A December 2004 trip
to Munich by su-lin
Quote: I took my brother to Munich for a week's vacation before Christmas, and even though it was cold, it was a marvellous holiday!
Hotel | "Hotel Jedermann"
The view from our window was spectacular--St. Paulskirche was located about 400m away, and we could hear the bells chiming very faintly at each quarter hour. It was a shame that we never ventured down the street to take a look inside.
Like most German hotels, breakfast was included in the price of the room, and what a breakfast it was! There was a huge spread of breads, buns, pastries, yogurts, puddings (chocolate!), fruit jelly, fruit conserves, nuts, seeds, cereals, cakes, salads, cold cuts, cheeses, and pâtés, etc. On occasion there would be chocolate cake and pretzels. Stollen was available, as it was so close to Christmastime.
A very welcome extra was a computer available in the reception area with free Internet access. How splendid! There was no need for lugging that laptop around in the hopes of getting a free wireless signal. Speaking of laptops, their website does state that their en-suite rooms do have Internet access available. There was also a communal TV downstairs near the bar. Oh yes, did I not mention that bar?
The location of the hotel was not in the prettiest of areas, but it was safe at night, and that’s what counts for me. It was also very convenient. The closest U-Bahn station also happens to be Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. That’s about 500m away and only a 10-minute walk. From there, there is a direct S-Bahn to the airport, and as you can imagine, we took a couple day trips from here. To get to the hotel from the Hauptbahnhof, take the exit where the giant Coca-Cola sign overhangs. Turn right and continue down the street--the hotel is on the left-hand side.
I highly recommend this hotel, and I highly recommend booking in advance (I booked in September for the Christmas season). We stayed there for 7 nights (quite a long vacation by their standards), but we found lots to do!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 28, 2004
Actually, I'd heard of this soup joint from this terrific post by snbuzzelli. This kitchen is located in the heart of the Viktualienmarkt, the large food market located slightly southeast of Marienplatz.
We easily found the restaurant in the Viktualienmarkt and spent some time deciphering the menu. Huhnerbruhe? Rinderbruhe? Huh? With help from my phrasebook, we found the former is chicken soup and the latter, beef soup. You had a choice of noodles, dumplings, or pancakes in the soup and also whether you wanted some of the meat in the soup, too. There were other vegetarian soups and a liver dumpling soup, and that day, they had a goulasche soup. We chose a chicken noodle with meat and a goulasche soup to split. You can have pretzels, dark German rye bread, and other goodies to go with your soup, but we chose to have them straight up.
The place is self service. Place your order either inside or outside (inside, you can see the other foodstuffs available; at the outside window, you have a view to the cauldrons of soup). Your soup is placed on a tray and you can have it standing up inside or on picnic benches outside. I can imagine it being very pleasant during the summer, but there's not much to fear in the winter. The outside area is surrounded by thick plastic sheets to keep out the cold, and there are powerful heaters to keep you warm.
Oh, my goodness. This soup was terrific. It was a clear chicken broth with tender noodles (they cook them separately) and plenty of chicken meat. (If you don't want meat in your soup, they just give you the broth.) Yum. And the goulasch soup was full of soft beef and potato cubes. We were hooked.
However, on the following Sunday, we wanted more, but it was closed. The entire Viktualienmarkt was closed - even the Nordsee. Oh, when were we going to get to eat soup again?!
We found that second chance on our penultimate day in Munich. We spent the morning buying gifts for friends and relatives and then headed over to the Viktualienmarkt again for lunch. This time, goulasch soup was off the menu - and I cannot remember what its replacement was. We had another chicken noodle soup and a beef soup with dumplings. The lady who helped me seemed pleased when I massacred her language! Yum, yum again! The dumplings were not at all what I expected - they were a dough with a green filling (spinach?) rolled up like a jelly roll and then sliced. They were delicious!
There is another branch just by the Dom, northwest of Marienplatz. If you do find yourself in Munich, I heartily recommend a visit!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 25, 2005
Viktualienmarkt Off Of Frauen Str.
Entrance for students is a bargain--only €3. It's €7.50 for adults. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm, and there are separate fees if you wish to take in a show at the planetarium or to go up the tower.
Language was not a problem. Everything was labelled in both German and English, but longer descriptions were only available in German. There were plenty of hands-on activities that make it a terrific outing for the family. My particular favourite were the chemical reactions--large containers of particular chemicals were hooked up to a test tube. Pressing a button would siphon some of the chemicals into the tube so you could see the reaction. Neat!
Another favourite of mine was the collection of musical instruments. Head to the back room where the electronic instruments are kept and there is a replica theremin for you to try! The replica of the Altamira cave (the original is in Northern Spain) is also fantastic - it's a mock-up of the cave itself along with the cave paintings that were found. As the original cave is no longer accessible to the public, this is the next best thing.
I had heard great things about the mining exhibit, so I dragged my brother towards it. This consists of reproductions of life-sized mines that are located in the basement of the building. This exhibit is NOT recommended for claustrophobics! You start by going down a winding staircase for about three stories. Then it's a maze of mine shafts, detailing a chronological history of mining. It's absolutely terrific but it's also absolutely very long. We tired after a while, and even when we picked up the pace, it still took over 20 minutes to finish the exhibit! This one needs time.
