The long-awaited Daddy & Mady German/Austrian Adventure had commenced! I was strutting out of the customs in the Munich Airport without a map or cell service realizing… wait, how the hell am I going to find him?! Before I knew it, I saw two familiar hands poking out above a sea of unfamiliar faces. My Dad was in the background waving excitedly trying to get my attention. We hugged and laughed, barely believing that we were finally together again, and in Germany!
After eventually maneuvering out of the parking garage, we drove the rental car into the city to get to our hotel, Mercure Muenchen Altstadt (altstadt means “old town” in German). Munich seemed very new and accessible to me: the updated buildings, the nice hotel, and the familiar company of course. I knew that this trip would be unlike any other of my European travels.
We got into the hotel and went to walk around the city and I was surprised at everything I saw… gorgeous, old baroque buildings, Christmas markets, delicious food vendors in the street, so much character and history! We wandered around the Marienplatz, the main plaza by the giant, gothic building (that looked so old and intricate, but I later discovered the contrary). We had dinner under that building in a famous restaurant called the Ratskeller, this quirky, romantic maze of an underground cellar. Dad and I ordered our meals and a local German beer to share, I don’t remember exactly what we ended up with but it was delicious, and giant!
Saturday we had ambitious plans to spend the whole day in Salzburg, so we got a good night sleep, and a state of the art breakfast buffet to start off the day. Before getting on the road that morning, we walked around Munich a little just to see everything in the light of day. We went inside a couple churches including the St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche) with a foundation from the 12th Century, and St. Michael’s Church, from the late 1500s.
After we stretched out our legs a bit we hopped in the car and on the autobahn towards Salzburg! The ride was just under two hours, and it was beautiful! Check out this picture of a monastery in the German Alps. Can you say… “the hills are alive”?
~~~To follow our travels chronologically, head to the blog about Salzburg, or if you’re too lazy, or solely interested in Munich, by all means, keep reading!~~~
It wasn’t until Monday (when unfortunately Dad had to work) that I really got a feel for Munich’s unique personality. I took a three hour free walking tour of the city and I learned so much, not only about Munich, but the history, traditions and stereotypes of Germany as a whole.
We started off at St. Peter’s Church again, which I learned that some stones are still intact from the 12th Century! Then we wandered into the Marienplatz to talk about the New and Old Town Hall. The Marienplatz was actually the original place of the medieval trading market; Munich often traded salt (which they called “white gold”) with Salzburg.
The “Old” Town Hall (The Rathaus) is the giant, gothic building that I mentioned beforehand with the Ratskeller underneath. It LOOKS really old, but was actually just made in 1908. Inside the town hall, service people work every day and pass by a memorial sign for the Jewish people that passed away during the Holocaust. The tour guide made sure to tell us that people in Munich don’t try to avoid history, but more so they face it regretfully and teach new generations the truth about what happened.
In the Marienplatz we waited around until 11 AM to see the Rathaus Glockenspiel, a fancy clock with dancing figurines. It is kind of cute, but not super impressive. What is impressive about the Glockenspiel is that it runs on 100% solar powered energy!
Funny story actually. The “New” Town Hall was actually originally the “old” one, before it got bombed in the Thirty Years War. Despite what most people may think, Germany took a bigger hit from the Thirty Years War than either WWI or II. According to the tour guide, 7 out of 10 Germans died from this war. Now the “New” Town Hall is the white building with a sun dial perpendicular to the Rathaus. So much history in this town square!
We also walked through the Viktualienmarkt, near the main plaza, a smaller medieval market square that is still a market. There are countless vendors with cheese, olives, pigs heads, fresh bread and boxes of wine. Plus, there were samples! Basically heaven… (except for the pigs head of course)
Then the tour guide lead us to a different plaza on Platzl, which was quite possibly the most photogenic spot in Munich, and coincidentally the most “touristy” said the guide (because of the Starbucks I suppose) Right across from the Starbucks however was one of Munich’s oldest and most popular beer halls, the Hofbräuhaus. This place can hold over 5000 people! There have been many famous people here, just to name a few: Mozart, Hitler, JFK, and Lenin. Supposedly this is the more touristy of beer halls in Munich, the locals all go to one called Augustiner-Keller that was founded in the 1300s.
The tour guide explained to us about the stereotypes in Germany: that northern Germany is completely different from southern Germany, and that the attitudes of the people differ from North to South (similar to Spain, which I have witnessed first hand). He mentioned that people in Southern Germany (or Bavaria to be more specific and politically correct) tend to have more of a warm, relaxed disposition, and there are more Italian/Mediterranean vibes compared to Northern Germany.
After that we walked to the more posh, shopping area; the guide describe it as the “Champs-Élysées of Munich”. We passed by the old opera house, now called the Bayerisches Nationaltheater. In the winter of 1819 there was a big fire in the building. The citizens couldn’t put out the fire with water because it was so cold, so they use beer to extinguish the flames!
In the same plaza as the Opera House is a building with bullet holes from World War II. The building was remodeled within the past century, but they decided to leave the historical scars to remind everyone of the past.
We continued into Odeonsplatz, a plaza still in the city center, but north of the Marienplatz. The guide explained to us that the Odeonsplatz has a very Italian Renaissance influence in the architecture. Just take a look at the buildings in this area.
After tipping the tour guide and grabbing a snack at a medieval Christmas market I wandered back to climb up the tower of St. Peters Church and got a great view of the city. Not many people know of this tower, and because of that it still has not been transformed into a tourist attraction. I paid only 1€, was one of the only people up there, and almost fell down the steep, creaky old wooden stairs.
Then I went to an indoor Italian food market and restaurant that I had been eyeing up all weekend called Eataly. I browsed through the products (all exclusively from Italy) for a while and grabbed some pizza for lunch.
Before heading back to the hotel I stopped in one last church, the Asamkirche on Sendlinger Street, one of the most popular shopping streets. It was built in the 1700s. This place is the most lavish, baroque, and flamboyantly decorated church I’ve ever seen. And its literally across the street from a tiny chain hair salon.
After that I felt as though I had sufficiently explored Munich and checked off all of my to-dos in the downtown. So I bid farewell to the twinkly lights, pretzels, gluhwein and Christmas markets and went to pack up my stuff in the hotel to catch a train to the airport.
Overall this trip was really great for me. I was exposed to a new country and culture, which abolished some of my previous judgments about Germany. Beforehand I had thought that Germany was cold, strict and stuck up; I had no interest in the language, history or food. But I was so wrong, it turns out for all those years I had been holding an unrightful grudge against a culture that I never even got the chance to learn about. I really loved Munich, and it makes me want to explore other parts of the country. That just shows that you can never judge a place before going there and that its necessary to travel with an open mind!