My parents arrived early in the morning, extremely jet lagged. I could tell they hadn’t gotten much sleep on their overnight flight from the sound of my dad’s voice on the phone, groggy and a bit confused. They took a taxi to our hotel, which was ten minutes from the airport. Bryan paid the driver. They then slept in our room until just before checkout time, while Bryan and I were downstairs eating breakfast and doing some blog work.
After checking out of the hotel, we ordered a taxi to take us to the Munich airport train station. The driver convinced us it would be cheaper to ride the taxi into the city to our hotel. After 2 more people hopped into the van, we were off. We dropped the couple off at the train station, and Mom, Bryan, and I changed seats to be closer to the front. Dad sat up front with the driver. The driver drove like a maniac down the highway and kept trying to tell my dad about the neighborhood our Munich hotel was in. The driver’s English was very limited, and my dad’s German was nonexistent, so it was pretty funny to watch my Dad just nod along and pick up a word or two here and there. The driver didn’t let that stop him though—he talked the entire 40 minute drive to our hotel.
Our hotel was newly renovated, and it was way fancier than I had thought! We unpacked and then set out for some lunch. I had pinned a few beer halls to get lunch at, so we went into the city center. We first tried Augustiner, but it was packed and one of the hosts literally motioned for us to leave. We then headed to Hofbrauhaus and walked around the packed restaurant a few times searching for a table. It’s a huge open restaurant with long picnic tables set up inside. Finally, I told my parents and Bryan to huddle while I did a couple of quick sweeps in the restaurant. I eventually saw a party leaving their table and 2 people were going to sit down. I asked if my family could join them, and they said, “Of course!”
All settled, we ordered our beers and looked at the food menu. The beer hall had a Bavarian band playing which just added to the great atmosphere. When the beers came, we all had a laugh. My dad, mom, and I had all ordered the big steins of dunkels, and Bryan had ordered a weissbier which he thought would have come in a big stein—but it came instead in a half liter tall glass. His curse of ordering the drink that came in the girliest glass continued! We talked to the couple sitting with us, and it turns out they were in Munich for a day trip from England! They said it was less time to fly to Munich than drive somewhere else in England, so they decided to do a last-minute day trip. We had fun talking to them and drinking our steins. Oh, and the waitress brought all 5 steins at the same time—and those things are HEAVY!
After our lunch, we went back to the hotel, and my parents took another nap. For dinner, we went to the main Christmas market in Munich at the Marienplatz and walked around looking at the various stalls. My mom had her first mug of gluhwein (mulled wine) and surprisingly liked it! I’m positive it was because the mulled wine here is not overly sweet and is a great way to warm up in the winter! We had chocolate covered berries, and my parents had bratwursts, while Bryan and I loaded up on fries and latkes with applesauce. There was one stand that supposedly had vegan sausages, but they had run out! The main Munich Christmas Market was crowded and didn’t have very unique crafts, but it did have a great backdrop with the gothic towers surrounding the square.
The next day, after a great buffet breakfast at our hotel, we journeyed to the BMW Museum. The Museum itself was split into 2 different areas. The first area we went through was a temporary exhibit on how BMW continually strives to be more environmentally friendly. The other area was the permanent exhibit showing the history of BMW vehicles and the brand itself. It took us a couple of hours to get through the entire museum, but it was very interesting. My dad owns a BMW convertible, and they happened to have a model similar to his on display. Naturally, we took a picture by it! We had a light lunch at the museum, and then we went off to BMW Welt. Welt was more of a large exhibition room with Mini Coopers, Rolls, Royce’s, motorcycles, and the latest BMW models on display. Some of the cars you could actually sit inside, but our favorite part was the motorcycles you could sit on!
After the museum, we took a walk along the English Garden. The English Garden is a 910 acre park that’s long and skinny, with about 48 miles of paths weaving around it. We meandered and ended up at the Chinese Tower, an 82-foot high wooden structure modelled after a Chinese pagoda. Surrounding the pagoda was another Christmas Market! This one was a lot smaller, but had some more unique crafts, so we all had a look around. There also happened to be a band in the pagoda playing Christmas songs, which set a festive mood for the market. I have to give my parents credit for sticking it out for our walk in the English Garden. It was cold and raining, but as we only had 2 days in Munich, I didn’t want to let a little rain stop us from seeing the sights. My mom and I warmed ourselves with gluhwein and peeked in all the stalls. My favorite was a stall that had been decorated like a woodland fairy community! Bryan and I loved how much pride people took in decorating their stalls—it definitely kept the Christmas Markets interesting.
After finishing our gluhwein, we all walked back to the hotel, dried off, and went out to dinner. We dined at Max Pett, a vegan restaurant. Everyone loved their food, and I think my parents ordered the best dish there—chestnut ravioli in a sparkling wine & truffle cream sauce. Bryan and I had the vegan schnitzel with German potato salad and a mixed salad with the most delicious dressing I’ve had. It was amazing! We definitely recommend having a meal here. To walk off our large meals, we wandered over to the nearest Christmas Market, the Pink Christmas Market! It turns out this market is a gay-friendly market decked out in all pink decorations! The market is small and we didn’t find too many unique crafts, but it definitely had a community vibe as it was filled to the brim with people sipping gluhwein and talking.
