Munich – The Last Stop

It’s now Christmas Eve, 3 months after our trip and I’m just not getting around to writing about Munich. Forgive me if this post isn’t as detailed; it’s been a while. Luckily, the pictures help me remember anything I might have forgotten.

Munich was the primary destination of this trip, the home of the world’s largest festival—Oktoberfest. In Europe, Oktoberfest is celebrated in September for about 3 weeks, with the last weekend being the first of October. Something about October gets too cold (us Floridians no nothing about that—I’m wearing a dress on Christmas Eve for f**k’s sake).

We booked our hotel for Munich about 11 months in advance, knowing that space in the city fills up quick for the festival. Around April, we started looking into all the beer tents and trying to make reservations, only to find out that you can’t make a reservation unless you have 10 people. We decided we would just get there early and play it by ear. It worked out pretty well, but we’ll get to that in a second.

We arrived in Munich around 5pm after a long bus ride. We caught a cab from the bus/train station to our hotel—Hotel Carlton Astoria. Sounds fancy right? It’s located near Munich University, the English Garden, and Odeonsplatz. The hotel was nice, but old. They had an old fashioned elevator (thank God for that because our room was on the second floor. The room was spacious and had a lot of storage, but no A/C. We were used to this concept by now, and luckily it was pretty cold at night and all the windows opened.

Food around the university area is pretty international in an attempt to satisfy students from all over, but we found an authentic German place to try the first night. We went to a place called Atzinger, which had fantastic reviews. I was feeling the beginnings of a cold so I ordered a broccoli cream soup to start, and schnitzel with fries for my dinner (I wanted to see what the schnitzel tasted like in Munich—turns out they’re all pretty much the same under the sauce). Zeus ordered an appetizer of sausages with sauerkraut for his meal. My soup was fantastic. Creamy, hot, and perfectly flavored—it did wonders for my sore throat. Although, I negated all the good it did with a beer. I ordered a radler (beer + lemonade) and Zeus had an Oktoberfest beer. Beers here, and everywhere else in Munich, were giant—1 liter usually. My schnitzel came without any sauce, but they give you giant containers of mayo and ketchup and mustard packs. I dipped some of it in some ketchup and mustard, but f**k mayo. Europe’s obsession with mayo baffles me. Anyway, it was pretty good, but dry. My favorite schnitzel from the trip is the one I had in Amsterdam. I wish we weren’t so tired this day, because Atzinger had a pretty cool outdoor beer garden that we could’ve hung out in. But after dinner, we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Around 4:30am, we were woken up by the sounds of a drunkard singing through the open windows. And he just went on and on and on; of course it was in German, so we had no idea what he was saying. It was a fun introduction to what happens in Munich during Oktoberfest. Around 5:30 or so, he stopped, and we were able to get back to sleep for a few hours.

We woke up around 7:00am. My cold was full-blown at this point—congested, runny nose, sneezing, the works—so I was running a bit slow. Zeus left me to go get a rental car for we had big plans that day. I slowly got dressed, loaded up with tissues and medicine, and headed downstairs to partake in the free breakfast. Usually, continental breakfasts at hotels kind of suck, but this one was amazing. They had a variety of cereals, oatmeal with all the toppings you could possibly want, German white sausages, eggs, caprese, breads, meats and cheeses, fruit, muffins, flavored teas, and a choice of specialty coffee/espresso drinks. I had a little bit of everything, plus a cappuccino and a cup of hot herbal tea (attempts to calm my sore throat). All was delicious and gave me enough energy for the beginning of the day. Zeus got back with the car (a 4-door Volkswagen Golf, cute little car), had a little bit of breakfast, and then we set off for our journey.

