After more than a week now of temperatures below 16 degrees here in Munich, I have sadly let go of summer for the year and have revived the autumn collection from the wardrobe.
Despite the days where (apparently) Sydney’s winter days were warmer than Munich’s summer days – I am impressed with Germany’s summer performance this year. We were blessed with some solid weeks of warm weather, sunshine to make up for the abysmal winter and a mild heatwave that tested the boundaries of ‘office appropriate outfits’, as air-conditioning is not the norm. Those that weren’t on holidays therefore generally knocked-off from work early and many, many evenings were spent in the city’s many, many Biergartens. (Lucky for me many lunches were also spent in the biergarten – only 200m from the office).
The experience of the infamous ‘European summer’ is often on the to-do list of many Australians, as it had been on mine. Here too it revolves around taking holidays; school children are generally off between July – September and businesses throughout Europe also take a summer pause. This generally means over-priced travel rates, unbearable traffic on the Autobahns and crowds everywhere.
Sharing my summer adventure over coffee with a friend last week I asked her if she were able to take some time off.
Friend: Ja, wir haben drei Wochen Urlaub auf Balkonien verbracht. [We spent three weeks on the Balcony].
Me: Oh cool, where’s that?
Friend (with confused expression): Uhhhh, hier in Schwabing. [a district of Munich].
Thinking ‘Balkonien’ was a fancy dayspa retreat located in the city I asked for the address, forcing my friend to explain that she had spent three weeks on her balcony, at home. Slightly embarrassed by my cluelessness, I reacted with an ‘aaaahh’ and some necessary pleasantries to recover the conversation. In most instances I float over my ignorance of such expressions by agreeing (the natural default response), giggling nervously and hoping that I can quickly skip to the next topic. Having gained some confidence with my German speaking abilities I sometimes forget about this ignorance and continue the conversation – only to find myself again waving the ignorant foreigner card.
It is these little things however, which often makes truly connecting with natives a little difficult – and reminds me of the limited conversations I would struggle through in my first few months here. As would be true of every culture, the language embedded within society definitely cannot be picked up in an intensive language school. It is rather acquired through these moments of awkward confusion. Even with Alex’s astonishing knowledge of Aussie slang I often receive a blank face from him after throwing around words like dead ringer, servo or dag (see, I’m not the only one!).
Not made any easier by the Bavarian dialect in Munich, for the moment I will use what I have – supporting myself with some polite nodding and note taking for later research.
Back to the balconies – apparently this is the latest trend – with websites even preaching how to have your dream holiday within footsteps from your living room (with candles, a treasure chest and Ginseng tea of course). Despite the hype, when so much money is invested in housing, let alone finding a property with a balcony or terrace; a summer break on my 10 sq.m of concrete would beat the holiday mayhem anyday.
I was lucky enough (and brave enough) to take a summer pause – a two-week road-trip through Italy with my main man. Here are some highlights: