I got an okay night’s sleep on the train, it made a big difference to be lying horizontally in a bunk.
There was only one interruption during the night, from a German border guard who woke us up to check our documents.
I have a question about this actually. The cabins with bunk beds can fit 6 people. I’ve been on Chinese sleeper trains where they fit two extra bunks in the corridor (in an open carriage), so theoretically about 8 people can sleep in that space. People generally sleep better when lying horizontally, but tickets for bunks are more expensive than for seats. My point is that sleeper carriages with bunks do seem relatively space-efficient compared to carriages with seats, I would guess there’s not a significant difference in carrying capacity between the two. So, why are bunks more expensive?
This is Munich station.
Last time I did a series of long train journeys I stopped one night in every town. This time I’m going all out and sleeping on trains several nights in a row. I’m on my second night now and the uneven sleep is starting to get to me. There’s no hostel to fall back on, so I’m now very attentive to station facilities.
Munich main station is large and new-ish looking. It has an open area for commuters to stride confidently between platforms, and it has two Burger King outlets. There is also a lounge, which is free for people with first class tickets and 10 euros for anyone else.
I feel there’s a tendency for fancy stations like this to be designed by people who believe they need a perfume shop when in fact what they really need is a luggage storage area.
I think my perfect international railway terminal would have:
- Toilets (free)
- Showers (at minimal token cost)
- Bag storage area
- Plenty of benches, with power sockets, and no armrests so you can lie down on them if you want
- Newsagents, little sandwich/coffee stall, etc.
- Free WiFi
- Big map of the city displayed prominently at the entrance, maybe next to a big map of the train network
- Bureau de Change which actually gives you a fair rate
No train station needs more than one Burger King.
So far coming up through Europe I can see the price of train travel rising with every journey. You can move around relatively easily towards the east and the mediterranean, and as you approach Western Europe you have to be more careful. Another thing which caught me off-guard was the established practice of charging a fee for public toilets. It’s little things but they make it harder to visit freely.
This is kind of a side point but this journey only reiterates how much countries like Serbia are perfect for tourism. They have good public transport used by local people, cheap hotels, free museums, walkable city centres, and people don’t try to scam you or sell you gaudy souvenirs. Paradoxically this only really works because these countries haven’t developed lucrative tourist industries.
Megan pointed out that I come across sort of unhappy in these posts, and she’s right. I’ll try to lighten the tone a little. Also, hello Megan! Thanks for reading my blog :)
Elections are coming up next month in Bavaria so there are plenty of posters up around Munich for the different parties. Let’s start with the big ones, this is the office of the Social-Democratic Party. Their slogan is ‘everyone needs a roof over their heads and (this roof must) be affordable’. Not super catchy but it gets the point across.
This is the CSU, and yes, because we’re in Bavaria, this is the CSU component of the CDU-CSU conservative alliance. Their slogan is something about how school desks are good for order but not for thinking. I didn’t know school desks were such a hot topic in Bavaria…
The FDP slogan is ‘school bags are changing the world, not briefcases’. I’m seeing a school-based theme here.
I also went past the Alliance 90/Green Party office, they want more segregated bike paths. Not quite changing the world there but at least it’s not some random guff about school desks. I’m generally suspicious of the German greens, from their role as ‘legally-recognised liberal opposition’ in the GDR in the 1990s to their present-day practice of making coalitions with the CDU-CSU, they’ve always had a reactionary streak.
The Greens also want a ‘stronger Europe’, and they must be at least aware of the context here. Where German influence weighs heavily on the EU, a German party calling for a stronger Europe means a Germany better able to use EU institutions to leverage its own power. Where is the solidarity with Greece, with Portugal, with Italy, etc? It sounds very liberal, but I’d read it as essentially a nationalist demand.
Speaking of nationalism, Alternative fur Deutschland was there.
They want to protect social security, with ‘money for pensions, not for illegal migrants’. So this is welfare plus racism - you can have pensions, but only for members of an unspoken exclusive community. The way to fight this is not to complain about the racism, but to present an alternative vision which addresses the same basic concerns as the far-right. Old people are concerned about pensions, so give people decent pensions and hit their support where it matters, the racism is just window-dressing.
For example, the Left, which wants to stop the crisis in social care. You want higher pensions without racism? Here you go.
Disclaimer: I used to be a member of the Linkspartei.
There was also a PEGIDA rally on Marienplatz in the evening.
Thankfully the local antifa were there in opposition. First time I’ve actually seen a PEGIDA rally in person. There weren’t many obvious neo-Nazis around, but maybe that’s the point.
Now we’re onto the parties nobody’s heard of, these are fun. This is the Bavarian Party.
They’re Bavarian nationalists, with suggested monarchist tendencies, but I don’t know any more than that.
These are the ‘Free Voters group’. The poster says they’re in favour of more security, for a strong police and justice.
They look like the coalition of independents you get at local elections, except on a regional level? As if the local residents association decided to form a political party. Their philosophy could range anywhere from the local sewing group who just want a new roof for the church. Or it could be the middle class wannabe-fascists who want to ‘clean up the neighbourhood’ and instead of wandering around with baseball bats they just write passive-aggressive letters to the local newspaper. I don’t get it personally but they’re popular enough that 9% of Bavarians vote for them. 9% of people will vote for anything.
This is the Ecological Democratic Party.
They’re like the Greens, but somehow less radical. They also want more space for bike lanes. Meh.
The Pirate Party wants 100 Mbit internet for all.
Lastly in our tour of parties, here is the Liberal-Conservative Reform party.
I checked their website, all I can find out is they’re anti-EU. They’re also very keen to point out that their candidates have gone to university and have a high level of expertise. They find ‘new solutions to new challenges’. They sound like political science students.
On Wiener Platz there was this ‘bus for direct democracy’.
This man in the colourful outfit explained what it’s all about.
He wants… more referendums? Citizen’s initiatives. They go touring cities in their bus and they promote various petitions. He sort of went off track and started talking about this meeting in Athens, and then he went into his bus to fetch me a glossy brochure in english. I put it in my bag, haven’t read it yet.
I went to see this memorial to Kurt Eisner. The text reads ‘every person’s life should be holy’.
Kurt Eisner was an USPD politician who led the People’s State of Bavaria and was assassinated in 1919, which in in turn set in motion the creation of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. There is definitely another memorial somewhere else in the city, this is the only one I saw. I was on the lookout for any remnant of the Bavarian Soviet, but didn’t find anything.
I also saw some people surfing on the the Eisbach stream. That looks fun.
And then I went to the Bavarian National Museum, which houses a large collection of shiny old objects.
There were some tapestries.
Some suits of armour.
A very well-decorated room.
And various other miscellaneous objects which took my fancy. This is a piece of the Bastille in Paris, from 1791.
These are some very detailed baroque sculptures.
Some more abstract rococo sculptures. Is that correct? Rococo?
Marble busts of men with truly impressive haircuts. This is Palatine Wilhelm.
This is Max Emanuel.
There was an ornately decorated mirror frame, perfect for a weird selfie.
And lastly, this creepy smiling chandelier.
At the end of the day I took the S-Bahn wearily back to the station.
The overnight service to Cologne wasn’t due until 11pm, so I was stuck waiting around for about 2 hours. Eventually the train arrived, and I curled up in one of the seats for another night of uneasy sleep.