Tuesday, November 5, 2013

a week in munich

It's been a little over a week since we returned from Europe, and the trip still seems like a beautiful dream to me.  If you saw my pics on Instagram, you got a good flavor for what the trip was like.  I still have the Katzenjammer (hangover/blues), frankly.  We really had just the very best time.  I'll share some of our adventures in Munich in this post, and Vienna will follow soon.

This was our first big trip together.  I wasn't sure how it would go.  Two weeks of time with just each other, no work to distract us?  Hm.  But I shouldn't have been concerned.  We travel well together!  Yes, after 15 years together, it turns out we enjoy doing the same things.  And since it's been 15 years of basically nonstop work, I wondered if I could actually forget about business for two whole weeks.  The short answer is:  yes.  Most definitely, YES.

Having our usual routine disrupted?  NO PROBLEM.  Spending a full week in each city, we were able to travel slowly, adjust to where we were, and not feel rushed.  Andy was able to run nearly every single day--something he isn't able to do at home.  And I was pleasantly surprised at the return of my NYC-era walking legs.  We happily walked for miles around both cities.

In Munich we stayed at an Airbnb in a charming neighborhood about 15 minutes from the city center, called Mittersendling.  It was our first Airbnb experience, and it won't be our last.  The home where we stayed (the sunny yellow one in the collage) was lovely, as were our hosts.  The neighborhood itself was full of the cutest houses and so peaceful and quiet.  Other than the ravens, who made you feel like you were living inside a Poe story.  Staying at an actual home in a neighborhood, and not some anonymous hotel, helped us feel a little less like tourists.  Andy struck up a rapport with the woman at the bakery who sold him crusty bread and coffee in the mornings.  And we both fell in love with the local beer garden, the Augustiner Schützengarten.

Speaking of beer gardens, above are photos from Augustiner Keller, one of only three beer gardens where we actually sat outside.  Munich is known for its beer gardens, which are beautifully shaded by chestnut trees.  It was a little rainy a few days when we were there, but when it wasn't raining, the weather was--by our Michigan standards--lovely.  Yet no one was in the beer gardens!  I guess Germans save these shaded gathering places for hot weather.  But all the breweries of Munich have beer halls and restaurants that are warm and inviting, and that serve delicious German food and the best beer.

We visited quite a few of the major beer halls, but Augustiner Großgaststätte was definitely our favorite (it's the locals' choice, too).  Fantastic food, and they serve my favorite of the Munich beers--Edelstoff, a stronger version of their delicious Helles (lager).  We visited this happy, warm place more than once, and enjoyed sitting at the communal tables.  (The Gemütlichkeit?  Yes, we felt it.)  One night we enjoyed in turn chatting with a couple from Scotland, and then (to Andy's delight) drinking to the health of an Italian family, whose 60-something father had just completed the Munich marathon. On other visits, we just watching the ballet of the constantly moving, busy wait staff.

Typical Munich size-of-your-head pretzel, served with Obatzda, a spiced cheese spread.

We ate very well in Munich.  Though I think we could have happily eaten German food every day, we also enjoyed great Italian and Greek meals.  I had a Negroni at a little bar that made me feel like was in Rome.  (Munich is considered Italy's northernmost city.)  We had a delicious lunch of pumpkin soup and a tomato and mozzerella panini at the gorgeous place you see above, Die Goldene Bar, which is located at the back of the Haus der Kunst museum.  The waiter was very bemused by Andy, who was excited to see all the Herman Miller furniture in the place.

We didn't just eat and drink...though, y'know, you really could do so in Munich and be completely happy.  We visited the Residenz, the former palace of Bavaria's monarchs.  (I laughed at that "Abstinence is the mother of health" on the ceiling of the Antiquarium, a precept I completely failed to follow while in Munich!)  We even wandered onto a surprise practice session of a classical quintet in one of the chapels, which was kind of magical.

Munich has a wealth of museums.  The Lenbachhaus, which has a large collection of work from Der Blaue Reiter group, was my favorite.  And doesn't it look cool by night?

