Close

Last Day in Munich, Here comes Berlin

Breakfast

Breakfast

On our last day in Munich we woke and prepared for the day. Once again, we visited our little breakfast buffet place. After breakfast we walked through central Munich one last time. We bought some postcards for our family, ate some snacks, and visited the Deutsch Museum in Munich.

Deutsch Museum

What a cool place.  It’s a great big museum of everything. Walking through the museum is like reading an encyclopedia. Want to learn about welding, what it is, and a history of it? There’s a section devoted to it. Want to learn about gear ratios and common applications of said ratios? There’s a section for it. Ok, so it might not be interesting for most people, but I had a blast there. I just wish more of the descriptions were in English. [divider_flat]

Viktualienmarkt

Viktualienmarkt

Traveling to Berlin

That evening, we returned to our AirBnB and packed all our things for our bus to Berlin. The bus station was close to the central train station, or Hauptbahnhof, so it was an easy walk from where the subway dropped us off. Our bus arrived a little bit late, but otherwise we didn’t have any problems traveling to Berlin.  The bus was two stories, much like a double decker London bus and the seats reclined a bit further than most airplane seats. I had no problem falling asleep within a few minutes of us leaving the bus terminal. Something about the trip and my jetlag made it incredibly easy for me to fall asleep on transportation, a problem I’ve had since I was a kid.

So Munich and Delhi are now completed. We’ve visited two of the four cities we intended to visit and we’re halfway through our trip. I enjoyed both cities for wildly different reasons. Delhi had beautiful monuments, temples, mosques, and mausoleums. Munich was quiet, peaceful, scenic, and the beer was fantastic.

Day Three in Germany – Nymphenburg Palace and River Surfers

Nicole and I slept in until nearly 10am, which meant I got an absurd 12 hours of sleep. It was grand.  For breakfast we found an 8 euro brunch buffet across from our AirBnB. We loaded up on all kinds of breads, jams, and yogurts before realizing that the rest of the buffet was around the corner. Nicole was already full but I enjoyed some fine meats and cheeses from the newly discovered rest-of-the-buffet.

Breakfast Buffet in Munich

Breakfast Buffet in Munich

Palace Nymphenburg Our Return

After breakfast we returned to Schloss Nymphenburg, the palace near our AirBnB. The weather was agreeable and we enjoyed a walking tour of the palace and a leisurely stroll through the palace gardens behind it.

Nymphenburg Palace was the primary Summer residence of the Bavarian family. It was added onto several times during its few hundred year existence. The palace and palace grounds were neatly divided in several places by an elaborate system of canals. At one time, the canals connected Nymphenburg palace with the rest of greater Munich through these canals. The Bavarian royal family hired gondoliers from Venice to carry them through the canals in the city.

Marienplatz, Munich

After the Palace we returned to Marienplatz downtown, where we’d met our walking tour on the first day in Munich. Near to Marienplatz is a large outdoor food market called Viktualienmarkt. At the market you can get delicious meats, cheeses, wines, fruits and vegetables. We had a beer in the biergarten there and enjoyed a Leberkäs (frankfurt in loaf form) sandwich with a big piece of crackle. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Munich.

Biertour

After our snack, Nicole and I did a mini beer tour of the different Biergartens around Marienplatz. At the behest of our tour guide the first day, we visited the Augustiner biergarten next to the Frauenkirche. We also visited Andechser am Dom, at the suggestion of my friend Rob. Of those two, I would definitely recommend Andechser. It was perhaps the best beer I had in Munich. The beer is brewed just outside of Munich in a monastery. I wish we could have visited the actual brewery, its beside a lake, Ammersee, and supposedly a very nice day trip, alas, our time was short and a second day trip just wasn’t in the cards.

After our lazy afternoon, we went for a stroll through the Englischer Garten in Munich. It’s a large park within the city, similar to central park in that it has a little bit of everything in it. The park is massive and includes everything from surfing to Chinese towers. That’s right, surfing in the park. Along the Eisbach river that runs through the park, there are several places where artificial waves are formed and surfers can take turns surfing on these waves. Nicole and I stayed awhile and watched the surfers hop in, ride for a few minutes, then fall back and let another surfer take a turn.

Chinesischer Turm

Chinesischer Turm

We walked on through the park until we came to our second destination, a giant Chinese tower, called the Chinesischer Turm, or Chinese Tower in German, original I know. The tower is the central feature of a giant biergarten within the park. It’s one of Munich’s largest. Nicole and I tried some of the garten’s strong beer, or starkbier. It was sweet and delicious with a little bit of a bite to it from the higher ABV.  We also ordered some sausages and sauerkraut in the park. The sauerkraut ended up being some of the best we had in Germany.

