Exploring the Bavarian Capital

The first morning in Munich begins with me taking one of Natacha’s suggestions from her little notes and heading for a place called “München 72”, which she promises does great breakfasts. I went by myself because Lucie needed time to wash, dry and straighten her hair, a triple combo which would certainly turn me into the Incredible Hulk if I attempted to wait for her. The breakfast cafe was cute, decorated in 70’s fashion and the friendly girl who served me looked like a German version if Sarah Jessica Parker. A promising start to my stint in Munich!

A savoury breakfast and black coffee later, Lucie joined me and I had another round of caffeine injection in what turned out to be the longest brunch of my life.

Lucie’s time in Europe was coming to an end and she needed to secure her flights to go home. The flight she was trying to book online would not accept any of the cards she tried, which were two of her own and her brother’s (whom she had to call in Australia to get hold of). To add insult to injury, after resulting to call the airline sales advisers to book it over the phone in a process that was as long as it was unfruitful, the girl finished the conversation with “it’s not working for me either so please try again in 24 hours”. Saying Lucie was pretty annoyed at this point would be an understatement, but that dead end officially ended our brunch and I quickly transitioned into buying breakfast groceries for the next 3 days while Lucy did some shopping therapy to make her plight all better (she bought a skirt).

We finally made our way to Marienplatz (the main square) via a bus and get there as soon as we board. We had no idea we were so close to where it all happened, so we walked almost everywhere since!

Marienplatz was buzzing with life. It didn’t have quite the same charm as Prague, but there’s an impressive town hall made of Neo-gothic architecture that dominates most of the square. It has a clock tower called the Glockenspiel wherein three times a day a story from the 16th century would unfold through two levels of stages on the clock. At 5 o’clock, the show began on the upper stage with a Bavarian knight jousting against another from Lothringen (a medieval kingdom in France) for the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V. The Bavarian knight wins every time, of course. This is then followed on the lower stage by barrel makers called “coopers” coming out to dance after the end of a plague in Munich to encourage other people to do the same. Fifteen minutes later (it’s a pretty long show), a golden bird chirps the end of the spectacle. Bit long for a clock chime for sure, but much more interesting then the anti-climactic show in Prague.

We then went into the Cathedral of Our Lady (which looked more like a prison made to keep people from coming in and breaking out with it’s high walls), the Church of the Holy Ghost, the Royal Residences and the Hofgarten (which aren’t THE Hoff’s gardens). It quickly becomes obvious just how much of a wealthy city Munich is by all the stately buildings, high end retail shops, and fancy restaurants that we passed. It’s very beautiful, although you get the feeling that it’s maybe a city more suited for an older person to live in than for someone looking for that young city feel (that you get in Berlin, London, Barcelona, etc). A few days later when I meet our lovely host Natacha, she shared with me her frustrations of being an artistic woman with her free mind living in a very conservative city and her plans to move away from that place.

After exploring the city centre until our legs ached and stomachs rumbled, we had dinner in a Bavarian Beerhouse near our area and afterwards cracked open a bottle of wine and sat in the main plaza with all the other locals.

Munich Walking Tour and the English Gardens

After munching on my 7-grained cereal and banana for breakfast, it was time for my favourite activity whenever I arrive in a new city: the free city tour!!!

We had an American who looked like Andy Roddick as a tour guide. He was a self-confessed History nerd and European History graduate, so I suppose we were in good hands. We walked through pretty much the same trail as we did the day before but this time seeing the same places armed with a lot more information and with a different pair of eyes thanks to all the stories our guide told us (which was both more interesting and more informative than our trusty Triposo travel application).

It was an unusually hot day, the mercury floating somewhere around 30 degrees, so doing a walking tour in this weather from 11:00-2:00pm was a bit of a struggle. When it came to an end, we found shade in a German restaurant near the main square that was also conveniently positioned across the Apple store with free WI-FI. Lucie looks for free WI-FI like she’d fall off the earth if she wasn’t perpetually connected… kids these days. 😉 She was trying to reach a friend who is based in Munich and wanted to meet up (in hindsight, she mustn’t have wanted to meet up badly as said get together never happened). I also thought Lucie would have needed the WI-FI to sort out her flights back to Australia as she was meant to be leaving in two days, but I learned somewhere halfway through devouring my fish that she had already done so while I was in deep slumber the night before.

The lunch was tasty. I had white fish with vegetables, a nice change from eating pork in its various German incarnations.

