Thursday, 27 December 2012

Eric's Uninformed Travel Tips: Germany Edition

Guten tag!  In July we were visited by the Moulands and were all whisked away to the land of beer and bratwurst...and beer...Did I already mention the beer?  (PS, there was a lot of beer)

Locations visited in July, 2012: Munich and the Bavarian countryside, Germany

Dates of trip: July, 19th-23rd, 2012
How did we get there: Flight, about 1.5 hrs from Paris to Munich with Luftansa, good airline although not a lot of frills.  Cost was about 150 Euros return.  We also took a bus tour of Bavaria for about 70 Euro/person.
Where did we stay:  We stayed at the Derag Livinghotel Max Emanuel which was about 100 Euros/night.  The rooms were basic but clean, and the staff was friendly (A mixture of friendly and efficient that I have found is uniquely German).  I would say however, that the location was a bit farther from the city center than I would have liked.  Ideally, I would have preferred to be on the western side of the river.

On our first day in Munich we did some exploring in the old town and I must say I was impressed.  I learned through my explorations that about 90% of Munich was actually rebuilt after the wars as it was pretty heavily bombed.  However, I can say that either they did a really good job rebuilding in the old style, or there are still quite a few old style buildings standing in the downtown core.  The churches in particular were spectacular.  To this day I rank the interiors of the German churches to be the most impressive.

Theatinerkirche...spectacular church...not so spectacular name...
Being what could be referred to as a "fan of all things beer", I was looking forward to visiting the home of Octoberfest...granted we were there in July not October...But as I have learned, even if we were there in October, we still would have missed it.  Octoberfest is actually in September...write that down you drunks!  The good news is that even though there was no festival guiding them, the people of Munich have a thing for beer halls all year round!

The unfortunate side of this is that on our first full day in the city we decided to visit the most famous of these beer halls (Hofbrauhaus, for those of you who are wondering) at about 3pm...This would have been a great pit stop, however, as I have already mentioned, I am somewhat of a beer connoisseur...and so...I may have drank a few too many...It also should be pointed out that when beer is served in 1L servings, "a few too many" can have dangerous consequences.  So, 4 beer later I found myself being poured into bed at about 9pm...with a serious case of the spins...It was like university all over again.

The next day we were off for an early departure for our bus tour of Bavaria...always good with a hangover...But I would tough it out and see the sites, although maybe not as sprightly as I normally would have.  This turned out to (narrowly) be my favorite part of this trip as the castles we visited were truly two of the most impressive I have seen in all of Europe.  The first of the two castles was Linderhof, which turned out to be simply a "small hunting lodge"...or at least that's what it was if you were the king of Bavaria I guess.  Though it was small, the interior of this castle is the most impressive I have seen period.  There was goldwork, glasswork, porcelainwork, even ivorywork and every manor of painting, drapery and statue...really spectacular to see.

 The next castle was Neuschwanstein, which I have wanted to see in person ever since we bought a Lonely Planet Europe guide with a picture of it on the cover.  For a frame of reference, think of Sleeping Beauty's castle from Disney as apparently its design was based on Neuschwanstein.  Set on top of a hill in the mountains, this castle was truly built to be impressive looking, and it really was.  Although, I must say that when you are up close or even in the castle you don't get the same stunning view...You need to see the castle from the bridge a 20 minute hike away to truly get "the shot".  Once this visit was over we returned to Munich and unfortunately, my hungover got the best of me and I retired early to sleep it off.

 The final day was spent like the first, exploring the sights of Munich.  As I already said, there are some very nice churches and old buildings, however, the real gems in Munich are, and will always be the beer halls...I recommend visiting them, but pacing yourself...

So what were my top 5:

1.   Hofbrauhaus, for beer, music and salty food, it can't be beat.  Be prepared to share your table though as communal seating is how these beer halls work.
2.  Standing on the bridge across from Neuschwanstein castle.
3.  Standing in the room of mirrors at Linderhof castle...really cool.
4.  Watching the clock tower show at Neues Rathaus in the central square...It's like a giant coucou clock!
 5.  Seeing beer steins be used for a practical purpose and not just for decoration.

Munich and Bavaria:

Affordability: 7/10 (3/10 during Octoberfest) hotels aren't too bad as long as you stay out of the central downtown area...I've looked into them around Octoberfest though and it's scary...
Entertainment: 9/10, there's plenty to do if you book trips to the countryside, and if you like to drink...If you are not a drinker, you will feel out of place here though.
Ease of Travel:  8/10, not a long flight, but a flight nonetheless.
Overall:  10/10 if you are a beer fan, otherwise I would say 8/10.

Well, we're making progress now...Next up, Switzerland.

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