Ahhh, back in Western Europe. There is so much to love abut our time in Asia: the bargains, the beaches, the exotic feel, the climate in what we used to think of as “winter”. But after several months in Asia we’re always ready to think abut Europe again. So here we are again; with a couple weeks between being released from the knee-doctor’s care in Hong Kong and meeting friends in Athens, we looked at flights available with frequent flyer miles and quickly chose Germany as our “shoulder” destination. Our 37th country since leaving the States 26-plus months ago. We’ll start in Munich and then go through Nuremberg, Prague, Dresden, and Berlin before flying to Athens.
(Note: We recognize that Prague is not part of Germany. But if you want to go from Munich to Berlin and have never been to Prague in the summer [me] or haven’t been to Prague in the summer in 30 years [Mark], and it’s kind of on the way and you have the time, why wouldn’t you plan a stop there?)And then, on top of everything else we love about Europe, the exchange rate is fabulous now, nearly 20 percent below what it was when we were here last summer. Imagine getting a 20 percent discount on everything you buy – hotels, meals, clothes, subway & museum tickets. It’s a pretty good time to be here. And the weather! By the time we got out of Honk Kong & Shenzhen the heat was brutal; you just didn’t want to go outside at all after maybe 9:00 AM. We caught Munich at the tail end of a heat wave, but after one day of 90-plus temperatures a nighttime storm moved through and the rest of the time was delightfully cool.
Now, to be certain it’s not perfect here. Perfect would require mouthwash bottles that aren’t child proof, like they have in China. But when that’s your biggest complaint you’re probably doing OK. And when there are so many jokes to make when the town hall is called a rathaus and signs tell you to have “ein guten fahrt”, I mean, can it get better?
There we are, then, in Munich after five months in Asia, most of it in China. What does an adventurous couple do with their limited time? Well, for the most part try to recover. Mark’s knee. Jim’s ongoing tummy troubles. A cold that Mark caught and oh-so-generously shared with Jim. Actually, I was doing pretty well for most of the time in Munich. Well enough that three mornings in a row I was up early to do a five-mile run along the Isar River, along a gorgeous stretch that could have been in the middle of the country. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the stomach issues returned with a vengeance.
So back I went to a doctor – a sophisticated German doctor this time, not some dubious Chinese doctor – who said … well, pretty much the same as the Chinese doctor. It can take weeks, he assured me, for your stomach bacteria to readjust after a significant disturbance. And you might think it’s doing just fine for a few days but it’s still unsettled. Two amusing things about the visit. One, he prescribed both an antibiotic and a probiotic. Seems counterintuitive, but as he put it we want to kill the bad stuff and support the good stuff. Sort of like our war in Iraq, without, you know, all the bad parts. And then, the part about paying him? I saw the doctor on a Friday afternoon in July when everyone was trying to get the hell out of the office and out to play for the weekend. He took time to talk to me, asking all the right questions, prescribed my competing biotics, and when I went to the front desk they told me they really had no means to collect anything from me.
Yeah, I love health care in Europe. Of course, health care in the U.S. ain’t so bad these days, either. I saw this graph a few days ago and just can’t get over it. Stupid Republicans (redundant, to be sure) say Obamacare is a total failure. Yeah, like a drop of over a third in the share of people without health insurance is just an accident or something.
OK, so that’s our time in Munich. Beautiful architecture, great sausages, some time with friends, a few fabulous runs, great weather, a couple cool museums, and lots of time doing not much but trying to get healthy. Not a bad start for a few months back in Europe. Now it’s off to Nuremberg.