8 January 2016 – exploring Munich city and Old Town on foot…..
After 4 fun-filled (and snowy) days in Salzburg, we were headed back to Germany, this time to the city of Munich. None of us had ever been to Munich before, so it was going to be two days of exploring, and of course, eating.
Due to a pre-9am train we unfortunately had the alarms set for way too early. Both kids were tired and were actually asleep when we had to wake them. It seems to always be the way, if we have a late start, they are up early! It was our last breakfast at the Mercure Salzburg and it was now obviously very quiet in the hotel, with all the tour groups having departed. There were lots of bored looking staff attending to our every need and thankfully no other guests in sight to put up with grumpy children. The same kid who spent all of breakfast taking their shoes off and ensuring they are covered in nutella.
Despite having packed all but the essentials the night before, it was still the annoying last-minute juggle to squish everything into bags and layer up with coats and get out of the room by 8am. Tired kids did not help the cooperation process but we think we managed to escape without losing anyone or anything.
The hauptbahnhof (central station) is only about 750m from the hotel and we’d walked it many times in the prior days, but after our walk to the hotel with bags, through quite a bit of snow, we weren’t keen to repeat the experience. Of course 90% of the snow had melted with warmer temperatures, but there were still piles lying around and enough puddles and slush to make it an annoying walk. Luckily we’d figured out that there was a bus stop 50m away with a bus that ran to the station, and buses were still covered on our Salzburg cards (not that anyone had bothered checking them yet).
We weren’t the only ones doing the bag drag and waiting at the bus stop. It was fairly efficient ride to central and the back half of the bus was full of departing tourists with large suitcases, most of which Astrid kept amused with her banter. Once at central we quickly located the platform for our train to Munich and headed in that direction, despite being almost half an hour early (yay, for efficiency in getting out of the hotel, boo for not getting more precious sleep).
Our train was waiting, but we did immediately notice that the train was surrounded by a highly ‘secure’ barrier with signs indicating a border check was to be conducted before boarding the train to Germany. Apparently Salzburg to Munich is a big gateway for fleeing refugees. There was a room full of bored looking police and security personnel with laptops, who when we rocked up with a handful of passports and tickets waved us away with a bored look and informed us the checks ‘weren’t for us’. Clearly even without having access to washing for many days now, we still look like white well-off tourists rather than refugees.
We then boarded the almost empty train and found that our seats that we had previously reserved were not in fact reserved. We had been alerted to this fact by an email several days ago, but since we had valid tickets we weren’t overly concerned. We then upgraded ourselves to groups of seats with tables since they weren’t reserved anyway. When people come into trains and see you sitting with small (noisy) kids they normally give you a wide berth. On a pretty empty train we figured we were going to have no problems.
The train departed at least 10 minutes late, but we weren’t in a rush that day and it was nice sitting and looking at the snow-capped mountains for a little longer. The train through to Munich was ‘express’, it barely got over 140km/h the whole trip but didn’t stop, so it was fairly express. The trip was entirely uneventful, aside from our minor annoyance at there only being free wi-fi for the Austrian part of the trip (which was about 5 minutes). The kids, as usual, refused to rest and littered the space around us with crayons and stickers, but they were mostly well-behaved.
At 10.30am we rolled in to München Hauptbahnhof and got all our bags and children off, and headed in to find train (metro) tickets and cash. Both Germany and Austria have had annoying habits of only accepting cash. Things have been better since we left Berlin (where no one accepts cards). Berlin was a very rude shock after Sweden when we didn’t even both getting cash in local currency as even Christmas markets took cards.
We’d decided that the 2.5km to the hotel from the train station with bags was too much so found one of the many u-bahn’s that would take us to within 500m of our hotel. After being in and out of Germany for the last couple of weeks, we’ve found their public transport to be very quick and efficient. We then trotted (or lumbered as was more the case) to the Novotel, without too much issue. Soren had fallen asleep during the walk, annoying since we had to wake him up once we got to the hotel to strip off several layers (it wasn’t cold in Munich) and get bags organised. Despite being many hours earlier than our check-in time, our rooms were ready for us. It seems the Christmas crowds have now gone and we are finding most places are not that crowded! The room at the Novotel was much smaller than the one we had just enjoyed at the Mercure in Salzburg, but we all fitted, just!
The plan for our first day in Munich was to wander Old Town and check out some of the bigger gardens in the area. Our schedule for Munich was deliberately light, as we knew we were going to need some downtime after a pretty hectic 4 weeks of travel.
Munich is the largest city in the State of Bavaria, and the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. We headed off on foot, in search of Old Town. The 8 degrees and sun meant we’d all removed coats, hats and gloves. Given we were hovering around apparent temps of minus 15 – 2o degrees earlier in the week, it felt positively tropical. Definitely no snow in sight!
On the walk down to old town we passed over some of the many waterways of Munich. Munich is set on the banks of the River Isar, and you walk over the River often when walking through town.
Given the tiredness levels we decided we’d have a decent lunch and then do a light/early dinner and aim to have the kids in bed early. Not sure what we wanted to each for said lunch, we settled on an interesting burger place we happened past, ‘Hans im gluck’. It had funky trees throughout the restaurant and was huge (and clearly popular as people were streaming in). It also had no less than 8 different choices of vegetarian and vegan burgers so I didn’t know what to do! There were also plenty of meaty options for the others. Anto ended up with a cheese and bacon burger, Mikl had a pepper coated burger. Alan and the kids had classic burgers, and there were selections of fries sweet potato and regular. Spoilt for choice I settled on a burger with a spicy vegie patty, coleslaw, smoked cheese, salad and spicy sauce. It was indeed very spicy but quite tasty! The kids liked that you could add whatever sauces you liked to the burgers. The boys had part 1 of their daily beers and I needed coffee and the kids scored a hot chocolate. We can now efficiently order Heisse Shokolade, even with (mostly) correct German pronunciation.
