Royal Gardens and Classic Architecture: A Walk Through Munich

For my last day of roaming through Munich, I ventured farther out into the city. I had spent the past few days exploring the area around Marienplatz, and decided I should see more of the city.

So I started my journey the way all journeys should begin: with bratwurst! Who cares that it was still in the morning…bratwurst is amazing any time of the day!

DSCN1142

DSCN1143

I loved that there were tons of little parks throughout the city. A perfect place for a bratwurst picnic!

And then I set off to explore! My objective: find the Englischer Garten and the Hofgarten. Along the way, I passed some beautiful architecture-

DSCN1144

DSCN1146

DSCN1147

DSCN1150

DSCN1152

The Hofgarten is a beautiful garden in the center of the city in the area surrounding the Residenz Palace. It was originally created in 1613 as part of the palace complex.

DSCN1154

The park is formally laid out around two footpaths that intersect in the center at the Temple of Diana.

DSCN1156

The Temple of Diana, or the hofgartentemple, was designed in 1615 by Heinrich Schön. The temple was built with eight arches from which footpaths lead, dividing the garden into eight sections. The bronze statue on top of the pavilion is the “Tellus Bavarica,” symbolizing the treasures of the Bavarian land – grain, game, water, and salt. It was originally sculpted in the likeness of Diana, the goddess of hunting, in 1594, but was later remodeled into the allegorical figure of Bavaria in 1923.

DSCN1157

DSCN1158

DSCN1159

DSCN1162

Bavarian State Chancellery

Another cool sight you can find in the direction of the Englischer Garten and the Hofgarten is the Victory Gate, built in 1843 to commemorate the bravery of the Bavarian army and its success in the Napoleonic War of liberation. The Victory Gate was largely destroyed during WWII, and when it was rebuilt, a quote by Wilhelm Hausenstein was added to the arch that reads: “Dem Sieg geweiht, vom Krieg zerstört, zum Frieden mahnend,” or in English, “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, reminding of peace.”

DSCN1182

The Victory Gate

I did make it to the Englischer Garten, but I wrote about that in another post which you can find here. Getting there took awhile, but I passed through so many beautiful streets on the way that the distance didn’t bother me one bit.

On the way back to my hotel, I took a different path so I could see as much Munich as possible (and thanks to my trusty map, I never got lost).

DSCN1184

DSCN1186

DSCN1187

DSCN1189

DSCN1190

DSCN1192

DSCN1193

Street musicians! Strolling through the incredible streets of Munich was even more enjoyable while listening to the live entertainment found in many plazas and street corners.

DSCN1195

DSCN1196

DSCN1197

It was super cold out, so I became a frequent customer of Munich Starbucks.

DSCN1199

DSCN1200

Seeing the Starbucks sign juxtaposed with the classic statue on the next building over made me laugh. It was a perfect example of the way Munich is a blend of old and new.

DSCN1201

DSCN1220

DSCN1221

DSCN1222

True, I have no idea what most of the buildings are that I photographed. But sometimes it is nice to just wander and enjoy the scenery.

Beer Halls!!

Munich is world famous for its beer. In addition to being the birthplace of Oktoberfest, Munich also boasts lots of lively beer halls, over 200 beer gardens, and 6 major breweries within the city limits. It is pretty much the beer capital of the world. I plan to return to Munich one day to participate in their Oktoberfest celebrations and spend a week doing nothing but drinking beer, but on this particular trip I only had time to visit one beer hall. The Hofbräuhaus is the most well-known of all Munich’s beer halls, which usually  = the most crowded. Though I would’ve loved to see it, as a solo female traveler I wasn’t particularly in the mood to place myself in the epicenter of loud, drunken revelry.

Instead, my journeys brought me to Augustiner Restaurant/Beer Hall, mostly because it is the most conveniently located of the beer halls, in the pedestrian walkway between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz. I passed by it everyday, and finally decided to stop in on my last night in Munich.

DSCN1213

The original Augustiner began brewing beer as early as 1328, and has been serving its mild Edelstoff beer freshly tapped from wooden barrels in this current location since 1885.

I was starving upon arrival though, so I found a seat in the adjoining restaurant and ordered some sausages and sauerkraut. Plus beer of course! All meals are served with a basket of complimentary pretzels. Way better than dinner rolls or bread.

DSCN1214

Pretzels instead of bread? Best restaurant EVER.

 

DSCN1217

Oh delicious heaven on earth…

The restaurant was loud and lively, but in a good way. I would expect nothing less from a beer hall. It soon got really crowded, and I ended up sharing my table with some visitors from somewhere else in Germany who had come to Munich for the Fasching celebrations. I learned that combining small parties into one table when restaurants are crowded is a common practice in Germany. It actually makes a lot of sense to do that, and once I got over the initial culture shock, it was totally cool. They were really friendly, and I told them all about living in LA.