Our destination was Zugspitze—the highest mountain in Germany at 2,962 meters above sea level, followed by the Neuschwanstein Castle (or Schloss Neuschwantstein in German). Both were about 2 hours away from Munich, but only 30 minutes away from each other, so we made a day of it. The drive to Zugspitze was beautiful once you got out of the city. We drove through numerous mountain towns that I hope to return to one day. They were so beautiful—wood houses (craftsmen style?) and businesses with flower boxes on every window filled with red, pink, and orange flowers. Many of them also had murals painted on the sides with German-style art (bar scenes typically lol). The mountains got bigger and bigger as we drove on. It was a gorgeous drive with something new around every corner.

We arrived at the Zugspitze mountain around 10:30 or 11:00am and went inside to buy tickets for the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car. The line was long so we waited about 30 minutes before we were finally able to go up. But it was worth it. The cable car fits about 40 people, though that is very, very crowded—like sardines. I tried my best to get by a window so I could get pictures. The ride lasts about 10 minutes, and parts of it are practically vertical—I still wonder how it’s possible.

Once we made it to the top and stepped out of the building to see the mountain, just…wow. It was absolutely breathtaking (literally and figuratively). It was a clear day and you could see for miles; I think one of the signs said you could see 10 different mountain peaks from the top.

On top of the mountain, they had a couple different food places set up serving beer and other German specialties, plus a few souvenir shops. You could also climb to the actual peak of the mountain, which I totally would’ve done had I been able to breathe. We walked around for a while taking in the view, then ordered a couple bratwursts for lunch, complemented by an Oktoberfest beer. That was probably one of the best meals of the trip, despite it’s simplicity.

After lunch, we took another cable car (Gletscherbahn) down to the glacier. This area had Germany’s highest church, a restaurant, and some areas for sledding. We were tempted, but didn’t want to walk back up afterwards. We stayed here for a little while and then caught the cable car back up to the top, where we caught the other cable car to go back down. It was mid-afternoon by this point and we needed to make it to Neuschwanstein by 5:00pm to get a tour.

The ride down the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car was awesome. I got a window spot this time and had a great view of the lake and surrounding areas at the foot of the mountain. Took a pretty cool time lapse video of the journey.

Once we made it to the bottom, we got back in the car and headed for Neuschwanstein. This part of the journey took us through a small part of Switzerland and some more beautiful mountain towns.

We arrived at Neuschwanstein around 4:30 or so and found our way to the tour office. The next tour opportunity for English speakers wasn’t until 5:30pm, so we decided just to look around the outside rather than do a tour. We walked around some of the shops there and got some ice cream before heading to the castle. Neuschwanstein is situated pretty high up on a mountain, and you have the opportunity to walk the entire way or take a bus or horse-drawn carriage about half way up. We opted for the horse carriage because when are we going to get another opportunity like that? The carriage ride was fun and saved quite a bit of walking, although there was still a long walk even after they dropped us off. It was a pretty one though, so we didn’t mind. The castle was beautiful, and there was a waterfall on one side. We were able to walk all around it and go into the courtyard without paying, so that was good. We watched some paragliders sailing through the air for a while and just enjoyed the view before heading back down—much easier than going up lol. Once we made it all the way down, we got in the car and headed back home.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Ratskellar, which is in a cellar underneath Marienplatz. The place was huge and so unique; it was like a maze. Every room had a different decor scheme and the ceilings were vaulted and had murals painted on them.

I ordered some white wine and Zeus ordered an Oktoberfest beer. We both ordered some baked potato soup (SO GOOD) to start. For dinner, I went with a cheese-filled spatzle (another German specialty) and Zeus ordered a charcuterie board with all sorts of meats and cheeses. My spatzle was good, nice and cheesy, but a little bland. Zeus loved his.

After dinner, we walked around Marienplatz for a bit before heading back to the hotel for sleep. On the train back, we were entertained by multiple drunk people coming home from Oktoberfest—lots of swaying and sleeping people. After getting off on our stop, we witnessed a guy peeing on a bunch of bikes in the middle of the sidewalk, a girl crying hysterically while being comforted by who we assume was her boyfriend, and a guy sleeping underneath a window while all his friends discussed how to get him home. It was fun. This night of sleep was free of 4:30am serenades, so we slept well.