This was the last full day we had in Munich and it was a great day at that. India was a fantastic experience, but it took some work and planning. It was really nice to visit Munich and just be able to relax. We were able to see a lot of sites, but at the same time, we could take our time and not worry about having to see “everything”.

 

Day Two in Germany – Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein

Nicole and I woke kind of early and took a train to the city of Füssen where King Ludwig II’s childhood palace, Hohenschwangau, and his later castle, Neuschwanstein, were located. To visit Füssen, we took all manner of transportation: a subway to central Munich, a train to Füssen, a bus to Hohenschwangau, and finally a short walk to the palace and castle.

Arriving in Füssen

We booked our tours for the palace and castle for the day and waited for our scheduled tour time. Schloss Hohenschwangau, the palace, and Neuschwanstein, the castle, are available by tour only. You book your ticket for a scheduled tour time and then wait until that time to visit the two sites.

Hohenschwangau Castle or Schloss Hohenschwangau

Before our number was called we visited a local beer hall and had another pretzel and beer before starting our tours. Up first was Schloss Hohenschwangau, or “swan palace on a high place”. King Ludwig II grew up in this palace. It was one of several residences occupied by the Bavarian Royal family. However, this palace was not enough for Ludwig, he desired a palace of his own creation, something gaudy and filled with swan motifs. Enter Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein

After Hohenschwangau, Nicole and I made our way up the steep hill to Neuschwanstein, the castle King Ludwig had constructed. It doesn’t look that much like actual European castles, but it does look a lot like fairytale castles from classic literature and parables. That’s because it was built well after every other castle in Europe. In fact Neuschwanstein was built around the same time as the Eiffel Tower. The castle even had a state of the art, for the time, kitchen. Unfortunately for King Ludwig, he spent almost no time in his fairytale castle. He lived there less than a year before he died. Ludwig was declared unfit to rule shortly after the castle was completed and several weeks later found drowned in a lake along with his psychiatrist. No one is certain what happened, but foul play was not ruled out. Less than six weeks after Ludwig’s death Neuschwanstein was opened to the public for tours and has been a profitable tourist attraction ever since.

Returning to Munich and General German Musings

We spent about an hour on our tour looking around the castle before eventually making our way back down and taking a train back to Munich. It had been a full and exciting day. We saw a palace, a castle, and we even got a chance to see the Bavarian countryside. The countryside itself is fantastic. The little cities we passed through were so clean. Even areas that you assume would be dirty such as the back of a supermarket or a small gas station were spotless. I tried to actually look for litter or trash and couldn’t find any. It was remarkable. Bavaria really embraced solar power as well. Dozens of businesses, and houses as well, had solar panels installed on their roofs.

Back in Munich, I managed to make it to about 10 before finally falling asleep. Jet lag was proving a hindrance to any chance of seeing Germany nightlife.

Our first day in Munich, Germany – Beer and Pretzels

If India was an adventure, Germany was a vacation. After our late night/early morning plane from Adu Dhabi, Nicole and I took the commuter rail into central Munich and transferred to a subway that took us to our AirBnB for the next four days. Our host, Benjamin met us downstairs and let us into the apartment. The previous guests were still there and asleep as it was only 8am. Ben made us some coffee while we freshened up. It had been nearly 48 hours since either of us had bathed since the water ran out in India, and we were both very smelly I’m sure.

Nicole did not enjoy the train to the Munich AirBnB

Nicole did not enjoy the train to the Munich AirBnB

A nice shower, its the little things

After a year of living abroad in Korea with visits to Japan, Thailand, and India, I’d forgotten what it was like to take a shower with real water pressure. Everywhere we’d stayed over the past year, hotels and hostels included, had poor water pressure and I forgot what it was like to have a good shower with enough water pressure to really massage your back. Munich was my first fantastic shower in a year and I didn’t want to leave, but I wasn’t traveling around the world for its plumbing. I was here to see the sites and Munich was calling.

Marienplatz

 

After a quick shower and some coffee with our host we headed back into downtown Munich to take a free walking tour of the city. We met at the central plaza, or platz, Marienplatz. It’s the hub of Munich culture and where many of the cities sites and walking tours start.

