We don’t really have friends yet in Munich, but every week — thanks to the meet-up groups we’ve joined — the invitations roll in.
We met through the Minnesota Rovers Outdoors Club, which has given us great friends as well as good times. So it was natural that as soon as we hit town, we joined a meet-up group. Actually, we had to join three to replace Rovers: Cycling Around Munich, Hiking Near Munich and Munich Cross-Country Skiers.
There were two invitations for Sunday, forecast at 70 and sunny: hiking 14.6 km between Tegernsee and Schliersee, two lakes south of the city near the Alps, and cycling through the flatlands north of the city, which we picked. Only problem: We have three bikes apiece back in Minneapolis, but none in Munich. We solved that by calling up the Bikebringer, who agreed to meet us Saturday near the Hellabrun Zoo.
We took the train there, he handed over bikes — he didn’t even ask for a security deposit because, “well, bicyclists, you know” — and we rode them back along the Isar River, whose banks were crowded with people grilling and chilling in the balmy late afternoon.
On Sunday morning, we rode to the Marienplatz train station and met the group, some of whom we got to know on the ride to Erding, the last stop on the S2 line: Marine, an engineer from Paris who had arrived just two weeks before us; Shane from Sydney, who had arrived only that week to train for a job leading Mike’s Bike Tours; and Robert, the Brit who organized the ride.
Robert had advertised the ride as “flatter than Nadia Comaneci in a leotard,” so we weren’t too worried about managing without bike shorts on city bikes, which is what everyone rides in Munich anyway. Robert led the way, and we just moved our legs, enjoying the warm sun and flowering trees along the route. In a flash — 20 km — we were at our first stop, a country restaurant called the Finsinger Alm, where we sat on the big terrace and ordered refreshments.
Other people were ordering Weisswurst, a favorite Bavarian breakfast dish served with sweet brown mustard and a big baked pretzel, so even though we’d already had breakfast, we did, too — and Beth even got a Schnitt, which she learned is not the beer chaser served with Bloody Marys in the States but a full mug of beer, half foam. Next, she had to learn how to separate the Weisswurst from its skin, the first step to becoming a real Bavarian.
By the time we left at noon, the terrace of the Finsinger Alm was packed and every picnic table full — all with bicyclists, as far as we could tell.
We cycled on along a narrow country lane, passing a horse-drawn covered wagon full of families. Beth rode alongside Jack, a former Californian who likes to swerve into the path of passing sports cars “to show them who’s boss.” He was a little brash, but Beth liked him.
We liked everyone in the group except a Texan who informed Torsten that Minnesota, which he has never visited, is “boring,” “not diverse” and “has a funny accent.” He told Torsten that he listened to Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” and apparently he mistook Lake Wobegon for the real thing. Later, he asked Beth if she also was from “Min-ne-SOOH-ta” — she ignored him.
Oh, well, there’s one in every group. Ours also included a South African, a Serb, two Kiwis (Zara, an exuberant 4-year-old, and Michael, her father), four more Brits and another American besides us.
After another 18 km, we stopped at another restaurant. We weren’t hungry, but we ordered asparagus cream soup and another small beer for Beth. Hey, everyone was doing it! Shane even had a Mass, a giant mug that’s the equivalent of four beers.
This was billed as a social ride, and it definitely was leisurely. We passed the time on the second stop in conversation, where we learned some useful things. We’d been uncomfortable riding without helmets, so Jack told us that Aldi was selling them that week for 10 Euros (and we picked some up Monday after returning our bikes).
The end of the official ride was the popular Feringasee, where Jack and the Texan went for a dip, and yet another packed beer garden, where nearly everyone settled in for more beer and food, including a whole mackerel from a food truck.
Most people took the train home, but we rode back with Lauren and Alex, who live in Haidhausen, on the opposite bank of the Isar. Alex is a hard-core cyclist — Lauren said any painful or hilly group ride is known as an “Alex ride” — so we had to ride faster to keep up with them. By the time we said goodbye, it was past 7 p.m and we’d been with the group the whole day — one of the most fun days we’ve had in a while.