We’re back from our European follies, and I have so much to tell you, but I’m hoping you won’t mind if I go out of order a bit and start with the ending (Maria von Trapp née Rainer may say it’s not a good place to start, but I beg to differ). You see, this week marks the best time of year in Munich—it’s Oktoberfest, obviously—and while we missed out on it by mere days, I have very fond memories of my own time at Germany’s biggest brew-ha-ha (get it?).
Don’t feel sorry for us. We drank more than our share of beers in Germany without Oktoberfest.
The funny thing about Germany is that I never had a desire to go there as a kid or even a young, impressionable college traveler. When I went abroad alone for the first time in 2007, I did so with a five-country rail pass, and my route started in England, then cruised down the Channel via the EuroStar, then stopped in Paris for a week, then onto Vienna before snaking back to Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Germany wasn’t even a contender.
And then I had to get off and switch trains in Munich, and I thought, “what the Hell? Might as well check it out while I’m here.”
Five days later, I was sold. This was one of the greatest cities in Europe, no contest.
And after multiple trips to various parts of Deutschland, it easily ranks up there among my favorite countries in the world.
You may have seen me mention what a pain in the arse this particular family trip was to organize, not because of the participants but rather the civil unrest in Turkey. Originally, we were flying in and out of Istanbul and spending the last week exploring the former Ottoman empire. But Fate had other plans for us, and after one bombing too many, we ate the cost of our tickets and rebooked new flights entirely that had us flying round-trip from Atlanta to Budapest (if you’re interested, Fox News interviewed me about the headache we experienced attempting to cancel our Turkish Air tickets via Expedia to no avail). And while I love my family dearly, after shepherding seven people around Europe for two weeks, I knew I’d need a vacation from our vacation, which is why I allotted a third week for SVV and me to fly solo.
It turned out to be an excellent call.
But where would we go since Turkey was no longer an option and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money—or time—to travel somewhere on the other side of Europe? Our plans were all over the map. First, it was to somewhere in the Balkans. But there’s no reliable train service there and it would be hard to get around, not to mention take up a whole lot of time. Then, it was Poland because neither of us has been there. In the end, we settled on Munich—only, flights were too expensive to leave from there and fly home, so instead we flew from Bucharest (where we ended our cruise) to Vienna, rented a car and drove the five hours northwest to Germany where our wonderful friends Christoph, Anna and Leo were waiting for us, on the final days of their vacation back home visiting family.
So what is to love about Munich exactly? SO much. Pull up a chair and let me enlighten you.
There are green spaces scattered throughout the city. My big qualm with some cities is the concrete jungle aspect and lack of parks. Munich is situated along a river, the Isar, and everywhere you go, there’s a park or greenway within spitting distance. It’s simply the ideal base for an urban dweller who needs a little breathing room and some Mother Nature from time to time.
The locals bike everywhere. As someone who has never lived in a city conducive to biking (unless you count my year living in Holland and Denmark), this is a huge appeal to me. SVV and I have vowed to get each other bikes for Christmas, but I don’t really trust the Nashville drivers, so we’ll stick to country roads and trails within state parks.
It’s a big city with a small town feel. Christoph kept remarking how tiny Munich was. We came to find that there are 1.38 million in the city, maybe double that in the greater metro area. That’s the size of greater Davidson County in Nashville—not exactly what I call small! Then again, it’s a city that’s easy to become acquainted with in a short amount of time, and very easy to get around, too. Not sure if it’s because I’ve been there three times in the past 13 years or what, but I felt like I knew Munich pretty well by the time we left on this visit.
There’s a stellar art scene. You know I’m not much for museums, but I love the murals, installations and sculptures that are carefully woven throughout the cityscape.
The beer, oh the beer. All of our wandering throughout the 48 hours we were in Munich seemed to include a stop for beer every hour or so. As a newfound beer connoisseur who had never properly appreciated that part of Bavarian culture on past visits, I was OK with this.
There’s surfing! I know, right? You’re as shocked as I was.
It’s just plain gorgeous. Views around every corner. Soaring architecture. Pieces of history, living art.