The museum is huge. Your feet will tire. Throughout the museum are these hilarious foot massagers where for 50 cents, your feet will be vibrated to numbness. I know because I tried it! It does work--it gave me an extra half hour of walking around when I thought my feet would fall off.
There are displays of pretty much everything you can think of so long as it concerns science and technology: civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computers, food technology, biology, anatomy, chemistry. To see everything properly, you will need a full day or perhaps even more. With the two hours we had, we were only able to glimpse most of the exhibits. Previews of all of them can be found at the museum website.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 26, 2005
Munich, Germany 80538
+49 89 21791
This 17th-century palace was the summer residence of the Wittelbachs; the House of Wittelbach ruled Bavaria from 1180 until 1918. It is a large and beautiful palace that forms a large semi-circle around ponds and a canal. As it was winter, the canal and ponds in front of the palace had frozen, but birds did still manage to congregate in areas were the pond was still liquid at the surface. Also, in the winter, opening hours for the palace are 10am to 4pm. Tickets are available for the main palace building only (we bought these) or for both that and a few of the surrounding buildings, one of which contains a carriage museum. As with most museums in Munich, photography is allowed, but only without flash.
Upon entering, you encounter a beautiful hall. Then it's left for the Gallery of Beauties and what would have been the Queen's chambers. To the right was the kings. There were fewer rooms open to the public than I expected, and with tour groups coming by the busload, it can get crowded inside.
A highlight of the trip was the Gallery of Beauties, a collection of portraits of women (girls, really... they were all 21 or under) whom Ludwig I considered beautiful. A few were not of noble birth, causing much drama at the time. Shock, horror! One particular beauty was the daughter of a local shoemaker who had caught Ludwig I's fancy. One ended up being his daughter-in-law! A number of the women were his mistresses, and when her time with him was over, he was always very good to them, marrying them off to rich, but old, peers. (Although tour groups can be annoying, the tour leaders have a wealth of information!) There was also a smaller, older, lesser-known gallery of beauties compiled by Max Emanuel, but if you ask me, Ludwig I had better taste. [wink]
There is a large parkland behind the palace, and it would have been wonderful to wander through it during the summer, when the weather was better. The snow was untouched in many places, and it was quite an effort to walk through it. Oh, well--another time.
I highly recommend Schloss Nymphenburg, but I think it would be rather tiring for younger children.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 27, 2005
Munich, Germany 80638
+49 89 179080
Crafts and Gifts
There are so many Christmas decorations to choose from! Many are handcrafted, though there are some that sell mass-produced ones. There are also many gifts that would make any child or child-at-heart pleased. We were quite taken by the wooden swords available—sabers were available too! I purchased a springerle mold, a wooden cookie mold to form cookies with pictures. The same stall produced many wooden tools that would be a delight to home cooks. Doll-house furniture, wooden toys, sculptures, clocks, etc., are all available. Pyramids and smokers are more unique to Germany. Pyramids are wooden sculptures turned by the heat of candles at the base. Smokers are wooden men (or women) with a pipe that smokes, thanks to the burning incense that is placed inside the figurine. More modern smokers included a chemist with smoking test tubes!
There are plenty of stands selling wurst: bratwürst, Nuremberg rostbratwürstel, wieners, weisswürst... actually, this last sausage is a white sausage made of veal that is simmered and peeled before eating with a sweet, grainy mustard. And it's traditionally eaten before noon! You can have your sausages by themselves, mit Semmel (with a bread roll), or with sauerkraut or kartoffelsalat. There's plenty of mustard to be had too! I found all the sausages unique and delicious, and I miss them. A more acquired taste is currywurst, a cut-up bratwurst covered in ketchup and curry powder (my version had an extra curry-like sauce poured on top, too).
Another Christkindlmarkt must-taste is Glühwein (or, for non-alcoholics like me, Kinderpunsch). This is hot wine (or juice) mulled with many spices and is a true finger warmer for chillier days. In environmentally friendly Bavaria, your hot beverage will not arrive in your hands in a disposable styrofoam or paper cup but in a proper ceramic mug. A deposit must be paid on this—at most stands, this is €2.50. Hand in your mug when you are finished, and your deposit will see its way back to your paws. Of course, not returning your mug means that you will not get your deposit... but you will have a terrific souvenir! There are a variety of mugs to choose from, depending on which stand you go to—regular mugs, boot-shaped mugs, tall glass mugs, terracotta beakers…
Our favourite stand was a terrifically busy red and yellow kartoffelpuffer (potato-pancake) stand where you can watch aproned cooks fry batch upon batch of batter. Once again, there is no disposable paper plate. A large wafer (like the kind you get in sundaes) protects your hands from the grease of the three large pancakes. I noticed that most people threw away their makeshift plate, while others nibbled on it like a snack-dessert. For a small extra fee, you can choose applesauce, garlic sauce, or a horseradish cheese (at least, that's what it translates to) to accompany your pancakes. Yum!