The Karls--Karlstor and Karl L.
But what I think we loved most was just walking around.  Looking at buildings and in shop windows.

Strolling through the Englischer Garten, checking out the ducks and surfers.  And of course, the dogs.  The people of Munich love their dogs.  We saw so many cute dogs, and tons of terriers (my favorite).  But the most fascinating thing to me is this:  many of these dogs were not on leashes.  In the city.  Just walking along the street behind (or in front of and constantly looking back at) their person.  It was crazy.  I don't know how the Germans are training their dogs, but I was in awe.  (And on one of our last nights we saw a man walking with his cat in this same manner.  How is this possible?)

This sign at dog's eye level on a grocery store front door reads, "Unfortunately, we have to stay outside."  Notice that the dog featured is a wire-haired dachshund, which I think may be the official dog of Munich, and which is definitely my new canine obsession.

l-r, clockwise: Gärtnerplatz, River Isar, Jugendstilhaus detail, mushrooms for sale at the Viktualienmarkt, Leopoldstraße in Schwabing.
We enjoyed exploring Munich's many neighborhoods, sitting in pretty squares to cop some free Wifi, looking at the Isar River, ogling the Jugendstil/Art Nouveau architecture, eating soup in the Viktualienmarkt and checking out all the produce sold there.

Munich is a breeze to get around in.  The public transportation is amazing.  As a once longtime NYC subway commuter, I was dorkily impressed.  It totally follows the German cliche of running on time.  

Munich is also really clean.  There are tons of people riding bikes.  Fearless bike riding--like, in the rain, in heavy city traffic, while holding an umbrella, bike riding!  There were plenty of nice wide bike lanes, something that took a bit of adjusting to as a pedestrian who is not used to having to look out for bike riders!  And interestingly, hardly anyone wore a helmet.  A definite and interesting lack of helmets and leashes in Munich.

Amazing public transport + obvious dog love + best beer in the world + lots of beautiful green spaces + amazing museums and culture = a place where I could totally live.  Munich seems to combine all the amenities of culture and convenience with a love of peace and quiet that makes it atypical of most big cities, and also a seemingly perfect place to live.

And the people of Munich were lovely and courteous.  When I got up the gumption to use my very limited German, they never made me feel like an idiot.  The same was true of Vienna.  Most people spoke much better English than I did German, though.  And several times (in both cities), kindhearted folk stopped to ask us if we needed directions when we were standing perusing our maps.

Even when things went wrong--like when our train skipped our stop at night and we had to hike three miles through dark neighborhoods to find our way home--it was an adventure rather than a hardship.  

The whole trip was a grand adventure!  I knew I wanted to go to Vienna, and Munich was more of a second choice.  But I ended up falling in love with Munich, and I hope we can go back again one day.  

If you're thinking of traveling to Munich, the Munich city guide at Design Sponge is indispensable, as is Eleanor's blog (she's one of the authors of the DS guide), Wahlmünchnerin.

You can see even more Munich photos on my Flickr stream, here.

Next up, Vienna!



  1. Wow, what a great vacation! The photos are lovely and I am really craving all that food now. Thanks for a lovely post!

  2. What great photographs, looks like you had a lovely time. But oh my, I though the pretzels were huge in the US, but that one is ginormous!

  3. How absolutely splendid! I've been longing to go to Germany, and Vienna is a dream destination!!!
    I look forward to more pix! X

  4. Oh, how wonderful Karen! I absolutely adore walking around discovering new cities and it sounds like you did just that. I love your photos and I think a giant sized bagel with that cheese spread is now on my list of things I have to eat.

  5. What a wonderful adventure! You've made me want to catch the first flight to Munich!

    And now I'm totally obsessed with this cat-walking notion. Did you see this before or after visiting the beer garden? ;)

    Thanks for sharing, Karen!

  6. That first photo is so super cute. Sounds like you had an an amazing vacation!

  7. Wow! You guys really did have a lot of fun, didn't you? I love your observation about the dogs. Munich is one of my favorite cites and I'm glad you loved it so much.

  8. oh man, this must have been amazing!! I would love to visit Munich!


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