Ich liebe Deutschland!
You don’t speak German? Well, neither do I but I do know a few important words and phrases, and this one is key. So what does it mean in English? Quite simply, “I love Germany!” It’s not hard to love this beautiful country of contrasts. From the flatter north to the mountainous south, from modern Berlin to enchanting castles, time spent in Germany can be good for any traveler. With Lufthansa, travel to Germany is easy, even if you’re stopping just for a few days while traveling to or from other destinations in Europe. A great addition to any European itinerary is Munich, in the heart of Bavaria in the southeastern part of the country. If you decide to add a quick stop in Munich to your next European vacation here are some suggestions.
A fun way to orient you with Munich is with a hop-on/off city tour, starting at the main rail station. The convenience of hopping off at any point you desire is a great value, but I personally enjoy riding the double-decker bus for the entire loop. In only 45 minutes you can begin to get a feel of the city and you can sit back and get your bearings. After completing the loop, head towards Marienplatz and the heart of the city. The walk from the main station to the famous square is about 12 minutes, and the street becomes a pedestrian zone once you reach the Karlsplatz, with each side of the wide avenue lined with department stores, tourist shops, and eateries. As you make your way be sure to stop at the Frauenkirche. Completed in only 20 years’ time in the 1400s, the onion domes of this large basilica dominate the city’s skyline. Once at the main square of the Marienplatz you’ll find the beautiful new town hall (“Neues Rathaus”) with its famous Glockenspiel. Time it just right (i.e.: arrive just before 11am or noon) and you’ll witness dancing figurines on the clock as it chimes.
Just down the street from the Marienplatz lies the Viktualienmarkt, a colorful 200-year-old food market. There are storefronts surrounding the square as well open air and covered booths in the square. Take advantage of the variety of foods and the many picnic tables and grab lunch before moving on, or book a walking tour of the Viktualienmarkt with Avanti. The tour guide explains the traditions and background of the market and its offerings while you taste meats, cheeses and beer, and is available on a shared or private basis.
If you’ve read some of my past articles you know one of my favorite things to do in any city is find a fabulous viewpoint, and Munich as several. There is an elevator in the new town hall that can take you to the top for a view of the old town, but I prefer the view from Peterskirche, a 13th-century church situated between the Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt. Though you have to work for your view (no elevator here, just a somewhat narrow wooden staircase), it’s completely worth it in the end. My family and I went to the top of this sweet church right before sunset started and were awarded with beautiful orange-tinged views of the Marienplatz, the town hall, and the domes of the Frauenkirche.
In the evening venture into any of the beer halls or gardens found throughout the city center. Even if you’re not one for alcohol, there’s still tasty food and a fun, lively atmosphere to be found. The world famous Hofbräuhaus is a few blocks from the Marienplatz, or try the Augustinerbräu, Löwenbräukeller, or the Paulaner Bräuhaus, all serving some of Germany’s most famous beers. Avanti also has an evening tour of Munich that includes dinner at the Hofbräuhaus and a view from the tower at Olympiapark.
Spend your day enjoying something that piques your interest. Car fanatics will want to head to the BMW Museum where more than 90 years of BMW heritage is on display. Those interested in technology will be stunned by the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of technology and engineering. City center Munich also boasts a museum district, where you’ll find the Alte Pinakothek, the Neue Pinakothek, and the Pinakothek der Moderne, or “the old, new, and the modern” picture galleries. Thousands of paintings are available for viewing between these three museums, including pieces by Picasso, Manet, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and many other famous artists. Consider also a trip to the Residenz, an extensive complex in the heart of the city that was once the home to the Wittelsbach dynasty. Here you can view the largest coin collection in the world or simply enjoy the Hofgarten, a Renaissance garden inside the complex. There are also special collections of silver and porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as an Egyptian art museum on site.
Another option is to travel a few hours south of Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle. Perched high on a mountaintop, this castle was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. Commissioned in the 1860s by King Ludwig II, the king’s plan was to have the castle be his personal refuge as well as a homage to the composer Wagner, of whom Ludwig was a very big fan. The king moved into the castle before it was complete but lived there for only 172 days before dying under mysterious circumstances in 1886. Construction ceased and the castle was opened to the public immediately upon his death. Though the exterior was completed, only 15 of the 200 planned rooms and halls were completed and most of the interior lies empty and unfinished. Escorted day trips to Neuschwanstein and two of Ludwig’s other castles are available through Avanti on a shared or private basis, or you can do the day trip on your own. Should you decide to make the trip to Neuschwanstein on your own, take a train from Munich to Füssen, then a local bus from Füssen to Hohenschwangau. From Hohenschwangau you can walk (approximately 30 minutes) or take a bus or horse-drawn carriage. Don’t forget to purchase your entrance ticket before making the trek to the top! Though it will mean a full day outside of Munich, a day trip to this magical castle is an unforgettable experience. [Side note: due to restoration work at the castle, the western and northern façades will be scaffolded until the end of 2012.]
Take advantage of the delicious baked goods Germany has to offer at breakfast before saying tschüss (pronounced ‘chooss’, it means “see you later”) to Munich. See, I told you I know the important words and phrases!
It’s not just Munich that I love! Check out my past article on the charms of Heidelberg.