We visited a couple of small pubs around the hotel on the first night and Robin was able to try Spaetzle for the first time. Oh, and the beer is great
! We stopped by a grocery store and found my favorite German beer, Erdinger Dunkel, for only 65 cents for a half liter bottle! It was raining during our walk and we ended up getting drenched after leaving the second pub so we went back to the hotel to dry off and called it a night. The next morning it was still raining but we caught the bus and train back to the downtown and walked around Marionplatz, which is the main square in downtown Munich. We went to a toy museum in the old town hall building and saw lots of toys from the last couple hundred years. We also went into a couple of the big beer halls to see what they were like (and of course try the beer). The Hofbrauhaus was the larger of the two halls and we estimated that it could seat around 6,000 people. Possibly because of the rain, the Hofbrauhaus was very busy. They had a live polka band there wearing the obligatory lederhosen and giant plates of pork with dumplings were everywhere. We ordered a couple of beers to nurse so that we could avoid going back out into the rain and it turns out that when the stein is 1 Liter, you can nurse a single beer for a very long time! We ended up getting hungry about half way through the beer, possibly due to all the lifting involved in drinking that beer! I'm serious, you need to make sure you keep a straight back and lift with your legs every time you want to take a drink. Hofbrauhaus is in an interesting place. It was originally built as the beer hall for one of the early noble families in Bavaria and it was only a couple hundred years ago that commoners were allowed in
. They keep 120 tables reserved for their regular patrons and they have lockers around the bar where the regulars keep their own personal beer steins locked up. It was at the Hofbrauhaus that Hitler started making his political speeches and gathering support in the early days of the Nazi party. He used to tell everyone to come over to the Hofbrauhaus for free beer and while everyone was drinking, he would go off on his rants about what was wrong with Germany and how he would fix it. Unfortunately it would seem that with all the free beer, his ideas sounded less crazy and he ended up with enough supporters that he was elected Chancellor of Germany in the 1932 election.
The next day we took the train to Dachau and went on a tour of the concentration camp there. Dachau was the first of many Nazi concentration camps and was the only one to be in operation for the entire 12 years Hitler was in power. It was interesting to see and hear how Dachau was presented to the German population and the rest of the world, and the propaganda related to it to try and disguise its real purpose. However, it was disturbing to see and hear the story of what really went on at the camp. To people on the outside, it was presented as a comfortable, well run labor camp for political dissidents who were kept in there to be reformed until they were no longer a threat to the stability of the political system…
On our third full day in Munich, we joined a bicycle tour through the city that gave us more of a history of the area and many of its historical buildings
. We found a common theme among many of the historical buildings in Munich. Most of them have burned down at least once, been rebuilt and then were later destroyed by bombing in WW2 and then rebuilt a second time. One building, the national theater was destroyed 3 times by fire and once by bombing. It has been rebuilt 4 times and there is a large hill in a nearby park that is made out of all the buried rubble from the reconstructions. The tour guide told us to take a picture of it because it’s bound to be destroyed again given its unlucky past. Other interesting stops on the tour were the English Gardens which is a massive park in the middle of the city, with a section in the middle about the size of a horse race track that is set aside for nude sunbathing. Our tour guide stopped the bike ride before we entered the nude sunbathing area and told us all that if we want to look at the naked people to just glance quickly while we ride because he has had to repair too many dented bicycle fenders from people gawking to the side while they ride and then crash in to each other. That wasn't too much of a problem though since most of the people who are there are… How do I say this politely? Not very attractive and should put their clothes back on. To help erase that mental image, we stopped by the Chinese Tower which is the second largest beer garden in Munich with seating for approximately 9,000 people. This was a Sunday afternoon with nothing special going on and the beer gardens were packed
! You can bring your own picnic lunch and hang out in the garden or they have food stands there, You can buy everything from fish roasted on a stick to pork hocks, ribs, schnitzel, wurst of every kind and all your favorite side dishes like sauerkraut, potato salad, kuchen and of course a never ending supply of beer. Each bar serves 2 different styles of beer, one style at each end of the bar. The bartenders just keep filling up mug after mug and sliding them to one end of the bar or the other where people grab a beer and head through the checkout with their beer and food. After we were done at the beer garden, we stopped by a man-made river that was built to irrigate the English Gardens. The American soldiers stationed in Munich after WW2 wanted to be able to swim in the river so they built a low underwater cement wall across the river to slow the water down. It worked well but it also created a continuous stationary wave across the river just in front of the wall and that wave is now used to surf on. There were a number of crazy people out surfing this wave in the middle of the city and our tour guide told us that usually 1 person per year will die surfing the wave and we were surprised that it was only 1 person per year. The end of the bike tour pretty much wrapped up our stay in Munich. We packed a lot into 3 and a half days, saw and learned a lot and noticed that everywhere you look, Munich is a beautiful city full of people enjoying themselves, however if you look a little harder, you can easily see a lot of the dark history of the area and the scars from the reign of the Nazi party and WW2.
We arrived in Munich and took both a train and a bus to get to our hotel. Transit in Munich is by far the best we have seen yet in Europe. The U Bahn and S Bahn trains go almost everywhere and the buses and trams go everywhere else. There are at least 25 different rail lines crisscrossing the city, mostly underground and stations are all over the place. Trains for each line seem to run on 5 minute intervals and buses are no more than 10 minutes apart. Even though we had to take a train through 5 underground stations and then transfer to a bus for the last couple of kilometers, the entire trip from walking into the train station to getting to the hotel, including time waiting for the train and bus took no more than 15 minutes.