Ubahn – the network of underground trains that whisks thousands of Münchners around the city every day.
I hadn’t really had any experience of underground trains before moving to Munich. I frequently got the train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh or other similar journeys when I lived in Edinburgh but those sorts of trains are different. On these sorts of trains you can have wonderful conversations with people and have a few drinks with a hen party heading to Edinburgh for a night out.
So the Ubahn is something I use every day to get me from A to B. That’s what everyone uses it for – that and only that. It’s a means of transport and nothing else. People get on.. and then they get off – it just carts people around. They ignore everyone around them don’t pay any attention to anything except their book or their iPhone. But that’s what I think makes it so interesting – this little hidden world underground world full of stories and interesting peculiarities.
It is the most interesting place I’ve ever been in a really non-obvious way. Everyone is on their own little journey. To where? No idea. For what purpose? No idea. And that’s the fun of it.
At home I drive everywhere – driving’s a cool thing, you travel by your means, when and with who want to (unless you’ve been roped into giving someone a lift when you cannot be bothered). But by no means do you get the same enjoyment in people watching that you do on the Ubahn.
There are also some beautiful stations slightly more outside of town.
My favourite part of my day is sitting on the Ubahn on my 15 minute commute to work. A thousand mornings, a thousand train journeys. Commuters are even stranger than the other Ubahn users. The best types are the types that have perhaps taken an extra 30 seconds to brush their teeth that morning and make the horrrendous decision to attempt to sprint down the escalator and jump onto a train when the doors are closing instead of just waiting for the next one in 5 minutes. They then get really embarrassed as everyone on the train has just watched them fail – so they get angry and let out huge sighs or make ridiculous gestures.
The best one was a boy who decided to do this aforementioned sprint and did not make it – however his fingers did make it on to the train before the doors closed. So there he was, stood on the platform on the outside of the train and his little fingers on the inside of the train waggling away and straining to free themselves from the closed doors. He was stuck. At this point everyone started trying to prise open the doors to save this boy and there was even a nun (yes.. this is Bavaria) who was doing the holy prayer. He did manage to free his fingers but he had a rather red face after it.. bet he wishes he had just waited the 3 minutes for the next train!
There are certain rules on the Ubahn, especially in the mornings on the way to work. Number one being: do not talk to anyone else. All sorts of social interaction are shoved.. underground. Unless they have a dog. Then you can complimemt them on their dog. And in Munich, there are dogs everywhere! In shops, on trains.. even in restaurants. Some restaurants even put out bowls of water for visiting dogs to enjoy. One time I even saw a sausage dog wearing lederhosen. Yes, I know, wonderful.
And then there are the sneaky ticket checkers who can be anyone from the cute Granny knitting beside you to the teenage boy chewing gum across the way. It is an effective system to catch people out. But can lead to a sense of distrust.
Sometimes you see people upset on the Ubahn and sometimes you see people smiling to themselves. And you have absolutely no idea why. Everyone is on their own little journey. That’s the thing about living in a city as opposed to a small town, you have no idea who people are or what their stories are. You just have to imagine. I definitely think it must be easier to be lonely in a large city than a small town.
Oh and also to anyone who eats hot stinking food on the Ubahn – I hope you know how much we all despise you.