Munich was our only stop in all of Germany. Which is a pretty drastic change of plans if you consider that we were initially going to spend the month of July here. In the end, we swapped one month for just four days.
Sidenote: I honestly thought that when we were making this itinerary that the plans would be airtight. More than one person told us that we shouldn’t “plan too tightly.” Pfft. Not only did I not heed their warnings, I actually took the remark to be some sort of condescension. “Oh, really! Well, I will plan as tightly as I like. Thankyouverymuch.” As it happens, I was very wrong on this particular point. Something I realized after approximately two weeks of travel.
Well, anyhow, our regrettably short stay in Munich got an unfortunate start when we arrived at München Hauptbahnhof (the main station) exhausted and sweaty from a particularly uncomfortable night of travel. Honestly, just getting into our places in the sleeper car was an ordeal. And things didn’t go much better once we were settled. The details are gruesome, but I’ll save it for another day. Suffice to say, we didn’t arrive fresh as spring daisies but more like whatever the opposite of a fresh spring daisy is… We arrived dismal as autumnal crabgrass. (That’s a thing, yeah?)
I wish I could say that it got better from there. But when it’s hot as Hades, and you’re operating on a small amount of restless slumber, the day simply does not get better. And, so… I may have, kind of, sort of, almost, threatened to breakup with Chris and book a ticket straight back to the States. But then I went to sleep and woke up the next morning and everything was different. (Sleep, huh?)
So here’s the thing I learned – Munich is a wonderful city
In an effort not to make the same mistake as we did in Stockholm, we probably went a bit overboard on researching things to do. And Munich is a fairly big city – there is a lot to do. Too much to do in four days, actually. Prioritization is key when visiting such a bustling city for such a brief amount of time. At a certain point I think you just have to promise yourself that you’ll return. And maybe you should kick yourself for not staying longer.
The true highlight of our time in Munich was the English Garden (Englischer Garten) and its so-called “Ice River.” During those sweltering 95F (35C) degree days, this place was a blessing. Near Haus der Kunst on the southern side of the English Garden, the Eisbach river creates a standing wave. Surfers line up year-round to take full advantage of this serendipitous geo-engineering structure. (It was built in the 1970’s to weaken the river’s flow.) While we were there, though, the rest of the river was quite popular with anyone trying to escape the heat. After hopping into the icy cold river, we were treated to 20 or so blissful minutes of floating. It was a high-speed lazy river flowing the middle of a major European city. The whole thing was basically a classed-up waterpark. We returned to the park three out of our four days in Munich. (Just a little heads up: don’t be too surprised if you see some naked bodies lounging around the English Garden on warm summer days. The Müncheners do enjoy their nude sunbathing.)
(Tip: If you plan to visit Munich in the summer time and do this, bring or buy water shoes. Walking back to the starting point over rocky park paths is not so much fun.)
Most museums are just one euro on Sundays. Lucky us, we just happened to be there on a Sunday, so we were able to enjoy a few. Our favorites were the Deutsches Museum (more on that next) and the Museum Brandhorst, an outstanding little museum which exhibits a tremendous collection of modern and contemporary art. The Brandhorst is just the right size for a leisurely afternoon – not so big as to be overwhelming and not so small that you can breeze right through. It has a really nice assortment of pop art, including a few Warhols. Most impressive, however, is their collection of pieces by American painter, Cy Twombly. We especially enjoyed the permanent installation of Twombly’s monumental “Lepanto.” This series of 12 canvases looks back to one of the most important naval battles of early modern history, the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. The vast white room, which houses the series, was built and arranged according to the artist’s instructions. We were so glad to have stumbled upon this museum – it is definitely a must for modern and contemporary art enthusiasts.
The smell of meat seems to hang in the air around central Munich, if that tells you anything about traditional Bavarian cuisine. So, as vegetarians we limited most of our meals to the home-cooked variety. But seeing as how Munich is the capital of Bavaria and Bavaria is also known for their cake making skills, we most definitely indulged our sweet tooth. A great recommendation from TripAdvisor was the Cafe Luitpold. With a wide variety of cakes and other sweet treats, this place is perfect for sampling the best of Bavaria’s dessert offerings. If you’re feeling extra fancy, make sure to stop by Dallmayr, a well-known luxury delicatessen and food store with a cafe on the top floor. The decor may be better suited to royalty (in fact, they used to count 15 royal and noble households in Europe as some of their longtime customers), any old smelly tourist can drop by for a bit of cake and coffee. (They let us in anyway and some of us don’t hold up very well in the heat.) And we can’t forget to mention the Viktualienmarkt, a fruit and veggie market in the city center. A lovely place bursting with color and activity and a generally great place to stop for a snack or a cold stein of beer. Best grocery stores: Aldi and Lidl are you best bet for affordable items when staying-in for dinner.
Munich is a city renowned for its architecture, so just a small walk around the city will provide many photo-worthy sights. We followed a self-guided TripAdvisor walking tour to check out many of Munich’s major highlights. You can also visit the home of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games while in Munich. We had a quiet stroll around Olympiapark, which now hosts many public events, especially in the summertime. Obviously, as home to Oktoberfest, Munich has a great number of beer gardens and beer halls. Walk three blocks in any direction in central Munich and you are bound to find one. For a little taste of history, check out Hofbrauhaus, one of Munich’s oldest and most famous beer halls, and that was once used as a Nazi meeting location. Finally, no visit to Munich is complete without witnessing the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Located in northern end of Marienplatz, this feature of the Neues Rathaus (building of the city government), is sort of like an enormous and intricate cuckoo clock. With 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, the glockenspiel chimes everyday at 11 AM to re-enact two stories from 16th century German history. Peep our video below to see this overgrown cuckoo clock in action.
In the end, four days was definitely not enough time to see all of Munich and it most definitely was not enough time to experience Germany. We’ve accepted that some places just take a trip of their own. Obviously we will just have to come back.