Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Euro Trip - Stop Three, Munich

So, as you know by now, just over a week ago I was in Europe. 

Since I've been back, I've been getting a ton of the same questions - how was it?  what did you do?  where did you go?  Etc., etc., etc.  To help myself from being on constant repeat, for the next week I'm going to devote my blog to recapping my trip, posting photos, and telling you all about what went down. 

Each day this week I'll recap one of the aspects of my trip.  Enjoy!

Update:  read all the recaps back to back!  An Overview (and how to pack), Stop One - Amsterdam, Stop Two - Paris, Stop Three - Munich, Stop Four - Rome Day One & Second Day Bike Tour, and of course a follow up summary.


My European Vacation - Stop Three, Munich

Having spent two days in Amsterdam and two days in Paris, we woke up on day five of our trip feeling a bit worn out.  And it wasn't just because of the early wake-up call to catch a 7:30 am train.

Despite our weariness, of course we could still pose for a selfie or two at the station.

You can tell my husband took that one because we're not acting like dorks.  Haha.

Anyway, the timing of this leg of our tour was actually well suited to our adventure, as it forced us to spend a good portion of the day relaxing on a train and just having a general break from our go, go, go schedule.  That being said, though, this portion of the trip also made me a bit nervous as we were scheduled to transfer trains in Stuttgart... with an 8 minute layover between trains.... in a foreign country.

Yeah, the idea of trying to rush through a train station we were not familiar with to transfer trains in 8 minutes had been eating at me all trip.  I was nervous about it for sure.  In preparation, on this day (and only this day), I wore my boot cut jeans and my running shoes.  Turns out that was totally unnecessary, however, as our train departing Paris was 15 minutes late and we totally would never have caught our connection in Stuttgart anyway.  Boo.

On the plus side, the customer service agent at the Stuttgart station was extremely helpful, although somewhat grumpy, and got us on the next train without any issue.  When all was said and done, the delay only pushed back our arrival to Munich about 45 minutes, and we actually only had about 25 minutes in Stuttgart between trains - just enough time for lunch.  Hooray!  But it did cost us a trip on the notorious German ICE train, as our replacement was not one of that brand.  Waaahhh!!!

Since our train ride had two legs at about 2.5 hours each, we spent much of our trip dozing, rehashing our trip thus far, and enjoying the sites out the window (when we weren't riding down in a ditch, anyway).  I was amazed and somewhat saddened by how much graffiti there was, speaking of:

Sad to think that such historic culture is marked up by stupid vandals.

Finally, our train arrived Munich.  Conveniently, our hotel was just across the street from the terminus, so that made dealing with luggage quite easy. 

Munich Hotel

As I mentioned in my overview, in Munich we stayed at another Le Meridian.  The room wasn't available when we first arrived, which was no big deal as we weren't in a hurry to use it anyway, so we left our bags with the concierge and headed to town.  Speaking of the room, the Le Meridian in Munich was furnished similarly to our room in Paris, minus the weird hallway and split bathroom ... and the ghost. 

Oh, plus no cheetah carpet - stupid conservative Germans.  Just kidding.

The location of the hotel was a little odd with the train station hubbub and industrial looking buildings just across the street, since it is a somewhat more upscale hotel chain, but whatever.  The noise wasn't bad and I got a solid night's sleep, so in the end it wasn't an issue.

Plus, conveniently, it was just a few block's walk to the famous pedestrian shopping mall.  Which of course I insisted we head to straight away.

Heading Out to See the Sights in Munich

Since we had arrived some time around 2 pm in Munich, we decided that rather than try to rush out and see something that closed potentially at 4-5 pm that day, instead we'd just have a leisurely afternoon strolling the town.  So that's just what we did.

Leaving the hotel, we headed straight to the nearby pedestrian mall.  Unfortunately, though, most of the shops are now populated by chain stores like H&M and Zara, so I was quite disappointed.  I mean, who wants to buy stuff from a chain store you can go to in your own backyard?!

Fortunately, the street fed into a local farmer's market ... and wouldn't you know it, the market framed an open air beer garden.  OK, I'll take it!

Or two, rather:

Well, technically I just drank one, but holding my husband's beer made for a good photo, no?

Since the entire trip leading up to this point had been all about cramming in as many sites as possible in each town, having the opportunity to just sit and relax at a beer garden was fantastic.  Even better was the fact that it was very obviously a local's hangout, and there were NO tourists.  My husband and I enjoyed just relaxing and taking in the sites.

After we finished our massive 1 liter beers, I realized that I probably should have had something to go along with that beer, so I made my husband stop at a food stand just off to the side of the beer hall (you can see the snack stands in the photo above, they were in the green roofs to the right).  Apparently, Germans have quite the appetite, as everything they sold there looked huge.  I ordered the smallest thing they offered - a sausage sandwich.  It was literally three breakfast sausage links, each about the size of one of my fingers, served on a fresh baked hamburger sized bun.  Not exactly gourmet or healthy, but oh well, it tasted good.

