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A stay in Bavaria, Germany, while doing some research in astrophysics also meant that I travelled around this beautiful region. Some memories.
Travelling to and staying in a new place is always liberating, despite all the trials and tribulations associated with it. Like thousands of modern, independent Indian women going overseas for higher studies, I took a leap to the state of Bavaria in Germany for a few months in pursuit of my research in Astrophysics.
I fell in love with Garching at the first glance. It has quaint little cafes and colourful little houses. It has pretty chairs on the roadside, calling out to you, as if, enamoured of you. There is an all-pervading calmness in this town, something about which reminds me of Tagore’s description of peaceful villages of Bengal.
However, Garching Forchungzentrum would always bustle with activities on weekdays, with all the major research institutes crowding the region. That’s where I go to work, in one of the Max Planck Institutes. And that is how I am staying in Bavaria for an extended period as a visiting PhD student.
Bavaria is known to be classy. No wonder! The colour, light and rhythm of the city would resonate well with every beat of your heart. The first time I went to visit Munich was just a few days after landing in Germany, in the month of October. I had a friend with me that day. He has been staying in Germany (in another city) for the last three years and being more knowledgeable about this country, he was the potential partner in many of my new adventures! So, we decided to hang out in Marienplatz one Sunday. We walked on the crowded streets in the growing darkness of a pleasant German evening.
We watched people showing tricks in the middle of the road like playing with multiple footballs or twisting oneself in weird postures. The small children wouldn’t move from there without putting a couple of coins or notes in the container kept for that matter. Strange, isn’t it, that so many places in the world have such road-side entertainers?
In another corner we found a lone man playing an accordion, closing his eyes, oblivious to the dynamic world around. Standing there I almost felt like a whole background was moving behind him with a pace that matched his tune and he was static, with an entire world full of melody and life absorbed in himself.
From Marienplatz we went to explore Hofbräuhaus. There is an elaborate history of the place if one wants to look up. If you enter the place you would be inhaling history. It’s an ambience from past where the waitresses would walk wearing traditional drindl. Chandeliers were hanging from the ancient high ceilings and walls exhaled antiquity.
It was hard to get a place in the common area. We had to wait for quite a long time to find a table. You generally share a table with a large number of people there because traditionally the idea was to socialize. People would talk and drink beer over long-winded conversations. We had a pitcher of dark beer and pork knuckle. Both were lip-smacking. To our left, there were three-four friendly strangers who smiled and talked to us.
When we came out the streets were deserted. There was a man dressed like a statue standing outside and bidding people farewell. All the lights were still glowing on the streets and as the mingled sounds of different conversations among all the people coming out of a fair dose of beer-drinking session, drifted around, the place looked like the end of a desi-mela (fair). I loved everything about that sparkling evening.
On another day, very early in the morning, I started for Neuschwanstein castle. It’s a nineteenth century Romanesque castle built by Ludwig II as a retreat castle, overlooking a tiny bridge named Marie’s bridge after his mother. It was a two-hour long journey approximately from Munich main station. Then a bus would take you up above in the hilly realms where the castle stood in all its glory. It looks like a castle from Disney programmes and I grew up loving such programmes so the castle caught me into a daze of childish glee.
However, from an adult’s point of view I must say that the castle, as an individual entity, wouldn’t be impressive for Indians who have seen the Maharaja Palace in Mysore or the palaces in Rajasthan. Our palatial houses in India have a different and unique overdose of extravagance. But the location where Neuschwanstein Castle stood, is surely going to take your breath away!
Perched on a fertile uphill, it suddenly rises like a magic kingdom from the shadows cast by the surrounding hills. The backdrop of the azure sky with a few cotton-clouds would be mesmerizing. The interiors are decorated with beautiful paintings and the furniture and accessories provide vestiges of a long-lost royalty. I lingered in the surrounding for an entire afternoon and painted my mind’s canvas with all these colours! That was a good Sunday.
I stared at the famous Allianz Arena from outside many a times on my way from Garching to Munich. But not being a football fanatic, I never felt an urge to enter inside. However, those who are fond of the game, would feel an ardent desire to do so. It’s a spectacular football stadium located very close to Munich with a capacity of over 60000 seats for audience. It stands at one side of the Fröttmaning underground metro station. There is also Englischer Garten, one of the largest public gardens sprawling large areas within the city of Munich. This is known to be a refreshing place on pleasant autumn days.
Before Christmas, Germany and most of the European countries get decked up with lights and festivities. One integral part of this celebration is the Christmas market. Everywhere in Europe you would come across these markets till 24th December. This is the counterpart of Indian fairs where everything is indigenous.
There is a very popular drink which is available in Christmas markets around this time, called Gluhwein. It’s made of wine and spices and served hot. The first time I visited Christmas market was in early December with a group of Indians in Garching. This location is called Tollwood which is close to Munich city center. There were elaborate tents set up everywhere selling food, clothes, and all possible things that could be relevant for the local people. We took gluhwein in one such stall. It was served in such a way that there was a live flame on the cup for a while. On chilled winter evenings gluhwein wraps you in a warm embrace!
I went to the Christmas market in Marienplatz once again in a week’s time after my first visit. It was a carnival of fairy-tale lights and happiness. It was the day when people marched on the street wearing strange demon costumes and jokingly scaring the crowd around. In between these demons there would be a man, dressed as a holy saint, marching in time and again. I believe this was a celebration very similar to the worship of Goddess Durga in Bengal and other parts of India.
January has brought a lot of snow in Bavaria. For days the grounds and trees around are covered in think layers of white. In front of my apartment a tiny lake exists and it has hardened in this season. In the dark, dreary mornings, the city of Garching would be a perfect personification of Sleeping beauty.
Bavarian winter leaves me baffled on some days and spellbound on others. And on some of these lonely winter evenings I ponder what I would remember about Bavaria long after I am gone from this place. I would probably have flashes of these days when I travelled through and stayed in a foreign land exploring life. That is the bliss of solitude.
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Images: The author, and her co-traveler Sthitadhi Roy
Header image source: pixabay