DSCN1218

The food at Augustiner was absolutely delicious, and the beer was really good too!! I generally prefer darker beers, but this one tasted amazing paired with the sausage and sauerkraut. And because it was my last night of vacation, I decided to treat myself to some strudel for dessert. This meal is definitely one of the best I have ever eaten.

DSCN1219

Ok, so my visit to the beer hall was a little less beer, and a lot more food. Drinking a lot at night while traveling alone just didn’t feel very smart. But even if you don’t want to drink (or just don’t like beer), it is still worth going to the Augustiner. There is no better place to eat authentic Bavarian food in true Bavarian fashion!

For hours of operation, directions, a print-out menu and other information, visit their website!

Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle

Around 2 hours outside of Munich, nestled in mountains above the town of Schwangau, sits Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle looks like something straight out of a fairy tale (it was even used as the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World!). With a history as romantic as its location, a trip to Neuschwanstein is perfect for anyone with a love of history, architecture or who has a love of storybook worthy scenery.

To visit Neuschwanstein, I decided to enlist the help of the pros and booked a guided tour through Viator. The tour met up bright and early at Munich Central Station (which was right across the street from my hotel…yes!!). And my goodness it was cold!! Luckily the tour left quickly, and coffee in hand, we all piled onto the warm train and settled in for our 2-hr ride. DSCN1044

2 hours might seem like a long time to sit on a train, but the ride was actually very pleasant. Our tour guide told us stories of Munich, the Wittelsbach Dynasty, King Ludwig II and Neuschwanstein, all while taking in the beautiful scenery of the Alps and southern Germany.

DSCN1049

The Alps!!

DSCN1052

Before I knew it, we had reached the small town of Fussen. From there, we hopped on a bus that took us to Schwangau, where the castle is located.

DSCN1055

Fussen

Upon arrival in Schwangau, we took a lunch break while our tour guide arranged the rest of our journey. Yes, I got more bratwurst and German coke. I had formed a fierce addiction to those wonderful sausages.

DSCN1057

And then the journey continued on foot. We walked through Schwangau, passing by King Ludwig II’s childhood castle of Schloss Hohenschwangau.

DSCN1058

Walking through Schwangau

 

DSCN1062

Schloss Hohenschwangau

DSCN1063

The walk up to Neuschwanstein is pretty fierce, so we each paid a couple euros to take a tram. We stopped at Marienbrucke first, a small bridge stretching across Pollat Gorge that King Maximillian II (King Ludwig II’s father) had built as a birthday present to his mountain-climbing love, Marie. Those with a fear of heights might want to skip this one, as the gorge is a long way down. But the views of Neuschwanstein from the bridge are absolutely incredible, with rolling hills and small villages surrounding this magnificent castle.

DSCN1066

DSCN1070

DSCN1073

DSCN1074

DSCN1075

After taking in the panoramic views from the bridge, we continued on foot to the castle. There was still some snow on the ground, and it just added to the magic of the castle.

DSCN1080

DSCN1082

Schwangau, with Schloss Hohenschwangau

DSCN1084

As I’m sure you have figured out by now, this tour requires a TON of walking. You’ll definitely be wanting the comfortable shoes for this one.

DSCN1085

DSCN1090

Made it to the castle!

DSCN1092

DSCN1094

Feel like Disneyland yet?

And then it was time for the guided tour. Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous inside, and the decorative details are incredible. No photography allowed inside the castle though, so I don’t have any pictures of it. They wouldn’t have been able to do it justice anyways.

DSCN1096

“Mad King” Ludwig II was a shy dreamer with a vivid imagination and a tendency to isolate himself. He had visions of grandeur, and identified himself with the kings of the Medieval age. He was obsessed with the idea of a holy kingdom by the Grace of God over which he could rule as a true king, instead of the reality of just being a constitutional monarch with little ruling power. Ludwig II retreated more and more into a fantasy world where he could live the old-world, poetic life he dreamed of. He spent less time in Munich, and sought a residence away from the hustle of city life. He wanted to build his own kingdom where he could be free to live in his world of fantasy, a world in which great kings still existed and resided in ornate and elaborate castles in the countryside.

Ludwig II selected a location near his childhood castle, and began construction of Neuschwanstein in 1866, two years after taking the throne. Ludwig wrote to his good friend Richard Wagner, saying:

“It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day (in 3 years); there will be several cosy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol and far across the plain; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world. It will also remind you of “Tannhäuser” (Singers’ Hall with a view of the castle in the background), “Lohengrin'” (castle courtyard, open corridor, path to the chapel); this castle will be in every way more beautiful and habitable than Hohenschwangau further down, which is desecrated every year by the prose of my mother; they will take revenge, the desecrated gods, and come to live with Us on the lofty heights, breathing the air of heaven.”