Soren was starting to get very tired after only about 5 mins sleep, so we popped him back in the ergo and headed into old town for a wander of all the main sights. Being a Friday afternoon, it was moderately busy but not to the Prague standard of crowds. Munich is a much newer city than many we have visited and seemed to have a high quotient of very expensive and high-end shopping places.
We wandered past the Rathaus (old and new). Interestingly the new Rathaus looks much older than the old one! The white brick building is actually the Alte Rathaus (old town hall) and the ornate looking building is the Neue Rathaus (new town hall).
There were also the usual array of street performers in marienplatz , which kept us entertained for a little while. As well as a general wander past the shops and cafes.
The square also had an astronomical clock (we’ve seen quite a few now) and checked out the bronze ‘Juliet’ statue. Named after the heroine from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the statue was a gift from the city of Verona in 1974. Verona has a matching statue, and you are supposed to rub Juliet’s breast for a chance at undying love. In Munich you are supposed to place flowers in Juliet’s hand, but we didn’t see any flowers!
We then wandered down to the Residenz. Despite having just been inside a warm cafe with lovely toilets Astrid decided she had to wait until we were wandering around Old Town to need to go to the toilet, in desperate 4-year-old fashion. After failing to find any toilets in U-bahn stations we located one at the Residenz, and opposite the national theatre which gave us plenty of opportunity to take photos. Astrid, as usual, was keen to have her photo taken with the statues.
We then went around the other side of the Residenz and checked out the gardens (Hofgarten park) that are opposite, and noted that the Residenz was more impressive from that side. There were a couple in the park having wedding photos taken, looking lovely and the Bride wearing a Winter stole (not that it was cold that day). They had probably been hoping for snow, just like us!
Then walked down towards the Englischer Garten, and on the way passed the impressive looking war memorial, which also had beautiful gardens.
Astrid then needed to go to the toilet again (15 mins after we last found her one). She has been pretty good on this trip, but today was being a typical 4-year-old. Of course we were in the middle of several sections of gardens and important buildings, nay a toilet to be seen. We walked around the front of a building and I tailed a group of school kids on an excursion into a building (which was very impressive looking, but we had no idea what it was). The boys had stayed outside with Soren, while I took Astrid in. When we got inside the building I could see some nice toilets behind a glass wall, but behind doors with signs in German on them, that I roughly translated to something akin to ‘not being able to enter these premises without security clearance’. A security official, complete with gun and the usual German efficiency brusquely questioned me about what I was doing. When I asked if we could use the toilet I was told in no uncertain terms it was a government building and we were not permitted to be there. I then asked where the nearest toilets might be and pointed to the jiggling and unhappy looking 4-year-old and he muttered something about ‘making an exception’ and let us through security and pointed us in the direction of the the ladies, with strict instructions to come right out and not to touch anything. After doing as we were told, we exited and thanked him profusely. We then went outside and were informed by the boys that it was the Office of the Bavarian Chancellery. Obviously harassed over-tired mum’s of preschoolers get special consideration even in German office buildings.
We then headed into the Englischer Garten and found lots of ducks, and some beautiful ponds and bridges, and fast flowing streams…… and plenty of dogs! After a lot of ducky and doggy excitement, Soren finally fell asleep, about when we had thought it was too late for him to have a nap.
After hours of walking we were all weary and decided to head back to the hotel for a bit of down time. On our walk back we came to an intersection filled with police cars, with police holding up traffic and cars all stopped and beeping angrily. It became obvious that the several streets were blocked off by police cars and motorbikes and no pedestrians or bikes were being allowed through. Another bystander told us ‘someone important is probably coming through’. We stood around for several minutes as police motorbikes did high-speed security laps and people inadvertently breaching the perimeter were angrily waved at. Eventually a motorcade of police cars with flags and sirens, bikes with sirens and lots of black vans with men in suits came past. We never did find out who it was in the black vans, but it was an amusing 10 minute delay.
On our way again, we were back walking to the hotel and over more bridges and waterways. Even without snow, Munich is a very pretty city. I can imagine the trees and gardens would be pretty spectacular in Spring and Summer too. Just for something different, we happened past someone flying a drone with their kids. Soren would not have been pleased to miss it!
Once we were back at the hotel we woke up Soren so he and Astrid could have a play in the kids area playroom. They were particularly fond of playing with the large Lego blocks. The play area was opposite some comfy couches so I had a hot choc, while on kiddy supervision duties and Anto and Mikl headed out to the supermarket for supplies.
All still rather tired, we decided to give the kids a hotel picnic dinner of breadrolls, cheese and turkey and yoghurt. They are quite the fan of hotel picnics, and were finished dinner, bathed and in bed at a reasonable hour.
Once the kids were asleep the boys went out and fetched themselves kebabs I had a dinner of supermarket salads. It was a nice change from being out late in a restaurant and we all took advantage of the early night, before our second day of exploring Munich.
Statistics for the 8th of January 2016, in Munich, Germany – the minimum temperature was 2 degrees and the maximum was 7 degrees, with a mean of 4 degrees. It felt rather warm after some of the weather we had been having in Vienna and Salzburg. The total walking for the day was 14.75km. Which was almost entirely done in a few hours of exploring Munich during the afternoon. The city and Old Town area is very walkable! Again Astrid walked for the entire day, a mighty fine effort!