“I guess we’ll just have to see where this train takes us.”
This past week, Deutsche Bahn and the S-Bahn (the main train system and half of the metro system) were on strike, meaning that only about half of trains were running. Not exactly the most fun scenario, but thankfully, I take U-Bahn to get to class, and they were not striking, so it was not a huge problem for me. However, this Saturday, a friend and I decided to go hiking, and we needed to use Deutsche Bahn.
Our adventurous morning started out when we got to the platform and realized that the train was not going to Kochelsee like it was supposed to, but instead it was departing for Garmisch-Partenkirchen in about an hour. We quickly adjusted our plans, and two hours later we arrived in Murnau, a cute Bavarian town located near Staffelsee (another lake). After checking with a Deutsche Bahn representative to find out when trains were heading back to Munich, we began searching for a hike. We eventually ended up walking along the lake for a bit before venturing off onto a woodsy trail and finally making our way back into town.
It turns out we picked on excellent day to travel to Murnau. It was a special market weekend, so the locals were selling beautiful handmade crafts. The entire town seemed to be gathered on the main street enjoying the beautiful day, providing a pleasant community atmosphere. We bought some delicious ice cream for only 1 euro (it’s about 1.10 – 1.50 euros in Munich), and had just concluded that our spontaneous adventure had turned out quite splendidly, until we got back to the train station and had a brief moment of panic.
It was 2:15 p.m., and the train was supposed to come at 2:32. However, there was a lovely screen that read “Der 14:32 Zug nach München fällt heute aus” (The 2:32 train to Munich isn’t coming today). Feeling confused, frustrated, and a little worried because I needed to be in Munich see a dance performance for my class at 5:45, we began trying to figure out another way to get back. Miraculously, it just so happened that the announcement was wrong; the train did come on time, and an hour later we were back in Munich. A very successful Ausflug (excursion) after all.
So far, spontaneous adventures have been some of the most fun and most memorable parts of my time in Germany. On Sunday, two friends and I traveled to Salzburg (only two hours away, it’s casual, right?), and we didn’t have any particular agenda. We wandered around a bit, enjoying the scenery and ended up at the abbey where Maria von Trapp lived (before she became a von Trapp). After using some free Wi-Fi from a nearby castle (fun fact: you can see about four castles surrounding Salzburg), we found out where Mirabell Park was and walked there to see where they filmed most of the Do-Re-Mi montage for The Sound of Music. Not only was the garden gorgeous, but it was also surreal to actually be in a place where one of my favorite childhood movies was made.
Through my spontaneous travels and other activities, I’m learning that it is best to have little to no expectations, or at least being prepared to have my expectations superseded by something completely different. This makes it even easier to view everything as a learning or cultural experience and leaves little room for disappointment. This doesn’t mean I love everything that happens, but I find a way to appreciate it.
For example, I have now seen three very different theatre productions for my class on German drama and theatre. While watching them, I’ve realized I have preconceived notions about what a theatre production should be, what a dance performance should be, and how Nathan der Weise (a famous Enlightenment play) should look on stage. Needles to say, all three defied expectations, but they have also broadened my understanding of theatre. I’ve seen dancers stomp their feet in a way that makes the audience feel physically uncomfortable, while they can convey a difficult political message (making them emotionally uncomfortable as well). And Nathan der Weise made me think about the concept of gender and what happens when a man plays a role that was written for a woman. The story still works, but it changes the connotations of some of the actions. And that topic is a long discussion all by itself.
Sometimes I think life is getting on a random train. You know it’s going somewhere, but you don’t know who else will get on, where it will stop along the way, and what the final destination will actually look like.
“The best things in life are unexpected—because there were no expectations.” –Eli Khamarov