The verdict is in: Both Torsten and Catiana say it’s time for Beth to speak German every day, even to Torsten.
So when Beth walked to the neighborhood Tabula Rasa cafe to have a cappuccino with Catiana, she spoke German. The first thing she said, looking at all of the sidewalk tables filled with relaxed-looking people, was “The quality of life is so high here.”
No one seems stressed or in a hurry (though bicycle commuters mean business, and if you step into their lanes you might get run over). However, Catiana was a little stressed that morning by the boss’s visit to the cosmetics shop where she works, so she treated herself to a Hugo, a cocktail made of prosecco, lemon-balm syrup, fresh mint and soda water.
It was fun getting to know her better and hearing how she met her husband, Stephan, when she was a wild 17-year-old with a fake ID in a Key West bar, and he was a young Siemens engineer from Germany. She had to learn German when they returned after 9/11, and Beth enjoyed watching the ex-Floridian speak it with a dollop of Southern honey to the waitress and passing neighbors.
Meanwhile, Torsten had his meeting with a recruiter, starting the search for a job, which will make it easier to get an apartment and health insurance and, well, support ourselves in our new country.
In the afternoon, Torsten accompanied Beth to the headquarters of the Munich Volkshochschule, which offers a vast array of classes for adults, including German language. There was a line, but eventually Beth got a seat at the placement exam — only to discover she didn’t have photo identification.
By the time she realized she had an iPhone photo of her passport, her place had been given away. But again, a sympathetic person bent the rules, and she got to speak with a counselor instead, who assigned her to an intensive B.1 class. Whew! By then, all the places in the inner city were gone, so she’ll be traveling to a third-ring suburb every day.
Good thing the trains, buses and trams are so easy to use. We have a pass now, so we can zip anywhere we want.
We rode a tram for the first time on Friday. It was pokier than the train, but it took us straight from Sendlinger Tor to the plaza closest to our destination: an apartment just two blocks from Nymphenburg Palace.
The kitchen had a cobalt-blue counter just like our house on Seabury Avenue, with matching tiles on the floor, and the bathroom was tiled in white with cobalt-blue accents. There was a tiled patio facing a small back yard, on a little hill that would be ours to garden as we like. Whoopee!
The location was the best part. The Schloss Nymphenburg is set in a large forest with many trails, and its lovely beer garden is on the next block, across from the Chinese Embassy — which means, the agent said with a smile, that our street is extremely safe.
There’s also a bakery/cafe around the corner, and after the showing, we went there for cappuccino, hot chocolate and strawberry torte. It sells gelato and chocolates, too.
Then we timed the walk to the Laim train stop, which serves all S-Bahn lines through the city: 12 minutes. On the way, we passed three grocery stores.
It didn’t take us long to decide we wanted the apartment, if they’ll give it to us. It’s not as central or as packed with shops and cafes as Isarvorstadt, which we’ll miss. We’ll even miss our tiny Dachgeschoss attic apartment, which faces southwest and gets sun over the rooftops all day long.
But if we can’t live on the Mississippi River and walk the 3.5-mile bridge loop whenever we want, living next to Nymphenburg Park is a pretty nice consolation prize.
We’d been in Munich for nearly a week, and we hadn’t eaten out once. Since we were in a celebratory mood, we took the train to the Karstadt Oberpollinger department store on Neuhauserstrasse, the pedestrian street that connects the Hauptbahnof and Marienplatz.
On the Munich tourism website, Beth had read a story about six rooftop restaurants with great views, and Karstadt’s LeBuffet was one of them.
It was another sunny, balmy day, and the rooftop looked full, but we still picked out meals, cooked to order: pork-coconut curry for Torsten and Tuscan lamb cutlets with grilled vegetables for Beth, with pinot grigio. We took them out to the crowded rooftop for another look, and Torsten spotted an overlooked table next to the terrace edge.
Our table was bathed in sunlight, and the twin towers of the Frauenkirche, Munich’s best-known landmark, rose just beyond the store. Already, we love this city.