Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Munich - Day 3 - Bus Tour and Tollwood Festival

Thursday, 18th December, 2008

We woke up to a fresh snowfall, which was the first amount of real snow that we had seen since leaving NZ.

I popped outside to the ledge outside our room and made a little snowman which wasn't there when we got home later. I'm not sure where he went - probably shopping down the Marienplatz.

Mr Snowman


Close up

Go that way

Hop on/Hop Off Bus


After breakfast, we went for a ride on the hop on/hop off bus, which was quite interesting. We have become fans of the hop on/hop off bus tours as they really give you an easy way to see everything and you can cover a lot of ground. We've done one in LA, Munich and a few weeks ago Oxford (more about that in a future post) and we intend to do one in London shortly. Of course, you don't get the breadth of information as you would by visiting everything individually, but when pressed for time, they're great.

The bus was a double decker, as seems to be the standard for these tours. While the day was cold and wet, with the snow giving way to rain, the bus tour was still a lot of fun. After reviewing the photos from the tour, I'm afraid they aren't that clear, so will post the best ones. Hard to get good photos when it's wet, the bus is moving and you're behind glass.

Wow, looks pretty cool

Notice the rapidly melting snow

Another impressive building


Statues


A column


That's a lot of windows!


The other thing about this bus is that played a song about München. Constantly. It seemed to play it about every 15 minutes - usually when we stopped to let people on or off. It's quite catchy. We probably heard it four or five times. I'm humming it to myself now. Damn.

The München Song (Video)
video

Sha buttoned up warm



Here is a nun store...

...or maybe, nah, I don't have a clue.

We actually saw quite a lot of nuns in Munich, all going about their nunnish business


Clock store


Regretfully, we didn't have the time to pop back and check it out

Some more landmarks



A giant ship propeller


German houses lined up straight

I love the colour contrast here

A bridge


Another clock tower

There's a cool mural in the centre of this picture (click to see closer)

A perilous position!

We came across some girls sitting on the window sills of a department store. Not to worry, they weren't real!

And one more clock...


Hmm, Germans do seem to like clocks!

The skating rink

Here is the skating rink I mentioned in my last post And that is more or less the end of the bus tour. After the tour, we took some time to head back to Wombats to take a breather. Sha popped into a couple of stores looking for things to keep her warm.

Tollwood winter festival

Late afternoon, we headed to the Tollwood festival, which was an alternative winter festival held in the same place as Oktoberfest. Of course Oktoberfest was in October, so we had well and truly missed that. Good to see the grounds being used for more than just the most well known beer swilling event on the planet. It appears they also have a Tollwood summer festival as well (wasn't aware of that until googling it).

Tollwood festival

Doesn't it look impressive!

The Tollwood festival was amazing. When we arrived, the first thing we were greeted by was the smell of mulled wine. We had been advised to try the
Feuerzangenbowle (fire tongs punch) which we quickly did.

Sha enjoying some Feuerzangenbowle

The Feuerzangenbowle is basically a type of mulled wine served in a mug with a lip. To the lip a sugar cube is added, soaked in rum and then set on fire. It looks spectacular and tastes twice as good. In the photo above, the sugar cube has fallen into Sha's mug. And if you get a hankering for making this at home, here's a recipe.

Throughout Tollwood, there are giant tents (absolutely huge), each holding a variety of different things of interest. I'm guessing the tents are also used for Oktoberfest as each one could hold many thousands of drunken revellers.

One tent was full of 'Food of the World' and had various types of food from all over the globe. We saw African, Ethiopian, Mexican, Caribbean, Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Greek, Italian - pretty much anything you could imagine and it was an amazing sight to behold. It also made us hungry but we had to hold out as we were planning on going to a beer hall a bit later on.


A second tent was a giant craft market with different things from artists far and wide. You name it - it was there. There were wax figures in the shapes of different African animals (with some being made on the spot), hats, coats, shoes, paintings, writing paper, crystals, wooden toys, games, electronic toys, drinking glasses, chainmail armour (yes, for real). They were all being sold ferociously in the lead up to Christmas.

Tollwood also had various bars and different bands played each evening for free. We didn't stick around to see any but it looked like a fun place to be.

It wasn't all about food, booze and crafts though. Oh no, there were also other tents dedicated to art, health and environmental issues. Not reading German made it fascinating wandering around trying to work out what was going on.

Mannequins

I think this was an art installation...

More Mannequins

...or another Auton invasion? (ask a Doctor Who geek!)

