We flew coach on NWA/KLM from Portland, Oregon to Amsterdam and then on to Munich. The plane flight was fine, but we found the flight attendants not to be particularly cheery. We arrived in Munich about 1:30pm. Since by the time we did this trip we were feeling like “experienced” travelers we decided to take public transportation the whole way from the airport to our hotel. This required taking the U-bahn and then switching to a bus at the main train station. We always do only carry-ons so everyone was in charge of their own bags and off we went.
Usually before a trip I listen to the 10-set Pimsleur tapes to learn the basics of the language, but Lauren had just finished German III, so I told her she was going to be the interpreter. She helped us read the directions to buy our U-bahn tickets and we took the U-bahn to the Hautbahnhopf. All was well as we arrived at the main train station where we needed to get off. We all started moving our luggage and getting off the train. I got off and turned around and saw the doors closing as Michael was still on the train!! Oh no!! and we forgot to go over the rules of what to do if you miss the stop!!! We were all banging on the door and trying to get it open to no avail. So many thoughts started running through my head – will he know to just get off at the next stop and wait for one of us to arrive? Will he get nervous? I started to run to the front, luckily a man saw what was happening and ran to the front of the train and told the conductor to please open the doors – disaster averted and Michael came safely off the train!!
Next, we picked up the bus which dropped us off at a stop just 1/2 block from our hotel, Hotel Uhland (read my review here). Our first night in Munich we had dinner at Augustiner am Dom (Frauenplatz 8) located near the Fraukenkirche. To be honest, we were a bit worried about food in Germany (Stephen really wanted to head back to Italy), but this first meal was a good sign that we were really going to enjoy the food. We liked everything, particularly the homemade potato salad, the spaetzle and those incredible pretzels (called Bretzen in Germany). The potato salad in Germany,was consistently the best potato salad ever – practically melts in your mouth with that great vinegar tang. And the bretzen – how do they get the nice slightly crunch outside and soft and chewy on the inside!!??
Munich was celebrating it’s 850th birthday that weekend so there were lots of food vendors and craft booths set up. We had some yummy crepes and enjoyed perusing the craft booths and just beginning to explore the city. Despite what some say, right away we found Munich to be a great city and very charming. Our last trip was to Thailand and Cambodia, and as much as we truly enjoyed the adventure we were glad to be back in Europe!!
We were starting to fade so headed back to the hotel. As we got ready for bed Stephen started plugging things in with the adapters, but then suddenly he blew a circuit and our electricity went out – then the kids called our room and said their electricity just went out!! Now Stephen was frustrated, but I was in hysterics, because I had just seen the movie “Just Married” with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy on the plane, and couldn’t help laughing because all I could think about was the scene in the movie where they just arrived in France, and Ashton tried to plug in the “appliance” without an adapter and blew the electricity in the whole place. Apparently Stephen did not blow the electricity in the entire hotel (although we could never figure out why the kids blew out as well, since they were on a different floor and different wing), but we called the front desk, and after a bit of trial and error things were back on.
MUNICH DAY ONE
Normally, on our first day in a city we would not do a daytrip, but since it was Sunday, and most things in Munich would be closed, we decided it would be a good day to go to Dachau.
We took the S2 train to Dachau and the 726 bus to the memorial site. It was easy to do with public transportation. There was an English language film starting in about 10 minutes when we arrived, so we headed over there first, then entered the museum exhibition. It was very informative, very well done and quite extensive and therefore quite long. We got through maybe half of it, before the kids started to peter out, so we decided to skip the rest of the exhibits and head to the barracks and the bunkers and spend some time in the yard. From here you can walk across the property to the three religious monuments (Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant). They are all interesting and unique.
Next, right outside the gates is the crematorium and gas chambers. Haunting to say the least, despite the fact that this particular gas chamber was never used. Just to the right is a gravestone marking where the ashes were buried of those cremated. Also, markers to show where the firing squad would stand and the blood would drain. All amazing to think of, and realize how close this all was to the town of Dachau. An interesting thing I read which I did not know previously, was that the American soldiers made the people of the town of Dachau come to the camp to make sure they saw what was going on “right under their noses.” Being Jewish, this was a particularly memorable thing for me, and a place I just felt I had needed to go to for a long time.
If I had to do it over again, I would probably do the barracks, bunkers, crematorium, etc. first and then do the exhibition. As I mentioned the exhibition was very lengthy and we were a bit tired by the time we got to the other things, which were actually of great interest.
We took the bus back to the train station, but it was almost 3:00pm and we were starving so we stopped at a small gelateria for some gelato. We took the train back to Munich. For dinner we ate at Andechser am Dom – Weinstrasse 7a, and had another great meal of salads, potato leek soup, ghoulash, beef tartar, schnitzel, fish and of course yummy bretzen!! One note: at this restaurant, when the waiter was putting together the bill he kept trying to ask us how many bretzen we ate (they charged .50 euro each). At first we didn’t know what he was asking – in fact we thought he wanted to know if we wanted to take the extra bretzen home!!LOL! Finally he asked a patron nearby to translate for us. Of course, we really had not paid attention, as we did not know we would need to keep track.
