Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weekend in Munich, Germany!

As I went to bed late Sunday night, I was planning on titling this blog post ‘Bavaria, You're Beautiful’. From Friday up until that point, Munich and the state of Bavaria was outdoing itself with its beauty, kind people, and fun atmosphere. My thoughts changed on Sunday when I had the sobering experience of visiting Dachau Concentration Camp. My magical thoughts about Munich slowly faded as I read about and walked through the atrocities that were committed from 1933 to 1945 at that exact place. I am grateful that I was able to experience so much in Munich over a lengthy three days, and I feel more well rounded after having positive as well as heart-wrenching feelings in this historical city of Germany.

 We arrived in Munich via train at 6:10am on Friday morning. The station was hustling and bustling, and it reminded me of Grand Central Station in New York City. We attempted to purchase U-Bahn passes, but the computer system was much more confusing than in Vienna. Passes were not as simple and straightforward. Eventually, we purchased the correct pass, and headed for the hostel.

It was a rainy, cold morning, but I was still excited to be in another country. Along the 15-minute walk, I noticed the street signs: Goethestraße, Beethovenstraße, Mozartstraße. I hoped the rest of the city had as much culture as these three street signs displayed. Once we found the hostel, we checked in and made it upstairs. This hostel was great, and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Munich. It’s called Smart Stay off of Mozartstraße. The staff was pleasant, the rooms were nice and clean, the location is wonderful, and the bed was incredibly comfortable.

Exhausted from the train travel, we closed the curtains to block out the morning sun and napped for a while. When I woke up, it felt like a new day. I was ready to go out and explore. We hopped on the U-Bahn (which played classical music at the platform) to Marienplatz, the city center. The U-Bahn reminded me of the C train in NYC. The seats were navy, the walls were brown, and the floor was gray/black. The whole thing was pretty dingy looking. The train drops you off right at Rathaus, or the city hall, which was a stunning thing to see when you emerge from underground:

Rathaus München
Kristina, Gintas, Patrick, and I met up with Jenn, Emielia, and Chris, and we went sightseeing around the city for the afternoon. We went inside stunning churches, window-shopped, snapped photos, and had a grand time. We got hungry for lunch after a while and took the U-Bahn to a restaurant called Vanilla Lounge. Again, I highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Munich! The food and coffee were delicious, the prices were good, and the waiter was the sweetest man! I had pancakes, eggs, and some crispy bacon. Such a good meal!

The inside of the Theatine Church

Gold leaf roses at Munich Frauenkirche

The cobblestone streets of Munich

The two towers of Munich Frauenkirche
After lunch, we made our way to the English Gardens, a large park similar to Forest Park in St. Louis. Even though it was cold and a little gloomy outside, the walk through the park was pleasant. We did a lot of walking this past weekend ... We then walked through a small village right on the outskirts of the city center, and then hopped onto the U-Bahn to the Olympic Park.

The lake at the English Gardens
Munich hosted the summer Olympics in 1972. Prior to visiting, I read about the Munich Massacre and was eager to find a memorial or plaque to commemorate the fallen Israeli athletes, but I was unsuccessful in my search. Although a little desolate, the Olympic Park was very cool. It was eerie to think at some point in time, the park was crammed with people from all over the globe attending one of the largest sporting events in history. Here are some photos:

Inside the Olympic Park

Inside the Olympic Park

The Olympic Stadium
There is a large hill in the park. When you get to the top, you can see most of Munich and inside the stadium. That was awesome.

The view of the stadium from the top of the hill

The view of Munich from the top of the hill
BMW World is right next to Olympic Park, so we went there next. The architecture of the building was unique and the cars in the lobby were cool. There is a whole museum with different cars, motorcycles, and technology. Jenn, Kristina, and I sat and had a cup of coffee in the café while the boys and Emiela went to go play.

BMW Welt
Day one concluded with a visit to the beer hall, Augustiner Großgasstäte, and the enjoyment of a beer and a soft pretzel.

Perfect way to end the first day!
Day Two started at 6:00am for me. We checked out of our hostel and made our way to the central train station. We embarked on a 10.5 hour tour of two castles and three cities in Bavaria (the state that Munich is in). The ride to the first castle was about an hour and twenty minutes outside of Munich. The snowy countryside and mountains were breathtaking. The town that the Linderhof Palace is in is called Ettel.

Snow, trees, and the mountains in Ettel
The palace, built by and for King Ludwig II, was extremely extravagant and beautiful.

Outside of the palace

Ceiling in the foyer of the palace

Group photo at Linderhof!
After visiting Linderhof, we drove to the small village of Oberammergau. It was a short visit to buy souvenirs and to view the 5,000-seat theatre where the Passion Play is performed every ten years. The theatre was closed when we visited, but I got a good shot of the outside.
The Oberammergau Passion Play is performed here.
 The next stop was the Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that the Disney castle is based off of! There is a one-mile hike up to the castle, where we encountered many Asian tourists and horse-drawn carriages. The castle also belonged to King Ludwig II, but a large portion of it is unfinished because he mysteriously disappeared during the construction after he found out his diagnosis of mental illness. The tour of the castle short and sweet. The various halls and rooms reminded me scenes from Disney's Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. It is a must-see when visiting Munich.

The scenic view from outside the castle

Schloß Neuschwanstein
Once getting back to the city center of Munich, Gintas, Kristina, Patrick, and I departed for our second hostel. Little did we know that this hostel was basically in the suburbs of Munich. We walked for at least an hour in the dark trying to find this place. After some directions from nice locals, we made it. We settled in, and then Kristina, Gintas, and I headed back into the city (which took forever by S-Bahn) to meet Chris, Jenn, and Emielia for a drink.

The seven of us ended up at Hofbraühaus, THE beer hall in Munich. The ground floor is a large open space filled with long wooden tables and benches, an oompah band, locals in lederhosen, tourists, lots of beer, and soft pretzels. The place is filled with tons of drunken happiness and chatter in different languages. Everywhere you look a group is clinking mugs, and this sometimes results in shattered glass. We ended up sharing a table with four Frenchmen. They were very nice and proceeded to get very drunk. The men stood on the benches and sang the French national anthem at least three times throughout the night, and shattered one beer stein while aggressively cheersing.

One liter of beer!

The Frenchmen having a good time (Photo by Kristina Vidovic)

Do you notice the two men in the background? (Photo by Kristina Vidovic)
It was a wonderful night that ended in perfect snowfall as we walked back to our hostel.

Day Three consisted of our visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site and grounds. It was an eerie and haunting experience which evoked many emotions. Although it was difficult to walk through (especially on a snowy, cold day), it was important. If you want to talk about the experience in person, I welcome that. I do not think I can sum up all that I felt in a paragraph or two. I leave with you a photo of the outside of the memorial for the six-million fallen Jewish souls, where I reached my emotional peak. I will remember that moment vividly.


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