Thursday, March 15, 2012

Munching in Munchen, Germany

Good Morning, Readers!

Munching in Munich, Bavaria

Leaving Vienna was hard.  Winnie and I both had such a great time in Vienna, as by now I hope you have read.  Nevertheless we jumped on the 08:14 train bound for Munich, arriving approximately 4 hours later.  The journey was comfortable, but all OBB German Trains are plush, luxurious and fast.  It was nice to sit in a comfy seat, plugged into the mains power.  The train even had screens overhead displaying the journey, maps and estimated time of arrival at each stop.  Only the Germans could go that extra mile!  Awesome.

Our prompt arrival in Munich allowed us to quickly and easily walk from the train station to our hostel.  We were glad to only have a 2-3 minute walk from the station.  We decided to stay at the Euro Youth Hostel, in a mixed dorm room with 12 beds.  The Hostel was nice, very clean and had a pretty good bar.  The shower facilities were on the floor below us, but had complimentary shower products (I like free stuff).  All in all a very nice, secure hostel (3 secure coded doors between reception and our dorm) with helpful knowledgeable staff.  The bar was reasonably priced, with a 50cl beer (Augustiner) for around 3-4 Euros.  It does get noisy at weekends, but remember you are in Munich, and noise and beer drinking are why you go there!

Munich was a nice place, with some nice things to fill the days (prior to a good night’s drinking and eating).  We found Petersplatz and the climb up the tower of St Peter in the corner of the main square, Marienplatz to be a worthwhile endeavour.  It was a very clear sunny day which offered us a wonderful view of the city of Munich, plus a great clear view of the Bavarian Alps.  There were a few tight squeezes on the narrow steep staircase; the people who run the tower don’t care how many people go up at any time.  After reaching the top, the squeeze continues as you make your way around the 360 degree of Munich.  The view is breathtaking, but the over-populated balcony and staircase leaves you feeling hot and strangely violated!

In Munich there are some great pieces of architecture, each within walking distance of the next, also there was another Bubble Tea Shop – clearly we felt obliged to take a break, stab our straws and drink in the yumminess!  The Bubble teas place can be found on the main street that runs from Petersplatz, called Rindermarkt.
Enthusiastic about Bubble Tea, Over the Queues!!
Based on recommendations of the staff at Euro Youth Hostel, and our pre-planning, we decided to head out of Munich city centre (leaving the sightseeing for the second day).  I really wanted to visit a piece of European history that was sure to humble the hardiest of hearts: Dachau Concentration Camp.

The Watch Tower still dominates the skyline
We jumped on a train bound for the first German Concentration Camp ever built.  Sure enough, on this quiet spring afternoon in Munich the setting couldn’t have been more chilling.  I said to Winnie that I probably wouldn’t want to stay long, but I wanted to see the place where so many innocent people were tortured, imprisoned and died.  The camp itself has been left largely intact, including perimeter fencing, watch tower, entrance gates, housing and work areas.  The main warehouse has been turned into a museum which chronologically walks you through the story (from the beginning), a truly educational and scary experience.  The sad and creepy/chilling part is that the prison building / SS torture cells are still there, as ghostly as you can imagine.  You can walk through the prison building, where most of the cells can be looked into but not entered.  There are stories and pictures of the inmates, the SS personnel who cruelly tortured the inmates for confessions, information and to set an example to the other inmates.

Horrible Sleeping Conditions
The camp misses no details.  The main living quarters of the camp inhabitants was unbelievable.  Confined spaces floor to ceiling with bunk-beds, built by the prisoners to “exact specifications” that if were in any way inconsistent would be punishable.  When I say bunk-beds I don’t mean the smart, comfy Ikea styled, I’m talking people living like battery hens (only worse).  Scary is all I can say.

Scary Prison wing
Looking into the cells really was unsettling 
Walking through the camp without a guide, at your own pace was the real eye opener.  I found myself speeding up to avoid the gloomy scary areas, but overall it was an incredibly thought provoking experience.  My photographs do not really show how much of an impression the place leaves on you.  We decided we had seen enough, read enough; opting to leave after around 1-2 hours.

"Through Hard Work Comes Freedom" on the entry gate.
On our return to Munich we had a walk around the city centre, and decided to head back to our hostel to get ready for our first night of Bavarian traditions: Beer and Meat.

We headed to the oldest Bavarian beer brewery (and best) – Augustiner Keller.  This was located a short train journey from the centre of Munich and within easy walking distance of the train station we jumped off at.  We opted to sit in the traditional beer hall for food and drinks.  It was crazy-busy!  Busty traditionally dress hostesses and grumpy male waiters running all over the beer hall delivering food, beer and baskets of pretzels.  75 Cents for a pretzel the size of Shrimp-Dawg’s Hands, washed down with a litre of beer was a nice way to start.  This followed by a Roast Pork Knuckle, crackling, dumplings and Sauerkraut and a traditional Bavarian Mixed grill with mushroom sauce (you know how Winnie and I love to share!), plus another beer or two was a great introduction to Bavaria.  In fact, the Germans sitting at our table thought that I was a true Bavarian: Ordering Litres of Beer and Bavarian Meat…although I think the English Menu gave us away!

After a short walk and train back to our hostel, we decided that we would drop into it’s bar to continue to drink beers.  I opted to drink Augustiner Wheat (Weiss) beers, and Winnie had a Cider and some Baileys.  I think I knocked back around 4-5 litres of beer on the first night! POW!  Drink or Die, true Bavarian Spirit.

Man or Caveman?....Nope Bavarian Man!
Next day, we were up early.  Heading out to the city centre (Marienplatz) to see the buildings, shopping streets and palaces.  We actually started with a quick look over the Deutsches Museum.  We spent around 2 hours wandering through Munich’s science and technology museum – both of us were impressed by the electronics, nano-technology and physics exhibits they had.  Lots of touchy feel stuff to play with!  Our tip: get here early to avoid massive queues.  We covered everything we planned, without a crowd, but we had to squeeze to exit the museum!

After the museum we headed back to town to talk a walk down past the Residenz and the expensive designer shopping street, which culminates in a must see; the Mercedez-Benz store on the corner of Odeansplatz.  It is currently showing off the new SLS AMG E-Cell, the new Smart Cabrio and A Class E-Cell cars – all battery operated I believe.  I liked the Smart Cabrio, which is only 16,000 Euro!!

By now were getting hungry, and after a light breakfast of Pretzels we were both keen to try the Steinhall Strasse 16 restaurant, aptly named Steinhall, for it’s famous “Giant Schnitzel”.  Not to be gawked at, this schnitzel was a monster.  So big infact that the fries it is served with are completely non-visible until you have been eating for a few minutes.  We’re talking 10-12 Inch ‘Schnitties’ people!  Bargain.  So, Schnitzel, fries and salad bowl for around 12 Euro.  This place is crammed with folk trying to squeeze onto tables to get their Schnitzel.  It’s a wonder the place isn’t called Schnittie Heaven!

Waddling back into town we decided to take a look at Frauenkirche, Karlsplatz and the remaining architecture (that we could be bothered to waddle to) around Munich (which we are now calling Munchin).   

By now the afternoon was drawing in, and after a good 2 hours of searching, we were struggling to locate a souvenir shop that Winnie could get her kiddies t-shirt in.  We found one place, they couldn’t give us any reasonable directions to any other places, but we tried nonetheless.  After another 1-2 hours and around 5-6km of trudging up and down the high streets of Munich, we conceded to go back to the first place and buy the original shirt we found.  I was getting grouchy and hungry, so we called it a day and headed back to the hostel via the main train station to eat and relax. 

Next Stop: Paris!

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