Boyos are Made in Wales

Tuesday 5th February 2008

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Ever since I can remember I've always had this thing about vibrations. The whirl of a vacuum cleaner or the hum of a twin tub washing machine on full spin would always send me into a warm and comfortable place. Back to the womb I suppose. So when I woke up this morning to a gentle rumble from the otherside of the room I couldn't help but curl up foetally and regress.

I could have stayed there all day sucking my thumb but eventually the dulcate tones stopped and we both got up in time to meet everyone for breakfast. On today's agenda was a trip out to the Olympiapark. The clue's in the name that this park was the site of the 1972 Olympic Games, the 20th summer Olympics, which is now sadly remembered mostly for the killing of eleven Israeli athletes.

A direct U-Bahn line took us from Sendlinger Tor to Olympiazentrum onboard a brand spanking new train with really comfortable ergonomically designed wooden seats, although I spent most of the time sliding off them. I musn't be German shaped.

Stepping out of U-Bahn we were greeted by the spectacle of the BMW Welt building. An architectural wonder, a modern cathedral to German Engineering.

If the Allianz Arena was the Bavarian Mothership then this was its docking station launch pad thing.

It looked so unreal, as if it were still a computer generated illusion, a hologram image of the architect's dream.

Despite its uber-modern credentials I thought its beauty was the rival of any of the Baroque or Gothic that Munich had to offer. It was truly stunning.

To the left stood the BMW HQ tower. With its four cylinder design it looked every bit as modern but it was actually completed thirty six years ago in 1972, just on time for the Olympics.

In the middle was this peculiar egg cup shaped building which one day will become the home of the BMW Museum.

Today however the collection of rare and historical vehicles were "in between" homes. The temporary exhibition had closed last December and the new one wasn't scheduled to open until "Spring 2008".

Whilst I'm not into cars (they do absolutely nothing for me) I do like my history and I was quite disappointed that the museum was not open.

Nevermind, it's a reason to return.

We walked inside the BMW Welt where the aluminium and glass curves continued to impress. I felt like we were walking into one of those developer's models, the ones with little plastic people and pretend trees.

This temple to the automobile could also be justifiably described as nothing more than a glorified salesroom but that would be a little harsh. True but harsh.

BMW's finest cars welcomed us as we came in, so we all walked along browsing these shiny new motors. Some lingering longer than others.

Julie and I were the first to reach the end where we found ourselves in the BMW store. I think our lack of enthusiasm for the vehicular showed when we got more excited over a BMW 5 series peddle car than we did over the real thing! (Although the €289 price tag calmed us down slightly.)

We also got quite animated when we saw a glass cabinet full of toy cars.

©Sonya Jones

My father's a collector of many things and naturally he does have more than an interest in toy cars, but for some reason he's particularly interested in Emergency Services Vehicles.

As it was his birthday in six weeks we got quite excited when we spotted a BMW Police Motorbike, so we bought it on the spot.

As we walked out feeling pleased with ourselves we noticed a dark green limited edition BMW Police car. "Do you think ... began Julie. "Yes he would" I said, knowing what exactly she was about to say.

Despite having already spent ten minutes carefully and precisely boxing up the motorbike the shop assistant was more than happy for us to swap. That was possibly the first example of good customer service we'd received on this trip!

We left the gift behind the counter to be collected later and returned to the reception desk where Steve had been finding out more about the BMW Factory Tour.

I really wasn't at all interested in seeing how they built cars, especially as it was a two and a half hour tour. Julie was even less interested.

©Sonya Jones
I told Steve (a BMW owner) "You know you'll only regret not doing the tour having come all this way". So we agreed to do our own thing.

Sonya and Garry also decided to skip the tour. At 11:30am we left Steve behind and made our way towards the Olympic Park.

This area was known as Oberwiesenfeld and was a former royal Bavarian parade ground. It was also, in 1909, the site where the world's first Zeppelin airship landed. It also briefly became Munich's airport before the Second World War, then becoming a munitions dump during it. It remained a wasteland for quite a few years but the area began to be rejuvinated during the late sixties in preparation for the Olympics.

The futuristic theme continued.

