Back to Munich, capital of Barvaria, a second time, possibly a third, if you count the layover, is known for its beer halls, including the infamous Hofbräuhaus. München in German translates to monks which is why the coat of arms has a monk representing Munich.
Last time I was in Munich, we tried to go to the Hofbräuhaus , but it was too crowded and loud. It was always full, even during lunch service. The space was laid out like a cafeteria with several long benches and an area with live music playing. The third floor was completely reserved for tour groups. If there was an empty spot, you'd seat yourself down and the waitress and waiters would come serve you. Making a reservation ahead of time would guarantee a spot here. Reading reviews online, I wasn't too upset at not trying the food here. Everyone said it was only for the experience. Food may be average at best, but nothing special.
This time around, while we were in Munich, Jo really wanted to try to get a seat at the Hofbräuhaus. I think we had walked in at least three times during our stay there. Each time was a failure. The first night, we decided to try the Wirtshaus Ayingers located conveniently across from the Hofbräuhaus.
Wirtshaus Ayingers was not a self-serve sit down type of restaurant. Instead there was a podium, where guests would wait for a server. The host politely told us that the restaurant was currently full, however, there was a table that they kept for a reservation for an hour. If they didn't show up in the next 5 minutes, the table would be ours. Lucky for us and another couple, the reservation was revoked and the host sat us and another couple at the table.
I loved how cozy and warm the restaurant felt. Ayingers beer was surprisingly really good. And that says a lot of for someone who doesn't drink alcohol often. I was so happy to be back in Munich with good, palatable food, but dreaded the idea of looking for a place that was not full around prime dinner time. Portion sizes were appropriate and not overly generous, like in Berlin. There was room for dessert!
I had ordered the grilled fillet of char served with horseradish-white wine sauce with vegetables and hash browns. I loved the crispy skin of the fish and the hash browns were to die for. My tummy was a happy camper.
Jo had ordered a stuffed pork escalope with ham, cheese and cream cheese served with mushrooms and potatoes au gratin. It was beautifully presented and a popular dish at the restaurant. Everything on that dish was a creamy delight.
For dessert, we had ordered an apple strudel to "share". I probably had most of it. It was hard to resist finishing it in one bite! The warm cinnamon apples and crispy strudel soaking in a warm vanilla sauce was heavenly on the palate. What a great start already in Munich!
Many attractions in Munich, much like Berlin, were under construction, such as the Theatinerkirche. Inside the church displayed beautiful architecture in the Baroque style. Looking up at the ceiling, especially the dome and the amount of detail of the workmanship was breathtaking.
Munich Residence was destroyed in World War II and was reconstructed over the years. The building served as an area where the government exercised its authority and acted as a residence for the Barvarian dukes, electors and kings. It was originally a castle and eventually the ruling family slowly transformed it into a magnificent palace.
Similar to the Sansoucci Grotto Hall, there was a hall decorated with seashells near the start of the tour in the Residence Museum. It was not as grand as Sanouucci Grotto Hall, but it was elaborate.
Antiquarium was the main attraction at the Residence Museum for us. It was the most luxurious and highly decorated. There was so much to look at. It was eye-opening. It was originally built for Duke Albrecht V's collection of antique sculptures, and later his successor, Duke Wilhelm V and his son transformed it into a hall for ceremonies.
Continuing the tour with the audio guide, this room was interesting and odd at the same time. It was called the Perspective Room. The ceiling was painted to create an illusion that the room extended upwards. You had to stand in the center of the room for the perspective of this illusion to work properly.
Following along the tour, we made our way to the Imperial Staircase. It was a magnificently decorated flight of stairs that opened into the Imperial Hall, which was considered to be the most important room in the Residence for celebrations and ceremonies.
After the long tour at the Residence Museum, we decided to have lunch nearby to make it worthwhile for our day combination ticket. We knew we'd be paying a hefty price for convenience. After all, we were near Maximilian street, one of the four royal streets of Munich, featuring galleries, luxury boutiques and jewelry stores. Lunch was at Zum Franziskaner featuring Lowenbrau beer.
I decided to try the sausage sampler plate with mashed potatoes. Food was average. Price was steep as expected.
Jo tried the veal briesmilzwurst with a potato and cucumber salad. Portions were large for lunch service.
After lunch we returned to visit the Shatzkammer (treasury), which housed a collection of assorted treasures and jewels owned by the Bavarian rulers dating back to Duke Albrecth V. Of all the pieces in the treasury, the one that stood out the most was a jewel-encrusted statuette of St. George slaying a dragon. This ornate figure, adorned with countless precious gems is said to house a relic of St. George and was commissioned by Albrecth V himself.
When we finished our tour of the treasury, we made our way to the Cuvilliés Theatre, the last attraction on the day ticket. This opera house was originally meant to be reserved exclusively for members of the court, so while it is not very grand in size, it is opulently decorated in the Rococo-style.
As dusk drew closer, we walked to the Viktualienmarkt, the open-air farmer’s market in the city center. We enjoy visiting local markets in cities in order to experience the local culture from the various foods they serve to the handmade crafts they sell. Even though it is a fairly touristy area, many locals inhabitants come here to buy fresh meats, produce, and seafood. Unfortunately, most of the vendors were starting to close by the time we arrived, so we would have to return another day at an earlier time in order to see all that the Viktualienmarkt had to offer.
