Saturday, March 23, 2013

Munich Top Five

This Saturday morning started off in a typical and omelets. Matt whipped us each up an omelet stuffed with fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes and vintage cheddar cheese, and they were delicious.

As I was drinking my morning coffee I found myself wishing for one of the foamy cappuccinos I had multiple times a day while I was in Germany. The cappuccinos abounded! I got to thinking about all the things I loved most about Munich while I was there, and thought a "top likes" overview would be more fun than rambling through each day there, especially since I was working for much of the time, so here we go! My Munich Top Five.

1. The Charm.

This was actually my second trip to Germany; a few years ago I spent a week in Berlin attending a conference, and I really enjoyed the experience. I spent a few hours in Munich on that trip as well, but this was my first time actually getting to see the city, and I have to say...I loved it much more than Berlin.

It was so quaint and beautiful. I was told while there that Munich/the Bavaria region is very unlike the rest of Germany, and Germans often joke that when you go to Bavaria, you're going abroad.

Berlin had a very big city feel, but Munich - although quite large with an extensive subway system, huge airport, and Olympic stadium - had a smaller, college town feel I adore.

The architecture and streets were beautiful (that street above is where I stayed), and the main square at Marienplatz was open and bustling and reminded me of when I studied abroad in Florence.

Munich is also a hop, skip and a jump from The Alps, which you can see from various points and when flying in and out. They were breathtaking, as was the rest of the surrounding landscape. I'd love to go back and explore the countryside more, and it would also be nice to go during summertime when all the outdoor beer gardens (apparently there are over 2,000 of them!) are in full swing.

2. The people.

Everyone we met was so hospitable. The residents were not as fluent in English as the people I'd met in Berlin, which I actually liked more. Why should they be fluent in English? It was tough to find English menus or signs, so I did a lot of asking: asking for recommendations on what to eat or drink, asking for directions (one night we got lost for a good hour in the rain, and must've stopped to ask 10 people for directions). Everyone was so willing to help us out and wanted to make sure we enjoyed our stay.

The people in Munich are so nice they don't even check your tickets at the subway! The first time we rode, we purchased tickets and stumbled around really confused about where to insert them - there are no turnstyles or anything. Turns out, they work on the honor system. You just punch your ticket in a little puncher machine and it time stamps it, so if anyone checks they see when you bought it. Pretttty sure that would never work in NY.

3. The coffee! 

Europeans are serious about their coffee, which suits this java lover just fine. In addition to good strong regular coffee, cappuccinos and lattes were offered everywhere, even at the office and at my hotel...for free!

You better believe I grabbed one every chance I got - first thing in the morning before heading to meetings, again at the hotel breakfast, and again in the evening. Hey, foamy and delicious cappuccinos don't come along for free very often. Or ever.

And the cappuccinos at the airport restaurants were ginormous!

4. The food, of course.

 I wasn't able to eat much traditional German food being a pescatarian, but I did enjoy some local fish, and loved the traditional European breakfast served up at my hotel breakfast bar. Um, free hotel breakfasts pretty much never include fresh mozzarella and smoked lox in the U.S.

I am a huge lox fan so loved piling it up on top of house made chive cream cheese on locally made whole grain bread, with cucumbers to top it off. The yogurts were also pretty tasty.

I had to try at least one Bavarian pretzel while in Munich, and I was definitely not disappointed. There was a bakery down the block from my hotel, so I ran over at 7 AM the morning I flew out to pick up some freshly baked pretzels to take home. Gah, so good.

They were crunchy on the outside with just the slightest amount of salt, and super fluffy and doughy on the inside. They weren't hugely fat, and had a wonderful buttery flavor. I usually like a lot of salt on my pretzels, but the salt was not needed on these. I'm scarred now - the New York pretzels just won't do after trying one of these.

I also liked that it was easy to find healthy options, whether it was fish and spinach for dinner or fruit and yogurt for breakfast.

I did indulge in a few treats, including some truffles, a delicious Thai curry and basil pasta for dinner with clients, and of course a locally brewed beer or two, but overall I felt like it wasn't hard to stay on track.

5. The environmental consciousness.

On a daily basis I was reminded how environmentally conscious Europe is. The escalators only turn on when you step on them (I actually thought they were broken until someone pointed it out to me), the water comes out low-pressure, and you have to ask, and pay for a bag at the grocery store.

The stores just expect that you'll bring your own bags, and if you don't, well you're going to pay 25 cents a piece for them. I love that! I swear the cashiers at Shop Rite would give me a separate bag for every single item I purchase if I'd let them. I really wish the U.S. would adopt this policy. By the way, the beer up there is definitely for consumption at this house, but all those cookies and chocolates are being carted off to my office for my coworkers. ;-)

Things I wish I'd known

There are a few things I wish I'd known before going to Munich. Unlike Berlin, cash is king in Munich. Most of the cabs, and even a lot of the restaurants, don't take credit cards, and no one anywhere takes AMEX. I figured that out the hard way and had to make a cab driver cart me around town to find an ATM to take out enough cash to get me through the few day trip.

Also, after I figured out the subway system, I wish I'd never taken a cab to begin with. The cabs are expensive - it cost me 70 euro to go from the airport to the hotel, and the train would've only cost about 10 euro, which I found out on my way back to the airport when I was leaving. The train system was a little complicated (definitely asked for help there too, and some nice German lady bought me my ticket), but it goes literally everywhere and is very cost friendly.

And there you have it! I hope to return some day and spend more than a few days so I can get a better feel for the city, but it was really a wonderful trip for the short time I was there.

Now I'm off to relax on the couch for the rest of the evening. Hope you're enjoying the weekend!

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