Munich and Füssen Wrap Up

I thought I’d repeat what I did with the Lofoten Islands and do a little summary of tips and advice for anyone planning on going to Munich or Füssen.

  1. Fly into the regular Munich Flughafen airport (MUC) NOT Memmingen airport
  2. Google Maps is your best friend. Google Maps syncs really well with the transportation system in Munich and makes the city very easy to navigate. Thanks again to Michael for being the designated navigator for most of our adventures.
  3. Definitely utilize the public transportation system and know that a ticket will cover you on the subway, tram, and bus and that a partner ticket works for 2-5 people.
  4. I would highly recommend everything that we did in my Sights of Munich post (St. Peter’s Church, Munich Residence, English Garden, Pinakothek Museums, and Hofbrauhaus).
  5. Definitely drink beer and eat the pretzels if not schnittlauch breze, a pretzel with cream cheese and chives.
  6. To look into trains to Füssen or book one you can go here
  7. If you’re going to Füssen and looking for a more jam packed day I would say that you should visit Hohenschwangau before Neuschwanstein.
  8. To get a great view of Neuschwanstein follow the Marienbrücke path.

Overall I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in Munich and Füssen. Thanks again to Julie for being an amazing hostess!

Last Stops and the Trip Home

This was my last day in Munich and to be honest there wasn’t too much left to do on my bucket list. At Julie’s suggestion we hopped on the S-bahn and headed out towards Olympic Park and BMW Welt (BMW World). Neither Julie or I happen to be huge car fans so the majority of BMW Welt was totally lost on us. That being said, we did enjoy looking at some of the cars and trying to design our own Mini Cooper.

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Afterwards, we walked towards some of the housing in Olympic Park. Much of the old Olympic Village has been converted into student flats and Julie actually lived in one of these buildings when she was studying abroad in Munich. According to Julie, artists were invited to paint these student apartments so you get some pretty fun designs on the buildings. We even managed to find Julie’s old flat.

IMG_1300  IMG_1303  IMG_1306Afterwards, we continued our walk around Olympic Park and it’s actually quite charming. Julie told me that the reason why the park is so hilly is because after World War II the rubble was built up into piles and those piles now transformed into tree covered hills. Once I realized why Olympic Park was so hilly it was hard not to think about how devastating World War II was. Although I studied World War II in the course of my undergraduate studies, I never thoroughly studied the German experience of the War. It was incredible to be reminded of just how thoroughly bombed some of these cities were and also a bit strange to encounter how the War has been incorporated into living memory.

IMG_1309  IMG_1313  IMG_1315 IMG_1320  IMG_1323  IMG_1324Julie and I took our time walking through the park and we walked by the soccer stadium and the pool before getting tickets to the tower and getting a pretty great view of the city. We then made slow tracks back towards Julie’s apartment and even made a short stop at the Nymphenburg Palace to take a quick walk around the grounds.

Once I picked up my luggage Julie and I went back on the S-bahn. I was heading to the airport while Julie was going to the central station. At some point in this journey I realized that I had received a text from my airline, SAS. Since everything I get from SAS is in Norwegian I more or less skimmed the text before ignoring it. When I showed the text to Julie however she happened to notice that the message contained the word “kansellert” and asked me if my flight was cancelled. I hadn’t the faintest idea but figured that either way I would be able to figure things out at the airport.

Sure enough my flight had been cancelled. Because SAS is a Star Alliance member I was told to go bug people at the Lufthansa desk. I quickly gathered that I was not the only one with a cancelled flight. There were a ton of stranded Americans there whose United flight had also been cancelled. Keeping in mind my stranger danger lesson from before I decided to entertain myself on my phone instead of striking up a conversation with any of my fellow stressed out fliers. By the time I actually got to someone at the ticket counter it was clear that the people working the desks were also exhausted. I swear at one point I saw a ticket agent banging his desk phone against his head. All of these things meant that I had a less than stellar conversation with the Lufthansa agent which more or less went like this:

