In May I got a perfectly good reason to travel abroad – one of my best friends from high school, who now lives in Germany, was getting married! I was over the moon happy when I received an invitation to the wedding and knew I had to make it happen! First, I was so excited my friend found a woman he is now happy to call his wife, and second I wanted to use this opportunity to see as much of Germany as possible, and I only had 7 days to do it!
Charmed by the images of the Bavarian Alps and the happy stories of Octoberfest, my first stop brought me to Munich.
It was the first time I was traveling alone into a country where I didn’t speak the language at all. My biggest concern was getting around without breaking the bank on taxis.
Thankfully, Germany has a great transportation system and there are usually several ways to get from one place to the next. To get from the airport into the city I used the Lufthansa Express Bus, which cost me $19 round trip (I was coming back to the airport the next morning). There are three places where the bus stops at the airport, and because I was a total noob, I ended up walking past the closest stop and walking all the way around the airport for an hour until the next stop, but that’s a boring story. I did end up doing a good deed within a few hours in Germany, a family left child’s toy car at the bus stop and I chased after them to give it back. “Ah, supah!” was the response I got. It was all meant to be.
I knew I was in Europe when a nude couple was casually gracing the pages of a daily newspaper article I found on the bus.
I was happy I went with the bus option and got to see the famous no-speed-limit auto bahn and the beautiful yellow canola fields.
The bus stops first in North Munich, and then at the Munich Central Station (München Hauptbahnhof).
For $80 a night (breakfast included), I booked a brand new hotel, Arthotel ANA Diva, which was a 12 minute walk from the station. Location was good, it’s on a quieter street, but still close to the center. They were able to check me in early, I think 3 or 4 hours early, for no extra charge. I also ended up with an accessible room, so my bathroom was HUMONGOUS!
It was raining, and it was cold. After settling in for a bit and talking to a few of my European friends with whom I was finally in the same time zone, I decided to take it a bit easy and start with the hop-on-hop-off bus – the Stadtrundfahrt CitySightseeing. I bought a 1-day pass for all tours for $23 online. It says you have to print your ticket (can’t show over the phone), which I didn’t understand why, because you still have to go to the tour office to exchange it for an actual valid ticket.
I first hopped on the Nymphenburg-Olympia Tour and then the Schwabing Tour. I suppose early May is not quite a tourist season, hence the great pricing I got on flights and the hotel, there were only 6-8 people besides me on each bus. Also, 60%-80% of those people were Russian speaking, it took me back a bit; in the first few hours in Germany I ended up hearing more Russian than German. The buses did not have a live guide, but a typical headphone system. The second floor, which would normally be open, was covered and leaking, so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but given the unpleasant weather – it was the best option.
Munich is also pretty spread out, so the bus was a great option in order to see a lot of things. The upkeep of the architecture was a bit disappointing though.
Between the two tours I warmed up a bit with a cup of coffee from Coffee Fellows.
The last tour ended around 6pm, so I walked back to the hotel to reinforce myself with warmer clothes and a rain coat, after which I began my 35-minute walk to the English Garden. During the bus tour, I marked a few places on the map to go to. Thankfully I had 3G on my phone, which is a life saver because without my GPS I would be SOOOO lost. The walk was cold and wet, but the views of the beautiful blooming chestnuts made it better!
I ended up walking through the park for an hour one way, crossed the Isar River and walked back to the city along the other side.
It was starting to get a bit dark and I was a bit worried walking alone, in a dark alley, with few people around – Germans look tough and intimidating! But I was determined to see surfers on the Eisbach! My determination almost paid off, but when I got there, I saw a surfer walking away with her surf board… I just missed her!
At this point my feet were soaking wet and in pain, but I still had so much to see! The bus was a great overview of the city, but I need to experience things on feet where I can “zoom” myself closer to any object of interest. The lit up Munich at night was beautiful, but it was a dark gray Monday night and I was one of the few people out in the streets. It felt a bit eerie.
I slowly walked back to the hotel taking in every view my eyes could grab on. At one point I thought my left knee was going to give out on me and I should just get an Uber, but no, determination to save $15 was strong and I beat my personal record on FitBit with 30,000 steps and 13 miles.
The pain in my legs and the worry of oversleeping (and possibly some jet lag) kept me up all night, so the next day was rough, but that is already a Berlin story, which is best saved for the next post!
I wish my Munich experience was more colorful and lively with people out in cafes drinking beer, but I suppose the places we romanticize don’t always turn out to be exactly how we imagine them to be. I am still glad I got to see the capital of Bavaria so that I could now understand the disconnect between Bavarians and the rest of Germany. Also, it means that I have to come and go to the Alps during more favorable weather, since I didn’t even have the time to see the Alps this time. 😛