As dinner started to beckon, we left Tollwood, passed the church below which I thought was quite striking, and headed to a beer hall.

The church



The Beer Hall

This was another experience altogether! We went to the
Augustiner-Bräustuben beer hall. Here's some more info.

We didn't really know what to expect, as despite having been through one on our walking tour, the one we headed to was far less commercial and felt a lot more authentic. We had been advised that it was less tourist focussed and consequently better. We went to the counter and approached a waitress dressed in a little black and white tunic. Very cute but it looked like she had been doing the job for 40 years! However, she was very helpful and found a seat for us at an already bulging table - there was no way we were going fit into. We managed to squeeze in and were placed slap bang in the middle of everyone.

It's interesting when you are sharing a table with a bunch of people who you haven't met before and who are all speaking German. We were asked what we would like to drink and Sha put up two fingers up and said "two minutes" and the waitress wandered off (hey, we had to decide which beer to drink!). A couple of minutes later the waitress returned with a stein of beer for each of us. Oh well, it still tasted pretty good. We joined in the practice of lifting our glass and saying "prost" (cheers) when the rest of the table did. We then ordered our meal - I can't remember exactly what I had, but Sha seemed to have three kinds of meat, a large dumpling and a LOT of potato. She couldn't finish it. While she is a big fan of dumplings, in this instance the dumpling out dumplinged her.
I really wish we had managed to get some photos of our meal and our surroundings, but it wasn't to be.

After our meal, we waddled back to Wombats (luckily we had a decent walk ahead of us) and reflected on things. We had an enjoyable experience but it's not necessarily something we would rush to repeat. I think it's more of a social thing and one that works better when you are sitting with people that you know or at the very least are drinking and conversing with. It is certainly something different to be placed at a table with eight strangers - I guess if we could speak German, we wouldn't have had any issues! The Augustiner-Bräustuben also has a restaurant area at the beer hall, but that would negate the whole experience.

Overall, we were happy we had done it, but the food wasn't anything to write home about. Last year, when we were living in New Zealand, we had a German boarder for a couple of months (hi Gabriel!) and he mentioned that the Germans are known as 'potatoes' due to the type of food they eat.
This certainly did seem to be the case at the beer hall.

Well, that's it for today. Next post - castles and snow...a lot of snow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Munich - Day 2 - Walking Tour

Wednesday, 17th December 2008

We awoke and made our way down to the breakfast hall. Wombats does an all you can eat breakfast for €3.50, which was exceedingly good value for money.

Breakfast consisted of rolls, cheese and meat - we are in Germany after all! Well, there was also cereal, toast, fruit, juice, coffee, the works...we even took some fruit to have later. The following day, we noticed little signs on each of the tables with a picture of a wombat saying "Please do not take food away from the breakfast hall as it encourages pests to come into your room". Oooops! I swear, these signs were not there the day before!

We vacated our room, put our luggage into storage and met our guide for the walking tour. He was in his early thirties and had started his own tour company with a few friends a couple of years ago. However, the company hadn't quite worked out and eventually folded but he had decided to carry on with the walking tour side of things. He was a really nice guy and had a great approach, very informative and with a sense of humour. He also was able to recommend which places had the best food, which beer houses were tourist traps which was all very helpful indeed.

We were taken down through the main streets, past an ice skating rink, through an ancient city gate and towards Munich’s most well known church.

City Gate


Mmmm, nice curves


One point of difference of Munich is that the very middle of this city is designed for people and not cars, which made a nice change from America. It's great to be able to walk through paved areas without having cars whiz past, nor choke on their stinky fumes. This also makes it easier for people to get around by cycling – especially considering the number of university students in this town. Actually thinking about this some more, I guess it is natural for cities that were built many hundreds of years before the rise of the motor car to be centred around people. However, there are still old cities where the car has found its way in quite easily (London anyone?)

We proceeded through the main town centre simply soaking up the history of the place. I'm constantly blown away at the age of things over here, which I guess comes from living somewhere which only has a couple of hundred years of architectural history.

Frauenkirche

One of the towers was being worked on...

We arrived at Frauenkirche and before taking a look inside, we were shown this little model of the old city.

A cute little model

You can see where the church is, on the left with the twin towers. For the more logistically challenged amongst us, this helped us to get our bearings to some degree.

The inside of the church was simply amazing. We saw the impression of the devil's footprint which he had left when it was being built. The legend goes that the devil did a deal with the builder not to include any windows in the church and when he came down to check, he didn't see any. He then found out that they had been added but weren't visible from where he stood at the front door. He stamped his foot causing the mark to remain inside the church. Mr Devil then vacated, furious and left the almighty wind that he had rode outside the church - we had been told by our guide that outside the church was the windiest place in the city. All very interesting!

