildings, the old and the new one, both date back to the Middle Ages. The almost twin City Gates add to the charm of the city, and the surrounding mountains provide many picturesque treks. We checked the news on reliable sites like Reuters and the BBC, as well as the city site. They made us feel glum and extra vigilant. A horrifying experience of two women who exited their church to be surrounded by 17 (!) African men; two young women murdered recently; pickpockets everywhere; public toilets are not safe for women anymore… This sounded like a different place altogether.
Indeed, though the town is still picture-pretty and its many attractions are in place, though its many cafes and restaurants are full at meal times, the atmosphere is definitely changed. One of the features of any safe place, especially a university town, is children rushing along the streets after school, gaggles of giggling girls, lots of young people, couples strolling around on a warm evening, and lots of tourists. We saw none of that. Young people either rush quickly to their destination or whoosh by on bicycles. No tourists at all. In the evening the restaurants are full with large groups sitting around the tables but the streets are practically empty of pedestrians. Once dusk falls packs of young men materialize on every corner; they are all well equipped for the weather, wearing good jackets and shoes. The locals steer clear of them. The visitors have no way of knowing which area is unsafe. Is it still possible to be out and about in the evening? Sure, if you move around in large groups, preferably with lots of men guarding a few women.