Agent: Ticket?
Me: No, sorry my flight was cancelled.
Agent: Yes, but I still need your ticket.
Me: But I don’t have a ticket
Agent: Yes, but you need to print one out.
Me: But how can I print one out if the flight is cancelled?
Agent: Well everyone else has a printed ticket.
Me:…Well I’m sorry but I don’t have one
Agent: Don’t you have something from United?
Me: No, I wasn’t flying United.
Agent: Where are you trying to go? Houston?
Me: No, Trondheim.
Agent: So Dallas?
Me: No, Trondheim…you know city in Norway? Kinda up North?
Agent: Not the United States?
Me: …No. Trondheim. T-R-O-N-D-H-E-I-M.
Agent: So you aren’t on United?
Me:………..NO
Agent: So why are you in this line? This is for United passengers
Me: Well that wasn’t stated anywhere. If anything you have Air Swiss listed above your head.
Agent: So no one told you to come to this line.
Me: No
Agent: Well there should have been someone
Me:…Well maybe you can fix that next time

As you can see it took some time to make a bit of headway. Once the guy had confirmed for the fifth time or so that I was NOT flying United and was NOT going to the United States he finally managed to start rebooking my flights. What he eventually organized wasn’t exactly ideal but there really weren’t any other reasonable alternatives. I will say that some of my frustration disappeared when I realized that Lufthansa was giving away free coffees and teas before the flight and when I got a free cup of wine during the flight. If Norway has taught me anything, it’s to take the free/cheap/reasonably priced alcohol when it comes.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Throughout our trip Michael and I kept seeing pictures of animals paired with indecipherable German. Having seen these signs everywhere we figured it was a signal from the universe to go to the zoo. So, in the morning I tentatively asked Julie if she would like to go with us to the zoo. To my surprise and delight Julie told me that she 1) would love to go with us to the zoo 2) had yet to go to the Munich zoo 3) had been meaning to go there. Not only were Michael and I excited to have Julie join us, we were also in awe of her knowledge of the Munich transit system. Having Julie along also significantly reduced our breakfast ordering struggles.

At the zoo, all of us were happy to look at all of the animals, although I insisted on seeing the elephants and Julie and I insisted on seeing the penguins. Our college dorm’s mascot was a penguin so we wanted to go pay a visit. Unfortunately, Michael was out of luck since his dorm’s mascot was a cod, so no mascot visits for him. While I liked looking at all of the animals I have to say my favorite was a black monkey who really seemed to enjoy posing for the camera. Not wanting to let him down, I’ve included some of his better shots.

IMG_5905  IMG_5910  IMG_5914 IMG_5916  IMG_5919  IMG_5921The three of us spent a bit more time walking around Munich before we saw Michael off to the airport. Afterwards, Julie and I headed back to Marienplatz and a Tripadvisor recommendation, Asam’s Church. Asam’s Church is one of the most elaborate churches that I’ve been to. Julie told me that the Asam brothers were responsible for selling things to churches, such as artwork, pews, confessionals, etc., and many of these are on display at the church. The church itself is pretty small so it doesn’t take too long to look around. The thing that impressed me the most was according to Julie the ceiling is actually flat. The painter managed to create an optical illusion so that it looks as though the ceiling is round.

IMG_5931  IMG_5936  IMG_5940Once we were done with the church, Julie took me on an adventure to go see the Oktoberfest grounds. Here are a few of the things I learned about the festival:

  • Oktoberfest is crowded more or less 24/7
  • The grounds are built every year although the space isn’t used during the rest of the year
  • Oktoberfest causes massive amounts of congestion in the city–causing a lot of locals to dislike it
  • Many locals will take their holiday time during Oktoberfest so that they can work during this time period. Apparently working in the grounds is very lucrative since they need so many people to actually run the festival

While there wasn’t too much to see, it was still nice to walk around the grounds and get a sense of the sheer size of Oktoberfest.

IMG_1290  IMG_1294When we finished, we headed to the English Garden to grab some lunch at one of the beer gardens. Julie was in charge of ordering and got us currywurst and spezi. Curryworst is sausage in a ketchup type sauce with curry (which I was initially skeptical of) and spezi is beer mixed with fanta (which I was excited to try). As per all of Julie’s food and drink recommendations, everything was delicious. Once we had finished, Julie and I headed back to her place for a few power naps and some Skype calls with old college roommates and friends.

