I don’t think either of us had particularly high expectations of Munich, I was of the misguided opinion it would have little remaining traditional character after the war. We are naive to the finer details of the war history to some extent and traveling with two young children we were not here to focus on it, rather we were interested in what Munich is now and what it offers from a touristic perspective. So to that end we were very pleasantly surprised to find a city with a lot to offer, we are glad we went and I would go again….Maybe during Oktoberfest!
Granted our first impression wasn’t great, our apartment was about 8km from the old town centre and Pasing Station was under construction so it did not present well and our apartment was in a newer building with no character, and the people in general didn’t seem very warm towards the kids. But….. the unit was newly renovated inside and had a grass courtyard backing directly onto a river, and a lovely bush walk with playgrounds, we soon found there were over 30 kids living in our complex between the ages of 4 and 16, and they were nice kids very keen to try out some English, although I soon found most of their English comprised swear words! They were good fun and harmless, and it soon became evident that there were more kids around Munich then anywhere else we’d been.
Also, Munich won me over pretty quickly because finally I had found the beers I had been looking for since arriving in German speaking territory, in ‘Steins’, only I now know there is no such thing as a Stein of beer in Germany really because Stein in German simply means stone, referring to the earthenware mugs! So now I know what I was really after was a Maßkrug Vom Fass, a 1 litre glass of beer from the tap. This quickly became my most rehearsed line in the German language.
There is in fact quite a lot of character in the city. The most popular centre of town appears to be between Marienplatz and Karlsplatz. At Marienplatz the traditional Gothic style buildings still stand from 1867. There is a great courtyard and beer garden between the bell tower and the town hall offices which has a fantastic atmosphere, it is part of the Ratskeller restaurant in the basement of the town hall which is an amazing place to see.
The clock tower has a famous automated glockenspiel with 43 bells and 32 life sized dancing statues that we saw ring in the mid-day show for 15 minutes. It re-enacts two stories from the 16th century, the marriage of a Duke, including a joust between life sized knights on horseback, and, the Coopers Dance which was meant to bring fresh vitality to Munich during the year of the plague in 1517. We went to the top of the bell tower via a lift and it’s clear from the view that there is plenty more character in the surrounding buildings too. We walked from here up the main shopping street to Karlsplatz, which has a huge modern fountain in the centre overlooked by the Gothic gate of the demolished medieval fortification, flanked by the 1899 rondel buildings on either side and a huge toy store. In winter the fountain is replaced with an open air ice skating rink.
On a mission to experience the true beer garden of Germany we went to Hirschgarten Biergarten, which translates to deer garden beer garden. It’s the biggest beer garden in Munich and it can seat 8,000 people! It had fantastic food, for us it was a mixed grill of pork and beef, Wiener snitzels and prawns. Right alongside the beer garden there are deer and goats which the kids loved and in the 40 hectare grounds there were numerous playgrounds, fields, locals playing a game like curling and a huge skateboarding park which we enjoyed watching. A visit to Hirschgarten for us was a whole day event and a very enjoyable one.
True to our promise to Ari to visit the largest technical museum in the world, after his interest in the one in Vienna, we spent a day at Deutsches Museum. It is absolutely amazing. It has full sized boats, cars, planes, fire engines…. You name it, with wings dedicated to natural sciences, energy, transport, new technologies, materials, production, communication and even music it’s just amazing. It had plenty of interactive areas to keep all four of us entertained.
We also did some local exploring in the area around our apartment and visited the English Garden, but did not find any surfers in the river, just nudists! Strange to see in the middle of a big city.
After leaving Munich we hired a car for 11 days for a road trip through Bavaria, the southern Black Forest, the Alsace Region of France, the northern Black Forest and then Reims in the Champagne Region of France before heading to Paris. Sadly this is the start of our overland journey towards our flights out of London onto the homeward stretch through Dubai and Hong Kong.