DSCN1098

In reality, the castle construction took much longer than Ludwig II expected, and he was not able to move in until 1884, roughly 20 years after the original plans were drawn.

DSCN1104

The lifestyle Ludwig II was building for himself proved to be in conflict with his duties as head of state. Neuschwanstein and the life Ludwig II lived in it were expensive; far beyond the means of a private king. Foreign banks threatened to seize the property, and Ludwig’s refusal to act rationally about the situation resulted in the government declaring him insane and removing his title and power. He was interned in Berg Palace, and the next day, he was found dead in Lake Starnberg under mysterious circumstances alongside the psychiatrist who had declared him insane. It is thought that he preferred death over returning to reality, and he choose to end his life while still in his world of dreams and illusions. However some people also believe he was murdered, with several witnesses claiming to have seen or heard King Ludwig II be shot and then dumped into the lake. The truth remains a mystery…

DSCN1106

Following the tour, there is a cool gift shop where you can pick up some fun Neuschwanstein souvenirs. I got a hand-blown glass Christmas ornament and some postcard pictures of the castle interior.

But oh the walking has not yet ended. While we were able to take a tram up to the castle, we had to walk all the way back down to Schwangau. Our tour guide told us what time we had to be back in Schwangau to get on the bus, and then permitted us to shop and stroll our way back at our leisure. I stopped at a cute little stand and bought some hot chocolate in a souvenir mug and some German cookies to enjoy during the walk.

And then something magical happened. It started snowing!! I know that is not a big deal to a lot of people, but as a southern Californian, I had never been snowed on before. I had been to the snow of course, but had never actually experienced seeing snow fall. I was beyond excited. Everything about the castle felt like magic, as if Ludwig II was still creating his romantic fantasy world from beyond the grave.

DSCN1110

SNOW!!!!!

Our tour group eventually all made it back to the bus in Schwangau, but some of the group took too long getting there and made us miss the train in Fussen. Thankfully there would be another train along in an hour, but until then, we had to kill some time in Fussen. Which normally would’ve been wonderful, because Fussen is a very pretty town with lots of fun shops and stuff, except for the fact that it was freezing and pouring rain.

DSCN1116

Like I would let that stop me. I still went out and explored anyways. A little rain never hurt anyone (unless you are in an old movie, in which case rain = certain death).

DSCN1117

DSCN1118

DSCN1122

DSCN1124

DSCN1126

I appreciated the humor of whoever put this pink shirt on the statue hehe

The train ride back to Munich was decidedly less pleasant than the last ride. I was soggy from wandering in the rain, and the train was super crowded. A lot of people even had to stand, which was a bummer since it was a 2-hr ride.

By the time we made it back to Munich, I was starving, cold, and exhausted, but still mesmerized by the magic of the castle.

For more information on Neuschwanstein Castle, visit their website.

Rock That Swing!

Munich might seem like an unusual destination choice for one’s first trip to Europe. If left to my own devices, I honestly would’ve probably gone somewhere else (I had no idea at the time how much I would fall in love with Munich). But my decision to go there was not haphazard.

I am an avid swing dancer, and had spent the past 10 years hearing about all the cool swing dance events held throughout the world but had never been to any of them. So when one of my good friends mentioned that he would be attending a swing dance festival in Germany that year, I decided to tag along. The solution was perfect: I would finally get to experience swing dancing in another country, I had a legitimate excuse to go abroad, and if I got lonely after spending a day sightseeing alone (my friend was hired to teach at the festival during the day) I knew I would see some familiar faces every night at the evening dances. And so the decision was made- I would attend the Rock That Swing Festival!

The Rock That Swing Festival is held over 5 days and nights every February in Munich and features some of the best swing dancers and swing bands from all over the world! Attendees can spend the day taking classes from instructors they would normally have to travel thousands of miles to see, and then spend the evenings dancing to amazing bands in the beautiful Deutsches Theater. Never being one to take group dance classes, I opted out of the day time festival activities in favor of sightseeing, and bought only the evening pass to attend the dances.

First of all, the theater is gorgeous. It is one of the recommended places to visit on most Munich itineraries, so I got lucky and was able to kill two birds with one stone.

DSCN1223

DSCN0845

Seating was assigned at this festival, which I thought was pretty cool (that never happens at dance events in LA). You had to choose your seat at the time of ticket purchase. I got lucky again, and ended up at a table with nice people.

DSCN0850

And of course they served beer!

The interior of the theater is just as beautiful as the outside…

DSCN0852

DSCN0853

DSCN0854

DSCN0855

DSCN0859

The second night was similar to the first, except for this night they had Bill Haley’s Comets playing! It was an awesome show. The band line up featured two of the original members, and Bill Haley’s daughter sang a few songs with the band.

