This past weekend I made a quick visit to Munich. It’s one of my favorite cities, and it’s within reasonably easy reach from me (about four hours per train). I do need to find a way to find discount train tickets, though!
The first thing I meant to do after I dropped off my bag at the hotel was to find an electronics store I had been to as a child and see what they were selling these days — assuming they were open. Instead I stepped out of the local train into a mass demonstration against the new police powers act. I have to say that seeing such civic involvement to defend people’s privacy and rights was quite emotional. Good for you, Munich!
Eventually I moved towards a late lunch to the nearby Zum Dürnbräu restaurant. Talk about history; the location has been serving travelers food for over 500 years in the same place. It’s currently asparagus season (here in Switzerland the headquarters cafeteria has asparagus weeks, the super market restaurant has asparagus specials, asparagus everywhere!) Consequently the seasonal menu here also offered asparagus dishes. I opted for a chicken dish, which was indeed very good, combining two kinds of asparagus in a cream sauce. Entrees came with complimentary pretzels, and I added a radler to stay hydrated walking around the city, and since it seemed appropriate for the setting.
The next day was mostly spent at Deutsches Museum.
In short, it’s the world’s best science museum. There may be others that have a bigger collection of a specific thing, but considering the breadth of their collection — aviation, trains, ships, astronomy, chemistry, biology, mining, machinery, computing, mathematics, physics, ceramics and so forth — they’re unrivaled. They have a staggering collection of historic instruments and specimens of a wide variety.
One particular favorite of mine are the classic physics and chemistry hands-on experiments. They haven’t changed much in half a century, but as great experiments that allow you to grasp concepts of physics they’re fantastic. Things like capacitors where you can vary the distance of the plates and insert dielectric materials between them, all the while observing changes to the inter-plate voltage, complete with an explanation of how things are related. Unfortunately many of the classic sections still have rather lacking English translations.
Another favorite are the guided tours. A few of them require registration and an additional fee, but most are free of charge. They range from playing around with liquid nitrogen or microscopy to more detailed walks through specific departments. This time I was one of only two people taking the mining tour through their extensive staged mining section (showing history of mining, and various types of mines); the tour was led by a former miner, and to my surprise many of the exhibits turned out to be operational, as the tour guide operated wagon lifts, water pumps, and excavators. Once more, the tours are usually limited to German.
The second tour was geodesy; here I was the only person who showed up, so I got a pretty personal tour through a number of the items on display, and discussion about local history as it related to mapping and cartography in the middle ages.
The final guided event for me was the microscopy presentation. This had a lot less to do with actual technology, and was mostly about showing interesting things imaged with the museums scanning electron microscope. The presenter was funny and interactive, he took questions and adjusted what he showed based on the interest of the audience. We did get a brief demonstration of the live view and capabilities of the electron microscope with samples in real time, and ended things by preparing a piece of dried moss in an optical microscope, finding a tardigrade, and waking it up. Overall the session was supposed to take less than an hour, but we spent closer to two hours at it, and I was convinced to buy the museum’s book on the topic, as they are actively involved in using their instrument to do research with other organizations in the region, and independent research on their own. It turns out there is an amazing amount of stuff we do not know about sub-millimeter animals.
For dinner I stopped at a recommended vegan kebab joint, Erbil’s. Most of the fare was what you’d expect in your average kebab restaurant, except meat dishes were made with seitan; it’s even cooked on a vertical rotisserie. In addition there were other delicacies, vegan lasagne, desserts etc.
For my final day I visited the Deutsches Museum’s new traffic annex. While new and offering a fair bit more space, I was not quite as impressed by it. Showcased were old trains, subway cars, trucks, cars, and motorcycles, but I felt like there was not as much information on some of the topics as I would have liked. Their selection of bicycles, I have to mention, was quite impressive, from the earliest to modern, including a reproduction of a traditional bicycle workshop. As the main museum is undergoing renovations, expected to finish in 2020, some of the exhibits were being moved around; there were a few rocket-powered cars from the rocketry exhibit in the traffic annex, though with next to no additional information. They also had a section of train signals, but with no good explanation on what they meant or signaled. On the other hand, they did have interactive exhibits on hydraulic torque converters, different types of transmissions, differentials and brake systems. The star there was a full-sized 6×6 truck drivetrain with cleverly placed plexiglass windows which allowed visibility into the operation of all the components from engine to wheels.
After the museum visit, I had the good fortune of meeting up with some friends at the Hungriges Herz bistro, followed by ice cream at True & 12.
Overall a great way to spend a few days.