Sunday, September 15, 2013

Germany Part V - Munich

(For Part IV click HERE)


Our final three days centered around Munich, but before we even got into the city we stopped to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp.  Originally I had wanted to take a guided tour from Radius Tours because I think you get so much more interesting information this way, but we couldn't really get Max's feeding schedule to line up well with the tour schedule.  If you can't take a guided tour, don't worry, everything is documented in English and you can rent audio guides, which we did, for about 7E/pp.  

It's really hard to put into words the feeling that you get walking around Dachau.  You can't explain it.  All I can say is that it is worth a visit to anyone in the area.  Although we don't like to talk about it, what happened in Dachau and hundreds of other places across Europe is part of our history and something we all need to learn from.  Dachau is a great place to explore the history of the Nazi regime because it became the model for all other concentration camps. Visiting the Documentation Center in Nuremberg a few days before really set the stage for our visit here.  


After a visit to Dachau, we headed into Munich.  We stayed at the Hotel Mercure in the old city right near the Marienplatz.  We first dropped our bags at the hotel then went to return the rental car; we wouldn't be needing it anymore.  I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to walk back from the car drop off.  We could have also taken the train, but the walk was pretty short and gave us a chance to explore a little.  

It was just about time for dinner once we got in and Jeremy wanted to check out the first of four biergartens that we would hit up during our stay.  The first place we visited was Viktualienmarkt.  The small beer garden actually sits in the center of this farmers market; sit in at the tables with cloths for full service or without to self serve.  The process is the same as every other biergarten except this one is pretty small.  First you grab a table, then you head over to the food stalls to grab some food and to the beer meister to get some delicious libations.  Here they offered 1/2 and Full liters of beer as well as 1/2 liters of Weißebeer.  Up to this point we had been eating a variety of sausages at nearly every meal (bratwurst, nuremburg bratwurst, weisswurst, etc) so tonight I was determined to get something different.  But alas, I couldn't find the chicken guy, so wurst it was!  

The next morning we woke up casually and took our time at breakfast.  We spent part of the morning exploring the Marienplatz and the surrounding area before continuing our beer garden adventures later in the afternoon.  I was really mesmerized by the Neo-Gothic architecture of the New Town Hall.  It is so intricately decorated and check out this little guy climbing the corner tower.   Look closely at the faces of the figures right near his head.  To the people of Munich this New Town Hall is also  home to their beloved glockenspiel (Center of the building).  This giant spiel goes off every day at 11 and Noon and hundreds of people flock to the platz to watch.  We were one of those people.  Gotta tell ya... eh.  If of all the things you do in Munich, this is the event you miss, don't let it break your heart.  After 3 minutes or so Jeremy and I looked at each other, looked at the spiel, looked at the crowd looking at the spiel, looked at each other again, then left.  

In münchen steht ein Hofbräuhaus

Once the clock struck noon it was time to go biergartening (is that a word?!?).  We first stopped by the famous Hofbräuhaus.  Because we were there so early it wasn't really crowded, but there was an Oompah band playing.  After changing tables a few times due to smokers and other issues, we finally settled down and ordered.  At this point Jeremy said "no more sausage," so he ordered himself some meatloaf.  Well, the joke was on him.  This so called "meatloaf" was pretty much a hot dog loaf.  Yea.  To make this little dish all you have to do is take a hot dog out of its skin, press it into patty form and you've got yourself a Hofbräuhaus meat loaf.  Gross.  But the beer was tasty, pretzels good, and Max seemed to have fun too.  (No, I didn't feed my kid beer, but he seemed to be mesmerized looking through the glass)  

Augustiner Beer Garden

After the visit to the Hofbräuhaus, we walked across town and past the train station to the Augustiner Beer Garden.  There are several Augustiner restaurants scattered throughout the old city, however the big biergarten is out past the train station.  It's a pretty easy walk.  