DSCN0979

DSCN0980

DSCN0982

DSCN0986

DSCN0988

DSCN0992

As a drummer, I am always obsessed with drum solos

 

DSCN0995

Bill Haley’s daughter

DSCN0998

And of course I had to sample the local food during the show. Apple Strudel!

DSCN1001

DSCN1002

During the band break, some of the swing dance instructors performed. Here are my friends Steve and Chanzie! They are seriously awesome dancers. If you are interested in taking swing dance lessons in the LA area, these are the people to go to.

DSCN1009

DSCN1040

Dance instructor jam session! The amount of talent represented in this picture is incredible.

And then the band returned to finish out the night. They kept the dancers swinging to the old-time rock ‘n roll until the wee hours of the morning. The band might be quite a bit older now than they were back then, but they sound just as amazing, as if untouched by time since the 1950s.

DSCN1022

DSCN1032

The saxophone player is one of the original members

DSCN1042

Like any good party, there was an after party down the street at a smaller club. It was much easier to dance at the after party. I didn’t have to travel so far from my seat to get to the dance floor.

DSCN1135

DSCN1137

More beer! Plus my cute velvet clutch from Anthropologie

DSCN1138

This festival was so much fun! I didn’t get to dance as much as I would have liked, probably due to not knowing many people there and the dancers seemed less willing to dance with strangers than they are back at home. But even just going to see the bands and be in the Deutsches Theater was still totally worth it. Plus it gave me something to do in the evening instead of just hanging out in my hotel room.

But most importantly, the Rock That Swing Festival is what brought me to wonderful Munich, so I will be forever grateful to my friend Steve for introducing me to this event.

If you want more information on Rock That Swing, visit their website!

Partying in the Streets During Fasching!!

When I arrived in Munich towards the end of February, I was expecting a quiet week of sightseeing. Visit some churches, spend a day or so in the museums, stroll through the historic streets. Little did I know what the week had in store for me…

My second day of sightseeing started out like any other. I left the hotel bright and early (still suffering from that jet lag, but hey, it actually got me up and moving way earlier than usual, which I count as a win on vacations) and headed in the direction of Marienplatz. I thought this could be a good day to find the art museums. But as I approached Karlsplatz (which is the direction I used to get to Marienplatz everyday), I noticed something different. There was a stage set up, with music and dancing. I had to investigate further. I followed the crowds toward Marienplatz.

DSCN0863

Karlsplatz

Here I stumbled upon something even more magical. There was an even bigger stage, DJs playing fun dance music, food vendors, people in crazy costumes, booths selling alcohol at like 9 a.m. (goodness I love Germany) and confetti everywhere. Turns out, I had unknowingly traveled to Munich during their Fasching celebrations, which is basically their version of Mardi Gras or Carnival.

DSCN0868

Fasching celebrations beginning in Marienplatz

What luck!!! It goes without saying I quickly tossed aside my museum plans. A giant street party was so much better!!

DSCN0873

Because I want you to really have the full experience of celebrating Fasching in Munich, here is a music video you should check out. This song was played so much during the celebrations, and I instantly fell in love with it. I feel it really captures the spirit of the experience. No idea what the song is actually about though…

Seriously one of the most fun songs ever written. There are several versions available on iTunes (I bought them all), and I don’t know who did the original, but I particularly like the music video that accompanies this version. So enjoy!

Oh glorious confetti! There were vendors pushing around little carts selling bags of confetti. Lots and lots of bags of confetti.DSCN0880

DSCN0874

Even though it was early in the morning, I was on vacation in Germany, so I figured I should do as the Germans do! I bought my first glass of gluhwein. Oh sweet nectar of the gods…gluhwein is delicious!! It is a tasty mulled wine, served warm. Perfect for a cold winter day!

DSCN0876

DSCN0879

This family gets my vote for best costumes. The Force is strong with them.

DSCN0877

Family of Star Wars fans!

And then it was time for more gluhwein.

DSCN0892

I thought is was great how people just threw confetti everywhere. I didn’t know a single soul at this street party, and I still had people throwing confetti at me. This may sound silly, but it made me feel all happy and welcome. Total strangers were treating me the same way they were treating their family members. The whole event had that warm fuzzy feeling people in LA only get during Christmas time (if even then). So it was really nice, and felt very special.

DSCN0883

And then of course you can’t go to Germany and not get a bratwurst. Odd as it sounds, this was my first time trying an actual bratwurst. And it was love at first bite. It has since become one of my favorite foods.

DSCN0885

DSCN0886

DSCN0887

Simply perfection.

The party continued all through the afternoon…

DSCN0890

DSCN0891

Watching this family made me happy…There was so much love!

DSCN0895

Sadly tragedy struck my third glass of gluhwein. I still drank it though.

DSCN0897

DSCN0899

DSCN0900

Gotta love oompah bands dressed like animals!

