The first week of our Indie Germany trip started in true style: with us running for a train. As the week went on, we faced all sorts of (self-inflicted) problems and enjoyed the worst May weather we’d seen in a while. But we also had great views from the trains we caught, and got to know Munich a little.
Monday 27/5: We’d spent the weekend in Cesenatico, Italy, as part of a blog trip, and although the weather hadn’t been the best, we’d had a good time. As always though, we delayed our departure a little too long, and found ourselves jogging the last couple of hundred metres to the train station. There, the sole functioning ticket machine didn’t want to accept cash or either of our New Zealand credit cards; we finally placated it with our little-used backup UK card.
Oscar, one of the other blog trip participants, was on the same train as as for part of the way to Bologna, so we had a pleasant chat with him as far as Ravenna. Once we arrived in Bologna, we headed to the international counter to buy our tickets to Munich — only to find that the train was completely full! We’d put off buying our tickets just in case our plans changed — a bad decision. Luckily there was another option that got us to Munich a couple of hours later and didn’t cost any more.
We arrived at our hotel at around 9pm, where we were told that our booking had been cancelled because they hadn’t been able to process the payment on our credit card. Admittedly, they had tried to contact us by phone and email, but as we were travelling all day without internet access or a working phone, they couldn’t get in touch.
They could still check us in though, in an inferior room and a higher rate. We decided to stay anyway, since it was quite late and we didn’t want to trawl the city looking for another option, but we were seriously unimpressed. I was even more unhappy when the internet didn’t work. At least the beds were comfortable and we both got a good night’s sleep.
Tuesday 28/5: Our first stop of the morning was a meeting with Christian and Christina of the tourism board, who gave us a lot of valuable information about what we could do in the city, and went out of their way to find out where we could get free wifi access — it’s not too common here, even in cafes. However, we found a good connection in a bookshop cafe on the Marienplatz, and it also turns out that a free wifi connection has just recently been installed in the square itself.
At 1.30pm we met our tour guide Birgit for a really good walking tour of the city. She explained the glockenspiel and some of the history of the city, and took us to churches and points of interest all over the place. The best stop was at the English Garden, where we watched the surfers surf the static wave and ended our tour.
We said goodbye to Birgit and followed her directions into the garden; as it was a beautiful day the lawns were full of people sunbathing and doing sports — we even saw one or two people braving the gelid waters of the Isar River. We decided to stay dry, though, and instead had a beer in the beer garden by the Chinese Tower, along with two thousand or so other tourists.
Our walk back to our hotel took us back through the city, and we also glimpsed a large park down a side street. I decided to go for a run and this seemed like a logical place to do it — and a lot of other people had the same idea. As well as runners I saw kiteboarders, people doing aerobics or walking dogs, and people playing pingpong. Later I learned that this is the site of the famous Octoberfest — there’s certainly plenty of space for it. In the evening Craig cooked a delicious omelette in the mini kitchen and we watched a bit of TV before bed.
Wednesday 29/5: I want to apply for a working holiday visa for Germany, so I got my documents together and headed to the immigration office, which was only a five-minute walk from the hotel. Unfortunately the office I needed is closed on Wednesdays, and Thursday was a public holiday — looks like I’ll have to wait until we get to Nuremberg.
We did a couple of hours’ work then walked to our Couchsurfing hosts’ house, which was only about ten minutes from the hotel. Jessy met us at the door and we left our bags with her, but we didn’t stay for long as she works from home. Instead, we caught the U-bahn to the main station and jumped on a Grey Line hop-on hop-off bus tour. This kind of tour isn’t my favourite way of seeing a city, but since it was a pretty rainy day it was nice to be “inside”. We jumped off the bus at the first stop, the Nymphenberg Palace, and spent an hour there. The free-to-enter information room was great, but we didn’t think the royal apartments were worth the entrance fee — perhaps it’s just because we’ve seen so many palaces recently.
We would have liked to wander around the grounds, but the wind was icy and the drizzle depressing. So we hopped back on the bus and got off at the next stop, BMW World. Neither of us are into cars, but we really enjoyed our half hour there. We didn’t visit the museum or do a tour, but the showroom area is well set up for visitors with lots of interesting displays. And just before we left, staff put up barriers and a guy drove around the whole showroom (including up and down stairs) on a motorbike.
We walked over to Olympiapark, where the 1972 Olympic Games were held, and found a warm spot out of the rain to eat our packed lunch. Then we just wandered around for half an hour or so, laughing at the people trying to balance in the water balls on the lake, and peering into the stadiums.
We had to run to get to the bus stop in time, but we made it and caught the bus back to the main station, where we had to change to another one to do the inner circle part of the route. We didn’t hop off at all during this part, we just enjoyed the commentary and looked for buildings and sights we’d already seen.
We got off the bus one stop before the end, at Karlstor, and walked down the pedestrian street towards Marienplatz. Along the way, we stopped in at the iconic Frauenkirche; I loved the stained glass windows.
