It is never guaranteed that following a Serbian man around Munich after midnight will leave you unscathed.
Moreover, if you just met this man a few hours before and in that length of time were in the midst of downing two liters of beer while your cohorts discussed stealing their mugs from that very same establishment. Yet Germany had found its way into the pulsing hearts of a charmed group of American girls including myself as we became one with the merriment of the band, and everyone, of every culture, in that immense, yet too small room.
Our Serbian friend (fluent in Italian, German, and English from what I had gathered in my time with him) spoke of a party being held in his honor somewhere in the city. He was pressed to attend, but didn’t even know the location of the get-together because his phone had died on his fourth liter of beer. Sometime in-between my staring at the last two inches of alcohol still in my mug and an angry German waiter trying to push us out the door, it was decided that we would accompany our new friend.
((This was about the time I lost my phone in Europe for the third time, but it was much easier to find this time than in the Swiss Alps because a very kind waiter tracked me down and delivered it back with a wink.))
Marienplatz during the night was a ghostlier storybook town square with the tourists and tour guides from the day clearing out into beer gardens and fourth floor hotel rooms. Our self-appointed guide led us down into the labyrinthine metro cupping a cigarette between his hands and looking up every so often with a half-smile and the perplexity of being followed by five inebriated American women. I took it upon myself to reach out to him at this point and voice my concerns in order to prevent “any funny business.”
“You know that movie with Liam Neeson?” I asked him, unsure if he knew much about American* actors.
“You know the movie Taken?” I asked, holding firmly to his arm for support, and so he knew I was completely serious in this moment. My head was speeding through every kidnapping scenario imaginable, and my body was electrified with adrenaline.
He erupted in laughter, assuring me that he was not about to “take” any of us, but nevertheless I continued to repeat that same series of questions until we exited the metro three stops over in a club district and I was able to breathe in another round of the Munich nightlife.
The bars along the street were numerous. The corner light ahead, shining bright green for the pedestrians to walk, depicted two male figures holding hands, while the red depicted two females. My friend had the stroke of genius to take pictures of these street lights, but not the foresight to take a picture of the street’s sign in case we ever wanted to find our way back to this hazy-memory part of Munich.
Standing prominently against the white buildings were black doors emitting sounds of raucousness, neon light waves, and strong odors of sweat, alcohol, and cigarette smoke. Our unpaid, unlicensed guide ushered us towards one of these doors with two bouncers standing on either side. A quick glance by them into my purse for any weapons and one side step away on my part into the building later, I finally realized we were in a gay nightclub.
The club was fun, but I was more than tipsy and trying to process every move I made along with the power dynamics of the room. Our new friend had stolen out of the venue without so much as a goodbye which left us looking at each other for a few uneasy minutes. “It’s okay. We don’t need him. We can figure our way home ourselves” was repeated a few times in my direction for reassurance. I could see the four, soft girls in front of me slowly raising their hackles and readying themselves to pool resources, confidence, and brain cells in order to come up with a plan as to get home. Luckily for us, as quickly as he had slipped out of the room, our tall, dark and handsome friend slipped stealthily back inside after participating in a much-needed smoke break. We began to lower our guards once more.
Out in the open air once more, the idea of sleep called us home. Our friend walked us down into the depths of the metro, and tried to get it through our heads that we were “getting off at the third stop. Do you understand? Are you girls listening?”
“What’s your name anyways?” I ask him, cutting him off from trying to repeat his same directions.
He gave me a quizzical look, and teasingly replied, “Haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve said all night? I’ve told you three times that my name is Miro.”
We left Miro in the metro around 2 AM, and were able to make it to the hostel right before the sky opened up causing rain and thunder to swallow Munich whole until dawn. The next morning, I heard the laugh-inducing stories of fellow travelers having to run through the rain at 3 AM, as well as others getting lost in the Metro system for over an hour.
I felt as if I better understood Germany after this night. I felt connected to my travelling companions after sharing an experience together in this foreign city. Germany was not the first country previously on my bucket list, but now it stands in the forefront of my mind after charming the nightlights out of me.
My plane from the different German city of Frankfurt took off back to San Francisco at 10 AM about a week later. I would later miss the beer, the pretzels, the people sitting in circles all along the parkways on a lazy weekend afternoon, the hostel concierges who would eat pizza at 2 AM with us and let us sneak out our second story window to access a patio at midnight, and I’d even the sparkling water.
But on that plane ride from Frankfurt to SFO, I missed home. I missed having a second to think thoughts without 4 roommates around, the idea of Taco Bell, my cat, my father, driving down the street and recognizing what direction I should be going towards..
I missed it all as I do now.
But you’re always going to miss something. Hopefully, it is a good something.
*Liam Neeson is, in fact, from Northern Ireland.