CONFETTI!!!! ❤

DSCN0949

DSCN0950

Seriously though, watch out for your beverages.

DSCN0951

I also got this pretzel that was bigger than my head. So much yes!!

DSCN0963

DSCN0965

DSCN0967

DSCN1202

So much carnage in the streets…

DSCN1203

I loved celebrating Fasching so much, I returned and did it all again the next day!

DSCN1204

GLUHWEIN!!!!!

DSCN1210

DSCN1211

Fasching is a glorious multi-day celebration, a time of merry-making and festivity. And as with any street party or festival, the crowd can get a little wild. I recommend attending the celebrations in the first day or two of the party, but maybe skip the last day on Shrove Tuesday. It was crazy crowded on the last day, and the more wild attendees were out then. More drunk people, less happy family fun. That day didn’t have the same magic feeling as the earlier days and just felt more like a giant party. Which is cool too, but very different.

I certainly did not plan on spending so much of my time in Munich celebrating Fasching, but I am so glad I did. Sometimes the unplanned things in life turn out to be the best.

Taking a Stroll Through the Englischer Garten

As much as I adore cities, sometimes it is necessary to get away from all the hustle and bustle for a few hours and be alone with your thoughts. Munich’s Englischer Garten (or “English Garden”) provides the perfect place to seek such an escape and relax for a bit with a stein of beer.

The English Garden is one of the largest urban parks in the world, stretching from the city center to the northeastern city limits. In fact it is so big, you soon forget you are even still in a city at all. Tranquility surrounds you as you stroll amongst grassy knolls, flowing streams and wooded forests.

DSCN1163

When the last ruler of the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty died childless in 1777, the land passed to elector and archduke Carl Theodor. Theodor had no interest in leaving his home along the Rhine to rule over Bavaria however, which made him unpopular among the people. In attempts to make peace with the citizens, Theodor dedicated a great deal of attention to improving the city. In 1789, he opened the lands of the English Garden to the public, and established it as a military park where soldiers could go during times of peace to gain agricultural knowledge and for recreation. Many changes and additions have come and gone over the years, but the park has more or less been in its modern form since the early 1800s.
DSCN1165

DSCN1168

The Monopteros temple, designed by Leo von Klenze and built in 1836

There are many interesting sights to see in the English Garden besides just the beautiful scenery. My favorite (and also one of the most popular sights) is the Chinese pagoda and adjoining beer garden. It is the second largest beer garden in Munich, and well worth a stop. With several beers on tap and a variety of food choices, it is a pleasant place to stop, crowd watch, and enjoy the surroundings.

DSCN1170

A stein of radler and a pretzel. Simply perfection.

DSCN1172

DSCN1173

The beer garden

 

DSCN1174

The Chinese pagoda

It was pretty cold out. I guess a frosty cool beverage didn’t sound appealing to many people. Other sights of interest (but not pictured here, cause I didn’t actually see them) are a Japanese teahouse, a spot along the river where brave people can surf (yes, actual surfing in a river), an area for nude sunbathing, and an open air amphitheatre used for live performances during the summer months.

DSCN1175

DSCN1177

DSCN1178

The English Garden is ridiculously huge, and it is super easy to get lost if you aren’t familiar with the park. I definitely lost track of my location more than once. But sometimes it is nice to allow yourself to get lost in a new place…as long as you have plenty of daylight left to eventually find your way back.

Visiting the Churches of Munich

If you research the top things to see in Munich, two locations show up on pretty much every list: Frauenkirche and Peterskirche. So who am I to argue? I had to go see them.

On my second morning in Munich I set out to find these two churches, and luckily enough, they are both located within close vicinity to Marienplatz. I almost missed the turn off to get to Frauenkirche. After entering the pedestrian zone of Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße from Karlsplatz, there is a little street on the left-hand side that is easy to just pass by. It is very nondescript compared to the shopping zone, and has absolutely nothing to tempt you off of the main drag. But after following it for a bit, it opens up into a small plaza with the massive Fraeunkirche towering above you.

DSCN0908

DSCN0902

Frauenkirche is the most iconic image of Munich. You will see its towers featured on almost every touristy city souvenir you find. The stone foundation of the church was laid in 1468, and construction continued for the next 20 years. Built by German architect Jörg von Halsbach, this Gothic triple-naved cathedral is 358 ft long, with its two towers reaching a height of 325 ft. By law, no new building is allowed to obstruct the view of the cathedral.

DSCN0910

Frauenkirche was badly damaged during WWII, when the roof collapsed as a result of allied bombing. It wasn’t fully restored until 1994, though it was under construction again when I visited.

