Our afternoon in Nuremberg canceled, we ended up spending the afternoon enjoying a beautiful drive through the Bavarian countryside on the way to Munich. The wind cleared the sky, the sun and car heater warmed our wind-burned faces. We zipped by dozens of faultless red roofed villages, spikey forests, and surprisingly bright green rolling hills. With the windows up it could easily be mistaken for a spring day. This was all a bonus, we were really just happy we weren’t driving in a blizzard in the dark.
Our new evening plan was to check-into the hotel and hop on the metro to the city center. We’d find a restaurant or a beer hall or both and enjoy ourselves. Always the first to think we’re awesome, we congratulated ourselves on being good travelers and rolling with it.
However, once we got to the hotel, the wind had finally caught up with us. By the time the bags were in our room, wind was pounding the side of the building. This was concerning so we turned on the news. One doesn’t need to know German to understand the meaning on cars blown off the road and all airports shut down. The snow was mostly skipping Munich but the arctic blast outside couldn’t be ignored. So we wimped out, relaxed, and stuck near the hotel for the night, going back to our original plan of spending the whole next day in Munich.
We woke the next morning to about an inch of snow! I love snow that I don’t have to drive in. It didn’t stick around much after noon but it was a nice touch to our wintery trip.
As I stated in the last post, the theme of this trip was Christmas shopping. I thought it couldn’t get much more involved than what we found in Rothenburg, but I was wrong. With no less than five Christmas markets, three story Christmas trees, twenty foot Christmas pyramids, and at least five dozen gluhwein stands. Munich wins.
And these weren’t small markets, they were massive, aisle upon aisle of decked out jingle belled consumerism disguised to look quaint. The crowds that were so famed to be in Rothenburg came to Munich. But in all fairness, Munich is a large and very modern city. It’s crowded because lots of people work and live there, especially in the city center.
The largest market of all was Christkindl in Marianplatz. Most of our Christmas damage happened here.
I’m not the best shopping partner. I’m not capable of impulse purchases. I have to see everything before I can make a decision. My husband is part saint so he dealt with the circling and comparing, by incorporating multiple Gluhwein pit-stops. This is also how we discovered a new way to enjoy carbs, Kaesespaetzle. A thick homemade pasta baked with cheese and carmelized onions, and this case they added curry as well, simple and fatty, but warm and delicious. Perfect for cold weather, not bad for street food, and of course it was followed by more Gluhwein.
We did remind ourselves that we were in Munich by stopping in churches and appreciating the local architecture. Including the dual towered Frauenkirche, one of Munich’s signature skyline pieces.
We while walking through the nativity scene market (two dozen booths dedicated to all things nativity), we noticed people come in and out of what looked like a plain church. We were cold so we stepped in too. It turned out to be St Peter’s Church, and the outside was deceiving.
We even paused and waited for the Glockenspiel to do its thing in Marianplatz. When the clock struck noon we waited, and we waited. Slowly the pieces started to move. And it was entertaining at first, dancing figures spun, knights jousted slowly, it was cute. But the overall feeling was, “okay, we saw that.” Everyone around kind of shrugged and nodded and seemed to feel the same way; underwhelmed.
By dark we’d convinced ourselves that it wasn’t Christmas unless we lightened our wallets with a nutcracker and a Christmas pyramid, and an indecent amount of ornaments. Now it was time for our favorite part about Munich, beerhalls.
Coming to Hofbreauhaus is something my husband had been looking forward to the entire trip. I was just looking forward to sitting down after a six hour shopping spree and getting warm. But the atmosphere was infectious, we had a great time. Tables upon tables of strangers sitting family style and enjoying themselves drinking great beer and sampling traditional dishes. We found a spot next to a few other Americans, ordered a few liters of Hofbreauhaus original, grabbed a giant fresh pretzel from the buxom pretzel lady, and struck up some conversation with our neighbors – who taught us German toasting etiquette:
When someone is served beer or proposes a toast, you clink glasses with that person, and all other people within reach, saying “Prost!”, and take a drink. Eye contact is also really important. You must maintain eye contact with your toaster, and all others that you clink with, its considered bad luck if you don’t. So if you’re at a table with a lot people, plan to drink a lot. Note all of this info is second hand so feel free to disagree or tell me how it’s actually done.
The band struck up a traditional tune and we decided to make a meal of it. After much deliberation I was convinced to try something called a pig knuckle. Think the pork version of a turkey leg, with a potato dumpling on the side. It was tasty. We drank more beer, this time I tried the Winterswikel (definitely spelled that wrong) which was darker but not as good as the original from earlier.
Our night was winding down and we went outside to have our last mug of gluhwein and contemplate German maypoles. Every town no matter how small seems to have at least a few. The one in Munich was more ornate than most. The one right outside our hotel was just a blue and white stripped tall pole standing in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t realize until we got here that quite a few of these are permanent and stay up year round. Who knew?
We took our last look at Marianplatz before we sunk down to the metro.
We liked Munich. It was clean, friendly, lively, delicious, cultural, very modern, and again – everyone spoke English. It was also full to the brim with our fellow Christmas tourists, but I think it’s usually like that anyway. I used to think we wanted to visit during Oktoberfest, now I’m not so sure. We were able to find a similar but much more relaxed atmosphere at the beerhalls. I’d like to experience a German beergarten when the weather warms up. Maybe this summer or fall, we’ll see.
Next – – > the stunning village of Hohenschwangau and its castles!