Need to burn off that bratwurst? There's a skating rink located at the Karlstor, near the McDonalds. And almost every day at the Marienplatz, there is a musical group to entertain shoppers. See the tourist information in the Neues Rathaus for listings.
However, for a first-time visitor, the best entertainment is just to wander the stands and absorb the festive atmosphere. And don't forget that glühwein to warm your fingers! It's chilly in the winter!
There's a terrific bargain in the Bayern Ticket - a train ticket that allows travel on any train in Bavaria (and even to some stations outside Bavaria) for up to five people travelling together for 1 day. On weekdays, it is valid after 9:30am and until 3am the following day. On weekends, it is valid from midnight until 3am. And all this for the bargain price of €24 (at the time of travel)! This makes it an ideal choice for me and my brother travelling to Hohenschwangau. Compare this to a minimum €30 per person fee for a tour... and that rate does not include entrance to the castles.
Warned by our guidebook about the popularity of the castles, we chose to go on a Saturday, allowing us to leave for Hohenschwangau very early in the morning. The season was on our side - there are fewer tourists in winter than in the summer, when it is likely that you won't be able to get a ticket when you reach the castle. We departed from the Munich Hauptbahnhof on a 7:51am train and changed at Buchloe for a train to Fussen. At Fussen, you catch a bus to Hohenschwangau - the Bayern Ticket is valid for the bus ride; don't pay yet another fee!
We were dropped off at the bus stand in Hohenschwangau, and we hiked up the hill to the ticket office - it's all very clearly labelled. Even though we reached there at 10am, the earliest ticket we could get for Schloss Neuschwanstein was at 1:05pm. We could easily get tickets for Schloss Hohenschwangau... it's usually skipped by many tour groups! Entry to one castle is €9 for adults and €8 for concessions. Entry to both is €17 for adults and €15 for concessions. There are English- and German-language tours - other languages are catered for by a recorded tour. Photos are not allowed inside the castles.
Schloss Hohenschwangau was a short climb up a hill behind the ticket centre, and we easily made it to the entrance for our 10:45am entry. Entry to the castles is timed. You place your ticket through the gates when your entry number shows up and the turnstile will then let you through. We waited inside the foyer of Hohenschwangau for the rest of our group - a total of 14 people. This made for an intimate tour of the rooms open to visitors, with plenty of time to ask our charming tour guide about the castle's history and furnishings. We saw Ludwig II's bedroom, where he had place pinpricks in the ceiling so that light could shine through, mimicking starlight. We saw correspondence between Ludwig II and Richard Wagner and the piano on which Wagner played. We saw 100-year-old bread! There were plenty of stories about the murals throughout the castle by our very informed tour guide.
Coming out of the castle, we realised we still had over an hour to kill before heading to Schloss Neuschwanstein. The guidebook had warned us of a steep climb to the castle and to give ourselves at least 40 minutes. We hoped to grab a bite to eat and then climb up - alas, there is a snack shop next to the ticket centre but with nothing particularly lunch-like. We scoffed down the biscuits we had brought with us and planned to head back to Fussen for a meal. The walk is quite steep and quite treacherous when snow is coming down – it’s easier to climb than to walk down! Yes, I forgot to mention that it was snowing the entire time we were there. If you'd rather not walk, there are horse-drawn carriages to take you up all year-round - I believe they are £5 to go up the hill and much less to go down. When the weather is good, there is a bus to take you up. My brother and I took significantly shorter than the estimated 40 minutes to walk up... something along the lines of 10 to 15 minutes. Oh well.
Near the top of the hill, where the castle is located, is a restaurant/snack shop, Munchen Hofbrauhaus to be precise. There's also a souvenir stand up there. At the top, we then had to wait a further 40 minutes or so to get inside. This time, though, we waited with a large crowd of people - this castle is significantly more popular. There were entrances every 5 minutes, and our group had approximately 30 to 40 people in it - quite large for some of the smaller rooms. The tour guide was again very informed but the size of the group and the way in which we were rushed from room to room led to a much less intimate gathering. Nevertheless, of the 200 rooms in the castle, only 18 were completed when Ludwig II died in mysterious circumstances. Murals on the walls were based on the legends from Wagner's operas. A grotto (fake cave full of stalactites and stalagmites!) adjoined the master bedroom. To me, the most impressive site was the mosaic floor in the throne room - although the floor was completed, the throne itself was not!
From Schloss Neuschwanstein, there is a path leading to Marienbruecke (Mary's bridge), from where the picture-postcard views of Neuschwanstein are taken. Unfortunately, due to the snow, the route was closed off. Perhaps another time!
With a bratwurst from the restaurant to keep us going, we trekked back down (slippery with the snow) and took a bus back to Fussen. There we had coffee and cake at a lovely cafe and walked to Fussen's own castle. Should you be in the area, this is a must-see. Walk into the courtyard and you will see that all the windows and decorations on the walls are just paintings!
We easily caught a train back to Munich and reflected on the money we saved by travelling by ourselves. What a terrific day trip! I highly recommend it!
London, United Kingdom