DSCN0912

Entrance to church

The cathedral was closed when I was there, so sadly I wasn’t able to see any of the interior. However, the inside is supposed to be stunning, fully decorated in the Baroque style and containing a great deal of historic artwork. You can visit the tomb of emperor Ludwig IV, and see the “footprint of the Devil.” Legend has it that architect Jörg von Halsbach promised the Devil he would construct a church in which no windows would be visible from the inside. In return, the Devil would help von Halsbach finish the cathedral. Upon completion, von Halsbach lead the Devil into the center of the church, where indeed there were no visible windows. However, so much light flooded in from above onto the churchgoers, the Devil was infuriated and stamped his foot down with so much rage it left a permanent imprint on the floor. They say the footprint is still visible today. The church’s crypt also holds the remains of the Wittelsbach family, a powerful dynasty which ruled over Bavaria for centuries (whose likenesses are carved into the exterior decor of the Neues Rathaus in Marienplatz).

DSCN0913

Definitely a cool church to visit. Though if you go, try to go inside. I’m sure it looks amazing!

And then on to Peterskirche! To get there, go back the direction you came, cross Marienplatz, and then continue going into the part of town on the other side of the square (more or less…consult a map for specifics, but know it is a fairly short and easy walk).

DSCN0938

Exterior of Peterskirche

Built on the site of an 8th century monastery, Peterskirche was constructed between 1328-1368 in the Romanesque style, later adding elements of Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo styles. It was almost completely destroyed during WWII, and reconstruction wasn’t completed until 2000.

Obviously just seeing the historic architecture is really cool, but the best part of Peterskirche is going up into the steeple to get to the viewing platform.

Open daily in the summer Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and in the winter Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Admission is around EUR 1.50 (at the time of visit in 2014).

DSCN0915

The climb begins…(yes, I have confetti in my hair. Explanation coming in a later post!)

The climb is intense. Lots and lots of stairs…306 to be precise. But there is no other way to reach the top, so this visit is definitely not for anyone who has a problem with climbing stairs, a fear of heights, or issues with being in small-ish spaces. I was lucky and there were hardly any other people there when I was, but I hear the stairs can get pretty congested when it is busy and it can take a long time to reach the platform. For me, it only took as long as it takes to climb 306 stairs (which is roughly 17 stories…yikes).

DSCN0917

Up and up they go!

I actually thought the climb was a lot of fun though. It was cool to climb to the top of a church tower. And my goodness…the views at the top were incredible!! This is the best place to go to see the city from above. The Neues Rathaus has a viewing platform too, but Peterskirche is a much cooler experience and has a better vantage point. Definitely worth the admission fee and effort.

DSCN0936

Frauenkirche!

DSCN0921

DSCN0922

DSCN0923

DSCN0924

DSCN0927

DSCN0928

DSCN0931

DSCN0932

DSCN0933

DSCN0934

DSCN0935

DSCN0936

Frauenkirche!

Without a doubt, this was my favorite sight to see in Munich.

DSCN0937

Back down the stairs…

A photo of the viewing platform from the outside…I wanted to document what I had just conquered haha.

DSCN0939

And then here are a few pictures from my journey back to my hotel:

DSCN0940

DSCN0945

DSCN0914

DSCN0948

DSCN0955

DSCN0957

DSCN0958

DSCN0959

DSCN0960

More live music on the streets ❤

DSCN0962

I guess I can safely say that all the Munich guidebooks aren’t lying. These two churches are definitely must-see sights in the city.

Exploring the Streets of Old Town Munich

My first morning in Munich I woke up with two thoughts: it was way too cold, and way too early. Adjusting to a different time zone is rough…I woke up at like 6 in the morning without the help of an alarm clock, which believe me, absolutely never happens at home. Normally I would just stay in bed anyways, but not today. I was in Munich!! And super excited to take on the city. So with my trusty map in hand, and a general idea of what I wanted to see, I set out.

More or less, my plan was to get to Marienplatz, the heart of old Munich and where the majority of the top, must-see sights are located.

I got distracted pretty quickly though. There is gorgeous architecture everywhere you look in Old Town Munich, and I wandered off of my path to check out this building. No idea what it is, but it was beautiful!

DSCN0739

DSCN0743

And then around the corner from the pretty building was this pretty park.

DSCN0745

DSCN0746

I had only been exploring for a few minutes, and I was already in love with the city. I loved the sound my boots made when they hit the stone sidewalks. I loved feeling the cold air on my face. I loved the way classic architecture was mixed in with modern establishments (yeah, I stopped at Starbucks. You can take the girl out of LA, but you can’t take the LA out of the girl).

DSCN0748

Things like that might be commonplace for a lot of people, but for a girl from southern CA where basically everything was built post-1900 (except for the missions and a handful of places built in the 1800s), it felt incredible to be surrounded by so much history.

DSCN0749

DSCN0750

If this park was in Los Angeles there would be homeless people on every bench and the whole place would smell like pee.

