2010-10-27 47 11
The geohash is in a field south of Unhof, near the Ammersee Lake. (Yes, we know that Ammersee already means Ammer Lake). Also near a monastery brewery.
The plan is to
- take the S-bahn S8 to Herrsching
- the 951 bus to Erlinger Höhe
- walk to the geohash
- walk back to Erlinger and up the hill to Andechs Monastery Brewery
- drink beer
- find WC
- take bus & train back to town
All of the above were achieved, and the expedition dubbed the "Jingle Cow Hash." Details (and we do mean details) follow. Geohashers who are both less interested in transit schedules than Germans seem to be, and uninterested in being as happily confused by them as Wade and Robyn, may wish to skip down to where we set out on foot. Or to the later bit about beer. Reading about the train schedules is not mandatory.
 Mandatory Train Schedules
Armed with three pages of bus and train connection printouts, plus the official schedules of two or three different subway lines, we set out. It may be a rule that you can't go geohashing in Germany without a lot of train schedules. Certainly we were never permitted to do so when Germans had anything to do with it.
The first couple of trains were actually the Municheian subway, so we got on the U2 for a few stops then off again to change to the U5. The printout showing our connections listed that one as a zero-minute wait, with the arriving time of our inbound train identical to the departure time of the outbound one. German efficiency may have overestimated itself there, as the trains didn't connect. No real worries, as they run frequently, and the connection involving a rare 951 bus takes fourteen minutes. We'll not have time to explore and buy snacks in Herrsching, is all. We got another U5 in five minutes, and then off again at Karlsplatz, finding our platform just in time to see our train slowly gliding up to it.
Oops, it's not slowing down; it's speeding up. Make that just in time to see our train slowly gliding away from the platform. Once again, there will be another train. The one we missed was the S-train to Herrsching. The schedule reports another S-train on that track in that direction in thirty minutes. Okay, we can recover from this. We'll just have to walk the five kilometres from Herrsching to Erlinger Höhe, because there won't be another bus for a couple of hours.
There is a selection of other trains we could take, The transit company itinerary printout give six different choices for how we could get to the geohash today, but unfortunately all but this one leave from Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, not this one. We'll have to recover from here.
 Losing Bets
Herrsching is the end of the line for this track, but the train that arrives is signed for Weßling, a few stops before the end. There are two possibilities. One is that the end of the line was originally named after Weßling, then they built more stations but didn't rename the line, because everyone was already used to it being called the Weßling line, and the guy in charge of making new signs for the trains was on holiday. The other possibility is that this train only goes to Weßling and then turns around and goes back. We kind of know that the second possibility is more likely, but we take the longshot and bet on the first, jumping on the S-train towards Weßling. (We don't know what the S stands for, but odds are it is a) at least eleven letters long, and b) contains at least one Z and one ümlaut).
Once on the train and underway, we realize that there was a much better recovery. It was 8:30 when we missed out S-train and another S-train, one that connects with the rare 951 bus, leaves there at 9:00. Hauptbahnhof is only one station from Karlsplatz on a number of lines, so we could have reintercepted a usable schedule there. But by the time Robyn figures this out, it was too late. We took the S-train to Weßling. And only to Weßling. They even said "aufwiedersein" on the loudspeaker. We considered staying on the train to see if it was a trick and would really go to Herrsching after we got off, but decided we'd lost too many slim bets today already and got off there.
The departures schedule posted at the Weßling platform told us there would be a train continuing south to Herrsching in about twenty minutes. The only problem was that it had a footnote next to it that appeared to indicate Saturday only, but after a bit of speculation and pretending to read German, we decided that the Saturday only part referred to its departure from platform 2, and that the rest of the week it would leave from platform 1, the now empty platform. We were also watching the train we had arrived on, in case it should quietly change its sign to read Herrsching, and sneak off without us. Eventually it changed to read Münich Flughof, and we decided to believe that.
Robyn watched a man read the departure schedules, then asked him, "in elf Minuten das Zug für Herrsching?" which probably means something like "at eleven minutes that train for Herrsching?"
The man said "Nein, Flughof," then three minutes later got on a train (not our original train, a new one that just arrived on the other platform) labelled for the Munich Flughof. Robyn would feel deflated about her "ability" to understand train schedules or to make herself understood in German, but instead concluded that Flughof man knew what train he was getting and really didn't care about any other trains. Meanwhile Wade had witnessed a man just missing the northbound Flughof train, because he mistakenly thought he'd have enough time to jump off and buy a newspaper. Missed train man looked forlornly down the track for a new one, and appeared confused when our train arrived from the opposite direction, instead.
Wade didn't see missed train man look at the other train, to see that it too was going to the airport, and is concerned that he may be still stuck there at Weßling. If you go there, please look for him and make sure he's okay.
 Winning Anyway
Once on the train Wade and Robyn looked at the maps and schedules some more and realized that the train we missed at Karlsplatz was actually destined for Starnberg Nord, the other end of the 951 bus route from Herrsching. The closest point on the bus route to the geohash was between Starnberg Nord and Herrsching, and the amount Wade and Robyn would arrive late at Herrsching was precisely the time it would take the bus to complete its route. By getting on the wrong train at the wrong time, we would now connect perfectly with the right bus. And our way was better than the official way, because we got to wait in the fresh air at Weßling instead of underground at Hauptbahnhof.
Wade's next concern was the scenery, or rather lack thereof. The air outside the train windows was opaque with fog. Every German who has learned we were going to the Munich area has stressed that we must go walking by the lakes and enjoy the spectacular views. Wade tries to truthfully but diplomatically praise the sights we will be enjoying. "A vista of equal beauty in every direction!" We disembark in the fog and board the 951 bus that is already waiting for us. We were trying to come up with something that would induce the driver to point out our stop for us (something like "Bitte sprechen vo bus im Erlinger Höhe" - "Please speak where bus on Erlinger Höhe") but we don't have to. There is a screen in the bus that shows the current stop, the terminus stop, and the next three stops. Using this advanced German bus technology, we identify the correct stop and disembark. Using more primitive German map technology we also identify the proper southbound road and head along it.
 Walking to the Geohash
This is the part of the geohash that normal people might constrain themselves to. Our route is a windy country road with a little bit of traffic and some trails that occasionally appear to roughly parallel the road, then come back to the road and disappear. We follow them when we have the chance. If it weren't for the lure of this geohash, we would have resisted all the German attempts to get us to go bergstriding (I think that was the word: maybe I left out a Z) in Bavaria. We have mountains and rocks and trees and lakes in Canada. It would be silly to go hiking in Germany when they have all kinds of other things we don't have in Canada. But then we have air in Canada and we don't stop breathing just because we're in Germany. It's a splendid walk.
The geohash is a little to the right of the road, and we start following a path signed to prohibit horses. Because of the picture of the horse on that sign, we think of it as 'the horse trail.' The horse trail gets us to within 250 metres of the geohash and then reaches a small farm. We cross through a meadow and find another trail at the gate on the far side of the meadow. About a hundred metres to go and Wade reports hearing clanking. We move over to the side of the trail in case there is some farm equipment coming up the other way. As we stand and listen, it sounds like cowbells. We get out our cameras and continue down the trail until it's clear that it is cowbells. On actual cows. When you're a child in Canada you grow up with picture books that feature castles and cowbells and all manner of things that you grow up to learn do not occur in real life. Except, apparently, in Germany. Here we are looking at real cows, eating grass while cowbells jingle around their necks. (It's so they can't catch birds, but the cows learn to move so stealthily that the bells don't ring as they stalk their prey. At least that's how it works with cats). Perhaps we should keep an eye out for ogres under bridges.
The geohash is not in the field with the cows, but on the other side of the road, which is at first lined by a fence and a ditch, which both end exactly where we need them to in order to walk straight to the geohash. Germany may be the best country in the world for geohashing. We enthusiastically celebrate reaching the geohash, but stop short of risking a police geohash in a foreign country.
 What Is Brown, Floats and is Sticky?
We already knew that Germans really enjoy hiking in the countryside. We also discovered that, while hiking, they really really like to have one or two sticks with them. We passed a very traditional Bavarian man with a forest green jacket, Bavarian hat and a carved hiking stick. We passed many others, in the forest and at the monastery, using what looked Ike cross-country ski poles. Even if Wade's Australian-style fedora, inability to speak German and general confusion wasn't enough to label us as foreigners, the fact that we dared to hike without a special hiking stick would have clearly marked us.
 Brewing for Jesus
After returning from the hashpoint, we walked through the village at the base of the hill toward the monastery where there had been a promise of beer, and a hope of cheese.
