As it turns out, Munich with a local tour guide is even better than Munich on your own, even if you are 33 years old and like to be in your accommodation by 10pm vs. your former 20-year-old self who burned the midnight oil and thought coming back to her hostel at 5am was perfectly acceptable. (Shame on you, 22-Year-Old Self.)
So Munich with a trio of guides is basically the ideal scenario.
Since Christoph and Anna were both born and raised in Munich, we felt like we really scored by way of getting the most knowledgeable tour guides we could have asked for. And given that exactly the same week a year prior, they had come to our little corner of Tennessee for six nights with their then-infant Leo, it was really fun to flip-flop the guiding duties.
Here’s how our time there went down.
We pulled up in our rental car and checked into our hotel in the Isarvorstadt district. We booked the Hotel Deutsche Eiche through credit card points, but had we not, it would have run us $175 a night, including breakfast each day—and that was for our own standalone flat with a kitchenette and separate living room space. It was incredibly spacious and historic to boot: It once belonged to famed Munich artist Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
When locals asked us where we were staying, we were met with shocked looks. I knew why: It was a famous hotel back in the 80s and right in the heart of the vibrant gay district. According to Christoph, who many refer to as The Professor for his wide breadth of knowledge regarding all things: “The quarter was THE gay area in Munich in the 80’s. It was Munich’s most famous Sauna Club back then. Today gentrification changed the whole area, and there are still some gay bars, but it’s not really a scene anymore as thankfully people can—in that respect—luckily [be whatever] they feel like.”
So why would we, a married heterosexual couple in our 30s/40s want to stay there? Well, location, location, location. Plus, we’ve always been drawn to such areas that were, in a sense, colonized by the city’s gay population (see: the West Village in New York, the Castro in San Francisco). Not to mention, the staff was wonderful and the price right. We looked at several Airbnbs in that neighborhood—we preferred to stay around Gärtnerplatz, as that is where Anna and Christoph were staying and they were our sole reason for this —and there weren’t any we loved; at least not available during the height of German holidays within our price range.
Once we’d had time to clean up, we grabbed a beer at the hotel bar, then took it up to the rooftop once Christoph arrived as our server mentioned the fabulous views of the skyline from the top floor bar (they were indeed, but I couldn’t get a good shot in the dark, so you’ll just have to imagine them for yourself).
Christoph asked what we wanted to eat and I said, “I dunno. Something not-touristy and local and typical Bavarian food.” So he walked us 15 minutes to one of his favorite spots, , where we had him order a couple of different pork dishes for us (there was no English menu so we let him have free reign, trusting friends that we were), and we cleaned our plates minutes later.
From there, he walked us down to the river, the Isar, but not before we stopped and bought beers at a kiosk that we consumed on the riverfront steps. How cool is that that you can sit around a public place with an open container and not worry about law enforcement? It felt very German (and very awesome).
Our trio of hosts picked us up bright and early the following day, and we headed straight for the Viktualienmarkt, which has been a Munich staple for more than two centuries, where Leo made friends at every stall.
This market had a great variety of things to see and buy—I’m sure if I were to live in Munich, SVV and I would get all of our produce and other ingredients there—but it’s also where they intended for us to have our first Munich breakfast of Weisswurst, a traditional white Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon, which you eat with pretzel and a sweet mustard. It’s much better than it looks, I assure you.
So good in fact that I had it for at least one meal a day the rest of the time we were in Germany.
Then Christoph told us it was only a true Bavarian breakfast if accompanied by a pint of Paulaner.
Beer for breakfast? We were meant to be Germany, clearly.
We then set out for the city center, Marienplatz, which wasn’t a total madhouse on a Friday morning, and we took a few minutes to pop in the Cathedral Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) right next to the New Town Hall.
This is also the site of the Devil’s Footprint, so there were people clustered around back to see where he’d stomped his foot in annoyance at the architect who built the church and left an indent.
We passed government buildings and the Parliament, stopped at the famed bronze lion outside the Residenz to rub his nose; it’s said to be good luck. As we walked through Odeonsplatz, the Professor gave us plenty of tidbits about Hitler and World War II, pointed out spots of significance and showed us Dodger’s Alley where Muncheners would take the back route to avoid giving the Nazi salute as they walked by the Feldherrnhalle, a compulsory action during the Third Reich.
Next, we moseyed up through the Hofgarten, through the Haus der Kunst and to the Eisbachwelle, the surf spot of so many locals.
Thanks to German engineers, this icy river is perfectly suited for surfing. After they submerged concrete blocks into the river to slow the flow going into the English Garden, it created a rapid. That was back in the 1970s, and today, intermediate and experienced surfers come from all over to try their hand at the wave. A dozen or so enthusiasts lined the platforms, each waiting patiently for his or her turn on the wave.
It was so orderly, so … German.
We continued on into the English Garden where SVV and Christoph stripped down to their skivvies—”good thing I wore the good ones today,” SVV remarked—and plunged into the icy current.
Leo took a quick dip then made friends who were more than happy to play soccer with him for hours on end as we sunbathed.
And for those of you who asked in the last post, yes, many of the elderly gentlemen laying out were not doing so in a swimsuit.
A lady came by on a bike and sold us a couple of beers, which placated us for a wee bit longer.
The 900-acre park is absolutely massive and so beautiful—in fact, it’s larger than Central Park and one of the biggest urban parks in the world. And there are so many spots to lounge around on a lazy summer day. I’d be here all the time if I were a Munchener.
Deep within the park is the famed beer garden Chinesischer Turm, so obviously that was our next stop.
It was here that Leo, at 20 months old, learned how to say “y’all” and also fist bump.
We were both so proud.
Cheers—or rather, “prost!”—he already knew on his own.
After that, some of us needed a nap (myself included) following our full day of activities and a few very large beers.
That night, we went out with Anna’s dad and his girlfriend to a street festival with experimental music before ending the evening with a late dinner with yet another charming local experience at a Bavarian restaurant tucked away on a street we would have never found without the help of Munich natives.
It was an extremely full day indeed, and I was impressed our smallest tour guide lasted from 9am till nearly midnight with just a short catnap here and there.
For our second day of our 48-hour trip to Munich, continue on via the next page…
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