Thursday, August 16, 2007

Munich [July 5 to July 10, 2007]


After another early morning flight, this time out of Mykonos, and a connection in Athens, we landed in Munich (Munchen) - the heart of Germany's Bavaria. It is a nice size city, with a population of about 1.25 million. We were lucky enough to stay with our good friends Karsten and Meike, and their new baby boy Anton in their apartment near Schwabing, the student area. They were excited to show us the local culture, including foods, beers, and history.

Immediately upon our arrival, Karsten had us power-walking across the city on a speed sightseeing tour. We walked through the Marienplatz, by the Neues Rathaus (the old city hall with a huge glockenspiel - like a cuckoo clock with life size wooden and motorized people and knights), into a cathedral, and through the English Garden (one of the largest city parks in Europe). Unfortunately (not really), we missed the lunch-hour nude sunbathers that frequent the English Garden during the workweek when there is good weather. The next day, we paid a visit to Schloss Nymphenburg, which is the old summer villa (more like huge mansion and park complex) for the royal family. It was well preserved and had some great insights into the ways of old, royal Europe.

They fed us Weisswurst (white sausage made of some whitish meat), authentic pretzels (breze in Bavaria), Kaffeeklastch (afternoon coffee with cake), and a variety of other things. Karsten made it his mission to have me taste every beer made within a reasonable range of Munich, which wasn't a bad thing.

Whether we were assembling his new BBQ (America did have some impact on them!), relaxing in their dining room, or checking out the Hofbrauhaus, beer was one theme of Matt's Munich visit.

We paid a visit to one of the local biergartens - what a concept! They are generally like large parks, with lots of picnic tables (some covered), a playground for children, and an area that you can buy various food items and 1 liter beers. They are a place that works well for a family evening or afternoon as well as for a couple friends looking for a cold one (like Sebastian and Matt here).

Our gracious hosts took us outside of Munich, down part of the 'Romantic Road' on the way to a duo of very famous castles called Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. These are located a couple hours outside of Munich and are again related to the history of the royal family there in Germany. The landscape in rural Bavaria is beautiful. We took tours of both castles - both of which required a short hike (go girls!). The castles are very cool and elaborate - like you'd expect for real, European castles. You can see one from the other and they are within walking distance of each other. Hohenschwangau (the tan one) was built first. Neuschwanstein (the one with the five of us in front of it) was built second and was only half finished on the interior because the King went crazy and was either killed or killed himself (a controversial mystery).

Lastly, and on our way to the airport, we stopped at a place called Dachau, which was the main Nazi concentration camp. It was a very good thing to do. They have spent a lot of time creating a well-preserved and informative presentation of what the concentration camps were like. It wasn't the most uplifting finish to our Munich visit, but certainly a worthwhile reminder of the not so distant history of the world.

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