11 September 2008

The Story of Four Strollers

In Munich, without a car, you depend wholly on walking and public transportation. The quality of public transportation here is so high, that you can get from almost any point to another point via a complex web of trams, buses and trains. If you have a small child, a stroller becomes essential to life. You will likely depend on this form of transportation until your child is three even four years old, possibly even longer. You will use your stroller until your child has the stamina and speed to keep up with you for approximately 1 mile or 2 km stretches.

Purchasing a stroller in Munich is much like purchasing an auto, you need to consider your needs before shopping for the perfect stroller. What kind of terrain will you be crossing? Will you be need to go up and down stairs, will you have a lift(elevator)? Will you be riding the bus/tram/train with the stroller? Will you ever have to carry the stroller with child inside? Is the stroller for an infant or child? How many children do you want to put in the stroller? What kind of storage space will you need below the stroller? Will you be walking, jogging, grocery shopping or going to festivals with your stroller? Where will you park your stroller? Finally there are the amenities to consider, cup holders, one hand steering, location of breaks, adapters for car seats, rain covers, mosquito nets, diaper bags designed specifically for the storage, size of wheels, number of wheels, and believe it or not even sound systems.

So the last time we lived in Munich (Munich Part I), we discovered Kindermarkts, second-hand childrens markets held at various times through out the city in churches, city parks etc. Being the poor students we were, excited about the money we were going to save, we went to our first Kindermarkt. The first mistake we made, was arriving late in the morning. Veterans of Kindermarkts know that the early bird gets the worm. The second mistake we made, was not doing any research or asking any of the Questions, so we had no idea what we were looking for. The third mistake we made was buying impulsively (much like we bought our last two houses).

Very proud of ourselves for the money we saved, we took our stroller home. We got home only to realize that the fabulous shocks on the stroller, made it impossible to get up the three stairs in the lobby to the lift. If I pushed down on the handle bar to lift the front wheels, the wheels stayed on the ground. If I lifted up on the handle bar to raise the back wheels, the wheels stayed on the ground. $%*&, this was not going to work. Between the two of us, we were able to take the stroller and park it in our basement storage area, until we decided what to do with it.

We needed to find another stroller. So, Paul asked around at MIPLC, where to find some baby stores in Munich? The staff recommended Schlichting on Weinstr. near Marienplatz. It was only the most expensive and overpriced baby store in the whole of Bavaria, though at the time we didn’t know any better. When we looked at the price tags, we fell over. There wasn’t a stroller there for less than € 700, unless you counted the umbrellas strollers, which were still a good € 6o and not suitable for a new born. And the cribs were insanely priced as well. Having a baby was going to be very expensive in Munich, how were we going to be able to afford this? We left this store sticker shocked and depressed. Our baby was going to have to sleep in a box, wear hand stitched clothes sewn out of my old clothes, and we’d have to carry the baby everywhere we went.

Internet to the rescue! Surly I could find something online more in our price range. I searched on Ebay.de. The first mistake we made was not translating every word in the descriptions. The second mistake we made was not finding a model of the stroller in the store to a) compare prices, and b) be able to test drive it. The third mistake we made was buying impulsively (do you see a trend here?). So we ended up buying a second-hand Mutsy Urban Rider jogger complete with hard bassinet, chair, two different hoods, a warm weather cover for the bassinet, attachments for a car seat, and a fußack.

A fußack (sounds like feuss-sack) is essentially a warm and fuzzy sleeping bag that fits into the stroller chair to keep babies warm in cold weather, very necessary when your stroller is your main transportation in Munich. All of this was less than half what it would have cost brand new (if they still sold this model, which they hadn't for several years). The canvas materials were perfect, practically new, couldn’t tell at all that it had been used. The wheel spokes were corroded, not badly enough to compromise the strollers integrity, but an eye sore.

The hand break was broken, not a big deal, since I wasn’t really planning on going jogging, but would have come in handy on some of the big hills in Olympia park. The brakes on the wheels were bent out of wack, and didn’t actually fit into the wheels, so they were ineffective especially on the crazy turns of Munich bus drivers, but of course I didn’t realize this until after I almost lost the baby and stroller and took a row of people out on the bus. My husband and father later fixed it with a hand wrench.

The stroller had the option to pivot, but not on the front wheels, but the back wheels. This was awkward and difficult to control in tight situations, so we ended up keeping the pivot locked and wrestling with the stroller to get it to turn. It was much heavier than the strollers currently on the market, but with the big pneumatic tires it was still manageable to climb up the stairs. The storage underneath was adequate, but not great. The folding mechanism was really difficult even after we figured out how it works. And finally, the stroller was huge, making it very difficult to manage in the aisles of grocery stores and trams, it didn‘t fit into all lifts, and Max and I almost bit it on a narrow escalator in a local department store. Imagine the looks on the German middle aged women, when I almost catapulted my 6 week baby out of the bassinet.

