TSOJ: Munich–What to do? Let’s get lost.

Before arriving in Munich, I took an informal poll of people sitting in my train seat. I asked myself, “What should I see in Munich?” This was a difficult question to answer because I had done very little research on where to go and what to do once I arrived. This phenomenon occurred because I assumed  I would have plenty of time to plan along the way. Well, I probably did have time, but most of the time I wasn’t thinking about what to do in Munich, I was thinking about what I was going to do in the moment and since Munich was the final stop on TSOJ I figured I had plenty of time.  So as I traveled from Vienna to Munich, I began to think about what I should see. What I knew about Munich was that it is where Octoberfest takes place each year, it was also where the 1972 Munich Olympics took place, and I knew there was a big park where the world’s largest beer garden is located. Since it was not October (or even September, which is when Octoberfest really happens) or 1972, I had very little to plan. I did have a bike tour scheduled for my second day in Munich and since it was the “Deluxe tour” I decided that if there was something special to see in Munich I would ride by on my bike at some point. I then spent the next four hours planning how to get from the train station to my hotel…I still got lost.

Eventually I ended up at Hotel Bristol (Motto: We are not friendly, but your room is clean) and I set off to see the city center. The city center was just across a big convergence of streets and about three blocks away from my hotel. I did not want to cross the busy streets and knew I could use the underground entrance and exit to avoid them, so I went down the stairs, walked through the underground passage, and came up on the other side. Viola, all of my travel experience paid off and I was off to the downtown. I will now disclose a few embarrassing details: I somehow got turned around in the underground area. I know, it sounds impossible, but I did it.  I was heading east, but my brain told me I was traveling north. I walked within touching distance of the downtown area a couple of times before turning in the wrong direction. I only discovered how lost I was when I came upon a river and could no longer just keep walking.

I took out my map and tried to figure out where I was. There is only one big river in Munich, the Isar, and according to my brain there was no possible way I could have walked all the way there, so I was not just regular lost, I was big-time lost. I followed the river for a little while and enjoyed the walk. Lots of people were swimming in the river, riding bikes along the river, and enjoying the sunshine, so I got comfortable being lost and just strolled until I saw a sign for the Deutsches Museum. According to my brain, the Deutsches Museum was not anywhere close to my  location, but as it turned out reality won again.

This the the actual route I took to the center of town.
This the actual route I took to the center of town.

Now that I knew where I was it was much easier to use my map. I reoriented myself and eventually found my way to Marienplatz. Using maps is always easier when you know where you are. (Yes, you can quote me on the previous statement.)

Marienplatz is Munich's city center.
Marienplatz is Munich’s city center.

Since I was now exhausted and hungry I decided to see if there was a place to eat somewhere close. Rule number one learned from TSOJ: Don’t eat anyplace near a major tourist site. Rule number two, avoid blue umbrellas. Rule number three, if you are in Munich find a beer garden. Rule number four, if you are near a tourist site, beer gardens are okay.

Right near Marienplatz is a place called Viktualienmarkt. Viktualienmarkt is a little like Pike’s Street Market in Seattle and a beer garden.  In other words, food heaven for a weary traveler.

Viktualienmarkt's beer garden under the shady trees.
Viktualienmarkt’s beer garden under the shady trees.

If you have never been to a German beer garden here is a quick guide:

1. Go to the food line.

2. Order the most stereotypical German food you can imagine. In my case it is always brat, kraut, and potato salad.

3. Pay for your food with cash. CASH ONLY! Don’t slow the line down or you will get a lecture in German and that will feel like being yelled at.

4. Go to the beer line.

5. Grab the largest beer you can find, or if you want a lemon beer (radler) ask for it.

6. Pay for your beer.

7. Find a place to sit down. It is communal seating, so you just need to find an open location and then ask anyone nearby if it is open. Seats closest to the food and beer are usually reserved for people who want table service from a waiter/waitress. You can tell the difference between service seating and regular seating by the type of seat. Benches= no service.

8. Sit down and eat.

9. Be friendly and talk to your neighbors after informing them that you are an American and only speak one language.

10. Get another beer.

I ended up sitting next to a fountain with an older German gentleman. We spent most of the time talking about his daughter who was trying to get a Visa to study in San Francisco. He also gave me a great overview of what to see in his city saving me hours of research and effort.

After my dinner, I took the underground train back to my hotel so that I would not spend another two hours wandering Munich and mapped out how I would spend the final few days of TSOJ.

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