Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Days 7-8: Munich

The train from Venice to Munich was I'd say our first bit of proper inter-railing, with it being an eight hour overnight train. It was on one of those fairly old-school compartmental trains (though we'd not booked a sleeper compartment), with us taking up four of the six seats in our compartment. Initially the other two seats were occupied by a couple, with the guy being pretty fluent in English, and pretty banterous while chatting to us. I'd guess he was Italian but had lived in London for a while, given he talked about London and his accent had a slight cockney twang, but he definitely wasn't English. Eventually they got usurped by two Danish girls who had booked the seats.

The train ride itself was pretty uncomfortable for the most part. We stopped in Verona for a whole hour, with it being swelteringly hot, the light from the station streaming in through the window, before we eventually got moving again. The compartment was pretty cramped, with not a huge amount of leg space, the seats being a bit uncomfortable, and there not being much in the way of headrests for sleeping. I woke up a fair number of times (once to show my passport) and each time I'd find myself with some part of my body being completely numb and generally just feeling a bit of a wreck. At some point the temperature in the train dropped from being fairly hot to absolutely freezing, and a t-shirt and shorts really wasn't cutting it any more, so I ended up using my towel as a blanket instead of a pillow.

Despite the fairly frequent and uncomfortable breaks in sleep, I apparently managed to get a decent night's kip because I actually felt fairly fine by the time we got to Munich. In contrast to the sweltering heat in Venice, Munich was totally overcast when we arrived, and pretty cold. The hostel was pretty much right next to the station, and was pretty awesome. I ended up in a six bedroom dorm with Nick (which I'd claimed because I'd booked the place) whilst Jamie and Gerry ended up in a forty (yes, forty) bedroom dorm. We dropped off stuff, and headed out to the Marienplatz, in which there is the fairly impressive Neue Rathaus.

From there we moved on to the Residenz, which was totally covered in scaffolding (and closed on Mondays), the Hofgarten , the Bayerische Staatskanzlei (State Chancellery), and the Englischergarten.

We ended up getting slightly lost in the Englischergarten, and instead of heading to the centre of the park we found ourselves back on the edges of it, but next to this really cool artificial surfing thing. There are a few rivers that flow through the park, which we'd already noticed as being pretty fast-flowing, and one of them has a concrete opening that creates a sort of white-water environment for people to surf on. Apparently it didn't matter that it was pretty chilly, and there were quite a few people out surfing on it.

Getting ourselves un-lost, in the middle of the Englischergarten we found the Chinesischer tower in the centre of an outdoor beer garden (which had a ridiculous number of tables). From there we headed to the nearest U-Bahn (underground train) station and caught a train out to the Olympic Park.

There was some sort of 'summer festival' thing going on in the Olympic Park, which apparently runs for just over a month but mostly consists of the same sort of fairly crappy trailer fairground attractions that you find in most English travelling fairs. Given it was about two weeks into the month-long stint, and the weather wasn't particularly brilliant, it was unsurprisingly not particularly busy. We had a look around the Olympic Park, and went inside the BMW Welt, which seemed to be the company's show-off technology centre of sorts. It was a bit odd, but was pretty cool to have a look around. There was a huge interactive marble run, a guy going round the inside of the centre on a motorcycle (including up and down the stairs) and some weird egg-shaped robotic things, which slowly roamed around the centre on their own (they'd stop if you walked in front of them) displaying messages in German that we didn't understand.

(pic stolen from the BMW website because I didn't have a decent one)

Back in the city, we stopped at the hostel to exploit some free wifi and book our next hostels in Salzburg and Vienna, and have showers and such like. It was getting to be early evening by this time, so we moved out to the Hofbräuhaus beer hall. I didn't really know what to expect, but I have to say that it was pretty epic. There was a brass band playing fairly traditional Bavarian music in the middle, the staff serving the tables in old-fashioned dress, and the place was absolutely massive. The beer comes in litre glasses and it was really nice. I'd bet it was a pretty strong alcohol content (it didn't say on the menu but it certainly felt it afterwards), and yet it had a pretty nice, soft flavour to it. The stuff was a tad expensive as beer goes, but easily worth it for the setting and the atmosphere.

The next day we started off going to the cathedral in Munich, the Frauenkirche, which we'd walked past the day before but hadn't really paid much attention to. It's pretty damn big, and the views from the top of the tower (which, somewhat unusually for this sort of thing, requires a lift to get to the top) of the rest of the city are pretty spectacular (click to zoom).

(Marienplatz and Neue Rathaus)

(The Olympic park in the distance)

(The gardens in the background, in the foreground the Residenz theatre on the right hand side with the classical columns, the Residenz to the left of it with its front façade entirely covered by scaffolding, the Theatinerkirche to the left of that [the yellow building], and Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena on the horizon in the left corner)

From there we went to the Rathaus for midday, just in time to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in the facade on the front. It was accompanied with some fairly melodic bell chimes and went on for a full five minutes or so. It's probably not something I'd make a huge deal about, but it's definitely not the sort of thing you see in the UK.

The weather being back to sunny and fairly hot, we chilled out for a bit in the Hofgarten and sunbathed for an hour or so, before splitting up. I went to the Deutches Museum with Nick, whilst Gerry and Jamie went to an art gallery. For a €3 student ticket the Deutches Museum is absolutely massive, and only having a few hours in the afternoon meant we mostly rushed round trying to see as much as we could before we needed to head back to the hostel. It's a huge science and technology museum, with pretty much everything in English as well as German, and there are a good four or five floors of stuff. It could easily take up a whole day if you were going to go around and see everything properly.

I liked Florence, and Venice is definitely an extremely unique and attractive city, but sitting on the train to Salzburg I'd say that Munich probably beats them both in my eyes. It's definitely somewhere I think I'll make an effort to go back to in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Munich - if we go and visit maybe you can be the tour guide. Not sure how my dominant control freak side would cope with that...