I arrived in Munich (German: München) via a CityNightLine train from Amsterdam at about 8am. Our car was old and the closed, 6-person compartment did not have reclining seats. Luckily, only one other person shared the compartment so I got three seats to myself: with the armrests up, it was effectively a bed! I slept better than I was expecting until awaking to three random people, one of whom turned on the lights and asked for my passport. I was reluctant to hand it over to a random person, but it turns out they were plainclothes German police looking for drugs. As a young American traveling alone from AMS, I would search me.
Anyways, after arriving I checked out some sights near the station. The Rathaus, City Hall, has the famous glockenspiel with bells and two animatronic scenes.
The Frauenkirche nearby is free and somewhat interesting due to the history of its postwar reconstruction.
I had lunch at my first stop on the Munich Beer Tour. The summer special was good but not outstanding for a Hefeweisen. I should have gone with the Aventinus, a stronger brew.
1) Schneider Weisse (Summer Brew)
That afternoon I went for a run in the MASSIVE “English Gardens”, really just a huge park northeast of the town center. I ended up not making it to the northern park boundary and it was still a 10 mile round trip! The river in the park has a standing wave which can be surfed. There are also some famous beer gardens such as the “Chinese Tower.”
That evening I went to the famous Hofbraühaus, a beer hall seating thousands, with an oompah band. I ordered a 1L maß of Dunkel and it was delicious. Very flavorful yet not so heavy as to not be refreshing. The pretzel I ordered was bigger than my face. I couldn’t finish it.
2) Hofbraü Dunkel
This morning I visited Dachau, the first German concentration camp. It is nigh impossible to comprehend in a meaningful way how many people died there, even with “only” 30,000 perishing at Dachau compared to over a million at Auschwitz/Birkenau. A couple of places got to me. I think history is most powerful when individual acts are remembered. In one place, our tour guide pointed out the strip of grass on which prisoners would be shot on sight. He mentioned that some would defiantly step onto the grass and await their fate: it was powerful imagining a lone soul standing there in an act of individual resistance.
Likewise, I was struck by the sacrifices prisoners made for each other. The prisoner Kazimierz Majdanski was one of many subjected to cruel experiments where pus was injected into his blood to introduce a blood infection. He was to receive a dose of a new (ineffective) Nazi drug as treatment. A fellow prisoner, working as a hospital orderly, knew he would die without real treatment, so he administered sulfonamide, at great personal risk. Madjanski was cured and survived the camp… to become Archbishop of Warsaw.
After relaxing in the afternoon following the tour, I spent the early evening at the Augustiner Keller, the local favorite beer garden. I ordered the house brew in a 1L maß. It was delicious, a crisp, refreshing beer with plenty of kick.
3) Augustiner Helles
I made small talk with a lederhosen clad local retiree and laughed as he flirted with three Austrian “Jungfrau”, as he called them (all at least 65 years old). The place filled up by 6: with capacity for over 5000 it was quite an atmosphere.
For dinner, I sampled a smaller brewery with a restaurant near Marienplatz, called Andechs. The food was good, the beer not remarkable compared to the others but still really good quality.
4) Andechs Helles
Today I went to the typical German postcard view at Neuschwanstein. King Ludwig II of Bavaria was heavily caught up in the ideals of the Romantic period and decided he wanted a new German medieval castle. Never mind that it looks wholly inauthentic, it does look imaginative; Disney adopted it for the trademark castle design.
The side trip takes a big part of the day due to a two hour train ride from Munich: however, it is cheap. With a deal called the BayernTicket, which can be purchased at any DB vending machine at the station, I paid 10.50 for round trip train fare and bus fare as part of a group of three. The more you bring, the cheaper it is.
We heard the inside of the castle isn’t so exciting so we didn’t pay to go in. The outside is worth the trip. The mountain scenery is the best part though.
In the afternoon and evening I hit two more brews: a Paulaner Helles from a beer garden in the market and Hacker-Schorr’s Dunkel.
5) Paulaner Helles
The Paulaner just doesn’t pack as much punch or as crisp a taste as Augustiner.
6) Hacker-Schorr Dunkel
This beer was not nearly as tasty to me as the Hofbrau Dunkel I tried: it’s even “chewier” and maltier. Maybe I should have tried the lighter beer.
München was beer heaven. I would love to visit during Oktoberfest. I would also have loved to catch a classical concert, but it was not to be this time. Off to Berchtesgaden, a mountain town on the Austrian border.