Never-the-less, after € 300 invested into two strollers, I had to live with the Mutsy, and I got used to it. It was great on all terrains. I could part crowds of people like the Red Sea, and when we returned to the States, it was perfect. I had my car, and the only time I needed the Mutsy was for Buggy Busters, an exercise class in the park.
Fast forward to Munich Part II. My dear and darling husband, Paul, moved to Munich ahead of us, leaving Max and I to tie up all the loose ends in the States. This also meant that I was alone on the eight hour flight to Munich with a sixteen month old (who by the way isn‘t yet walking), our dog Asia, her crate, a car seat, three suit cases, and a stroller. I decided to nix the stroller, and opted for the Kelty carrier instead, packing the stroller in the container to be shipped to our door step in Munich. However, I soon realized, with the travel time it took for the container to get to the docks and be loaded, the container ship to sale to Northern Germany, and then to be driven down to Southern Germany, where we lived, that we were talking several weeks, possibly months in Munich sans stroller. This was not going to work. There was no way I was going to haul my 25 pound/11 kilo boy around on my back in Munich.

So, I decided to purchase an umbrella stroller, easy to travel with. I was able to fold it and throw it up on a top of a luggage cart. At the airport, after only a few bleary hours of sleep, with a very tired Max in the Kelty, I managed to inch my way towards customs by taking turns pushing the two luggage carts 10 meters at a time. Luckily a really nice person offered to help me to customs after I was half way across the floor, and afterwards a customs official took me out to meet Paul. I was really glad that I didn’t have the Mutsy with me too.

Ahhh, we’ve arrived in Munich, now all we have to do is suffer the umbrella stroller until the Mutsy gets here. The cobblestones are beating it up, the wheels are about to pop off, and I have to lift it over curbs, but it’s temporary. Oh, but wait, what’s this? Paul has rented our apartment for us ahead of time, but didn’t think to make sure it would accommodate our stroller. The are seven steps up to the lift, ten steps down to the basement, the lift is too small for the Mutsy, and we live on the fourth floor. Nor did he realize that there are no escalators or lifts at the local train station, meaning I have to carry the stroller up about 30 steps, or ask in my broken German for someone to help me. When I found this out (the hard way, by trial), I called Paul about to cry. As luck would have it escalators and lifts are being added to our train station, but not to our apartment building. Nor is there any convenient place to store the stroller near the front door of the building.

So here are our options, I could store the Musty in our parking spot, but we’re renting it out to someone else. I could store the Mutsy in the bike room off of the parking garage and go through the garage door. Then I can run the grocery bags and other shopping through the garage, into our building, leave the groceries next to the basement lift, run back to the stroller get Max, run to the… oh wait, $%*&, that’s not going to work either. So I guess our other option is to invest in our fourth stroller.

So, this time, oh no, we’re not making any of the mistakes we made with our first two purchases. We have spent many days visiting every store in the city that sells strollers, sometimes twice. We’re asking all the questions and measuring the strollers up, down, backwards and forward, and hopefully this time we’ll get the perfect stroller. Since we eventually plan on having another child, should we get a stroller that has the baby bassinet as well as the chair? We might still be in this apartment, so it would be silly to invest in another stroller, but than have to buy yet another one that will work for an infant. We considered even purchasing a double stroller, but the double strollers are all too big for the elevator. Luckily there is this hand little stand you can attach to your stroller and Max can stand on it when his little sibling comes along.

We think we’ve found stroller that meets most of our needs. It can handle all terrains from gravel to cobble stones. The back wheels are large, so it will easily go up and down the stairs. The base is one of the smallest ones out there, as small as our umbrella stroller, so it will fit into the elevator. It‘s a fairly compact stroller, and it has swivel wheels in the front, so it will handle the aisles of grocery stores and trams easily. It’s only 11 kilos/ 25 lbs., so in terms of strollers this kind, it’s pretty light. It has great storage space, and you can raise the seat/bassinet to add even more. And I’ll be honest the first thing that got me looking at the this particular brand of stroller was that one of the models is wired for your I’Pod so you can play music to your child. Unfortunately the one wired for I’Pod doesn’t have big enough wheels. So, based on our extensive research, it looks like the I’Coo Targo City will be stroller number four. Now we just have to decide upon a color.


Denise said...

ROFLMAO! You crack me up. I love the story of 4 strollers.

The Roaming Southerner said...

Is it silly to say that I had a big sigh of relief when reading this: AT LEAST I"M NOT WORRYING FOR NOTHING!?!?! People here think I'm nuts for worrying about all of this stuff, but you have to! There is so much to consider. Since I am starting at the beg. of your blog and reading on...I hope that the I'Coo works out!

Eram said...

Great post! by a used baby jogger brand jogger from craigslist or ebay... they once made them in usa and are rated number 1 in safety and other areas. Thanks:)

Rita Lee said...

Baby travel strollers are essential baby product used to better take care of kids and also help us to give comfortable rides to babies. There are so many brands and stroller types available in the market but an ideal stroller which perfectly suits your requirement have the following features