DSCN0751

Eventually I did get back on my originally journey. I passed through Karlsplatz, which was a wide open square with some shops around the perimeter, and went through the gate to enter Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße.

DSCN0752

DSCN0754

Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße is a pedestrian zone connecting Karlsplatz and Marienplatz and is the busiest shopping area of Munich. Here you can find mostly mid-range shops, like those you would find in a mall. They even had a Forever 21 and an H&M! I was there too early to shop, but I knew I must return…

DSCN0755

DSCN0757

Strolling along Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße

DSCN0760

But I made it to Marienplatz! The predominant architectural feature of the square is the Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall. Built between 1867 and 1909 in the neo-Gothic style,  the Neues Rathaus stands 255 feet tall, and the 300 foot long richly-decorated facade features almost the entire line of the house of Wittelsbach in Bavaria. It is still a functioning government building today, as the Neues Rathaus is the seat of the mayor’s office, the city council, and the headquarters of the city administration.

DSCN0761

DSCN0764

It was easily the most incredible building I have ever seen. The attention to detail, the carved statues, the flying buttresses, the stained glass windows…just amazing.

DSCN0765

DSCN0767

DSCN0772

Inside the courtyard of the Neues Rathaus

DSCN0776

When visiting the Neues Rathaus, make sure to be there in time to see the world famous Glockenspiel. Since 1908, statues dance and twirl in the tower, telling stories of Munich’s history featuring Coopers dancers (a dance originally performed in Marienplatz in 1517 to commemorate the end of the plague), the angel of peace, and the Münchner Kindl (symbol of the city’s coat of arms). The 12-minute long spectacle occurs at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. daily, and also at 5 p.m. during the months of March-October.

DSCN0779

The Neues Rathaus Glockenspiel

In the center of the square you will see the Column of St. Mary, erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swiss invasion. At the corners of the base of the statue are four puttis, symbolizing the city’s overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger and heresy.

DSCN0775

The gilded statue at the top of the column is the Virgin Mary, and was sculpted several years prior to the rest of the column in 1590.

DSCN0783

And this wonderful man was playing traditional German music at the base of the statue. Yep, I was definitely in Germany!

DSCN0781

My journey soon took me out of Marienplatz and along Orlandostraße near the Hofbräuhaus. Orlandostraße is the best place to shop if you are looking for touristy souvenir shops. I couldn’t help picking up a ceramic beerstein. The Hofbräuhaus itself is one of the most famous beerhalls in Munich, but I actually did not visit it. Drinking alone in a beerhall at 11 a.m. seemed a little sad haha. Maybe on my next trip to Munich!

DSCN0786

Orlandostraße

At this point my journey took a turn for the I-don’t-know. I didn’t know where I was going, I don’t know what I saw along the way. I just wanted to explore. So together with my map, I spent the majority of the afternoon just walking, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of Munich.

DSCN0792

DSCN0793

DSCN0795

DSCN0796

It felt so amazing to be out in the world with no plan and no one else to worry about. I could do whatever I wanted, and take however long doing it as I wanted. My time was my own. I have never felt so completely free as I did that day exploring Munich.

DSCN0798

DSCN0800

DSCN0802

DSCN0804

DSCN0806

DSCN0810

The Maximilianeum…the mosaics on this building are incredible.

DSCN0816

DSCN0818

DSCN0821

If you visit Munich, take a day to just walk around and surround yourself with all the art and beauty the city has to offer. It doesn’t cost a dime, and the things you will see are incredible.

DSCN0822

I did, however, want to return to Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße to do some shopping! Could I shop at all these same stores at home? Of course! But there is just something so delightful about seeing some of your favorite places from home while abroad. I bought some awesome plaid pants at H&M. I consider them to be a souvenir. Hehe. Oh, and the roasted nuts sold by street vendors are delicious! They are warm and toasty, and make a wonderful shopping snack on a cold afternoon.

DSCN0831

They were street performers all over Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße, as well as in Marienplatz. Which was awesome! I particularly loved these guys. I wish I would have bought their CD. They were really talented, and so much fun to watch. I stood there and listened for a really long time.

DSCN0832

DSCN0833

I ended up only seeing a tiny portion of the sights I had originally hoped to see on my first day, but that was ok with me. I had instead spent the day just being in Munich and enjoying the world around me. And that was even better.

Traveling to Munich Alone…

Right before my 27th birthday, I had one of those life freak-out moments. My twenties were rapidly drawing to a close, I hadn’t done any of the things I had planned to do prior to turning 30, and I felt like I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I had to do something drastic…but what? Through a good friend of mine, I heard about a swing dance festival that would be happening in Munich at the end of February, starting the day after my birthday. And then I had my answer – I would take myself to Munich as a birthday present to me. I would go by myself. Travel alone, stay alone, and sightsee alone. Then in the evenings I would attend the dance festival, where I would know a few people who were also attending. I figured that way, if the solitude of the days got to be too much for me to handle, I could seek the comfort of familiar faces every evening.