Much like the Augustiner Bräustübl in Salzburg (similar name, not related) this biergarten is great for a true under-the-trees 
experience.  The weather was perfect, the trees provided a nice shaded area, and the beer was good.  Like other places there are service and self-serve areas, so watch which table you pick.  Here we also enjoyed some liptauer (see right) and chicken.  Yes, we finally found some chicken.  

On our way back to the hotel we stopped by a park to feed Max.  When we got there he was sleeping so peacefully we decided it would be best not to wake him and instead just wait it out... at the Park Cafe... with beer.  We just sat outside and split a half liter, but the inside of this place is really cool.  If we weren't ready to call it a day, and if my body was able to handle more, it would have been really neat to lounge inside and sip some wine.  

English Garden

Our last day in Munich we decided to take it really easy.  We had contemplated taking a guided tour of the city, but we were both feeling kind of done.  Instead we headed up to the English Garden.  This is Munich's equivalent to Central Park.  It's huge and awesome.  You don't even realize you are in the middle of this big city.  As Rick Steve's suggested, we entered the park from the south side at the intersection with the river.  From here you can follow the river up through the park.  There are two reasons to do it this way.

Reason 1: Surfers.  Yes, surfers.  The formation of the river forms a unique wave right at the bridge where surfers gather each day to test out their latest moves.  I guess when you don't live close to the ocean this is the best you're gonna get. I shot a short video you can watch over on my vimeo page HERE.  

After watching the surfers for a while, we continued our walk through the park.  It's such a lovely area and a great place to relax.  It was the perfect way to spend our last day in Germany.  Here's a family shot that we got along the river.

Continuing along the river, brought us to reason #2 for following this path: The Chinese Tower Beer Garden.  I suppose its a redundant statement to say this 6,000 seat beer garden is huge, but it IS huge.  We found ourselves a little seat out of the sun where we could listen to the Oompah band play, watch the crazy Austrian soccer fans, and eat some lunch.  (side note: apparently there was a World Cup qualifying match between Austria and Germany being played in Munich later that night... Germany won... I think). 

After spending the rest of the day relaxing in the garden, we headed back to the Marienplatz.  That night we ate dinner at Restaurant Opatija.  This little restaurant off the beaten path has an eclectic Italian and Balkan menu.  Jeremy got a big seafood salad and I had some pasta carbonara.  Totally not German, and totally awesome.

Before heading back to the hotel, we took the elevator down to the S-bahn to get our airport tickets and scope things out.  The elevator is located right in the Marienplatz which made it very convenient the next morning.  To get an airport ticket, simply use one of the automated machines (the newer blue/gray ones) and check the schedule on the opposite wall.  The S8 and the S1 run to the airport but the S8 is more direct (from what we understand).  Though either way you have to change once.  Also don't forget to stamp your ticket in the little blue machine before going down to the track. 

At the time we visited there was a lot of construction going on so some of the sections were blocked off.  When we purchased our tickets Jeremy took the escalator down to track 1 to scope things out.  What we didn't realize until the next morning, was that the escalator went down to track 1, but the elevator only took you to the main floor (purchasing and validating of tickets) and to track 2.  We had no idea how to get to track 1!  We looked around for a bit, and I'm sure there was some way to get down there, but we were too nervous about missing our train, so we took the escalator.  After having done this a few times already with a stroller, I knew it could be done, but it still scared the crap out of me.  We did have to change trains once, but that was pretty easy.

We flew home from Munich to Frankfurt then a direct flight from Frankfurt to Houston.  Once again we had the bassinet going back and Max did a really great job.  He's a traveling champ and we can't wait to take him on his next vacation.  

We had a great time in Germany and would highly recommend it for anyone considering a trip to Europe.  Traveling with an infant does have it's challenges, but you know, it really wasn't bad and once we were there we were doing anything we normally would have done at home except in a different country.  Yes, we did have to buy diapers and wipes while we were over there, but it wasn't hard.  (though at first we did buy the generic german brand thinking we would save money but soon realized why its worth it to buy name brand Pampers).  I know that Max won't remember any of the trip, but I think the exposure to traveling and people and new places will have a positive effect on him and we will always remember the great time we had.

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