Designed by a man called Günter, the most striking feature was the Spider Web canopy which cloaked and linked the Olympic buildings. Back in 1972 it must have been the most dramatic space age architecture on the planet!

We walked past the swimming pool where Mark Spitz won his seven gold medals and past the hall where Olga Korbut performed her famous back flip on a balance beam. I'm obviously too young to have any real memories of these. I just read about them years later ...

We continued along to the athletics stadium, peering in through the locked gates, looking down to the grass pitch which was in a sorry state.

Post Olympics the stadium became the home of unforgettable moments in English football.

In 1993 little known Norwich City miraculously beat the mighty Bayern and in 2002 England famously humiliated Germany 5-1.

But in it's thirty year history as a football stadium that's not much British success!

Since the building of the Allianz Arena it now seems to have fallen into irregluar use. Which is a shame as it's quite an unique stadium.

In the middle of the Olympic park a large artificial lake provided great views across its water back towards the tower. It's called the Olympiasee which I thought was a touch boastful. It would have been better called Olympiapond.

Surrounding the Olympiapuddle, landscaping the park, were rolling hills that were apparently constructed from the rubble of the war destroyed Munich. The guide book also promised a great view of the city from the top of the highest hill.

Julie noticed my eyes were glancing towards it and said "You want to go up there don't you?"

"Can I?"

"Go if you want. I'll wait for you down here."

So I set off with camera in hand like a possesed paparazzi having just heard that Michael Jackson was up there dangling his child off the edge of the cliff.

It all started so well. I made great strides up the path like an Olympic hill runner but before long I came to a crossroads; and a dilema.

The official path gave the impression that it lead away from the hill as it snaked gradually up. The other path was a direct line straight up to the summit but seemed to be more suitable for mountain goats.

Halfway up I regretted my foolishnes of opting for the goat path. It was even steeper than I had anticipated. It also became quite muddy and I was slipping and sliding about something terrible.

The final third of the climb was even tougher. The incline was near vertical and I had to resort to scrambling on all fours.

It was so undignifying when I finally made it to the summit. Innocent families were sent screaming when their pleasant panorama was disturbed by this crazed fugitive clambering over the safety barrier towards them.

©Sonya Jones

I was far too knackered to worry about what people were thinking. I was dangerously breathless and sweating like a Swede in a sauna. In fact for a minute or two all I could do was bend over double, nursing a stitch and gasping for air with that horrible taste of blood in my mouth.

Once I regained my composure I took a photo of the view (which I wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate) and immediately made my way back down. This time I decided to stick to the safety of the gradual path.

As I turned to look back up to the viewing point to my surprise I saw Garry and Sonya climbing over the safety barriers.

Despite my heroic effort they weren't that far behind me!

We re-grouped at the bottom and continued on our leisurely stroll towards the base of the tower. Along the way we passed a childrens playground.

"I wonder what that is?" asked Julie, pointing to white circles painted on the tarmac.

"Oh, it's where they played tiddly winks during the Olympics!" said Garry.

I couldn't walk straight for laughing!!

We eventually staggered across to the Olympiaturm but before we shot up to the 190m observation platform we had some lunch in a cafe. Despite it's McDonaldesque appearance with its plastic tables and fastened down chairs, everyone really enjoyed their lunch. Naturally (as we were in Bavaria) it was quite a meatfest.

Luckily I wasn't especially hungry although I did enjoy a delicious cake and coffee. Julie was also very content having found jacket potatoes and Sonya & Garry gave the thumbs up for their meal. Pleasant surpises all round.

©Sonya Jones

Nourished and ready for altitude we made our way towards the tower and stepped inside the elevator that zoomed us up to the top in 30 seconds. It travels apparently at 7 metres per second but it didn't feel as quick as the Fernsehturm TV tower in Berlin. That one shot up so rapidly that I'm sure my spine compressed a few inches!

We stepped out and made our way right to the edge. (or two steps away in Julie's case.) It strange but despite being over twice as tall as Peterskirche she appeared much calmer.

The views were worth the €4.50 to get up here and a lot less effort than running up that hill.

The first thing I wanted to see was the Olympic Village.

