Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Germany (Part 4 - Exploring Munich)

(Don't forget to check out Part 1, Getting to Hamburg here, Part 2, Hamburg here, and Part 3, Le Meridien Munich here)

My colleague had family in Munich, and on their recommendation we had dinner at Weisses Bräuhaus - a beer hall that was just a short walk away from the hotel. The menus didn't have any English on them (which I take to be a good sign of the quality of the food), but I recognized at least one word: "Schweinshaxe". It's a crispy pork "knuckle", and was my favorite dish from the last time I had visited Germany - it's also a very typical Bavarian dish, so I figured when in Rome Munich...

Schweinshaxe - not for the faint of heart

The menu offered beer pairings for every dish (by tap number, so we were able to figure that part out), and I ordered a Hopfenweisse to wash down my dinner. It was a wheat beer, but was somewhat IPA-like in terms of its spiciness and 8.2% alcohol content. A great pairing indeed!

Hopfenweisse served in a special glass
We spent the rest of weekend exploring Munich, taking in some of the sites, and a lot of the food! We started by making our way down Neuhauser Strasse toward Marienplatz, stopping along the way to grab a quick snack before checking out one of Munich's most famous sites.

Munich's "hot dog" vendors have New York's beaten, hands down

Even in the gloomy, gray weather, Marienplatz was very picturesque - and the square was packed with tourists and locals alike.

Neues Rathaus, on the north side of Marienplatz
We decided to head up to the top of Neues Rathaus to get a better view of the city.

View of the Frauenkirche, another Munich landmark

View of the square from the top

Next on the list was the English Garden, but we decided to fuel up for the long(ish) walk first. Viktualienmarkt is just on the other side of Marienplatz, and the open air market has a number of great places to grab a quick bite.

More meat and potatoes? Yes, please!

I had never heard of the English Garden before the trip, but let me start by saying that it is huge (bigger than  Central Park huge). Oddly enough, one of the most popular sites to see within the park is the Chinese Tower:

Chinese Tower in the English Garden in Munich
Even odder was the fact that the band that was playing inside the tower wasn't playing traditional German music, or English music, or Chinese music for that matter. It took a second to figure it out - but as we were walking up, they were very clearly playing Guantanamera! After getting over our initial confusion, we had to stick around to here what they'd play next... the Banana Boat Song! Nothing like Caribbean music at the Chinese Tower in the English Garden in the German city of Munich!

Before packing it in the for the day, we stopped at Luigi Tambosi am Hofgarten for a sweet treat and cup of coffee. Despite the Italian name, their strudel was out of this world! Dense, sweet, and very apple-y - it was one of my favorite dishes of the entire trip, which is saying a lot because I'm usually not much of a dessert guy!

Amazing apple Strudel at Luigi Tambosi

That made for a very full Saturday, but I wasn't about to leave Munich before soaking up a few more classic experiences...

The next day we had lunch and beers at Hofbräukeller München's beer garden. The weather was gorgeous, and what better way to spend a beautiful Sunday than sitting in a beer garden, drinking enormous beers?

Beer Garden
Enormous Beer
Last but not least, no trip to Germany would be complete without some Turkish food. There were several kebab joints near the hotel, so on the last night in Munich, I stopped in at one and ordered a doner kebab wrap to go. I wasn't expecting anything super-special from the random Turkish place near my hotel, but it ended up being one of the best kebabs I've ever had! The meat carved from the spit had just the right mix of crispy, salty pieces and juicy, tender, meaty pieces. It was all kinds of lamb-y goodness (there might have been some lettuce and tomato in there), and I made short work of it back in my hotel room!

Mmmmmm lamb

And just like that, my time in Germany came to a close.

Having been to 3 cities in Germany now (I spent a few days in Cologne this past fall), I can say that it is without a doubt one of my favorite countries to visit. The food and the beer certainly help - but there's a lot more to it than that.

Munich is an amazing city, and I can't wait to visit again in the future. I will definitely stop back at many of the places mentioned above, and look forward to having more time to explore the city!

Have you ever been to Munich or elsewhere in Germany? What were some of your favorite parts?

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