The Orient Express: Leg 7, Munich to Paris

9:32.  Before I even got out of the lobby at Wombat’s Hostel in Munich I had received an email asking for a review.  I gave them an 8 on most categories.  Rating the in-house bar was the only category that posed a problem.  They do a lot right at this hostel and you’ll probably love the bar if you don’t mind drunken frat boys climbing onto tables and singing German beer drinking songs at the tops of their lungs.  If that’s not your idea of a nice quiet place to hang out for a few hours before bed, you probably wouldn’t enjoy the spectacle of a soon to be married British guy having various parts of his body waxed.  He was fully clothed, mind you, in a traditional Bavarian dress!  It was not a pretty sight.

10:02. I’m at the Munich Hauptbahnhof (train station) and have time to grab some food before my 10:37 departure for Paris. There’s a full-sized grocery store within the station as well as a number of smaller vendors and a small Starbucks that probably has one of the highest sales per square meter of any cafe, anywhere. 

10:30. I have an assigned seat in Second Class for the Munich to Mannheim leg and will switch trains and move up to First Class for the longer Mannheim to Paris leg. With extra large leather seats and power at every armrest, I can overlook the fact that I’m facing backward and there’s a coat blocking my limited-at-best view.

10:42. We were supposed to leave at 10:37 but we didn’t actually roll until 10:37:07.  Germans may find this acceptable but the Swiss would never stand for it!

10:58. Munich is quickly disappearing from view and I miss it already. It’s not like I saw much of the city but I did get a very good overall impression. It was rainy and cold every day so I didn’t stray too far from the train station, hostel, and several neighbouring cafes and bars. I know that sounds pretty bad but I had to take care of two things before starting on my second Camino and the clock is ticking.  There are only a few excuses that CRA will accept for the late filing of income taxes and “I had to go to Hofbräuhaus” isn’t among them. Next time, Munich. 

12:52. The family of three who had been sitting beside me were only traveling as far as Stuttgart so they have departed.  The daughter had been teaching me some German. She’s fluent in German, French and English and is rapidly picking up Spanish from the family’s new housekeeper. Did I mention that she’s seven. Yes, seven and working on her fourth language.  I’m constantly reminded that in Europe I would be considered a functioning idiot at best.

12:54. The train “backed” out of the station which means I am now facing forward. Much better!

1:00. My new neighbours across the aisle are a German couple in their 60s. I cannot understand much of what is being said but it seems that Oscar is man-splaining their retirement plan. I know he’s talking stocks because I hear Nikkei Index, Daimler, BASF and Tesla. I consider telling him to ditch Daimler and take a flyer on Tesla but think better of it. 

1:34. I’ve been snapping photos of manhole covers around the world so I was happy to find these two on the respective train platforms.

1:37. I didn’t have much trouble finding my seat on the upper deck of car #12. This is a bit of a broken record, I know, but car #12 was right in between car #9 and car #10. I must be misreading something as this has happened several times lately.

1:58. The attendant has taken my order for lunch. I’ll try the risotto. And wine.

2:30. It’s deathly silent in this car. There is hardly any track-noise and the few First Class passengers are generally business people who work on laptops or well-dressed seniors who stare out the windows.  There are rarely any kids in First Class and never goats, lambs or chickens.  India this is not.

2:36.  There was some confusion over the wine and I ended up with two bottles. Oh well, if you insist.

2:47. I would never have guessed that this risotto was microwaved had it not been served in a box.  The chocolate mousse was equally good.  Had it been served in a high-end French restaurant, I’m sure most chocolate lovers would rave about it.  

4:50. We have arrived at Paris Gare du l’est on time. Of all the trains I’ve ridden between Istanbul and Paris, only a couple were delayed and then only by a few minutes.  

5:30. I had walking instructions to the hostel from Paris Gare du Nord, not Paris Gare d’lest, but thankfully the two stations are only a few blocks apart.  

5:38.  They don’t call it Gay Paris for nothin’.

5:40.  I’ve heard from other travellers that St. Christopher’s Inn (hostel) is one of the best in Paris – although to be fair most of the recommendations came from 20-somethings and they tend to place more emphasis on the chance of playing beer pong with the opposite sex than finding clean showers, good beds, privacy curtains, and free breakfast.

6:30. Thankfully St. Christopher’s seems to have it all! I may end up staying longer than planned. 

6:40. This was obviously the final leg on my retracing of the Orient Express route between Istanbul and Paris. I’ll post some final thoughts in a few days.  

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