BootsnAll Travel Network


The Drive to Munich

We left Peter’s hometown in the morning. Although there had been some snow the night before, the roads were remarkably clear. We had Peter’s father’s Mercedes with all-weather tires just in case, though.

About two hours into the drive, we stopped at a highway rest stop for lunch. Peter said the Jagerschnitzel (Hunter’s Schnitzel, breaded and pan-fried pork fillet with a mushroom sauce) and Spaetzle (a traditional German noodle dish) were a little expensive at 9 Euros, but we agreed they were delicious nonetheless. At the rest stop I also picked up a free book about German highways that listed the full name of every city abbreviation on German license plates. Whereas American children on a road trip try to spot license plates from different states (which are clearly marked), German children get 1-3 letter codes which they have to try to decipher. Some of them are fairly easy—B is Berlin, M is Munich, MA is Mannheim, but some are more obscure. The book helped us find the correct answers for a while, then took the fun out of it.

We arrived at the hotel with no trouble around 2:30. Upon our arrival, we found two reasons to believe Fortune was smiling on us. One, we found a parking space right in front of the hotel. Two, we walked into the hotel but no one was at the front desk. In fact, the front desk looked closed. A woman walked downstairs and said, “how did you get in? The door should be locked.” Peter explained that it wasn’t locked, and we had a reservation. Then she said, “Oh, we’ve closed this hotel up. You have a room now at our sister hotel up the street. We tried to contact you, but we didn’t have a mobile number for you.” Now, that may not seem like a good thing, and certainly it was an odd welcome, but if the door hadn’t been open and the lady had not come downstairs at that moment, we really would have been up the creek with no hotel and no idea what to do about it.

We checked in and went to the room. It was small and basic, but also very reasonably priced at about 80 Euros a night. The location was good too—It was close to downtown and the “Schwabing” neighborhood, a traditionally hip area of the city near the main university, Ludwig-Maximillian University.

Exploring Munich

We started our tour by walking up Ludwigstrasse. The State Library building looked beautiful, and I convinced Peter to go inside for a look. We walked up the long marble stairs to the second floor, and found a special exhibit on a nature writer we’d never heard of. Unfortunately, we didn’t find ourselves caring any more about him after seeing the exhibit.

We kept walking up the street towards the Victory Arch until we got to the university. Seeing the university was very special to me. It was here that Sophie Scholl, her brother, and several friends had been university students in 1942 when they formed an anti-war society called the White Rose. They distributed flyers protesting WWII and Hitler’s actions. They were caught and executed within three days. I had never heard the story, but it was pretty famous in Germany. Two months earlier, though, I had gone to a film festival in L.A. and seen a movie about it—“The Last Days of Sophie Scholl”. It had been a very good film, and now here I was seeing the university where the events in that movie had really happened. I am not sure if they filmed the movie at the university, or if they had created a set. Nonetheless, I recognized from the movie the balcony where Sophie and her brother had pushed their leaflets onto the floor below. In addition, we saw at least two plaques commemorating Sophie and her brother. There was also a very small museum, but it closed at 4:00 and we got there at 4:10.

After the university, we started walking towards the Englisher Garten. We hadn’t planned on going there originally; it was December and everything I’d read about the garden made it sound like someplace to enjoy in the summer. But Peter had had his hair cut recently, and had mentioned to his hairdresser that he was going to Munich. It turned out Peter’s hairdresser was from Munich, and had advised him to go to the Englischer Garten; he said it would be beautiful even in winter.

Peter’s hairdresser was spot-on, as the British would say. Actually, just the architecture of the houses in the surrounding neighborhood was a beautiful sight. When we got to the garden and I saw the river and the bridges and the snow and the pagoda and the sweeping snowy hills, I was impressed. Peter enjoyed it, too.

