One of the best parts of living abroad is the opportunity to travel more easily and for cheaper. Being in France, I am very central in Western Europe so therefore I can fly a lot of places (or even take the train) and arrive in a relatively short amount of time. I made it a goal this year to see Germany because it is one of the main destinations of Europe and I had yet to get over there. There were many reasons that Munich happened to be my first city to visit in Germany. For one, I happened to researching the best Christmas markets in Europe and it appeared on the top of numerous lists. Two, I am actually addicted to checking Skyscanner.com and stumbled upon amazing ticket prices. Munich is also only a short distance from Aggie so I would be able to meet up with her. And of course, I have always heard great things about it and my experience with Bavarian has been a good one so far—so Munich it was!
Munich is about an hour and a half flight from Paris making it really easy to get there and enjoy a long weekend. Unfortunately because of Nay’s and my work schedule we were only able to spend about 2 days in Munich. It went so fast but we really were able to see a lot and get the feel for the city. The city was incredible and definitely a must-see when coming to Europe. As I have mentioned before, I am not really someone who needs to see all the top attractions of the city but rather I enjoy walking around, meeting people, eating, drinking—experiencing. We did do our fair share of walking around and enjoying the city’s main sites but the trip was not overwhelmed by crossing things off a must-see list. With such a short time, I still wanted to get the feel of the city and not be rushed to make sure I saw all the tourist sites. I did a substantial amount of researching before I went so it helped with the little time we had to actually see the city. Nay and I both had things on our list of “must-sees” and luckily they were the same things. There were only 2 things I absolutely had to do: see the Christmas Market and go to the Hofbräuhaus.
Nay and I got in late Friday night and enjoyed the cheap drinks at the hostel bar. We planned to wake up early on Saturday so we could get a full day in since it would be are only opportunity to see everything. Aggie drove in that morning to meet up with us. Surprisingly with the little sleep we got on Friday, we managed to have an early start and see so much of the city. We began by heading to the main square, Marienplatz. This is where the Market is but we had planned to do that in the evening so there were strict rules of “no looking at the stands” until later! We wanted to see the Glockenspiel that only chimes 2 times a day. It is over 100 years old and its 32 figurines re-enacts a royal wedding, a jousting tournament and a ritualistic dance—all important traditions in Munich. For about 15 minutes, everyone in the square pried themselves away from the Christmas stands and looked upward to enjoy the show. Afterwards, we decided to climb the tower in order to get a great panoramic view of Munich.
Although we happened to luck out with pretty good weather, the top of the tower was freezing and windy but definitely worth the view. We continued to walk around and see the main building in the square before heading to the Viktualienmarkt. It is a bustling market full of goodies to buy, things to eat, and of course a beer garden. It has been around since the 1800s and is still an extremely popular place to visit. All the walking helped us work up an appetite (not that I ever need help for that!) so we headed to the Hofbräuhaus.
Coolest experience of the trip.
As soon as you walk into the Hofbräuhaus, you feel like you are in Germany. I know it is sometimes criticized as being too much of a tourist destination but it is filled with tourists and locals alike. Regulars and visitors share tables laughing and talking over their litters of beer and Bavarian dishes. The place is massive and it is clear why it is the most popular beer house in Munich. It was incredible to examine the painted ceiling that once proudly displayed swastikas that are now hidden by flowers. Being surrounded by so many people enjoying their day and their loved ones makes it hard to imagine that Hilter once used this very place for meetings and Nazi functions. The loud chatter of people, men chanting Bavarian drinking songs and the band make for a perfect soundtrack for the Hofbräuhaus. Finding a seat is just about as difficult as finding a parking spot at the mall around Christmas time. People anxiously scour the restaurant looking for an empty spot. We happened to get lucky and find one only after a few minutes of looking. We also got the added bonus of sharing it with a German family. We ordered our litters of beer and food—bratwurst for Nay, weisswurst for me and of course, a pretzel to try. Delicious. Surprisingly, the large mug of beer was not overwhelming and complimented the food perfectly. Apparently they know what they are doing in Munich…unlike me, who stared at my weisswurst until the German lady at our table explained to me (in German but it is incredible how far hand gestures can go) how to peel it before eating. Happy to provide some entertainment for our new friends at our table, Nay and I peeled the weisswursts while everyone giggled at our struggles. I am a huge advocate of having to try the local specialties while travelling. In fact, I think that has the most importance while travelling for me—I like to eat! I have really gotten the opportunity to try such wonderful dishes.
After our stomachs were full and our glasses were empty, we headed back out into the city for more sight seeing. When it began to get dark, we made our way back to the highly anticipated Christmas market. I know that most people travel to Europe during the summer, but I honestly think experiencing it during Christmas time is one of my favorite experiences. Really there is nothing that tops enjoying a mug of hot wine while walking around the market all bundled up. Nay and I made collecting mugs a sport as we scoped out the best ones. Happy to say we are both now proud owners of several awesome Christmas mugs.
The next day, we had to sadly say bye to Aggie and Nay and I made our way to Dachau. We were scared about the timing of it all since we had a flight around 5pm but we knew we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it. I am really happy we went. Although it was such a sad event to think about, I really think it is good to see. It made things more real and as much as we have learned about this, it is completely different to be standing in the same place so many people suffered. When Case and I visited Omaha Beach, we talked about how hard it is to even wrap your head around what people went through that experienced these wars and hardships. It is just so crazy to think about. I am really happy that although our time was limited we made it a point to see Dachau’s concentration camp.
After our visit, we sadly had to start our goodbyes to Munich. Nay and I rushed around to finish last minute items such as Christmas shopping, buying souvenirs, and of course eating before our flight. It was sad to leave, especially since our visit was only a couple days but I know I will be back. Aggie and I are thinking of doing Oktoberfest next year. And now I am determined to see more of Germany. I think Berlin next but we will see since there is so much of the country I want to see!