Monday, September 18, 2006 - Augsburg, Germany

We left Knoxville yesterday at 3:40 p.m., flew through Philadelphia, and arrived in Munich, Germany, at 10:30 a.m. I got quite a bit of sleep in the eight and a half hours from Philly to Munich, but Tom not so much. He's going to be exhausted. The TSA carry-on restrictions were recently tightened to ban all liquids, so we weren't able to bring our usual bottles of water. Unfortunately, US Airways did NOT make up the difference, and we arrived pretty dehydrated.

Immigration was a breeze entering Germany. There weren't even any silly forms to fill out. The immigration agent scanned our passports, asked if we were traveling on business or pleasure, and welcomed us in. Customs was even quicker: one question and they waved us on by.

Just across the courtyard on exiting the airport, we spotted a sign for the S-bahn, and a Geldautomat (ATM) was conveniently located right inside the doors. It's so much easier to get foreign currency out of an ATM rather than changing money. At the time of our trip, a euro was about $1.25.

At the ticket desk for the trains we bought a Bayern Pass, which allows up to five people to travel within Bavaria from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. the next day using all city transportation and all regional trains (basically everything but the InterCity Express). At €27, it's a heck of a deal. To make the same trip from the Munich airport to Augsburg taking the ICE would cost €70.

It's a 45-minute S-bahn trip from the airport to the Munich Hauptbahnhof (main train station), where we had a 45-minute wait, and then another 45 minutes by train to Augsburg. Outside the Munich train station, vendors were selling pretzels as big as your head. Now we feel like we're in Germany!! A lot of locals in Lederhosen were making their way to Oktoberfest. We'll join them there tomorrow!

On the train to Augsburg, a local Indian asked if he could piggyback on our Bayern Pass since it's good for up to five people. We figured he might as well, since it wouldn't cost us any extra. It would have been nice if he'd then offered to pay for part of the pass, but no big deal. He spoke English well, and we chatted with him a bit about Oktoberfest.

I was fumbling with my luggage outside the train station in Augsburg, trying to find a map to our hotel, the Ibis beim Hauptbahnhof, when we looked up and spotted it from where we where standing. Well, that was easy. We're here for three nights, €65 per night, an additional €7 with breakfast. Our room is pretty small, but the hotel is clean, with multilingual receptionists, and has a bar downstairs. We're satisfied.

We relaxed until 5:00 p.m., when we went down to the lobby to meet up with my brother Brian and friend Mooney. They had flown into Amsterdam a few days ago and were taking a train into Augsburg today. Brian and I had set up a series of backup meeting times just in case any of us had travel delays, but luckily they were unnecessary. Brian and Mooney were waiting for us when we got downstairs, and it turns out their room is right across the hall from ours. Cool, that worked out well.

The dreary skies that greeted us on arrival in Europe had now turned into rain, so we grabbed our jackets and set out for dinner, with no real sightseeing today. We chose an Indian place, Restaurant Mayuri, in the Lochbrunner Hotel. The waiters spoke fluent English, but the menu was, they said politely, too hard to explain to Americans. They suggested bringing us a mini-buffet. Naturally, there were no beef or pork selections, but we feasted on lamb, chicken, fish, various veggies, rice, pita bread, and beer. It was great.

At the Ibis

Back at our hotel bar, we sampled various German beers and quizzed Mooney on her experiences so far on her first trip to Europe. It was no surprise that since she started her trip in Amsterdam, she was in a mild state of shock!

Confusing German signage

Our bartender, Florian, had spent several years as a teenager in Austin, Texas. Somehow the conversation devolved from chatting about his time in Texas to a debate between Tom and Florian on U.S. foreign policy. It was pretty good natured, mostly, but the rest of us just wanted them to hush. Pretty soon they quit, and we went back to drinking beer like God intended. The Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel was my favorite beer of the night.

Continue to Day 2

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