Day 2, we woke around around 9:30 or so and made our way to Oktoberfest, finally. We followed the masses of dirndl- and lederhosen-dressed folks to the festival. And what a sight it was—carnival rides, souvenir and food booths, beer tents, and people everywhere. It was like a giant fair with huge beer tents. We walked around for a while and then walked into the Paulaner tent hoping to find a seat. This process gave me a lot of anxiety, given the language barrier and not wanting to feel stupid. But a friendly server noticed our confused faces and told us to sit in her section, which was open to people without reservations until 4:30pm. She brought us English menus and asked what kind of beer we wanted. Choices were slim—regular beer, radler, or non-alcoholic. I don’t even understand why one would order a non-alcoholic beer at Oktoberfest, but to each their own. I ordered a radler and some chicken-noodle soup (still sick), and Zeus ordered a regular beer and a baked half chicken. The beers were cold and huge, my soup was hot and delicious (probably the best chicken-noodle soup I’ve ever had), and Zeus’ chicken was super flavorful. We stayed here for 2 beers and moved onto the next place.

I’m not sure of the name of the next beer tent we ventured into, but I think it was the wine tent. There were a bunch of people with wine, which is what I base this assumption on, but  you could still order beer here too. We both ordered wheat Paulaner beers and found an open table to stand at with a pretty good view of the band. Every tent had a live band that played throughout the day, and they all sounded amazing. During the day, they play songs without singing and as the day goes on, they’ll start to sing more familiar songs, drinking songs that require lots of toasting.

We left the festival after this because I forgot to bring extra medicine and was starting to get super congested. It was around the time all the reservations started coming in so we didn’t bother going back.

For dinner that night, we went to an Irish bar in Marienplatz called Kilian’s Irish Pub. We both had beers and I ordered Bangers and Mash and Zeus had a hamburger with steak fries. This was one of the better meals of the trip I think; everything was well-flavored. We ended up getting to know the bartender here and hung out until they closed. The bar next door was playing all the NFL games so one of us would check on them periodically (Dolphins beat Cleveland, Jaguars lost to someone). Karaoke started at some point and was probably one of the most entertaining experiences ever. There was a group of guys on vacation from England, and they sang and danced to N’sync, Celine Deon, and Brittany Spears songs. They also made fun of American football because “who plays a sport with helmets?” It was a fun night. Zeus went out to another bar recommended by our bartender afterwards, but I was tired so I went to sleep.

Day 3 started with lunch at Ratskellar again. We both ordered baked potato soup and split a platter with a variety of sausages, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes, plus beer and wine of course. My cold did not get in the way of my drinking, and I made sure to bring extra medication today so we didn’t have to leave.

After lunch, we took a train to Oktoberfest and found a tent with open seats—Schottenhamel Festhalle. By the way, I use the term “tent” only because that’s what they call them, because these things are not tents; they are giant, pre-fab, wood buildings that hold thousands of people and have air conditioning. Anyway…we found an empty table and ordered a few beers and watched the band play. Before we knew it, it was around 3:00pm. We talked about finding another tent but were afraid we wouldn’t get in one because reservations were coming in soon, so we just stayed put. They didn’t seem to be kicking people out (it happens) for reservations so it worked out. Eventually, we were joined by a group of what looked like 12-year-olds. They were 18 as it turns out, the legal drinking age in Germany. Boy, did we feel old. They spoke mostly German until they learned we didn’t, and then they started talking to us in English. They taught us that when toasting, you have to look each other directly in the eye, otherwise it seems rude. That got annoying when the band played a song where you’re supposed to toast 20 times. So much eye contact! But it was fun talking with them.

We stayed here for a while because we were having such a good time. The band played songs we knew, like “Sweet Caroline,” amongst the typical German drinking songs. Everyone stood up on the tables and benches and sang along, toasting merrily. Some people fell asleep or stumbled out.