After lunch, we thought it would be a good idea to climb a few hundred steps up the tower of one of the churches for a commanding view of the entire city. I know people who are big fans of a good skyline view, but personally it never appealed to me so much. It’s great to see and appreciate everything as a whole so you can get the idea of size, orientation and generally how it looks. I prefer getting a close-up view from a great angle of a certain portion of a city that I like. The cafe on the sixth floor of the Tate Modern that owns one of the best views of the Millennium Bridge and St Pauls springs to mind.

After soaking in the views of Munich, we made our way to the English Gardens slightly southwest from the centre. I was skeptical of the standard of these gardens at first following the Charlottenburg Gardens we saw in Berlin and the gardens by the Castle in Prague (and for the fact that the English and the Irish do Gardens better than most people I’ve come across in the world), but I was happily mistaken since the gardens were beautiful! They reminded me a bit of Hyde Park in London (with their Japanese Gardens, big open fields and sports grounds), except this had a natural surfing wave in the river that cut through the park that surfers were riding! Lucie and I watched the surfers, mesmerized, for ages. We only walked through the north most section of the park as it was massive, but it was clearly a wonderful oasis in the middle of a big city.

After having a salad for dinner in an Italian cafe in the square near our flat, we called it an early night in preparation for our trip to Salzburg the next day.


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It was a surprisingly short (just under 2 hours) and cheap (15 Euros) train ride to Salzburg. I had no idea that Munich was so close to Mozart’s birthplace and the film set for the Sound of Music.

Lucie was even more excited than I was that we were going to the place where Fraulein Maria sung and danced with the Von Trapp Family. She wanted to do an organized tour but being opposed to many (not all) tours because they are generally rushed and overpriced, I decided to research myself on where the different scenes were filmed in Salzburg and found a good self-guided walking tour that started from the train station where we arrived in. Perfect! Many opportunities for bursting into Do-Re-Mi were sure to follow!

When we arrived in Salzburg and picked up our city map, it wasn’t long after we started walking that we arrived in Mirabelgarten. It is both a beautiful in it’s own right with a rose garden, fountains and well tended greenery, but it was also the place where the hedge “tunnel” that Maria and the children run through, a pond and a fountain they dance around and a set of steps where they sing the finale of “Do-Re-Mi”.
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To my surprise, not many people were bursting into song.

Following our geeky Sound of Music guide, we crossed the river and came upon Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s most famous shopping lane. I must say, Getreidegasse has to be one of the prettiest shopping lanes I ever saw. It is not only filled with high, narrow houses tightly nestled together, enticing shops and wrought iron guild signs, but also romantic passageways and courtyards. With neither of us intending to buy anything, we just casually window shopped throughout the entire street as we made our way towards Domplatz (cathedral square). We visited the cathedral and Lucie, with her undying love for European Cathedrals with all this splendor and history (that she is deprived from in Australia), visited the church museum while I listened to triplet playing classical music outside and ate my lunch.

Then it started to piss rain. And for the record, the rain never stopped that day.

Cue my major highlight for the trip to Salzburg – visiting Mozart’s house. I suppose after all the Mozart classical pieces I learned growing up, having learned the whole Le Nozze De Figaro in Opera Class and seen at least 3 of his operas, i felt motivated to see where he grew up and where he began his journey to being one of the greatest classical pianists of all time.

Unsurprisingly, the house was just a normal house (as far as houses go) and one I will undoubtedly forget in the years to come. They did have a lock of his hair in one of rooms, which I wondered if we would ever try to clone him via his hair DNA just like they did in Superman IV.

After a short visit to St. Peter’s Cemetery in the rain (which I’m sure diminished the experience), we jumped on the funicular and made our way up to the Medieval castle that looms over the whole of Salzburg. It has 900 years or architectural history and was recommended by most people as must see in Salzburg, but to be honest I don’t remember being so bored since. I tried to be interested but I don’t think medieval castle’s do it for me.

Definitely more exciting, DINNER TIME! I had my first Weinershnitzel in a very cosy restaraunt (Lucie astutely commented that the restaurant had the air of Christmas about it) and then we shared a Salzburger Nockerln, a specialty dessert from the city made of egg, flour, sugar and vanilla with fruit in it that exploded like a bomb in our stomachs. That explosion was our cue to catch the train back to Munich and home.