On the tour we learned about the Michael Jackson memorial, a famous church in Munich, and had a visit to the Hofbrauhaus, one of Germany’s most famous beer halls. Its odd that the beer hall is so well known. Its not the oldest, its not the largest, and arguably, its beer is not the best. However, that being said, no visit to Munich is complete without a visit there. We each ordered a large stein of beer. I got a dark beer, or dunkel, and Nicole got a lighter beer, or helles. We split a giant pretzel and relaxed for a bit.

Nymphenburg Palace in the rain

After the walking tour we took a train to Nymphenburg Palace and attempted to visit it, but the rain prevented us from exploring the palace and gardens that day. Instead we hailed a cab from the palace and returned to our AirBnB for some rest. I intended to take a quick nap then get up and check out more of Munich but instead fell asleep around 7 and didn’t wake until the next day.

It was nice to be back in Europe. Three years ago I visited on a 3 month backpacking trip around the continent and really liked it. Returning with Nicole rekindled my fondness of Europe and Germany in particular. The city was so clean and compared to Korea and India, so quiet. There weren’t neon signs everywhere and every store downtown wasn’t blasting its own music to compete with stores around it. No one on the street was trying to sell me postcards, t-shirts, or to be my guide. The weather was nice too. It was a relief to be out of the Indian heat. The weather in Munich was cool and rainy.

Krakow, Poland – Europe Day 39 – July 5

I woke up on the train a half hour before me alarm and started packing my things. The bed was a welcome change from the seats I’d previously sat in on overnight trains. I actually felt rested, which was great. In the cabin, I was provided with a sink, closet, and two water bottles and croissants. I ate all of it, and the last slice of pizza from the 4 I’d bought the night before and got ready to get off the train. There were several stops for Krakow so I asked the woman next to me which one was the main stop. She answered in German and surprisingly I understood her.

She said, “I know not where we are now, but the next stop is the right one.” I love the way Germans structure their sentences. The language isn’t poetic, but the word choice is.

Anyways, I got off the train and walked the short walk to my hostel. The weather was a bit cold and it was cloudy out with an occasional shower. The hostel was about 5 minutes from the station.

I set down my bags and helped myself to the free breakfast in the common room. The hostel had both free breakfast and dinner, a fact I planned to exploit as much as humanly possible. After breakfast, I edited some picture and made my way to the Krakow city center. The center of Krakow is built on top of the original medieval city and occupies several square miles. Surrounding the city center is a park where the citiy’s medieval wall once stood.

The Heart of the City

At the heart of the city is a church, cloth hall (market), and a beautiful square. I made it to the square just in time for the city’s free walking tour to start. The tour led through Krakow’s major sites and up to the castle south of the city center. When we reached the castle, it began to rain and I opted out of the rest of the tour and instead returned to the hostel. I never get a great night’s sleep on the train so I often nap the next day.

Salt Rocks!

Back at the hostel as I was about to sleep, I met an older guy named James. He was a former geography teacher from Canada backpacking through Europe.  He and I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon visiting Krakow’s famous salt mines. The mines are a 30 minute trip outside of town via the city bus, which we caught for 3 zloti, about 1 dollar.

We caught the 5:30 tour and walked the 368 stairs down to the first level of the mine. On the walk down, I made friends with some Korean engineers who worked for Hyundai and lived in Vienna. We made plans after the tour to go out for dinner afterward.

On the tour, we walked from cavern to cavern admiring elaborate rooms carved entirely out of salt. Most rooms had carvings of miners or ancient mining techniques, while others just had gnomes or pope statues in them. It was an eclectic mix. The largest room, and second to last was an enormous banquet hall complete with grand staircase and detailed chandeliers. On the walls of this large room were etchings into the salt walls of bible scenes, the largest of which was the last supper.

My Introduction to Korea

From this room, we took the lift up to the surface and the Koreans gave James and I a ride back to the central square in Krakow.  James walked back to the hostel, and I went to dinner with the Koreans.  We ate on the square at a nice restaurant and it only cost us slightly more than burger king. Krakow is fantastic.

After dinner, the Koreans and I said goodbye to each other and planned to meet up in Prague before they went skydiving.

That night, I met two American grad students and we went to the sister hostel down the road for a vodka tasting and pub crawl. Something like 5 shots later, the group was ready for the pub crawl. The crawl started at a basement bar just off the main square. At each of the two tables of crawlers, there were giant 5-liter cylinders of beer with a central tap that we all took turns filling. From the bar, we went to a club and danced til around 2 when I walked home and slept.

Overall, Krakow is amazing so far. Its small, its cheap, its sites are centrally located and well preserved. I would recommend the city to anyone.