In Bavaria, I ate sausages. All different kinds! In fact, I am now taking pride in the fact that I am pretty sure I tried just about every sort in the bunch. There was even one morning where we had brats for breakfast! I also ate a lot of pretzels, which I couldn’t get enough of. And drank an unhealthy amount of beer. Liters upon liters of helles (blonde beers). Munich was a party. And Bavaria sure knows how to throw one.
We arrived by train from Innsbruck early Wednesday afternoon with a treat waiting for us at the hotel – my mother-in-law! Mama K (what my brother-in-law Timmy and I refer to her as because everything else is awkward) loves to travel and is really quite worldly, but she had never been to Germany before! So she decided to visit us and tag along our journey through the Bavaria region with slices of the Czech Republic mixed in. In Bavaria, we were staying in Munich at a Design Hotel called The Louis Hotel. My two older sister-in-laws, Megan and Cari, took an impromptu 48 hour trip to Munich a few months back to drink liters of beer, eat brats and help Cari build her amazingly impressive flight status…. She lives a really cool life and travels a ton. While in Munich, they stayed at The Louis Hotel and highly recommended it to us. Low and behold, it was beautiful. And the location was perfect! Our rather large hotel room, that may have actually been bigger than our one bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, had terrace doors that opened up to overlook the Viktualienmarkt – this amazing outdoor market with many local vendor tents offering goods like that of a really fresh farmers market.
I fell in love with Munich the moment my husband and I took a walk through the squares and wide streets – finding dark architecture mixed with fancy cars and world-class monuments. Where grazing through markets happens on the daily and locals invite you to sit and drink beer with them. There were German folk dressed in lederhosen and dirndl as if it were standard attire and everybody was so friendly all of the time. It was a land where age-old traditions intertwined with designer boutiques and powerful businesses. The hard working community that was filled with such sophistication somehow blended effortlessly with aged beer gardens and sausage stands. The Muncheners attitude was so relaxed and happy, it was hard not to love them all! In other words, I would really enjoy a summer home in Munich 🙂
Side note: if you are in college and like to party (and really like beer…). And you are thinking about study abroad programs – Munich might be your best option. Trust me.
During World War II, the city was dreadfully harmed with bombing and a massive amount of civilian deaths. But today the city is rapidly growing with a booming economy. And it is known to be one of the most fascinating cities in all of Europe! Early Wednesday afternoon was a bit gloomy, but because our hotel was so perfectly situated right within steps of the market, my husband and I set foot to find the best pretzel stand. We both love big soft pretzels, but noticed the original ones that they sell on every street corner in Munich weren’t so soft! But very delicious. We each got a natural fruit juice squeezed right in front of us from a local fruit stand vendor and walked around the different market stands exploring all things German. Later that afternoon we met my mother-in-law for espressos and lunch. My husband read about this famous beer hall that was only blocks away from our hotel, so we ran in the rain to get traditional German food and beers. If there is anything that motivates me to run in the rain – it’s food and beers!! The restaurant was called Marianne n’ Hof, and it was dark and dingy and had the coolest vibe. Supposedly known as one of the best spots to watch sporting events and games! After large beers and a lot of schnitzel, we walked around the shopping district, where I bought a pair of black tights, because believe it or not, people still wear tights here (even in mid-May) and it has been getting quite chilly at night time. We walked through crevices and discovered beautiful roads that were covered in cobblestones and flowers. We even found ourselves underneath a beautiful awning with massive fake butterflies hanging from above! The marriage between old and modern was really something special.
That night, we dined in the basement of the old City Hall at a well known restaurant called The Ratskeller. Serving traditional German food in an extremely traditional setting, displaying German art and architecture on every detail of the establishment. We ate way too many sausages and again, had too much beer. My husband claims that Germans don’t drink water, they only drink beer, so his encouragement to keep sipping beers was quite aggressive. In other words, he was in his element.
Thursday was beautiful! We started our day by walking through the large square where historic buildings clump together. In that square is the infamous neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus, with its dancing Glockenspiel. Every day at 11am and noon, the Glockenspiel dances and brings a mesmerized crowd from all over the city just to watch it spin. It was so cool! We then took a walk through the wide, car free streets and stumbled upon the most beautiful church – with all white intricately carved cement layering the inside, we were awestruck. We had never seen any church like it, and were so fascinated!
We then spent the rest of our day exploring the Englischer Garten (to us, it is known as the English Garden) – one of the largest city parks in all of Europe! It was one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen and is substantially larger than New York City’s Central Park, so it had a lot of nooks and crannies to discover. On our way to the Englischer Garten, we walked through what had been the garden of an old royal family. This beautiful setting lead us to the Englischer Garten where we walked along the Schwabunger Bach (a stream of water), bird watched a bit and took in all the beauty of nature and our surroundings. It was glorious.
Fun fact: In the summertime, nude sunbathing is extremely acceptable and sometimes encouraged at the English Garden. In fact, if you are not nude sunbathing, you are probably merrily drinking beers at one of the many beer gardens the park has to offer. It is not unusual to see hundreds of naked people lying in the park during normal business hours. Luckily for us, it’s Spring time and the weather hasn’t gotten warm enough to hang out in the nude along the steam of the park. My mother-in-law looked very happy about this 🙂 My husband, not so much. I was indifferent.
Speaking of these classic beer gardens located right in the middle of the park, we decided that a day of sipping amongst greenery sounded like a pretty good (and pretty German!) idea. So we beer garden hopped! Stopping at one to eat some food and sip some beers in a more luxurious setting… followed by liter beers at a picnic table with hundreds of other Germans surrounding us. And large black crows swooping down trying to steal our pretzels. We had so much fun – after all, beer drinking isn’t just an important part of Munich’s entertainment scene, but it’s also a reason to visit! Germans drink on average 130 liters of beer each year (which really isn’t that much if you think about it), Munich locals averaging far more than that! Visitors averaging….. A lot. Especially my husband!!
