We all have an origin story, and those tales typically begin with an examination of your own ancestry. Part of mine begins in Germany, where delightfully repeated tales from my Grandparents inform us they met on the boat to America as they were escaping the shadow of the Nazi regime in hopes to find a new home here in the United States. It’s no mystery why I was drawn to Germany. I wanted to see the place from which many of my own family’s traditions emanate from.
Cate and I elected to visit Munich because of its rich history, unforgettable architecture, and central location to other spots in Europe. Munich was the first stop on our trip, and the only one in Germany. It’s the capital of Bavaria, and while we weren’t in town for Oktoberfest, it conveyed its culture in an array of ways including but not limited to beers bigger than your face and churches older than America.
We left Kansas City at 5 in the morning, and arrived at the Munich Airport at 1 the next afternoon. While you can save a pretty penny booking flights separately, like we did, I would recommend spending more for quicker travel, if able. The city’s center is a quick 45 minute train ride from the airport but we went one stop further – München Hackerbrücke station – to get to our AirBNB. Our host, Renate, was incredible and left us a couple beers to get us started.
After getting unpacked, we hit a nearby restaurant where I, of course, opted for the schnitzel (schnitzengruben, regrettably, was unavailable). On our way home, we stopped at a grocery shop to grab some wine and cheese, among other things. I was feeling confident from dinner’s beers, and I thought, “why not take my German-speaking skills for a spin?” Checking out, I asked the owner how old he was (wie alt bist du?) instead of how he was doing (wie geht es ihnen). COOL.
On our first full day of Munich, we wandered from the AirBnb to the Marienplatz – a piazza surrounded by historical landmarks, restaurants, and shops (mostly global, well-known brands). I can’t encourage merely walking around enough – especially in Munich. Not once did we feel uncomfortable with our surroundings. Once there, we grabbed some breakfast and got to exploring. We wandered around, into, and on top of the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall), where we met a fellow American who told us about Sandemans New Europe walking tours. One was starting outside shortly, so we joined up. Our guide led us around town, and was incredibly informative. I learned more in those three hours than I would have on my own in three days. RECOMMEND.
Afterwards, we visited the largest urban park on the planet – the Englischer Garten. The park was beautifully vast. We wanted to eat at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) – a multi-story structure surrounded by a biergarten. We arrived, and finally enjoyed what we really came to Munich for – alarmingly large beers! After a few, we turned around to head back. On our way out of the park, the fields had become filled with groups of people. Oddly enough, two guys were tossing an American football, and they over-threw it right into our direction. Now, I’m no Colin Klein , but I threw the best spiral of my life that day. I’d like to think those bros were impressed with the clinic I put on that day.
Back in the city, the rain started to pour, so we dashed to the legendary Hofbrauhaus for a roof over our heads. We had originally planned to avoid this spot, as we had heard it was a tourist trap, but I’d be damned if we’d missed this place. Music filled the beer hall as it was played by a group of buzzed musicians adorned in lederhosen. We had some cheese dip (DECENT) with more gargantuan, locally sourced beerchachos. Once the rain eased up, we walked home, dry as a sponge out of water.
Munich is an incredible place, and becomes increasingly so the more you learn about it. The deeply religious background is evident in the beautiful structures throughout the city. The spot marking the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich is now a Spielzeug Museum (Toy Museum), because a child’s joy is the opposite of the hate curated there. Nearly the entire city was bombed flat in WWII, but the city chose to rebuild in manner reminiscent of its past – whereas places like Berlin elected to modernize. Don’t discount this town’s capabilities, though – it’s one of the largest tech hubs in Europe.
Munich was the perfect starting point for our European trip. English-speakers were common, but give the local language a try while you’re there! As with all new places, try all the food and drink you can, and explore until your legs are sore. Bring a journal to record your experiences while you enjoy the perfect people-watching spot. We will be back to Munich some day – i just hope that day isn’t too far off.
Earlier, I mentioned Munich’s central location was one of the defining factors in our choice to visit it. Thanks to the efficient rail system in Europe, incredible places can be affordable and simple to get to – some even can be squeezed into one day. We went on two of these trips, but we’ll talk about those later. You’ve been reading long enough!