Munich - I have nine hours to kill in a city that Berliners tell me is stubborn and stuck in its past. But since I can't get a direct train from Innsbruck to Budapest, I'm forced to drop my pack and wander the city from 2 until 11 at night.
My expectations are low. Passing through the train station and over some tracks, I step out into the hot afternoon and head for Karlsplatz, which marks the entrance to the city's main pedestrian drag.
Buskers and human-statue street performers crowd the commercial Neuhauserstrasse, sharing their space with big-name shops (three H&Ms in two blocks), tourist kiosks and a handful of Munich's most photographed buildings, including the red brick Cathedral Church of Our Lady, with its twin onion-topped towers.
Every so often amongst the monuments and mainstream businesses, stencilled graffiti and posters pepper the landscape. As I read the city, it begins to feel like there might be a vibrant side to Munich, if I can only find it.
I wander past 18th-century palaces and through quaint family neighbourhoods just north of the boutique-lined Maximillianstrasse.
This newer, well-planned part of the city, conceived in the 19th century, has plenty of green spaces and streets made for exploring.
Fashionable young couples enjoy their Sunday in the nearby Hofgarten, a park with strolling grounds and a performance square. Indie-rock boys play bocce ball.
I can feel the city's vitality. People look happy here, and their enjoyment is palpable. Munich is giving me butterflies, just like a high-school crush.
But I fall dangerously in love with the English Garden, Europe's largest park. Whether you're into public nudity, bike-riding or dancing to a gaggle of drumming hippies, you'll find your place here.
The gay precinct of the park is five minutes from the entrance, the hash smokers mere steps further on. I lie in the sun people-watching and reading the free culture rag, In Munchen, while dancehall and hiphop play on a family's radio across the canal.
When you get thirsty, you can walk to the park's renowned summertime beer garden, complete with a traditional German oompah band playing in the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower).
Beers here are one-size-fits all (a whole litre), and the pretzels are the size of dinner plates, if your dinner plates are enormous.
The picnic tables are shared by tourists and locals, young and old, gay and straight. It's in settings like this that Munich seamlessly blends dated cultural clichés with new realities.
Later in the evening, I walk through the bumping entertainment district of Schwabing, up and down Leopoldstrasse, Munich's Queen West.
Making my way to the south of the city, I stop for a glass of wine near Gartnerplatz, an up-and-coming area of galleries and cafés. It takes about four seconds to realize I'm in Boystown.
My server, a tiny Indian man with a bleached goatee, informs me that we are indeed in the gay area but, more importantly, in "a neighbourhood for artists and forward-thinking individuals."
I gush, telling him how much I dig his city and what an amazing feeling it conveys. He says my drink is on the house, Munich's gift.
Spending this short time in Munich is like meeting a potential soulmate and then walking away. Given a little more time to find its secret spots and hidden gems, it would be easy to truly love this place.
Munich has history and a contemporary pulse, and the combination of these two qualities makes it vital.
What were my Berlin friends talking about?