Saturday, 30 August 2008

20 Years On - Part 9 of Account of Travelling by Train Around West Germany and Austria

Before re-reading this I had forgotten how much competition there was to get a youth hostel place in Munich. The rules in the Land (province) of Bavaria were stricter than in the other parts of West Germany. In most areas people of any age could stay in a youth hostel, in Bavaria you had to be under 26. In most areas you could bring your own bedding; in Munich you were compelled to hire it. The youth hostel was well used and the dormitories were huge compared to the rooms I had stayed in up until now, leading many visitors, unfairly to a prison camp. I think this was partly because most German youth hostels were luxurious compared to the bulk in the UK. I had no complaint.

I travelled from Freiburg-am-Breisgau to München on a train which was run by the East German Railway service (ironically still labelled 'Deutsches Reichsbahn' on the carriages, literally 'German Imperial Way', the pre-war name for the German railways) and all the instructions were in German, Russian, French and Italian, not English. The attendant who turned the beds (three on each side of a carriage up the wall) back to seats and wall panels, wore a very naval looking uniform, she appeared like a rating from the 19th century. Unsurprisingly for East German staff they were very surly and had no interest in speaking to a non-German. Another thing new to a young British man was sitting opposite women in sleeveless or short-sleeved tops who had not shaved under their armpits. When the German singer Nina had appeared on television in the UK with her Number 1 hit, '99 Red Balloons' (1983) her unshaved armpits had raised much discussion but to be exposed to it across a train carriage left me uncertain where to look. It is funny these social mores, I probably would have been less embarrassed if these women had been topless.

I remember being impressed by Steve the American who was from, I think, Kentucky, and had studying engineering had come to West Germany to practice his German as he felt it would assist him in his engineering career. I remember Mark the Australian walked around the streets of the city barefoot.

Tuesday 30th August 1988
Today I woke up early and walked to the station along the quicker footpath route this time. I caught the train to Karlsruhe where I changed for a train to München. I stopped off in Karlsruhe where I bought some food. I arrived in München by 15.00. Then I walked to the youth hostel, already quite full. Within two hours, that one and the others, one affiliated and two non-affiliated were also full.

I met an Australian, Mark and we walked into the centre of town where we looked around some bookshops and at street-performers. Then we came back and I dried my washing at an excellent 24 hour laundrette. Then I cam back to have a beer. The youth hostel is rather rough. I am in a dormitory rooom which is rather smelly - forty people. There is quite a lot of complaint, but the town is decent. I went out again with Mark and an American, Steve, for some more drinks.

Weather: Sunny and warm.

View of the Schwarzwald Close to the Freiburg-am-Breisgau Youth Hostel, August 1988

Mural on Block of Flats in München, close to the Youth Hostel, August 1988

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