After I balanced out my booze, we walked through the farmers market for awhile (you can see the start of the market in the photo above, the white roofs to the left).  I was amazed that there were so many fresh produce options available so early in the spring, but also took humor in the fact that no matter where you go a farmer's market always looks the same. 

We spent quite a bit of time just wandering around and checking things out before we headed back to the hotel to get our room, which was finally available.  There, we enjoyed some free wi-fi and checked out our options for dinner.  Which, of course, HAD to be at the famous Hoffbrau House:

Hoffbrau House is a traditional German beer hall, which meant free for all seating, good beer and standard but tasty German fare.  I ordered the cheese spatzel and the brat with kraut, and my husband had the schweinshaxe (I think anyway, I don't remember 100% if that's what it was called, but I know it was some sort of pork served on a bed of gravy and came with a softball sized potato dumpling).  Since we had lighter beers at the open air beer garden, we opted for a slightly darker "dunkle" beer with dinner.

We lucked out at a 4 top table so we ended up having a fairly quiet dinner with just the two of us, as opposed to many who were crammed next to strangers at long, picnic style tables.  We were also just across the way from the beer tap, which was amazingly impressive.  You know a digital beer tap this large means business:

For "dessert", before we closed our tab, we ordered one more liter to share - this time, a radler, which is a blend of beer and lemonade.  We chose to pay the 0.40 Euros extra to get the radler made with the seasonal wheat beer, and it was really fantastic tasting.  I found myself yearning for that the rest of my trip.

The next day, since we had a relaxing evening the day prior, we decided to throw caution to the wind and go on a suburban Munich adventure.  But not until we took a minute to experience the chiming of the Glockenspiel, of course.  Once the chiming stopped, we hopped a metro train that took us 20-30 minutes out of central downtown, and then walked about 10 minutes to get to the Schleissheim Palace (also known as the summer palace for the royals, built in the 1700s).  It was absolutely spectacular, even more so because we were the only tourists in the building for the entire duration of our visit.



Just to put the size of this main entry stairwell in perspective,
I am standing at the top center balcony in this photo.



And to think this was just their summer home.  And it wasn't even properly furnished, since many of the pieces had been lost or sold over the years.  The wealth.  I can't even!

Since there were no crowds to slow us down at the palace, we got through much more quickly that we anticipated, so we hopped another train towards the Munich BMW plant.  Unfortunately the tours were all booked for the day, so we just walked through the visitor's center and gift shop.

Just across a pedestrian bridge from the BMW plant was the Olympic Park Munich built in the 1970's, so we headed there next to check it out.  Since my feet were starting to get the best of me, at the park we both just enjoyed just sitting peacefully on a bench near the central pond of the park and watching the waterfowl.  As we sat, I was amazed to see the traffic in and out of the buildings - they are still being used for sports training and recreation today. 

Eventually we walked the edge of the pond, since we realized they had some sort of "walk of fame" built into the cement starting in the early 2000's.  I suppose they had to keep a complex built in the 1970's relevant somehow ... but the celebrities with spots there - talk about blast from the past.

Somehow, after we finished up our visit to the BMW plant and Olympic Park, we ended up back in the neighborhood surrounding the Hoffbrau House.  Since we didn't want to deal with the tourist rigmarole there again, we chose to have a beer on the patio of a nearby café.  A bit later, we ended up having dinner at a restaurant off the beaten path of the pedestrian mall near our hotel.  I'm not embarrassed to admit I ordered another entrée there that included cheese spatzel.  At least I started my meal with a spinach soup, that counts for something, right?

With our trip winding down in Munich, it was time to prepare for our grandest adventure yet - a night train to Rome!

The above wasn't the exact train we rode, but I took a photo of it just to demonstrate how large the train stations in Europe were.

This is what the inside of our actual sleeper car looked like:


If you look closely at the first two photos, you'll notice just under the upper bunk there is a metal plate on the wall (near the window).  This is actually a slider that allows the bunk to drop down so that a third bunk can be extended from the ceiling.  The yellow wall in the last two photos is where the third bunk is stowed, with the head rest for that bunk holding a pillow just above the water bottle and pillow of the 2nd bunk.  In addition to three bunks in that tiny room, there was also a small vanity cupboard with a sink, which you can see just to the left of the window.

This compartment, made for up to three people, was NOT spacious.  When I sat on the lower bunk and extended my arms perpendicular to the bed, I could touch both walls of the room without even straightening out the bend in my elbows. 

Yep, it was tight quarters that night.  But who cares!  Our next stop was coming - ROME!

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