Back in 1972 this where members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by a Palestinian group calling themselves Black September. Believing to have negotiated a passage out they relocated to a NATO airfield where after a couple of bungled rescue attempts the terrorists ended up throwing a hand grenade into a helicopter that held the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches. They were all bound together by rope. They all died.

The Olympic Village is still partly in use today, not by Olympians of course, but mostly students.

Moving clockwise we could see the whole of BMW world. The Welt building, the four cylinder tower, the bowl with its emblem top, and the huge expanse of the factory.

"No wonder it takes two and a half hours to complete the tour" I said "Steve'll be shattered"

Beyond BMW the city sprawled outwards but there wasn't really much of interest to be seen.

OK, some of the houses looked quite curious and the allotments below us were a strange site but nothing that provoked a "Wow" response.

That was until we looked southwards and saw the Alps. Now that was a majestic backdrop. Wow!

From up here the scale of the whole region was breathtaking. For as far as the eye could see, running from east to west (more or less) all we could see on the horizon were snow covered mountains.

We come from a mountainous region in Snowdonia but this was something far more spectacular.

To the west, in the distance, Schloss Nymphenburg, the summer palace of the Bavarian royalty, stood out dramatically against the darkness of the woods behind it.

Despite it's name no sloshed Nymphs were burged in its construction.

It's now open to the public and is one of Munich's most popular tourist attractions. It is however still home to the pretender to the Bavarian throne, the Duke of Bavaria, HRH Franz, the great grandson of King Ludwig III.

By now we had completed a full circle and were back to where we began.

Before we left the Olympic tower we were loitering in the photo studio (because that's where the entrance to the lift was located) when we happened upon a hilarious photograph of some guy's head super-imposed onto the body of a buxom waitress in a drindl dress carrying six litres of Bavaria's finest. Garry and I didn't need much encouraging to put our face in the photo.

I went first where my acting skills were pushed to its limits. I was asked to produce a surprised face; which I did to the best of my ability. It just so happened to be the same as my happy face, which coincidentally is the same as my "I've just caught my frankfurter in my zip" face.


Garry on the other hand put in an award winning performance with a saucy classic Carry On "Oooh Matron". In fact the photographer was so impressed by his muse that he asked if he could display this photo to the public.

We were all wetting ourselves with laughter. "Oh, it's a shame a Steve isn't here" said Julie.

That's when we hatched a plan. Wouldn't it be funny if we got Steve up the tower without telling him about anything and have the photo displayed on all the TV monitors as we walked in.

And so it was. We retrieved Steve from BMW World and returned back up to the top of the tower. We managed to sheppherd him towards the photo booth and then lured him inside. He seemed quite reluctant to enter but once he saw Garry's cheeky face he just burst into fits of laughter.

Not to be outdone he decided to star in his own photograph but he didn't fancy gaining breasts so he chose the "I've just been pinned to the floor by a leopard" photograph.

His natural talent came to the fore as he gave the perfect "I've just been pinned to the floor by a leopard" face.

Sonya persuaded us all to have one final group photo before we left. Thankfully we didn't have to make a "Woah, what are we doing an the roof?" face. We all just had give the thumbs up.

This I did like a natural despite normally never doing the "thumbs up" thing. Especially since a terribly embarrasing moment when I instictively gave the thumbs up to my cousin who was standing a short distance away.

When it dawned on me that only a few months earlier he had suffered an industrial accident, severing his thumb, it hit me that I had been such an insensitive twat.

Once our photo shoot was over we decided to explore a bit of the tower itself.

There was an upper level viewing platform which, because it didn't need a cage you stop you from jumping over, had undisturbed views over the city. On the middle level there was a small Rock'n Roll Museum.

It wasn't a patch on the Hard Rock Cafe but it did have a working jukebox which was cool. We strolled around the remainder of this level to the rocking sounds of Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd!

From here we found a staircase that led down to an amazing revolving restaurant. It looked at little too posh for our pockets but we had worked up a good thirst so we decided to find a table regardless.

Stepping from the static onto the moving floor felt quite odd although it wasn't rotating at much speed. Once on the restaurant floor it was almost impossible to notice any movement.

