In our travels, Torsten sometimes joked that we are homeless and unemployed. That reality has now sunk in, and it’s time to change it.
But first, we had to make it through Sunday, when shops are closed and the only things still operating are public transit and restaurants. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny day at 16ºC (60ºF), and we started it with a breakfast of our favorite brötchen — German hard rolls that are eaten with butter and jam and can’t be found outside Europe.
We finished up our last travel blog post and then there was nothing else to do but go for a walk. We had planned to go to the English Garden, a vast green space on the other side of downtown, but the nippy wind made us stay in the more sheltered city.
Our route took us along Marienplatz, the central square with the famous city hall (Neues Rathaus) and then through downtown via circuitous routes. All the street cafés and Biergartens we came across were open — and packed with people dressed in puffy jackets and sweaters, having lunch, beer or coffee, catching up with friends and just enjoying the day.
We also noticed all the specialty shops all over town. There’s a bakery on almost every corner, but we saw lots of small specialized shops selling everything from teas to pipes, shaving and hair cutting equipment, knitting tools, leather goods, wool and everything in between.
At one point we looked at each other in amazement at all the people outside and the absence of any big-box stores or mega-grocers and thought we hit the jackpot by choosing this city to live in. This lifestyle seems a lot more relaxed than what we’re used to — but who knows: This was only our second day.
On our way back, we came across Eataly, a large hall next to a biergarten with Italian restaurants and a market selling all things Italian: books, food, wines and, of course, gelato. Further on, we took a narrow underpass to the Asam church, away from the main thoroughfare, and were surprised to find ourselves in a very quiet alley with apartments and many small cafes and restaurants, which of course were packed with warmly dressed customers.
The next day, Monday, we hit the errand circuit in earnest.
To do anything about our homelessness or unemployment, we knew we needed German phone numbers. Alas, this is Germany, and there are rules.
To get a phone number, we had to have a Giro bank account, which allows electronic transfer of funds — nobody here uses checks anymore, and it is mostly a cash society; the phone company wouldn’t accept a credit card.
To get the required bank account set up, we needed to be registered with the city. Unlike the US, where a national registry is anathema to the “freedom” crowd, Germany by law requires registration with the city within two weeks of moving. Based on this registration, which is tied to tax information, such services as voting notifications and, as we found out, bank accounts are provided.
To get registered with the city, we needed to have our landlord — a.k.a. Airbnb host — provide a signed piece of paper stating the address and move-in date of our apartment.
We had nothing, and getting the paperwork all straightened out would have taken another two days.
Enter the friendly Germans. In Australia, we met a German couple who think Germans aren’t friendly (among other complaints). Let it be known that this is not the case — at all.
When the bank’s clerk told us we needed a registration, we told her of our circumstance, and 10 minutes and a few smiles later, we were talking to a banker. He bent the rules for us, imploring us to provide the registration as soon as possible. A few signatures after that, we had our account.
Transferring money out of our savings account into our new account, another very friendly bank clerk told us how to get around some limitations, partially to make her life easier but also to save us time as well.
When she found out we were newly arrived, looking for an apartment, she became passionate and dispensed some free, and very useful, advice. “Landlords these days,” she told us, “believe they can do just about anything, and it’s not right. We have privacy laws here, so don’t do (such and such).”
By now, we were feeling all warm and fuzzy about Bavarians.
Anticipating more paperwork, we picked up a printer/scanner at a local electronics store, and went to get our phone numbers. In contrast to the US, where we got to pick our numbers, here the numbers picked us. Like some backwards lottery, we got sent home with a piece of paper, and after an hour we found out what our new phone numbers were.
It’s all terribly exciting, until we saw that our numbers are random strings of 12 digits and we had to figure out how to memorize them.
Either way, we were happy to get our phone situation straightened out, and while Beth whipped up a delicious dinner, Torsten sent off a few requests to look at apartments — including our new phone numbers. A day well spent!