Munich - Beer, Castles and Baroque

Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
Trip End May 25, 2007

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Check out all our Munich photos on our Smugmug site!

We arrived in Munich by night train with a full day ahead of us. Before leaving for Europe I had more than one person tell me "Night trains are great! You fall asleep in (insert name of European city here) and wake up the next morning in (insert name of distant European city here)." That sounded wonderful - you save a hotel charge and gain a day to sightsee. What we learned on our night train is that this description glossed over the fact that it is nearly impossible to sleep on the night train. We will admit that we wanted to go budget and reserved a bed in a 6 bed sleeper car, where they manage to wedge 3 bunks on each side of a tiny compartment. You sleep in your clothes and cannot sit up at all once you slide into your bunk. The two bed compartments must be much more comfortable. I suspect that people who love night trains book those.
The train lurches along, brakes squeeling and squalking. Lights shine though the windows at each stop and the worst part is the compartment is about 75 degrees, much too hot for us to sleep well. Two of our bunkmates were a Hungarian couple and even without any shared language between us we both managed to commiserate in the morning about our lack of sleep.
It was actually good that our hostel in Munich did not allow people to be in the rooms between 10 and 3 (for cleaning). This forced us to hit the city instead of hit the sack, which is what we wanted to do.

Munich is a city that is made for tourists. The city decided to rebuild after WWII in the old Bavarian style instead of updating it to the current times like Berlin and Frankfurt. This paid off in the end because it is a city that fits in every tourists mind as Germany. There is a large Glockenspiel that tourists stand to gape at three times a day in the main square and plenty of Beer Halls for both locals and tourists. The city is definitely Catholic. It was the hub of the Counter Reformation and we did not see one Protestant Church (I am sure they are there, but not listed on any maps) However, there are four lavish Catholic churches within a half km of each other in the city center - one Gothic and three Baroque. Most of the churches in Bavaria ranged from Baroque to very Baroque to Oh my God, could you add one more gold plated angel to the altar or would the thing collapse (aka Roccoco)?

While in Munich we focused most of our time on church touring, sausage/pork knuckle eating and beer drinking. One night we hit the jackpot when we took a train south of the city to the Andech Monestary where we went to mass in their church then went to their beer hall and ate pork knuckle, saurkraut, potato salad and drank beer in liter beer mugs. We don't know what part of the pig pork knuckle is but it is crispy, salty heaven. We even ended up sitting next to an older German-American woman and her German friends she was visiting. One of the friends was actually confirmed by Pope Benedict when he was a parish priest in this area (looong ago).

The monastery is quite far from the train station and we managed to share a cab with a nice German man who had walked there earlier that day. While waiting at the station we ran into a group of pilots and a flight attendant from an American airline that shall remain nameless. They were very friendly and one pilot bought Julius a beer. He had climbed Kilimanjaro earlier that year and swore that Julius looked just like his guide (not a surprise, as they would have been from his tribe). We learned that night that it is ok in Germany to take beer on the train. We bid farewell to the inebriated pilots and flight attendant (they were not leaving until the next night so no worries) and ended up having another beer with our new German friend in a bar in town.

Another night we went to the Hofbraeuhaus, which is admittedly a very touristy joint but incredibly fun. We were sitting on long benches, sharing a table with strangers and as the night went on (and the beer started flowing) we became quick friends. One couple was from Italy and another from Brazil, friendly people anyway, and Julius of course had an easy topic of conversation with the men - Football! By the end of the night we were fast friends and we may even visit the Italian couple when we are there.

Of course no trip to Bavaria would be complete without a visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle south of Munich. We went the budget route, taking the train instead of a tour bus. There are some drawbacks to taking the train, and one is that the local trains (which this one was) make countless stops and take a very long time. In fact, it was so local that kids took it home from school. It was a very scenic route, however.

The Neuschwanstein castle is the number one tourist attraction in Bavaria and it was quite spectacular. An FYI for those planning on going - don't bother buying the combined ticket with the nearby castle belonging to Ludwig's father. Not worth the money.
The castle tours run like a well oiled machine as they are used to far bigger crowds than what was there that day. We also saved a few euros by hiking to the castle and it was a lovely hike. The leaved were turning yellow and orange. One woman who was convinced by her husband and daughter to hike instead of taking the bus was not so enthusiastic about the idea. She did make it and we all encouraged her along the way. We even saw one woman who foolishly wore spiked heels. She took the bus but there is a good 10 minute hike uphill from the stop. We saw her later with a fancy dress and sneakers.

The hostel in Munich was quite good and our room was the largest so far. Large because it slept 12 people. The first night we suffered with the stifling heat until Sara couldn't take it anymore and snuck to the window and flung it open. Julius said that a Japanese girl came and shut it 15 minutes later but no bother, Sara was already asleep. One night, a Wednesday, we had no one else in the room. We could not belief our luck and opened every window in the room so the temperature was about 60. It was heaven. The next night it filled up again but we brazenly opened a window before going to bed and no one closed it.

Julius managed to visit the soccer arena while I went on a city walking tour. We both went to the Olympic park and toured that place. It was a very nice space and had a nice soccer arena there as well.

We were sad to leave Germany after having such a fun time but it was time to head to Paris. We took another night train because we were pressed for time. This solidified my resolve to never ride a night train again, even though Julius said it was not that bad. It still required a nap the next morning once we checked in.
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