As lovely and interesting as Salzburg was, I remember constantly feeling when I was there that the city gave off an extremely touristic vibe. All the shops, restaurants, buskers and pretty much every building we walked passed seemed to operate for the tourists. I couldn’t quite see (in the city center) what local life was like. This took away quite a lot of the experience from me… and for that I probably wouldn’t be rushing back any time soon.

Bye bye Lucie and Bye bye Munich

Lucie, my faithful travel partner for a good month across Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Munich and Salzburg, was going home. It was a good and unexpected experience after meeting each other in Paris and as I found out when I reached Vienna the next day, travelling wasn’t the same without her. But as far as the day I’m writing about goes, I haven’t said my goodbyes to her or to Munich yet. There was still lots of eating to be had.

First though, lovely Natacha popped into the apartment in the morning (not just to say hello of course, but also to collect that money we owed her). She was a lot older than I imagined her to be… not that old mind you, but in my mind she was about the same age as me. She gave off a very young vibe to me in our exchanges and in the way she decorated the house. She maintained this same vibe in person this very day.

I would place her somewhere in her late 40’s, although it’s extremely hard to tell sometimes. I tried to get her to speak in English for a while for Lucie to be able to participate in the conversation, but that was an obvious struggle for Natacha so we switched to talking in Spanish (Lucie didn’t appear very motivated to chat anyway) . It turns out Natacha is half Spanish and half French, living in Germany. What a mix!!! To have French, Spanish, German and (some) English at your dispersal is pretty impressive. A reminder as I write now that I really need to work on my Spanish. It’s not quite where I wanted to be.

Aside from the many things we talked about, she did spend a great amount of time venting her frustrations about living in Munich to me. As a mentioned earlier, she felt a strong sensation that her uniqueness/artistic inclinations were not as well embraced in Munich as other parts of the world. I suggested she go to Madrid or Barcelona or Paris being that she has the language, but I think she said Paris was not-too-different and Madrid was too dangerous and dirty (or something to that affect). I then suggested London and she said she considered it but was apprehensive due to her English levels. Come to think of it, despite the fact that she seemed to have issues with living in Munich, she seemed to be very good at giving excuses not to move anywhere else. Anyway, I hope she finds what she’s looking for…

Lucie did a good job of not passing out from starvation during this heavy conversation about Life, The Universe and Everything, but it was time to eat and we settled on one her other brunch recommendations for our last meal together: Baader Café. Flipping through the menu I really wanted to have something German, but to be honest I was getting a bit tired of German sausages in their varying shapes and forms so I went for the English Breakfast. Again, it’s impressive how I can remember almost exactly what I’ve eaten 3 weeks later, and I can’t seem to remember people’s names no matter how hard I try.

The only next logical thing to do after eating lunch is to have a saunter towards the biggest food market in Munich, Viktualien Market (obviously a thought we got during/after lunch, or we would have eaten there instead). I saw it when we were on our bus to Marienplatz on our first day and made a mental note to come back and our American tourguide told us it was a must see while we were here in Munich. What do American’s know about good food, you may ask? Well, in his defense it was a top quality food market. It specialized mainly in Nuts, Fruits and Vegetables from all over the world, but was also armed with ample amounts of wine, stalls selling Frankfurters (of course) and some places places that would do your wallet no good if you ate there. I ran around like a kid in a candy shop while Lucie sat pensively in a wine bar to write in her diary.

Believe it or not after this we went for cupcakes and coffee. Lucie mentioned after her glass of wine that she wouldn’t mind a cupcake and I, not giving up any chance to get a cup of good coffee, wholeheartedly encouraged the idea. Out of sheer luck we found a cupcake specialty shop 5 minutes later… and after we were ready to graze again, decided to find ourselves a wine bar (Lucie was getting a bit nervous about the upcoming long flight and there’s nothing like alcohol to calm the nerves). This wine bar played an interesting role in what I would do in my next destination (Vienna) because it is in this bar that I selected a Viennese grape variety to try (Zweigelt) which I absolutely loved.

After a couple of wines though, the time had come for Lucie to say goodbye to Munich and her European trip (and to me). We kept the goodbye short. Nobody likes long, drawn out goodbyes. See you again in April, Luce – if you make it to London of course!

I further said goodbye to Munich (and the day) by having one last meal in “Pasta Basta”, recommended by Natacha as one of the cheapest Italian joints in town. My first pasta dish in ages. I may have done it to get away from all the pork varieties in Germany or maybe subconsciously in homage to Lucie. =P

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