The Sights of Munich

One of the great things I realized before my trip is that I actually know a fair number of people who have already traveled to Munich. So with the help of their suggestions, Julie, and Tripadvisor, Michael and I prepared to explore Munich. Unfortunately, Julie couldn’t join us because she had to work, but she was more than happy to help us form a rough plan of what we should do. So, with the help of Google Maps Michael and I set off at around 10 am in search of Julie’s recommended breakfast food, schnittlauch breze, a pretzel with cream cheese and chives. Our destination: Rischart Café in Marienplatz.

First things first, we went down to the S-Bahn and bought a partner ticket. In Munich, a partner ticket is valid for 2-5 people, covers all public transportation, and all you need to do is validate it (simply get a date stamp). The trip to Marienplatz didn’t take too long, but because Michael and I effectively know no German (we decided to pronounce the German ß as a b since we struggled to remember that it is actually a double s sound) we contented ourselves with trying to pronounce schnittlauch breze and just gesturing hopefully at the bakery display. Thankfully our message was somehow conveyed, and we were happy to sit down and consume our first pieces of German food.

After breakfast, we took a quick walk around New Town Hall (Neus Rathaus) before walking to St. Peter’s Church and preparing to climb up the church tower. When we asked Julie about whether or not the tower was worth a climb, she said that it was but that we should avoid going up when the bells were ringing. We duly asked how often that happened and were told that it was every 15 minutes. Because we didn’t want to leave the tower with our ears ringing and because there were a number of stairs, we were quite happy to take a break on our way up once we began to approach the quarter mark. We eventually made it to the top, though because there was no clear traffic system things got quite clogged on some parts of our way up–as Julie accurately put it: this causes the tower to be a bit of a fire hazard. But we made it! The weather was misty and gloomy all day so we didn’t linger in the tower, but we did manage to get a few great views.

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Afterwards, we went to the Munich Residence. To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed when I first saw the building. Michael and I agreed that the facade could have definitely been spruced up. Funnily enough, we later realized that we had entered the Residence from the back, which meant that we missed some of the more imposing grandeur that you get with the front of the building. But we were ultimately undeterred by what we thought was the building’s plain exterior and bought a combination ticket to see the Residence, Treasury, and Cuvilliés Theatre. I believe that our walk through the Residence alone took us a good two or so hours. Many of the rooms were stunning although not all of them were well decorated. Michael and I had a fun time noticing the many different ways the signs said that a particular room had been “destroyed in World War Two and reconstructed afterwards.” The Germans are clearly masters of synonyms. We also had fun noticing the room names. Who knew that people needed not just one antechamber, but an antechamber to the antechamber. We particularly liked one of the rooms which was called the Room of Justice.

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I think the room that actually shocked us the most was one that at first glance seemed to store fancy cabinets.  We were in for a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t until I noticed one cabinet whose doors had fairly clear glass that I paid attention to what was actually inside. My guess was that it was a human bone. At this point, I grabbed Michael and asked him what he thought it was. I figured Michael’s pre-med knowledge would let me know if I was delusional. Michael also guessed that it was a bone, and it wasn’t until I looked to my right and saw what was unmistakably a human hand that we realized we had walked into a reliquaries room. Sure enough, once we left the room we saw a sign that we had blissfully ignored on our way in telling us that our guesses were correct.

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Once we had finished with the Residence we walked to the Treasury and admired some royal jewelry before going to Cuvilliés Theatre and heading out. On our way out, we noticed that many people were casually rubbing the lion statues that guarded several of the Residence’s entrances. Not wanting to feel left out, we did as well. The Internet now tells me that rubbing the lions is supposed to bring you good luck, so I suppose we did the right thing even if the two of us were clueless as to what we were doing.

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One of my good friends from home had told me that we should go to the English Garden and drink beer at the Chinese tower. Having worked up an appetite at this point, we headed directly to the tower to consume pretzels, beer, and sausages. Thanks to a tip from my friend, we noticed that you pay a 1 euro deposit for the beer steins, so Michael and I happily decided to keep the steins as souvenirs. The German family sitting next to us definitely gave us a few judgmental looks as they saw us stash the steins away and walk off with them.

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Now feeling both successful and comfortably full, the two of us decided to try our luck at the Pinakothek Museum. To be frank, I’m a huge Impressionist fan and was not overly excited by some of the older works that are stored in the museum. We also realized that about half of the museum was closed for repairs, severely limiting the amount of art we could see. It was only as we were about to head out that we realized that there are actually multiple Pinakothek Museums. We had gone to the Alte Pinakothek.