The devil's footprint


Pope Benedict XVI

The current Pope hails from Munich

Visually impressive

I can't see the side windows either - does that mean I'm evil?

Interesting

That flag in his hand looks like a hockey stick

We were then taken to the Marienplatz(town square) to see the world famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel.

Rathaus-Glockenspiel

This was quite amusing to see and it is one of those things you have to do if you are ever in Munich. It is a mechanical glockenspiel, which performs at 11am each day. The little figures act out scenes from Munich history. There is a bit of jousting and black plague going on (although not at the same time as it would be hard to handle a horse, let alone joust if you were suffering from the plague!)

The Mariensäule, a Marian column found in the Marienplatz

Marian columns are religious monuments built in honour of the Virgin Mary

Close up of a cherub

At each corner of the column is a cherub (although I've just read on the almighty wikipedia that these are putto which are often mistakenly confused with cherubs. Let us not make this mistake again).

Each of these putto is fighting a different animal and each animal represents a different adversity - lion (war), cockatrice (pestilence), dragon (famine), serpent (heresy...i.e. non Catholics).

From the Marienplatz, we went to a wee market (Viktualienmarkt) with many varieties of food and drink. Meatloaf sandwiches are a very popular delicacy as are sausages. Mulled wine is the drink of choice. You basically roll up to a mulled wine cart, pay a small deposit for a cup and then you get your cup filled. You can keep the cup if you so wish or return it for a refund on your deposit. The more you drink, the quicker you roll; although that sometimes means that other people end up rolling you home.

Sha looks happy!

Isn't that boot cute?

In this instance, the cups at this vendor were in the shape of a boot and in retrospect we should have kept them as they were quite unique. Everyone seems to like drinking in the streets over here, probably due to how cold it is (although the scientifically minded among you will know that drinking doesn't really warm you up).

A very tall maypole

We were told a couple of stories about maypoles. Generally the maypole was laid out a few days before being erected; many years ago people would steal it and carry it away (I'm guessing they were lighter back then?). The story goes that if you manage to steal it and carry it away, if you then return it, the village has to provide you with a reward of food and drink and invite you to the festivities. Our guide told us that very recently a maypole was left outside the airport and it went missing. Luckily the police were on to the case and were able to locate it and get it returned relatively quickly. It then turns out that they were the people who stole it in the first place! Needless to say, they were provided with a large amount of booze and food as their reward. We were told that these days, maypoles are no longer left out overnight - they are erected quick smart! Some more info about the tradition here and a fantastic effort in stealing a maypole from a mountain peak here (love their demands!).

Hofbräuhaus

Here is the Hofbräuhaus - a very well known beer hall. This is one of the beer halls that Hitler used to frequent. If you check out this link, you can have a look at a fantastic little video which covers a lot of history.

Stein after stein


Revolution No. stein

Here are some of the steins that people have in the beer hall - they can lock their own away. I think we were told that the wait time to get a stein locker is about 2 years. Yikes!

When Hitler was in power, the roof of the Hofbräuhaus was painted with swastikas. When World War II ended, these were never removed; rather they were simply painted over. If you look at the roof, you can actually see the shapes of the old swastikas which have been painted over with new designs.

Meet the band...

Inside the beer hall was an 'Oompa band' complete with tuba. They seemed to move around playing Happy Birthday an awful lot.

Mmmm, beer - I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!

From the beer hall, we were taken back to the streets...below are an assortment of what we saw. Sorry if I can't give too much detail about everything!

First king of Bavaria, King Max I. Joseph


A satyr


More awesome architecture


Wow!

This one is worth a close up (click to see)

The English Garden


We would soon find out if this was an accurate representation!

Going through the English garden we arrived at a 'winter wonderland fair' which had sprung up around the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). It was great to see a lot of very young children enjoying the pre-Christmas spirit.

Sha looking cold


Chinesischer Turm


Sha still looking cold


Mmmm, sausage vendors


Ain't that cute


Arches and lions


On the way back to the hostel we popped in on a little market we had passed earlier. It was here that we encountered a reindeer (that looked like a moose) that spoke to us and then sung. It was fantastic!

Talking Reindeer (video)
video
This is my first video upload, so please let me know how it plays!

Modern art?

Nah, just promoting something in a nearby store

And that is about it. Tomorrow - I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.