That night, we ventured in a taxi cab to a seafood restaurant just north of the city’s center – it was called Atlantik Fisch. At that point, we were drowning ourselves in beer and figured some seafood and white wine might be good for us! The restaurant had a roofed in sunroom that was covered in rose trees and beautiful twines of leaves. Twinkle lights filled every wall and the entire ceiling. The menu was written in chalk on a decorative board and we sat at a high top wooden table, one you might find in your friends backyard at a barbecue. The whole setting was dreamy and the fish tasted so fresh! It was rather refreshing of an evening. We cabbed back to our hotel where we got another (non-beer) cocktail and hightailed to bed.
Friday morning, we hired a private driver to take us into the town of Fussen and deeper into the Bavarian Alps to tour some shockingly gorgeous castles – my husband’s bright idea. Only a two hour drive from Munich, we decided a day trip was absolutely necessary. Growing up, much of my life was a dream where I was the princess and lived in luxurious castles. The castles in my head were only ones I had read about in story books or seen in the movies. Never in my life did I imagine physically seeing one right before my eyes. It was an absolute dream come true! Jaw dropped the entire day, I almost fell over a the sight of Neuschwanstein castle – King Ludwig of Bavaria’s very own creation (with the help of a theatrical designer). Before our hike up to the insanely picturesque, white, dramatic Neuschwanstein castle, we toured the beautiful, but on a much smaller scale, castle where King Ludwig grew up. The Hohenschwangau castle sits adjacent to the other castle and attracts lesser crowds, but is still amazing. Both castles provided a glimpse into the overwhelmingly romantic King’s state of mind. His ego shines in his own architectural design when touring the differences between where he grew up and what he created to live in as an adult. Quite obnoxious, actually. Both castles were built as 19th-century constructions and held a deep obsession with swans. Swans were displayed on every wall, every design, every piece of furniture, every masterpiece of art. The castles were inundated with swans every corner that you turned. Not only were swans incorporated into the designs of the castles, but from every window, you could see the beautifully deep teal lake where swans would swim. After touring King Ludwig’s childhood “home” (castle), we made our way up to the humongous sugary castle that sat just a little higher up and was a whole lot bigger. King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle was never finished because of his unexpected death. He only got to live in the massive castle for six months. At the time of his death, his younger brother was naturally deemed King, but due to mental illness, never got to rule. So their sane Uncle took over, realized the Neuschwanstein castle was extremely ridiculous, and opened it up to the public – for princess dreamers like me to visit!
Fun fact: King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle was the inspiration behind Disney’s Magic Kingdom!
That night, back in Munich, we had the most delicious dinner. We went to a restaurant we read about in Travel + Leisure and heard about from my former boss, Erin, who is super fabulous – it was called Zum Alten Markt. Just steps from our hotel, we walked along the market and stepped into the cutest of places. Deep wooden walls and mix-matched decor complimented the handmade tabes and different chairs. Mountain Goat horns were displayed in collages on the walls and there was such a cozy feeling of home in there. The service was impeccable and the food was amazing! All fresh ingredients were bought and used daily from the local market right outside its front door and the array of German schnapps was impressive. It was such a special ending to the most perfect day!
The next day was Saturday and we decided that we really wanted to get our German on – we wanted to eat as many different sausages and sample as many different beers as we possibly could, given it was our final hoo-rah in Munich. We started our morning like a true local – with a brat from one of the local sausage tents in the market for breakfast. Munich’s soccer team had recently won the Bundesliga – Germany’s soccer league. So the Munich locals decided to throw a huge party throughout the entire city – resulting in happy drunk Germans everywhere. The city was filled with glee and we felt so excited to be a part of it. We headed over to a rather touristy beer hall called the Hofbrauhaus – which is also known as the ultimate cliche Munich beer hall. It’s pretty much the theme park of Munich – and boy was it a fun ride!! Aside from the awesome atmosphere and delightful time we had, the history of the establishment is quite interesting! Hitler used to make speeches there and it has been a prominent go-to for many years. So we sat at a picnic table-like structure and drank liters of beer while the locals cheered and shouted songs in German around us. It was loud and a lot of fun. There was a live traditional German band playing their horns and everyone was in such good spirits. It was amazing!
We then decided to become familiar with “Maximillion” Street for some retail therapy followed by touring the amazing baroque St. Peterskirche church. This is the most important church in the square of Munich and was unlike anything I had ever seen. With detailed stations of the cross and colorful art on every wall, it was unbelievable. Visiting churches in unfamiliar places is one of my favorite things to do. They all hold such unique beauty and history and I become so inthralled each time I walk in. That night, tired from all the partying we had done with the locals, we decided to eat at our hotel restaurant. Lucky for us though, our hotel held one of the best sushi restaurants in all of Munich.After excessive amounts of beer and sausage, sushi and sake sounded fabulous! We reminisced about our fun times in Munich and started planning our travel plans for the next day.
Sunday was Mother’s Day – and a day of difficult travel. My poor mother-in-law had to rough it with Mike and I as we took three different trains and one bus to get to our next destination – Karlovy Vary. A spa town in the Czech Republic that is not easy to get to from anywhere. Well known for its healthy lifestyle and natural hot springs that shoot up from the ground that are scattered throughout and available to the public. And also known as home to where they filmed the James Bond movie – Casino Royale.
Stay tuned to hear all about the luxurious spa town in the Czech Republic! Until then, owf!