24 July 2007

Two Tales from One Saturday

Last Saturday Dylan and I embarked on an unique adventure in Munich and more specifically the place pictured above, the Olympic Stadium. We arrived with intention of climbing the stadium’s roof, with a legal tour group of course.

The now tenantless stadium appears to be searching for more sources of revenue after the soccer team FC Bayern-Muenchen departed for a new venue. One of the ideas the management apparently came up with was leading non-acrophobic visitors along the maintenance paths and steps on the tent-like roof. Once I heard about it I asked if others had any interest. Dylan was the only one to come through and to commit to doing it with me.

The tour began by going beneath the stadium to a room remodeled for this tour. Here we watched an introductory video about the history of the stadium and its construction, and put on our harnesses. The object pictured below is what actually keeps one to tethered to the stadium roof. The wheel moves along a cable secured to the walkways. It also passes over the connection joints between the cable and the walkway so that the user must not remove and reattach it every ten feet or so.

After the brief instructions we proceeded up the first set of stairs and onto the roof. Dylan and I were the only non-Germans of the tour group, but I think that fact remained unknown to everyone but us.

For the most part we remained on the outer edge of the roof. We soon arrived at an excellent vantage point for the soccer field below.

The picture below shows a member of tour group who went up a little before ours. His tour was a little different and included a vertical descent onto the soccer field from the roof. We would have preferred this one but it was fully booked.

Structurally the roof is essentially one giant tent. The poles are massive steel columns anchored to the ground. The fabric is a quilt of plexiglass sheets, rubber joints, and metal supports stitched together. The plexiglass bends under the weight of a person, but is strong enough to hold one. If one jumps or moves quickly the roof will vibrate like a trampoline. That plus the fact that one can see clear through the plexiglass to the stadium below could make this activity a bit challenging for some.

After close to two hours we descended and stepped back onto terra firma. Here are a couple more shots from the top. In the first one you can see part of the Munich historical city center in the background.

While the day’s activity was an exciting and good time, the return home is a different story. Indeed, I go as far as to say that last Saturday night was my worst experience since arriving in Germany.

The train ride home started normal enough. We left Munich at 8:26 PM, and were due to arrive in Eichstaett at 10:17. A few minutes before entering Ingolstadt and maybe only 45 minutes from Eichstaett the train came to a halt in the middle of nowhere. Short stops in between stations are not so uncommon. Sometimes the train must wait for another train to clear the track, or for any other understandable inconvenience. Therefore Dylan and I didn’t become anxious about our situation until around half an hour passed. When our watches marked the passage of another half hour the train conductor made an announcement. Without an apology or explanation of any type he simply stated that we would have to travel to the last station we passed through, Rohrbach.

However we continued to sit still and became well acquainted with our surroundings on the train. The car behind ours carried a preteen soccer boys team and their parents returning from a game or tournament in Munich. Much to my and Dylan’s joy the young boys’ high level of energy kept them playing with the doors in between the cars, running through the corridor, and shouting. Our drinks run out and our patience followed closely behind. Eventually Dylan looked at his watch and asked if I remembered an hour ago when he told me we had been stuck there for an hour. I nodded my head in understanding. We had now missed the last connecting train to Eichstaett until the morning.

Soon after, the train conductor made another announcement and asked if any fluent English-speaking person on the train could report to the last car. Dylan and I, bored out of our minds, looked at each other and quickly rose to our feet. Our hopes of being heros or at least having something to keep us occupied were dashed when we reached the last set of doors on the train. A German accented voice came out the nearest speaker and relayed the first message in English to the non-German passengers. We grudgingly returned to our seats.

A second announcement was made a little later that seemed to deliver some hope. The conductor said a new engine was traveling toward us and would arrive in approximately 20 minutes. It would then take us back to Rohrbach where there would “probably” be another train waiting for us. On top of that, the German Red Cross would be on hand to help out and provide free drinks. That last bit of information made Dylan, me, and our dry mouths especially happy. Keep in mind we only ate light snacks before leaving Munich because we planned to eat once we arrived in Eichstaett.

We started moving again at around 1 AM (the fifth hour of a two hour train ride) and quickly pulled into Rohrbach. We left the train in a hurry only to be greeted by around 20 uniformed Red Cross paramedics asking us to remain abroad. As one might expect, few passengers complied and began taking there stress out on the workers. Dylan and I only concentrated on finding the free drinks. After walking around the train station (a simple feat to accomplish with the train station of a one horse town like Rohrbach) we discovered that none were on hand. It turned out that the Red Cross workers didn’t even have a clue about the promised free drinks. Dylan and I looked for an employee with the train company and realized there wasn’t anyone there with Deutsche Bahn. They must have been hiding or they ran away, because the only people at the station were the Red Cross workers and a train load of angry and stressed passengers.

Dylan and I tried talking with a few Red Cross workers about how we would continue on with our journey and none of them could give us an answer. Although I can understand that somewhat seeing as how they didn’t actually work with the train company.
Around two o’clock an empty bus charted by Deutsche Bahn pulls up in the parking lot and people make a mad dash for it. There was no announcement as to where it was going, but passengers knew it had to be going somewhere. Dylan and I found out it was going to Ingolstadt, had luck, and claimed some of the last available seats.

We arrived in Ingolstadt close to three. Outside the station the first train employee of the night was available to talk to about what was going on. However the pattern of the night continued and this man was as disorganized and unhelpful as everyone else. He could only tell us that another bus would eventually come and take passengers farther.

This statement and his lack of real answers upset a lot of people. When being shouted from the mouths of an angry mob German is quite possibly the scariest language to hear. Heck, it’s pretty scary to hear coming from one angry person, let alone a whole group. Dylan and I wanted to argue and complain along with the crowd but the pace quickly sped up above our skill level.

When it died down I asked the train employee who should talk to about receiving a refund for our tickets. He told me that Deutsche Bahn would not offer any refunds because the company was not at fault for this incident. That ushered in round two of the German shouting match.

The trains would resume normal daily operations at 5:30 and we began to seriously believe that we would be waiting until then for our return to Eichstaett.

In the mean time most of the other passengers had been shuttled over from Rohrbach and were also waiting in Ingolstadt now. A little before four o’clock a bus arrived for people needing to go to Nuremberg. A little later a second one arrived for those needing to go to smaller towns in between that city and Ingolstadt. That included me and Dylan.

We finally arrived in Eichstaett at about five in the morning.

We have issued a complaint to Deutsche Bahn and are waiting to hear back from them. Hopefully they will be smart enough to at least refund our tickets.

Saturday was a good day, but I could have done with out Saturday night.


natalie said...

Ohhhhh Nick, let me just say, THAT SUCKS.
But angry German, that's fun at least! ... probably moreso before 1 am and with a drink in hand though I bet. I bet you are really sick of trains now.

I'm glad you finally got to climb the stadium roof! Sorry we didn't have time to book a tour that time - good thing Dylan is cooler than us. :P It looks scary! But in a good way, of course. The pic with the city in the background is pretty awesome.

See you oh so soon, Nicklas!

mc said...

This sounds similar to our experience in Sweden when they cancelled all flights out of Stockholm to Gothenborg and we were escorted to the bus to take us on the 5 hour trip. We didn't arrive in Gothenborg until around 2 in the morning I believe. We were the only non swedish riders but I must say angry Sweds are no competition for angry Germans. Quite the contrary. They sound friendly even when angry!

Nick O. said...

Natalie: Thanks, and yes, it was a pretty fun time. See you soon.

MC: Yes, I think the Swedes might have offered a slightly different show than the Germans.