Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Day in Munich

Munich is a fairly conservative city in contrast to Berlin (more on that to come later). Munich - being the capital of Bavaria - is what most people think of when they think of Germany: Lederhosen, beer, and Oktoberfest!

The main square - Marienplatz - was full of tourists at 11am when we watched the glockenspiel (like most special clocks in Europe it’s quite boring).

We took the audio tour of the nearby “Residenz” which lasted a whopping three hours! We ended up skipping a large portion of the audio tour since much of it was describing items in the rooms (most of which were not the original contents of the room!), who they were made by and when - not exactly interesting stuff.

As you can see we resorted to taking pictures since the audio-tour was so … riveting.

So, Germans are a boring, stoic, crowd right? Not at all! They’re quite a crazy bunch sometimes (although they do strangely enjoy queuing). Just look how much fun these crazy Germans are having on the bike-and-beer tour through the Englischer Garten.

Englischer Garten also houses the Chinese Biergarten - one of the official beer gardens in Munich.

Speaking of beer, Bavarians do it very well! They specialize in white beer like Paulaner - one of my personal favourites.

We did a brewery tour which stopped at three different restaurants and included a tour of the Paulaner micro-brewery. It was well worth the money especially since our guide was an apprentice brewer (an American ex-pat from Maine who was very passionate about hops). The tour ended at Hofbrauhaus - a huge beer hall complete with 1L beer steins, a traditional German band and, of course, tonnes of Bavarians. Though it is pretty touristy there were lots of Germans there too - they clearly enjoy their beer, and for good reason! If you have to miss Oktoberfest or Plarrer, this is the next best thing.

What I did not realize about Bavaria was that the lederhosen and dirndl (the traditional women’s dress) is not just for Oktoberfest. Bavarians wear it for special occasions, going out for a night of drinking, or even to work in the countryside. Another stereotype of Germans is that they’re organized - this one also seems true as their trains run on time, there are tonnes of them and they’re very easy to understand. This is the Munich Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) - not only are there signs on the platforms listing the major stops and final destination of the train but it’s also right on the side and front of the train. You also don’t need to show your ticket until you’re seated - on ALL trains, even on the Metro - and an attendant comes around for your ticket - which sometimes never happens! This is so handy when you’re carrying bags with you - you just walk straight onto the platform, if you happen to be on the wrong platform it’s an easy switch. The train stations are all very open so you can even see across to signs on different platforms to see exactly where you have to go.

Next up: Beaaarlin

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