Because we still had a bit of time left in our day, we decided to also see the Pinakothek der Moderne. I personally enjoyed the modern art museum much more. While I wasn’t a fan of all of the art on display, I enjoyed looking at most of the paintings and at the furniture and the design work that was featured. To top it all off, having been yelled at by a security guard in the Alte for getting too close to one of the paintings, I felt a bit smug when it wasn’t me, but another couple, who managed to set off one of the alarms in the Moderne. After about an hour, Michael and I were finally ready to call it quits on the sightseeing. We only had one last stop in mind: a traditional German beer house.

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So with dinner and beer on our minds we made our way to Hofbrauhaus. One of my friends had told us that “it was AMAZING. MINDBLOWING. Get the pork knuckle or whatever that was. It was ridiculous” so our expectations were quite high. Hofbrauhaus was hilarious. It was a quintessential tourist trap with Germans dressed in traditional garb, traditional German music playing, and a clientele that had to be at least fifty percent Asian tourists. It was hard not to laugh and to love the place at the same time. At my friend’s suggestion, Michael and I did order pork knuckle and it was in fact delicious. We also had a liter of beer each, or in my case a radler (lemonade and beer combined). Considering that I had enough trouble drinking out of my liter stein using just one hand, I was impressed by the waiters and waitresses who ran around the place carrying six or more of them in each hand. While the entire experience was fun, both Michael and I concluded that our favorite part was a man who came on stage and managed to create some sort of music using a whip. It was pretty much the only performance that managed to make most people quiet down, and one that we got to experience not once, but twice. I unfortunately did not take a video, but I guess that’s what YouTube and other tourists are for. Enjoy!

Off to Munich: Stranger Danger on Planes

I was told a few months ago that I one of my Friday classes was cancelled so I was really excited to plan my first trip out of Norway. It just so happens that one of my college roommates, Julie, happens to be working full time in Munich and was happy to host me. So I eagerly booked my flights and even managed to get another friend, Michael, to come along. Because Michael was flying in from a different city, we agreed to meet at Julie’s suggested airport location, Airbräu, which also happens to be a beer garden.

When I actually boarded my flight to Munich I think I was in a state of disbelief since it hadn’t really sunk in that I was 1) leaving the country 2) seeing some friendly faces in the very immediate future. I reached a second stage of disbelief when the only other person in my row happened to be American. Now, I’m generally not the sort of person who talks to people on planes. It’s not something that I’m opposed to, but it generally isn’t something that I seek out. In this case, having seen so few Americans in Norway, I was more than happy to chat with my aisle mate. Little did I know that the conversation would eventually take a turn. While the conversation started out with the standard get to know you questions (Where are you from? What do you do? Why are you going to Munich?) it morphed into getting career advice and the suggestion that I should take a Myers Briggs test to identify my strengths. While the conversation became a bit preachy I decided to simply nod along and thank the man when he said that he would pray for me. If only it had stopped there.  As the plane was about to make its descent into Munich, my aisle mate turned to me and asked me if he could give me one last piece of advice. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but it was not for this person to give me a lecture on chastity and the virtues of saving oneself for marriage. Luckily the plane was just about to land, so I didn’t have to do much other than courteously nod my head and smile, but as soon as I disembarked I rushed to meet Michael so that I could tell someone about my plane ride. Needless to say, both Julie and Michael told me that I should stop talking to people on planes. Lesson learned: no airplane buddies.

After Michael and I met up, we snacked and drank for a bit at the beer garden and the local McDonald’s before following Julie’s incredibly precise instructions to her apartment. The trip took us about an hour, but overall things were fairly navigable. We managed to ride both the S-bahn (subway) and the bus without a hitch. Luckily the ticket for the S-bahn happens to also work on Munich’s tram (U-bahn) and bus system, though to be honest our bus driver took so much pity on us somewhat lost Americans that he waved us onto the bus without bothering to check our ticket.

While the trip to Munich was not the smoothest trip that I’ve ever had, it was nice to end the day lounging in Julie’s enormous couch, talking with friends, and exchanging strange airplane stories.