Munich in Winter

16 Mar

The English GardenFive years ago, after failing to find a willing friend to take time off and part with lots of money to go see the world with me, I decided to go it alone on a short Contiki tour through Europe.  Eight countries jam-packed into twelve days was definitely a worthwhile whirlwind experience (and a lot of fun) but I couldn’t claim it was more than scratching the surface of any destination (except maybe Rome, which I think I covered every tourist inch of). For example, my grand glorious impression of Munich was… da dum, the Hofbräuhaus. And that’s it.  Due to a traffic jam on the Autobahn we had arrived too late to see any of the sights so settled for drinking as much beer as possible before speeding off to the next place early the next morning.

So I was very excited go back there on the second leg of our family holiday (after Istanbul) and see what the city is really like.  My first impression was… SNOW! Hailing from the Eastern Cape, the last time I’d actually seen snow was when I was 10 years old and my parents drove us two or three outside of Grahamstown to find it.  On our first night in Munich I had to remind myself that I was now a mature, responsible adult (apparently) and that snow angels on the pavement would probably be frowned upon by the scary bell brandishing cyclists, however H did indulge me with photos outside the pub where we found our supper.  Another nine days of a lot more snow was to follow, but I didn’t quite get over it J

On our first day H and I walked to the Alt Stadt, first to explore the monumentally huge Frauenkirche, and then the monumentally wonderful Viktualienmarkt. ViktualienmarktIt’s a daily farmers’ market and offers meats, cheeses, fresh fruit and veg, olives, flowers, pastries, honey and who knows what else.  It was there we found our quintessential lunch of bratwurst on a brӧtchen (roll) and two weisswurst with a pretzel and mustard, and some beer (obviously).  It’s the kind of food I’d usually steer clear of at home, but in that setting it couldn’t have been more delicious and appropriate.

Wave at the English GardenAfter lunch we walked to the English Garden, which is apparently bigger than Central Park in New York.  At this time of year it’s a beautiful great expanse of snow, dotted with trees and criss-crossed by paths full of walkers, a few crazy runners and children with toboggans.

On the outskirts of the garden is a shallow spot in the river which makes a permanent wave which, unbelievably, the Germans come and surf, almost like a wave treadmill.  We watched some impressive moves being pulled that were even more so because of the freezing weather. Those guys are brave!

The next day it was time to absorb a bit of culture which the Alte Pinakothek and Neue Pinakothek art galleries provided in buckets.  Highlights for me were seeing a roomful of Rubens and a Leonardo de Vinci at the Alte Pinakothek, and my favourite impressionists, Degas and van Gogh, at the Neue.   With time not on our side we decided not to go to the Residenz Palace museum, but instead went to the smaller (but stunning) Schatzkammer (treasure room) for an eyeful of everything priceless and sparkly (with some history thrown in).

The Food

KuchenEveryone knows that Germans make good beer and sausage, but did you know that they also make incredible bread and pastries?  Even better is the culture of eating cake on a regular basis.  As with our trip to Poland two years ago, I loved experiencing that on a random Tuesday afternoon you can walk into a (pretty big) coffee shop and everybody is having a slice of cake or pastry with their coffee.   It doesn’t seem to be the wicked indulgence that I feel it to be in South Africa, but is more like a deserved treat that nobody thinks twice about.  Although, if we had Apfeltasche (apple turnover), Käsekuchen (cheesecake) and, my favourite, kirschstreusel (cherry crumb cake) like that on every corner, we might have a different attitude.  Not a single dry sponge cake in sight.

We also gave the Hofbräuhaus a skip and met some extended family for dinner at the Augustiner Keller for our fix of Bavarian fare.  The boys manfully tackled some gigantic pieces of meat on a bone that looked like it belonged on a Viking’s table, while I had a more mysterious (due to menu translation challenges) but extremely delicious schnitzel-ish thing with mushroom sauce.

For something completely different the following night we met up with a friend who used to live in Cape Town at an Afghan restaurant that he recommended called Chopan where I found some much craved veggies in the form of roasted aubergines served with spicy saffron rice.

There was much more exploring that we didn’t get to do, but it time to head to our “real” destination – the snowy Swiss Alps…

 

4 Responses to “Munich in Winter”

  1. Anne March 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Viktualienmarkt; English Garden; snow; Afghan restaurant … what a combination! As for those kuchen … I hope you have been inspired to experiment with some serious baking!

    • Cathy March 29, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      The kirschstreusel is going to be first on my list!

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