One sight that Peter did not like, and which we argued in a friendly way about for the rest of the trip, was my attire. It was December and cold, and I had my beautiful coat from Ukraine and my new fur hat from my friend Tina. The coat was okay, but Peter thought the hat was a kind of fashion crime. He was probably right about it being a little big for my head, but it was gift from one of my dearest friends and it completed my “Ukrainian girl” look. I finally told him, “I like it, I’m gonna wear it, deal with it.”

We walked through the Englisher Garten and past the Hofgarten Chancery (which looked like a big greenhouse), and the Residenz. It was already after 5:00, so we couldn’t go in and see the sights. That was okay, though. We made it to the Rathaus (town hall). Wow! It was so big and beautiful in its neo-Gothic way. Now it’s mostly a shopping center and tourist stop. But the Rathaus and the square around it were still beautiful.

We stopped inside a café on one of the side streets for a late 4:00 coffee (a Peter tradition). It was run by two people who clearly were from Italy. Peter thought it was a little strange to walk into a coffee shop in Germany and hear “Bon Giorno”, but I didn’t mind so much.

It’s Hofbrau Time

After our cup of coffee, it was time to wend our way to the kind of place I hated to want to go to: The Hofbrauhaus, the king of Bavarian beer halls. When we got there, the place seemed quiet and empty. A little too quiet, thought Peter. He asked a server, and sure enough, we had walked into the restaurant. The beer hall was downstairs.

We went downstairs and found a room with many people sitting at long tables. Servers in traditional clothes were carrying large mugs of beer, just like you see in every traditional image of Germany. Such pictures don’t capture the horrific wonder of the oom-pa-pa band that was playing.

We managed to find two seats together at a table with strangers. Peter didn’t want to drink too much, so we agreed to share a mass (a 1-liter mug of beer). I guess we’re lucky his passport and national ID weren’t taken away for this. :0 We were a little hungry, and Peter suggested I try Weisswurst (white sausage). It wasn’t his favorite dish, but it was a traditional Bavarian dish and therefore he thought I should try it to have the experience. The sausages were boiled and served in a white ceramic pot of water. I had to agree with Peter; they were just okay but I was glad to have tried them. A better choice was the pretzel. Peter bought one from a vendor who was walking around with them to the tables. It was only 3 Euros, very soft and filling, and not too salty.

After we finished our beer, we got out of there. We got some postcards at the gift shop and hit the Hard Rock Café across the street to get a t-shirt for my friend Nick, who collects them. We walked back towards the Rathaus and walked down the street looking at the shops. We followed the road to the Fraukirchen. We didn’t think it would be open, but when we tried the door, it worked. For reasons I still can’t explain, I felt closer to God in that place than I have felt in any place of worship in my whole life. It wasn’t overly gilded with gold and pictures as some churches are. Yet it didn’t look like the church elders were taking a vow of poverty, either. The ceilings were so high they seemed to already be in Heaven. There were some interesting exhibits on historical figures of the church as well. We sat down in the pews for a minute to collect our thoughts, and suddenly heard a choir singing. It was surreal.

We quietly thanked one of the priests for letting us in, and walked out. Facing us was a lingerie shop—I thought it was an odd location but I guess it forces people to make a clear choice in life. We walked past the shop and found the Augustiner Hall. It wasn’t as over-the-top as the Hofbrauhaus, but Peter said the Bavarians who were there were probably just bringing their out-of-town guests to see it.

We each had another half-liter of beer, and tried another kind of sausage. This sausage was served with lentils, which Peter said was traditional. I always associate lentils with Indian food (i.e. dal), so I was a little surprised to hear that.

Walking back towards the U-Bahn (subway, literally “Underhighway”), we saw a woman playing an accordion. She was wearing a special blue satin robe and white hat with a fur trim. The costume looked familiar, and then it hit me—she was Snegurichka, the Russian granddaughter of Father Christmas! I said to her, “Snegurichka”? She said, “da”. I gave her a Euro and said “Spaceba”. I think it surprised Peter how excited I got when I saw that.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *