By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
Where to start with an account of our recent trip to Germany’s third-largest city?
First, words about Munich, the Bavarian capital and gateway to the Alps. Here are some random thoughts jotted down in my journal.
Overall Impressions: Munich is a thoroughly modern metropolis with much of its centuries-old architecture and history intact. It’s a multicultural place, also very orderly and remarkably clean, especially given the throngs of people strolling its streets and plazas. Church towers, especially the twin domed spires of the Frauenkirche, dominate the skyline rather than modern office buildings. Quiet places, like small, well-maintained parks, were easy to find. People were respectful — most didn’t even jaywalk! While in Munich, this Chicago guy knew he was in a much, much different place.
Beverage and Food: Yes, there is beer available everywhere — in the famous bier gartens, in restaurants, in the outstanding Viktualienmarkt outdoor market and in the Hauptbahnhof train station. The beer tastes really good; but we also sampled wines from Germany and nearby Italy, and many venues featured gin-focused cocktails. And, we certainly dined on sausages and kraut, and enjoyed snacks of big pretzels. All were delicious, but some of our best meals were had in Italian restaurants or outdoor venues. A highlight: Braised beef with fresh vegetables, whitefish and sausages with goat cheese at an outdoor wine festival in the Odeonsplatz. We also favored soups from a vendor in the Viktualienmarkt.
Transportation: As a transportation guy, I found Munich’s public transit network of UBahn, SBahn, trams and buses exceptionally clean, safe, whisper-quiet, fast and reliable, although navigating the system required thought and patience. Munich transit operates on the honor system: There are no turnstiles at the subway stations, and tram and bus operators don’t ask for a pass or ticket. (Better buy one, as it’s a 60 Euro fine if you’re caught.) We traveled using a day pass that cost 12.8 Euros for the day — for both of us. And, then there’s bikes; Munichers take their biking seriously and travel on bike lanes installed between the sidewalk and street. Most ride well-equipped cycles with fenders, lights, racks and bells. I did not see a hipster-favored fixie while in Munich. Motorized vehicles leaned sharply (as you’d expect) toward German manufactured-cars and trucks, especially BMWs.
The Outdoor Spaces: As noted, there are plenty of green spaces between the 18th and 19th century plazas within most neighborhoods of Munich. But two stand out for their size and prominence. One day, we took the the UBahn to the Olympia Park, site of the 1972 Summer Games. We visited the impeccably-maintained grounds, with its iconic space needle-like tower, on a flawless Sunday afternoon while a carnival was underway. From an outdoor bar near the site’s lake, we enjoyed our drinks while people boated or piloted paddle boards along the shoreline. At the nearby BMW Museum, we fantasized over gleaming sedans and sports cars. Getting back on the UBahn, we made our way to the Englische Garten — Munich’s large urban park. This is an example of an urban oasis that works: Harmony of man and nature, with walking and biking paths, a river with waterfalls, vast open spaces, stands of trees and — you guessed it — a beer garden! On our visit, we were serenaded by a traditional German band while enjoying our beverages. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our Sunday in the park: Everyone was respectful, everyone was courteous.
The Day Trips: As much as we enjoyed Munich and its environs, we ventured on three day trips, using the Deutsche Bahn regional train system; like the local service in Munich, these trains were an outstanding value, comfortable and set-your-watch-on-time reliable. Our first excursion took us to Nuremburg, a walled medieval city around a two-hour ride north. En route, we enjoyed vistas of farms and small towns. Upon arrival, we strolled through a gate and were enthralled by the charm of this city, bombed heavily during World War II, but remarkably restored. Susan was fascinated by the small shops, including one operated by a toy maker. Another day, we ventured east to Saltzburg, home of Mozart and flanked by the Alps, a river and lots of natural beauty. This Baroque gem in nearby Austria is defined by music, as one would expect. Unfortunately, we missed a classical performance, but enjoyed modern interpretations of songs by the Foo Fighters and Tom Petty at an outdoor festival. The views from the 900-year-old Hohensaltzburg Fortress were truly breathtaking. And, less than an hour away lies Augsburg, an historic smaller city that was founded by the Romans. Augsburg was surprisingly cool and compact, with buses and trams that led us to the Fuggerei, the oldest housing settlement for the poor, the home of Mozart’s father and the most spectacular church I’ve ever entered — the Cathedral of St. Mary.
I could go on, but I encourage you to visit marvelous, madcap Munich. I’m sure you’ll cultivate memories that will endear long after you return home.
And, now, some pictures. I’ve just selected a dozen. But visit my Facebook page to view more.