As we were wandering on the side streets surrounding the market, we noticed a small confectionary Ertl, and in the window display was a delectable six-layered König-Ludwig Torte. Named after the “Fairy Tale King”, Ludwig II, this torte comprised of light and dark biscuit, with a chestnut puree, and cassis cream layer over a soft sponge base and covered with a thin chocolate ganache. The tartness of the cassis cream was balanced well with the semi-sweet biscuit and velvety smooth chestnut puree.
The next morning, we left the hotel and walked to Marienplatz, the plaza at the center of the old city, situated in front of the Neues Rathaus (new town hall). We arrived at 10:50am and waited for the 11 o’clock chiming of the Glockenspiel. Lasting around 15 minutes in length, and consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures (including two jousting knights on horseback), it depicts the story of the marriage between Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine.
Exploring further in the the walled section of the city, we found the Asamkirche, a truly hidden gem. Sandwiched between two ordinary residential complexes, was the elaborate marbled exterior of this 18th century church. Opening the grand doors revealed the extravagant interior draped with gold leaf, frescoes, and stucco in a mix of Baroque and Rococo styles. Although, small in size, this breathtaking building left me speechless.
For dinner, I finally got to return to the Weisses Bräuhaus, whose pork belly I was craving since the last time I had visit Munich. My friend and I had eaten here on the recommendation of several locals and we were not disappointed. This time around, we both ordered crispy pork belly with creamed potatoes and homemade potato pancakes. They offered a number of their in house Schneider Weisse wheat beer. I opted for the Schneider Russ, a combination of their most popular TAP7 beer mixed with lemonade, which was very easy-going and sweet.
We completed our meal with another warm apple strudel served on vanilla custard.
We kicked off the following day with a visit to the BMW Museum and BMW World showroom, located a few U-Bahn stops north of the hauptbahnhof (central station). In essence the world’s largest BMW showroom, the BMW World building houses every vehicle in their lineup currently for sale, ranging from the Rolls Royce Phantom to the BMW Cruise electric bicycle. As we entered the main hall of the BMW World, I was delightfully surprised to see a tiny car driving around the showroom floor, called the Isetta. An adorable single door car that was comfortable to seat two occupants. It was a popular car in the 1950s, especially in Italy where it was designed.
Next door to the showroom was the BMW Museum, which chronicles the history of the company from its beginnings as a motorcycle and airplane engine manufacturer to the present status as one of Germany’s big three car companies. It was interesting to see the gradual progression of the various models throughout the years. There was also a featured exhibit on the evolution of Mini Cooper and a cute assortment of modified Minis, including a stretch-limo Mini with a jacuzzi in the back and an even smaller version called the Mini Shorty.
For dinner, we returned to Weisses Bräuhaus to get some more of that crispy pork skin. This time we ordered the roasted pork knuckle and platter consisting of suckling pig, duck, grilled sausage, potato dumpling, and buttered vegetables.
For dessert we had the seasonal specialty: deep-fried sweet pumpkin fritters with homemade parfait and whipped cream. Plating wise when it came to our table, it didn't look appetizing, but it was delicious. The warm pumpkin fritter and the semi-frozen fruit parfait was a nice juxtaposition of temperatures.
Munich’s equivalent to New York’s Central Park, the Englischer Garten (English Gardens), was an ideal location to enjoy the autumn foliage. Aside from being a large green space in the heart of the city, there are also a number of interesting landmarks scattered throughout the park as well. The Chinese Tower, a five-storey pagoda overlooking a 7,000-seat beer garden, is a reconstruction of the original that was erected in 1790. Another remnant of the period when European royals had a fascination with art and designs from the Far East. In the summer, you could have a drink by the lakeside at the Seehaus beer garden.
On the last day in Munich, and the last day of our Germany trip, we started off with a tour of St. Michael’s Church, which is located on the main pedestrian street Neuhauser Strasse. While the exterior facade of the church was not particularly impressive, the interior was magnificent. The beautiful arched ceiling was covered with intricate stuccoed designs in classical Renaissance style. Descending down a staircase near the altar lead us to the crypt below, which is the final resting place for many of Bavarian royals including King Ludwig II.
After leaving St. Michael’s, we walked over to St. Peter’s Church south of Marienplatz. After lining up for about half an hour, we climbed the 306 steps up the top of the clock tower for a panoramic view of the city. From the narrow viewing platform you can see all the nearby landmarks: Marienplatz, Viktualienmarkt, and Residenz Museum, among others. It was a popular destination for a view of Munich and poorly managed in terms how many people they allowed up there at once. It was really crowded and difficult to move around, let alone get out.
On several occasions, we had the late night munchies. I was glad restaurants and stores were open late in Munich, compared to other parts in Germany. We were lucky enough to be staying next door to a KFC with a great deal going on. A bucket of hot wings was a steal! It was hard not to pass up such a bargain.
Well, that concludes my trip to Germany, until my next adventure!