©Sonya Jones We sat on the sunny side overlooking the Old Town and the increasingly beautiful mountains.

They had quite a good choice on their menu but we all just had a glass of Hofbrau beer to quench our thirst.

©Sonya Jones

It was incredibly relaxing here, watching the ever changing scenery as we wrote our postcards for home. Before long my stomach began to complain about only having had a cake all day. I was a little famished so it was with some relief they had something without meat on their menu.

They had a tomato pasta. "Can I have one of them, please?" I ordered.

"Er... für kind?"

I thought the waiter was about to swear at me but I then realised what he said.

"No, no, for me. Is that OK?" I was worried they weren't going to serve me because I was clearly over the age of six!

"Do you get crayons and a colouring book?" asked Julie

They did serve me, and I was so glad they did. I ate the kids pasta dish and loved it. The tomato sauce was rich and intense. It was delicious! In fact it was the tastiest thing I'd eaten during this trip.

It took almost an hour for us to revolve the full 360 degrees by which time there was a stunning sunset settling behind the Alps.

For all of three seconds I fought the urge to dash (with my camera) to the upper platform for that perfect sunset photo but before Julie could say "Rumplestiltskin" I was scampering up the three flight of stairs, desperate to get there before the sun disappeared behind Zugspitze.

When I got there I was blown away. I stood there completely captivated, staring at the spectacular scenery. So much was I in a trance that I almost forgot to take the photograph.

Anyway; we left the tower before it got dark and headed back to our hotel for a quick refresh before bouncing straight back out again.

As we waited for our taxi from outside our hotel Garry lurked in the shadows like a 1940's British spy muttering "Listen to me carefully, I shall say this only once. The purple moon is rising over Dover."

It took the taxi a little longer to get us to Am Platzl tonight. The streets were heaving with drunken revellers. It was certainly party central tonight. Now that's more like it!

"Hey look, they're all müllered" I said laughing at my own joke.

I then experienced what all stand-up comedians fear, that 'dying on your arse' feeling when you've delivered a punchline and the whistling wind is all that breaks the silence. The tumbleweed moment.

A little later I tried again. "Look at him, he's totally müller'd"

Still nothing; not a titter. So I gave up on attempting any further Germanesque humour. With hindsight I'm not too sure why I thought it was a funny thing to say in the first place?

When we walked in to the Hard Rock Cafe we were a little concerned because it was extremely busy. We couldn't see a free table anywhere and Steve had especially been looking forward to tonight's meal at the HRC. (He was even wearing his new HRC leather jacket for the occassion.)

The final night of Fasching festival must be the most popular. Thankfully we eventually came across what felt like the last free table in Munich and we quickly claimed it.

I already knew what I wanted from the familiar menu but after scouring from begining to end and back again for a Roasted Vegetable Foccacia and not finding one I had a little sulk.

©Sonya Jones

My bad mood didn't last long though. No bad mood could survive in here, there was a great atmosphere. It was full of happy shiny people in fancy dress celebrating the end of another succesful festival.

One in particular, dressed like a cow, caught our attention when Steve pointed and said "Hey, look at the udders on that?" Hee Hee !

Talking of cows, I had another little sulk when I ironcially found my veggie "burger" to be a little too meaty in taste and texture for my liking!

The beers weren't going down as quickly either mostly because it was so busy. Four deep at the bar meant that queuing was out of the question and catching the attention of an over-worked waitress wasn't that simple. They were certainly masters of avoiding eye contact.

We passed the time listening to the great rock music and playing "Who would you have as your best man?" or "If you had to invite four people to a dinner party who would they be?". My guests were Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes), Gennaro Contaldo (Italian Chef owner of Passione in London), Mark Hughes (my favourite Manchester United player), and Penelope Cruz (but only if she dressed like she did in Volver!)

Our parlour game was interupted briefly when I had a violent reaction to when the rock music stopped and Pet Shop Boys came on. I launched into a rant about how the entire 80's music scene was shit, even tarnishing the musical styles of more credible artists like Def Leppard and Whitesnake!