Need I even mention the food? Sausages and pretzels and potatoes for daaaaaaays. Good thing I prepped for this trip with a proper Whole30 regimen!
Just as we hoped, Munich was the perfect way to spend a few lazy days after a somewhat stressful two weeks of having seven others in my care (travel agents and career tour guides, how on Earth do you do it?).
So much to love here, but I’m amused that in the shot of SVV by the river bank, the dude across the way looks naked! LOL
That’s because he is! Good eye 😉
It was actually tricky to take pictures in this park as every old dude was in the buff!
Ack! I assumed he either had on tiny or fleshy colored shorts!
Haha, nope. Twigs and berries EVERYWHERE. The sad thing is they were all over 50, no scantily clad (or um, in the buff) younguns 😉
Seriously? lol I know the Germans are all “meh, NBD” when it comes to nudity but I didn’t realize it was allowed in regular parks. Funny.
When I was in Innsbruck last year, I was really tempted to take a train to Munich. It’s so near. However, I had a very short time so will really go there next time, especially after reading this post!
And we were really tempted to drive to Innsbruck, but in the end, we did SO much driving, we cut out a lot of stops on the back end of our trip. Did you enjoy?
I lurrrv Munich! I was like you–never even thought to go there when I was studying abroad in Italy, and went there on a month of travel to meet up with school mates. Loved it so much I went back at the end of the month with another set of friends!
The food is delicious, the people so friendly, and frankly, it was such a dream, coming from Italy, where nothing ran on time or was semi-reliable, and everything, EVERYTHING in Munich seemed to be on time, clean, where you expected it to be, etc. I can’t wait to go back some day!
The unexpected destinations are the best ones, don’t you think? Then you go to others that you have so hyped in your mind (for me, Salzburg falls in that category) and are..meh.
Agreed on unexpected destinations–low expectations are much easier to surpass! I also prefer Munich to Salzburg (though I don’t regret going on the silly Sound of Music tour with my brother and my German-American friend).
Munich is definitely my favorite place in Germany. I lived in Freiburg im Breisgau in the Black Forest the year I was there, but my mom’s best friend has lived in Munich for forty years. She, her husband, and her daughter give the best tours, and are always popping into cafes for a nice afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen, plus they’re musicians and journalists for Bavarian public radio, so they know everything that’s going on in the city. And there’s a lot.
Now I want to always tack on a trip to Munich when I’m flying to/through Europe! Pulled it off for Turkey, but not for Iceland. Next time!
I’m glad you and SVV enjoyed hanging out there, too.
The first time I went to Salzburg in 2003 solo, I loved it. I did ALL the Sound of Music attractions (don’t think I did the tour, though) and definitely don’t regret it. But now, going back as a slightly older (OK, a lot older) adult, I just couldn’t get into the magic. Had it been sunny and gorgeous and I’d gone on the tour this visit? Maybe that would have been different =)
I SO wanted to go to the Black Forest, but it was just too far away on this trip. We’re toying with the idea of pitching a month-long rail project over in Germany, so I’d love if that came to fruition. There are so many parts of it I’ve yet to explore or only scratched the surface!
I just adored Munich! It was so much FUN!! I went back with my BF (now Fiance), and he feel in love with it as much if not more than I did! Glad y’all had a nice trip!
Ack! Fell not feel! That’s what I get for commenting from my iPhone. 🙂
Ha, JM, you are forgiven! 😉
It was the first time Scott and I had been to Munich together (though we’d both been separately), and it’s even more fun with a partner in tow!
I loved Oktoberfest in Munich, but I didn’t really love the city. I think my problem was 1) Not really knowing where to go (I probably could have done more research), and 2) I didn’t find it to be (as) historical as many other places in Europe.
I’ve felt this all three times I’ve visited Germany (Frankfurt, Munich, and Hamburg).
That being said, three of my closest friends are German and the people I enjoy working with most at work are German, so I think I’m ready to try it again. I’d love to do a winery trip to western Germany and explore the Christmas markets next time.