The decision to take this trip was scary for many reasons, which only confirmed the need to take it. I had never been to Europe, never been on a flight that long, didn’t speak a word of German, and had never traveled alone. In the weeks leading up to the trip however, I didn’t question my decision even for one second. I knew I wanted to go, and I knew it would be amazing. I don’t think I realized exactly how profound of an impact it would have on me though. Talking about a vacation changing your life seems a little silly or cliche, but I feel like it did, in so many ways.

This saga will unfold over my next few posts, and like all journeys, the best place to start is at the beginning…

I arrived at LAX in the afternoon the day after my birthday. What an awesome way to kick off being 27!

mun

My flight was delayed a couple hours, which kind of sucked since I had rushed so much to get to the airport on time, but such is life. I flew on Lufthansa. And I am pretty sure I was the only American on the plane. I mean, the man sitting next to me was wearing lederhosen. Like for real. Complete with a hat with a feather in it. I thought it was the greatest thing ever, until he took off his shoes and I had to spend the next 12 hours smelling stinky feet mixed with wool and leather. Ew. Oh the struggles of air travel!

mun2

The flight landed mid-morning of the following day. Getting through customs and retrieving my luggage was a breeze. Finding my pre-booked hotel shuttle was not. It was freezing outside (ok, so it was only like 50 degress Fahrenheit, but to a Californian, that pretty much feels like the arctic), and none of the airport employees seemed to know where I should go. But finally I found someone who could point me in the right direction, I got on the shuttle, and felt like I could relax for the first time all day.

That feeling wouldn’t last though. The shuttle deposited me at the Central train station, which I knew was only a couple blocks from my hotel. But in which direction? I had printed out Mapquest directions, but unless you have idea of what your bearings are, those are pretty much useless. I cast those aside almost immediately. Then I tried GPS. Even at home in Los Angeles GPS can’t always be trusted and frequently can’t pinpoint your correct location or direction of travel. So that was useless too. But then luck smiled upon me, and a kind stranger noticed how lost I looked and asked if I needed help. He was able to point me in the direction of my hotel. Turns out I was already on the correct street, despite what GPS tried to tell me.

By this point it was already the middle of the afternoon. But I made it to my hotel! I stayed in Hotel Dolomit, which ended up being an awesome place to stay. The surrounding area looked a little sketchy, but I never felt unsafe, the hotel staff was friendly and spoke clear English, and it was located within easy walking distance of almost everything I wanted to see. The rooms were small but comfortable, which was perfectly suited to my needs. I wasn’t in Munich to hang out in a hotel room after all.

mun4

My little room. So perfect for a solo traveler!

After a brief nap to shake off the travel stress, I was ready to hit the town! It was dark by the time I left my hotel, but I wasn’t about to waste a single minute in Munich! Plus I was starving. I thought I would try to find the Hard Rock Cafe to celebrate my arrival by adding to my shot glass collection. I decided to give the GPS another try.

Maybe attempting to find my way around a foreign city for the first time when it is dark out wasn’t the best decision. But I am always eternally optimistic and ambitious and thought I would be fine. I wasn’t. The GPS got me so hopelessly lost. I had no idea where it was telling me to go. Luckily I had enough common sense to remember the direction I had come from so I could still find my way back to the hotel, but the Hard Rock Cafe eluded me. And even worse, my spirit was broken. I started feeling like I was in way over my head, and that coming to Germany alone was a huge mistake. I nearly broke down in tears out on the street. Cold, tired, hungry, and feeling helpless, I headed back towards the hotel.

However I was still hungry. I remembered the train station had a lot of food places in it, and I figured at least some of them had to still be open at night. I found a stand out on the sidewalk selling currywurst. Finally, something good about the day! Any website you visit in search of finding out what foods to try in Germany will tell you to try the currywurst. So it was on my list of things to do during my stay anyways…may as well do it now!

DSCN0732

With a German coke of course!

The currywurst! It is a bratwurst sliced into pieces and covered with a curry sauce. It sounds a little odd, but it is really tasty! Definitely try it if you ever are in Germany.

DSCN0733

I took the currywurst back to my hotel room to eat in bed and drown my woes. Just kidding…having obtained food really put me in better spirits. I did eat it in bed though, but I did it while studying a map of the city. I had to get my bearings and see where everything was located. Making the decision to look at an actual map probably saved the entire trip. Having a better idea of what direction I needed to travel to get to the cool stuff and a stomach full of currywurst, I ended my first night in Munich. Still feeling a tad apprehensive, but ready to push through those negative feelings and make it into an amazing trip!

mun3