Steve defended the 80's to the hilt pointing to the superb lyrics of West End Girls as a case in point and retaliated with "Springsteen? I can't stand the man!"

We put our musical differences to one side and moved on from the Eighties Pop Cafe in search of a Munich legend. No ... not Franz Beckenbauer but a small yodelling bar called Jodlewirt. It was just around the corner and unlike Sunday night we didn't spend the entire evening trawling the streets.

We stepped inside to find the bar completely empty but it didn't take us long to realise that all the riotous fun was taking place up a narrow staircase on the first floor.

Single file we all traipsed up the steps to where a heavy wooden closed door stopped our progress. There was one hell of a party taking place on the other side judging by the thumping oompah-pah and bellowing laughter. We were all a little intimidated despite the "Wilkomen" sign on the door. We stood there saying "You open it" .. "No you open it"

Our decision was made for us when a real life Pinocchio opened the door to leave. We took the plunge and stepped inside, slipping into a Bavarian parallel Universe.

We were transported to a wood chopper's cabin high up in the Alps where the entire village had poured into his parlour room. The smell of pine cones and goats was everywhere. It was standing room only and even that was debatable. I worked my way through the throng looking for the bar. Julie, Sonya and Garry were behind me somwhere.

It was very hot and the air was so thick it was difficult to breath. Whilst the smoking ban had come into force last month in Germany it obviously didn't apply to pretend "wood chopper's cabins" in city centre Munich. Compounding the unpleasant experience of breathing more carbon dioxide than oxygen we couldn't find enough space to stand together and were also having difficulty hearing each other talk.

I turned to Julie and shouted "No, there aren't any free tables over here either."

Then this rottweiller turd of a man turned around and said "Ia, no tables, so fuck you"

I'm sure he's a charming man when he's not shit faced. I obviously wasn't about to start a fight in the middle of all this patriotic crowd of merry Bavarians. I would have been skinned, gutted, made into a sausage and my head on put on the wall before I could say "Jerry at 4 o'clock".

So it was quite an easy decision to turn the other cheek and dance my way out to the bouncing oompah-pah.

As we left Jodelwirt Steve was already outside trying to catch his breath in between violent coughing fits. The sort that turns your face purple. The sesspit of an atmosphere in there didn't agree with his lungs at all.

Once he regained his composure we strolled back to Am Platzl.

This was going to be our last drink in our last bierhaus on our Munich trip. So instead of returning to the Hard Rock Cafe we chose the Speis & Trank next door.

We were very glad that we did. It was such a lovely little place. We sat down at a long wooden table and before long an under pensionable age barmaid who amply filled her drindl took our order.

"Look at the udders on that" I blurted.

Another tumbleweed moment passed by. The silence broken only when I took an elbow to the rib cage from Julie.

We ordered beers but Julie asked "Do you have any French white wines?"

"Sorry we only have German wines" apologised the barmaid.

"Oooh .... " she said.

Unable to hide her utter dislike for Riesling, Libfraumilch or any other wine within spitting distance of the Rhine she wore a face that looked like she'd just sucked a lemon and said "I'll have a beer then"

"Funf bier?" she asked.

We all nodded almost with an underlying apology. An apology for my sid the sexist comment and an apology for Julie's slur on the good name of German Wines.

I think we got away with it as she brought our beers to our table with a polite smile. In fact it was the most pleasant service we'd received all trip.

©Sonya Jones ©Sonya Jones ©Sonya Jones

Our parlour games continued including the old favourite of let's put on a hat and have our photo taken game which Steve won hands down with his portrayal of a simple Bavarian pig farmer.

After a very enjoyable evening we left Spies & Drunk and picked up a taxi outside the Hofbrauhaus.

We all looked at each other and laughed when the exact same car that picked us up last night pulled up .

"At least he'll know the way this time" I joked.

"I wouldn't be too sure about that!" added Steve.

As it turned out it wasn't our friend, clueless Charlie the ex-interior minister from Kazakstan, but a local guy.

Now there are taxi drivers and there are taxi drivers and this guy was born to be a taxi driver. He got us back to our hotel along the shortest and quickest route with no fuss, no hassle and with the bonus of a smile.

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