Around 9:00pm, we had had enough beer and decided to head home. But first, I wanted to ride the ferris wheel. It was giant and we got a great view of the festival and city beyond. We walked around a little bit more admiring all the lights. The festival at night is something else. We stopped for a bratwurst because I can’t remember if we actually ate anything in the tent (maybe some chicken?). Then I rode one of those swing rides that goes really high. It was so much fun, but quite chilly. After rides and bratwursts, we finally went back to the hotel for sleep.

Day 4, we decided to see a bit of the city. We were both sick now, so we wanted soup for lunch. I read about a soup shop in the Viktualienmarkt, so we headed in that direction. The market has a bunch of fresh veggies, fruits, breads, meats, and spices, but don’t you dare touch anything unless you want to buy it. We heard a very angry British woman on a rant about the tyrannical shop owners yelling at her for touching their goods and not buying. We found the soup shop, but couldn’t read the menu so we ended up wondering around until we found an Italian place named Berni’s with an English menu.

Here, we split a bottle of white wine, some bruschetta, and a trio pasta plate with spaghetti with a meat sauce, linguini with a pesto sauce, and ziti with marina sauce. All of the options were delicious and filling, and our server was so nice.

After lunch, we walked through St. Peter’s Church (the oldest in the city). This one was gorgeous, with tall white columns and painted ceilings.

We explored Marienplatz a bit and went into a few shops before heading to the English Garden. The Garden is home to one of the largest beer gardens in the world so we tried to find that, but ended up going the wrong way and not finding it. It was a nice walk though.

For dinner that night, we went to a place in Marienplatz whose name I can’t remember, which is fine because the food wasn’t that great. I ordered a meatloaf with German potato salad and Zeus ordered a pork dish with a potato dumpling. Apparently, Germans have a completely different view of meatloaf than we do. It was pinkish, and kind of reminded me of hot bologna. The potato salad was good though. Unsatisfied with our meals, we also ordered an apple strudel with ice cream, which was amazing.

Day 5 was our last full day. We decided to head back to Oktoberfest one last time. We had lunch at a place called Lindwurmstuberl. Zeus ordered a baked chicken with fries and I had some chicken-noodle soup (yes, still sick). He let me eat some of his chicken and fries. All were way too hot for the day (temps around 75), but they were very good.

Then, we followed the masses back to the festival. We went into the Lowenbrau tent today and found a seat pretty easily. The band was great. We had 2 or 3 beers and then left around 4:00pm (time for reservations). There was a group of very drunk guys there, one of which was a bit too touchy feely for my tastes, so we decided it was time to go.

Before going back to the hotel, we went back to the English Garden to see the famous river surfers. To get there, we walked through the gardens of The Residence, a royal home and museum that we didn’t get a chance to go to. So there’s a bridge at the end of the garden where the formation of the riverbed creates a consistently perfect wave for surfing. Surfers wear wet suits and wait their turn on the edge before jumping in and surfing, while everyone else watches. There are couches for waiting. Some are very good, some not so much. We watched them surf for a while, and I wished I knew how so I could jump in. It was so cool and looked so fun.

After watching the surfers, we went back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. We decided to go back to Kilian’s Irish Pub for dinner. I ordered a spatzle and Zeus ordered a hamburger, again. This spatzle was much better than the other one—it had tomatoes, spinach, French-fried onions, and was topped with cheese. It had so much flavor. We stayed here for a while before heading back to the hotel and packing up.

It was a long trip, so we were definitely ready to get home to our own bed and puppies. I wish we could have explored Munich a bit more, but we were both sick so our desire to go go go all the time was overpowered by our desire to nap. I feel like we made the best of it though. We’ll just have to go back to see all the other stuff, and make sure Munich is the first stop!

(Most of these are flying over Greenland and last one is right before landing in Iceland)


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