I totally know that feeling, Noelle. I had the exact same experience with Vienna on my first visit—no idea where to go, I was solo, the people weren’t friendly, etc. I had NO plans to ever go back, then I was living in Holland and my cousin in Vienna and I decided to join him for Christmas. And I LOVED it! He was a high school history teacher so seeing the city through a different lens definitely made me appreciate it more.
I hope you have a chance to go back to Munich someday and get a second opinion of it. I also love Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg, probably because they each have their own vibe, and for me Munich is great because of the Bavarian food, the myriad beer gardens and all that green space. For history, I’d go to Berlin (though there *are* plenty of sites with WWII significance in Munich, too).
Love Munich! I have also been so pleasantly surprised by Germany. When i was younger, I had no interest – send me to Paris any day. Now, I’m obsessed. I’ve been just a few times, and my fave place is probably Berlin, but I also adored Heidelberg. Just add them to your list if they aren’t already there 🙂
Julie, I’m, so excited about your continent-wide road trip! Looks like you’re hitting up some of the places we just went. And Berlin ties Munich as my favorite German city (they’re both probably in my top 10 worldwide) but I need to add Heidelberg to the list!
We’ve only been to Munich once but had a really special experience when we went. One of our host daughters (C) lives there, and we spent the day with her and her mom, who showed us all of their favorite places in the city. C hangs out at the surfing park with her friends after school, so not only did she show us the surfers, but she showed us where they hang out by the water. They made us a traditional German breakfast at their home and took us to their favorite restaurant for lunch. We walked through the Olympic park area and they pointed out different sites we could see from there. The city is definitely charming, but I felt much more connected with it because C was sharing her home with us. I can’t wait to return.
But seriously, how cool is that surfing park? And yours sounds similar to ours—the local experience makes any trip that much more special/memorable, doesn’t it? Please tell me you ate the white sausage!
I’d really like to explore more of Germany, but not with a huge group. Have only spent seven hours in Frankfurt. But it will have to wait for retirement as I don’t want to be there in the cold winter. Looks like a perfect place to regroup.
I’m so glad we were in Germany (relatively) by ourselves. It’s a great place to just get out and wander, and with the sense of safety and the overall efficiency, an excellent country in general for solo travel.
I’ve never been to Munich before but now that you’ve raved about it, I’m intrigued. This seems to be the trend on how to get cities on my list – listen to Kristin’s recommendations :p
I also really want to know how you organized your family trip! I’m thinking of doing the same thing with mine next Fall, covering largely the same areas (Eastern Europe, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic). Any info from you is much much appreciated!
HA! I love that. I should start a Camels & Chocolate equivalent to Zagat or Michelin 😉
That trip itinerary of yours sounds AWESOME. I endorse all those places (though I haven’t been to Poland!). I’ll be writing more about Eastern Europe over the next month and change (including planning tips, budgets, etc.), but feel free to email me with questions when you start planning!
You almost hurt my heart a bit when I thought you wouldn’t mention the Netherlands when you wrote about cycling! I’m happy to see we got a little mention though 🙂
That was awesome and beautiful style. Keep going with latest trends.
I love cities with lots of green space (minus the twigs and berries, lol!) – one of the many things that surprised me about Mexico City was all the parks and trees. I haven’t been to Germany, but it’s definitely on the list!
I live in Germany, Dortmund and I love visiting the city and others around, each time I visit a new city I learn something new. God bless Germany and it’s people
Isn’t Germany just the most diverse, well-rounded country? SO many different experiences on offer, I can never get enough.
How ironic that you posted this one on FB as I am preparing for my trip here! For Munich, we are just going for the party (literally) but we are spending 3 nights there and one day will be designated to Oktoberfest. Then south we go to explore the castles! I have not been to Germany since I was a kid,,,,, Great read as always XXX Nikki
I AM SO JEALOUS. Dying to go back! We love that area of Germany SO much.
And, PS where are the photos of you and Scott in Lederhosen and Dirndls? Ours came in this week along with traditional clogs! I can’t wait…..
We looked for some there! But even the “cheapies” were 200+ euro, and we couldn’t justify the cost (womp womp).