Our final day in Munich, we did the Hey Minga Tour, led by our knowledgeable guide, Susan. She drove us around in an old red volkswagon van, named Gertie. We had Christmas cookies, gluhwein, and beers to keep the mood festive on our tour. Along the way we saw a side of Munich most tourists don’t see. We started our tour at the container collective, an area of shipping containers turned into pop-up shops. We also walked in the English Garden again and got a chance to see the local surfers ride the wave in the Isar River. Susan told us you have to actually try out to get a chance to surf in this river. There’s a smaller wave further downstream where try outs are held, and this is to ensure that safety precautions are met, so that the surfing community can continue to practice in the Isar River. Watching them you can tell there is an unspoken etiquette to riding this large wave. No surfer takes too much time riding the wave. If they fall or once they are done riding, they move quickly out of the way for the next surfer. The next surfer quickly jumps in after the previous one has cleared out to keep the line moving.
We also saw various sights around Munich, including a neighborhood of small single-family houses with fenced in yards from the 1800’s that had somehow not been knocked down to build high-rise apartments. One of these houses was a daycare, but most of the others still had residents living in them. We drove by a square with many art museums and galleries. We then drove through Königsplatz, a square in Munich with grand buildings that look like they were transported from Greece. We also saw a few hip spots created by a young entrepreneur. One spot we drove by was a ship from the 1950’s located on a bridge, which he had turned into a bar. He also created the Tollwood Christmas Market, which was our favorite one in Munich. It was full of unique gifts from all over the world, tons of food and pop-up bars, and even cirque du soleil-esque performances! Our last stop was at Munich’s little Venice—probably the tiniest canal I’ve seen. Susan directed us to a fantastic restaurant for lunch and said goodbye.
We walked over to the train station and picked up our rental car after lunch. Dad drove us to the hotel to gather our belongings and we drove to our next destination—Füssen. Just north of the Austrian border, this town is most known for the nearby Neuschwanstein castle. You know the Cinderella castle in Disney World? That castle was modelled after Neuschwanstein. Anyways, as we drove into Füssen it started to snow! We checked into our hotel and went out to get some dinner. After dinner, we walked around the center of town, which is mainly pedestrian streets surrounded by shops and restaurants. With the Christmas lights up and the snow falling I couldn’t help but be in the holiday mood. Bryan and I found a few shops that sold lederhosen and dirndls, which we visited the next day after our castle tours.
The next day we woke early, packed up the car, and had a quick breakfast at the hotel. We drove to Hohenschwangau Ticket Center to pick up our tickets. I had previously booked tours for both the Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles, and we had to pick them up a full hour before our tour. After picking them up, we had some downtime, so we looked in a few gift shops, took a bathroom break, and took in the scenery at the Alpsee (Alp Lake). Our first tour was at the Hohenschwangau castle, which was a 15-20 minute walk from the Ticket Center. The castle had the most gorgrous view of Alpsee and the Alp mountains behind it.
The tour itself was quick and left little time for questions, but I enjoyed it all the same. Hohenschwangau (translated as Upper Swan County Palace) was the childhood summer home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. We toured both he Queen’s and King’s apartments which had paintings not hung, but directly painted on the walls. They also had original furnishings. King Ludwig II is also known as the Mad King, as he decided to build his own castle nearby in 1869. He went into debt several times during its construction and died before it was completed—and because he died it was only ever about 30% complete.
After our tour of Hohenschwangau, we walked to the main area for a bathroom break. Along the way we met a girl from Bali who was just seeing snow for the first time in her life that day! After finding a free restroom at a nearby café, we did a liquor tasting. We had the most delicious cherry, raspberry, and hazelnut liquors. We bought a small bottle of hazelnut liquor and made our way to Neuschwanstein. It took us about 20-25 minutes to walk to the castle. We were all fairly hungry, so we stopped at a restaurant near the base of the castle and had a quick bit to eat. We then begun our tour of Neuschwanstein, which was much more crowded than the previous tour and even less personal. The castle however was still amazing to walk through. As we were walking through the few finished rooms, it became clear that King Ludwig II built the castle to in many ways close himself off to not just the public, but anyone. He preferred dining alone, had a staircase that only he was allowed use, and even a chapel in his bedroom. My favorite part was the cave he commissioned to be built with access to it through a secret door in his bedroom. The cave apparently had lights and a waterfall, which of course is not running today. It was also where a breakfast nook was built—he took man cave to the next level.
After our tours, we went back to Füssen for lunch. We ate an Italian café with a very eccentric waiter. The waiter thought we were a family from New York City and he kept making hilarious comments. When my dad gave the waiter his card to pay, the waiter printed the receipt, looked at my dad’s name, and from then on called him Robert De Niro haha. He also gave my dad’s credit card back to my mom and told her to have fun shopping. At this point I was crying from laughing so much haha we’re positive the good reviews for this restaurant come from the entertaining server. We then went back to the shop with lederhosen and dirndls and Bryan and I both bought our traditional German outfit! Now for years to come we’re going to have to host some Oktoberfests back home!
Our next stop was across the border in Austria—Salzburg! The journey there was interesting to say the least because it involved my dad driving on the autobahn!!