One interesting thing to note about the U-bahn. Unlike other cities’ transportation systems where you need a card to get in and out of the turnstiles, we never once had to use or show our card to anyone. Obviously, there is a hefty fine if they come through to see your ticket and you do not have one, so of course we always did. But definitely more convenient than always having to swipe your card.
MUNICH DAY TWO
Today we started out at the Residenz, the former residence of Bavarian Kings. We used the audioguides which we thought were well done and informative. Next we did the Treasury which is quite interesting, particularly the Crown Jewels. In retrospect, I would have done the Treasury first. The Residenz is quite a bit longer and we were already a bit tired and hungry when we headed to the Treasury, which I actually enjoyed more, but had to go through a bit faster than I would have liked.
For lunch we ate at Blauer Bock (Sebastianplatz 9) a very upscale modern/hip restaurant. It was a bit expensive for lunch but the food was excellent and the service was impeccable. We enjoyed stroganoff, fish and veal. It is attached to the Blaur Bock hotel, but they are actually very different. The hotel has a much more traditional Bavarian décor rather than the modern décor of the restaurant.
We explored and shopped around the Marienplatz after lunch before heading back to the hotel for a rest.
Much of the shopping around the Marienplatz is typical European shopping – H&M, Zara, etc. Not a lot of small locally run shops. We do not mind since we live in a small town where retail is minimal (closest Nordstrom is a 4 hr. drive away), so we always enjoy shopping on our trips. However, with the euro at 1.55 it did put a damper on this favorite pastime of ours….
For dinner we ate at La Fiorentina (Goethestrasse 41), a small Italian trattoria located close to our hotel. We were delighted to be greeted by a friendly “Buena sera” and had a wonderful Italian meal. Our waiter only spoke Italian and German which made it fun to communicate. There is a regular menu in English, but a very long list of wonderful specials is hand written on a long sheet of paper in what appeared to be an interesting combo. of italian and german. We really enjoyed our meal here and appreciated the close proximity to our hotel.
MUNICH DAY THREE
We started out at the Rathaus and took the elevator up to the towers. There was a very nice view from up there, and we had no wait to go up.
We visited the Fraukenkirche
and then it was 11:00, just in time for the glockenspiel to go off.
From here Stephen and Michael headed off to the BMW Welt while the rest of us decided to go to the Schwabing area. What I had read in my guidebook was that there might be some more interesting shopping in that area. We ended up going to two different areas in Schwabing and never really found anything that was any different than the Marienplatz area. We enjoyed a nice Bavarian lunch at Unter Simple on Turkenstrasse, where we were finally able to order the elusive weisswurste (every other time I tried to order it they were already out) which were creamy and delicious. Lauren had a yummy beef consommé with semolina dumplings – which would continue as a favorite throughout the trip – sometimes it was served with sliced thin pancakes instead of the dumplings.
Not enthralled with the Schwabing area we headed back to the city center and explored the Viktualmarkt. We had originally planned to spend some time in the Englischergarten, but while we were in Munich the weather was cool and drizzly most of the time, so we decided not to head over there – something for our next trip.
On the other side of town the guys thoroughly enjoyed the BMW Welt. Hubby loved to look at the new cars and there were apparently tons of interactive exhibits which kept Michael enthralled. The BMW museum would not be opening until we were in Prague, but we would have a chance to go there on our return to Munich before flying home. Guys also enjoyed a great lunch at the restaurant in the Welt.
For dinner we ate at Zum Alten Markt just behind the Viktualmarket (Dreifaltigkeitsplatz 3). This was our best meal in Munich and one of the top three of the trip. Several of us ordered their prix fixe meal which included an excellent veal carpaccio, delicious lobster bisque soup, a wonderful roast duck breast and a plate with a small assortment of desserts. One word of warning, the street is not listed on most maps. I had the front desk at the hotel help us find it on a map and we probably looked at three to four different maps before she took me to this VERY large map they had hanging on the wall – then we finally found it. It is located in a very charming square right behind the Viktualmarket – when you see the Subway (sandwich store) you are headed to the right plaza – a good landmark, but really incongruous in this otherwise charming location. Make a reservation – it was packed when we were there.
Oh, before I go on I wanted to mention that before we left on the trip, Stephen had purchased a Flip Video. It is a new video camera that isn’t any bigger than a cell phone. It takes very basic videos (i.e. no zoom, etc.) but not being too expensive, Stephen figured it might be something that would keep Michael occupied and he would enjoy. It turned out to be a big hit!! So small he could keep it in his pocket, and he really enjoyed taking quick videos of a lot of fun things – and kept him occupied on some of the car trips as he would video us and himself and then he would watch them. I figure it will also be helpful for those school projects when you have to make a quick video. It hooks straight into your computer and you just download it directly. When we saw something cool, we would tell him to “Flip it!!” Of course now, with iphone video not as amazing any longer…
Next up, four nights in Prague – read about it by clicking here.