We were still on a quest for some nice cheese to make our lunch with. The village had a maypole which lists the various businesses in town. Sadly, there was no "cheese maker" icon on the pole, so we continued up to the monastery. It was uphill, but not too steep. The monastery is situated on the top of a hill, commanding a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside and some mountains that Wade dubbed the Alps. Wade and Robyn quickly enjoyed the view and W.C., and then got down to the business of finding the promised beer.
It didn't take long. Even though this is the off-season for tourists, it was quite busy. The monastery is a stop on the "something-del-something else" pilgrimage trail, so that probably accounted for at least 1% of the people there. Everyone else was interested in the beer and Bavarian food (which is best characterized as enormous pieces of roasted pork, mounds of potato product and sourkraut).
While Wade looked longingly at the counter that served huge chunks of roasted pig, Robyn quickly found the counter that sold cheese and small (i.e. reasonably sized) dry sausage sticks. Robyn put her index fingers up beside her head and made goat noises to indicate the type of cheese she wanted. Wade added 0.5l of beer (the small size) and that was our lunch. The day was a lot warmer than the 3 degrees promised, so we enjoyed it outside in the sun.
 Wade and Robyn Go Back To School
After lunch, we walked back down the mountain, took a "short" cut, and got to the bus stop a few seconds ahead of our bus. As we got on, the diver warned us that this was a school bus. Or maybe he gave us a weather report. I don't understand German. Robyn asked him something and got an answer, which seemed to indicate that we were allowed on the bus, even though we are not German schoolchildren. The driver asked where we were going, so Robyn said we need to go to either Herrshing or Starnberg. Since the bus number told us this was the bus which runs between those towns, we didn't care which way is was going. The driver didn't like this, and after quickly getting frustrated by the idiot English tourists, he yelled something including the word "English" to the children, and one helpfully came to the front to translate. She very carefully asked asked us "Do you want to go to Herrshing, or do you want to go to Starnberg?"
Robyn carefully replied "Herrsching is good; Starnberg is good. We want to go to the S-Bahn.". Upon hearing "S-Bahn", the driver didn't wait for the translation and just waved us onto the bus. After a few detours to drop off students, we arrived at the Starnberg Nord station, where a different (but equally young) child told us this was the stop for the station, actually took us to the station, confirmed we were going to Munich, reminded us to stamp our ticket, brought us to the correct platform, and told us we had to wait 13 minutes. I don't think we would have been handled better by a professional tour guide. The German school system teaches English quite early and quite well. Even at her young age, she told us she has been learning English for three years.
 Après Hash
The promised train arrived in13 minutes and took us to Hauptbahnhof (the main train station), where we transferred to the #17 tram to take us to Schloss Nymphenburg. This palace was commissioned by King <mumble> for his wife, on the occasion of her producing a male heir. It took 10 years to build. We don't know for sure, but Wade can only assume it was intended as a surprise, and she waited 10 years wondering if he was going to do anything special for the occasion. Robyn thinks he was nicer than that, which is kind of surprising since Wade gave her a 10 year anniversary gift six years late.
We wandered around the beautiful grounds, over the bridges and examine the nice wooden boxes which may or may not contain even nicer fountains. The grounds have streams, ponds, fields, and bridges. We notice some other Canadian tourists next to one of the ponds: a couple of Canada geese. We say hello and take their photo, but they don't seem interested. I think they aren't exactly tourists, they probably live here now. Maybe they were gifts from Canada in the past, or maybe their ancestors got lost while migrating.
At around 15:50 we decide to see the carriage museum, only to learn it closes at 16:00.
We wanted to get back to the old town to see one last tourist attraction, so we got on the #17 tram to the Mariannenplaz station. After disembarking, we spent a very long and frustrating time finding our way to Marienplaz, which we knew to be close to where we wanted to be. Astute readers will probably have already noticed that Mariannenplaz and Marienplaz are not the same, which explains why the tram stop labelled with one name does not leave passengers at the other place. We were not so astute at the time, and consequently confused by the fact that we appeared to be nowhere near where we expected to be.
We did eventually find St. Peter's again, and this time we managed to locate the door (and cashier) to the belfry staircase. We paid our €3 and climbed up to the top. We arrived just in time to see the Clarion show in the old Ratthaus from above. It was an entirely new and exciting view of what we had watched from below. We also saw a really beautiful view of the town, the Olympic tower and stadium in the distance and the mountains (which Wade once again dubbed the Alps, since they needed a name and that is the only mountain name in Europe Wade knows).