We arrived at Marienplatz just ten minutes before 5pm, so we waited in the crowd of tourists for the glockenspiel to play. I appreciated Birgit’s explanation of what was going on — it meant that I could cheer for the Bavarian jouster figure and celebrate when he won his battle.
I wanted to make pebre for dinner, so we stopped at the Victualienmarkt for coriander and visited a couple of supermarkets on the way home. There, we met Gwendoline and Antony from France, who were also staying with Jessy and Bernd, and Bernd himself came home not long after. We were joined by three other friends and spent the evening eating pizza and playing the werewolf game that Craig and I first played in Jerez.
Thursday 30/5: Since we’d stayed up quite late the day before, we slept in and spent the morning lazing around. It was a public holiday so Jessy and Bernd were at home, and we chatted with them until around 12.30pm, when we finally headed out the door. After kebabs for lunch, we caught the U-bahn to Konigsplatz then met listener Johannes at the Lowenbrau brewery for a few beers. The beer was good but expensive, but the company was great — Johannes gave us all sorts of good tips about the city, and took us for a walk through the student district to the university. He’d hoped to show us inside, but as it was a public holiday all the buildings were locked up; instead he showed us a memorial to the White Rose group and told us about the Scholl siblings, who were members of the group and who were executed for their resistance to the Second World War.
Back at home, we ate dinner with Jessy and Bernd, then spent the evening playing Settlers of Catan — it’s been a while since we’ve played.
Friday 31/5: We managed to get a little work and administration done in the morning, then headed out into the drizzle to see a tiny bit more of Munich. We walked across the Octoberfest grounds and stopped by the Hauptbahnhof, then dropped into the Augustiner brewery. Unfortunately it was too rainy to sit in the beer garden, but the inside area was nice too.
We caught a tram back to the city, where we finally managed to get a German SIM card — victory! Craig’s excited about being able to share photos and videos again. After our extended stop at the Vodafone shop, we climbed the 300+ steps of the St. Peter’s tower, which was definitely worth the €1.50 entrance fee: the views over the city were spectacular and I really enjoyed identifying places we’d already visited.
By this time it was raining again so we headed home for a coffee and an hour in the dry, but soon we had to head out again. Everyone we’d spoken to had recommended that we visit the Lenbachhaus art museum, and we’d arranged to meet Bernd there after he finished work. It has only recently been reopened after years of renovation, and we were all very impressed by it — the art was fantastic and the curation really made the most of it. It’s not huge — we only spent about an hour and a half there — but I’d say it’s worth the €10 entrance fee.
I particularly enjoyed learning about and seeing the work of the Blue Rider group of artists, who worked in and around Munich in the early twentieth century.
Back home, Bernd cooked traditional Bavarian white sausages for dinner, and we were joined by their Canadian friend Rachel for an evening of board games and conversation.
Saturday 1/6: Because we’re muppets, we didn’t realise that our German Rail pass (provided by ACP Rail) is valid from June 3, which was our the day we originally planned to start travelling during our Indie Germany trip. But we changed our plans and decided to head to Nuremberg two days early, and of course we couldn’t use the pass before its period of validity. However, as problems go this is a pretty minor one, since there’s an excellent transport pass available in Bavaria called the Bayern Ticket, which works out considerably cheaper than the per-day price of the German Rail Pass. It’s only €22 for the first person and €4 extra for each additional passenger (to a total of five people). You can’t use the fast trains but underground train and bus transport is included; for €13 each it’s very good value. So we decided to buy one of those instead and use our German Rail Pass day for a day trip after we arrive in Berlin.
Our first stop of the day was Dachau, the site of one of the first and largest Nazi concentration camps. We only had two hours to spend there and it certainly wasn’t enough — you could easily spend three or four hours in the complex and still have more to see. It was a sobering experience but well presented. We got an audioguide but I think I’d have preferred to do a guided tour for the personal touch — and all the guides we overheard as we passed their groups sounded great.
Unfortunately our train from Dachau back to Munich was delayed by six minutes, which meant we missed our connection by about 20 seconds and had to wait an hour for the next one. This meant we had less time than we would have liked in our next stop, Regensburg, which is a really pretty little town. The rain came and went during our two hours there, which wasn’t too pleasant, but at least we had time to see the main sights: the old stone bridge, the cathedral, and the Thurn and Taxis palace. Plus our walk back to the train station took us through a lovely park.
On arrival in Nuremburg, we found a tourist information office and found out how to get to our Couchsurfing host’s house by public transport — and the Bayern Ticket was valid here too! Our host Kadda welcomed us in and made us a delicious dinner, and we had a couple of hours to get to know each other before she headed out to a concert with a friend of hers.
Sunday 2/6: Ahhh, a Sunday at long last! We all slept in late then spent the day mostly inside — Kadda had to write a 20-page essay and Craig and I just wanted to stay out of the rain. It turned out to be a very productive day for a change!
In the evening, some friends of Kadda’s joined us and we cooked dinner together then watched Tatort, a German TV show which is an institution in itself. Perhaps it might need to be part of our Sunday-evening ritual while we’re here!