This past weekend my husband and I had the exquisite pleasure of taking a weekend trip to Munich—the famous party-city in Germany. The last time I entered Bavaria was in 1998. At the time, I was with my family and we stayed in the city of Garmisch. Like the average tourist who visits Southern Germany, we had made a day trip to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle. We never did make it into the beer-guzzling city of Munich. I wonder why.
My husband and I were looking for a short, frivolous getaway. Thankfully, transportation in Europe is done with supreme ease. Even if you book a train at the last minute, it seems you can still find options to go anywhere—provided you are willing to stand. We caught the Ice train in Mannheim which took us straight to Munich. We even passed through the village of Ulm, the town where Einstein was born.
We arrived in Munich in the early afternoon which gave us plenty of time to explore the city square. Once off the train we walked our way through the bustling train station and out onto the streets of Munich. Munich is a large city—roughly 150,000 in population. I learned that the people of Bavaria proudly see themselves as almost separate from the rest of Germany—think Texans and the United-States—only that Bavarians are not Protestant Bible-Thumpers. In Bavaria the locals are patriotic, conservative and largely Catholic. Their unique cultural heritage is a result of being separate from Germany until only 100 years ago.
People with model-looking bodies are seen on all corners of the streets. Everyone is toned, youthful, glowing and smiling.
Thankfully, our hotel was located walking distance from the main city square. After dropping off our bags in our hotel room, we wandered into the city center. We passed gangs of tourists and locals all jostling their way into the town-square for Friday-night escapades. We walked by countless trinket shops and clothing stores specializing in dirndls—the traditional dress of German women. I even found a sushi spot nestled in the heart of the city—not too bad!
I would highly recommend walking by the Munich Rathaus. Architecturally, this building stuns with richly ornate flare and at times, seems almost gothic. Like Notre Dame, it has gargoyles peeping out from all corners; definitely a captivating visual experience! Also, in the square you will come across several fountains with erected stone statues in the middle. I randomly notice that a Merman statue sits in the middle of one fountain and squirts water at a little boy.
There are also a couple accessible cathedrals in the town-square that are free and absolutely worth a peak inside!
That night we found our way into the Augustiner Keller and Biergarten—an authentic hot-spot that you must visit while in Munich. Once you enter through the gate you weave your way through the sprawling Biergarten full of Friday night locals all sitting on picnic tables in this outdoor garden. My eyes were grabbed by the variety of sparkling amber brews and assortment of beer glasses positioned all over the tables.
We decided to eat indoors. The beer hall was enormous! We sat at a long, wooden picnic table and then ordered typical Bavarian fare. In less than 40 minutes the beer hall filled up and became a rowdy, cantankerous joint though sans an accordion player. It was a fun place to observe the locals clanking their beer glasses with each other and having a good time.
The next day we made a short trip to Salzburg, Austria. For music lovers, this place is famous for being Mozart’s hometown and for many an American, it is famous for its various scenes in the 1965 musical, “The Sound of Music”. WE LOVED SALZBURG! It is definitely my favorite smaller city that I have visited in Europe.
The old town of Salzburg is of delightful, quaint beauty. The streets are narrow and the buildings and storefronts are packed tightly together. There is an old graveyard in the center of the old city and above the city stands a fortress (Hohnensalzburg Castle) which we never made it to.
MEETING MICHAEL MOORE
After our Salzburg day-trip we headed back to Munich. We were just entering our hotel when we saw a group of 4-5 people standing in the lobby, checking in. As we passed my husband muttered under his breath, “Looks like Michael Moore”. How random could that be that a famous, controversial documentary filmmaker would be staying in the same place as us? I turned around, taking a closer look and exclaimed, “That IS Michael Moore”. Michael Moore, hearing his name, turned around and glanced at us. Sure enough, it was him. We made a dash for the elevator. Neither of us are major Michael Moore fans but it was quite random (and surprising) to see that he was staying in the same hotel that we were and on the same weekend.
That night we secretly hoped to pass by him again but of no luck. My husband and I went downstairs so that he could get a drink at the restaurant bar. The bar maid accidentally spilled beer all over his pants and shoes.
In the morning we were offered free breakfast in the hotel since the bar maid soaked (and stained) my husband’s shoes in beer. Free food is free food.
Coincidentally, I stood right behind a GIANT (Michael Moore)in the breakfast buffet line who was heaping himself to lots of eggs and bacon. He had a specialty glass with orange juice and 2 sliced oranges adorning the rim. He was wearing a black t-shirt, sweat pants and an old ratty baseball hat. It felt odd that no one else seemed to recognize who he was. Then again, it seemed like we were the only Americans at this hotel. My husband hadn’t noticed my location yet, when he caught site who I was standing by, he smiled brightly.
Confidently he walked right up to Michael Moore and asked, “So when can I be expecting your next documentary?”. Michael Moore seemed very enthusiastic that finally someone recognized him. He even pulled us over to the side of the breakfast room and told us that he was in Munich filming a documentary that will be entitled something like “Invade”…forgot the exact title. His documentary will highlight “Some of the things that Europe does right…and should be incorporated into America (trains, health care etc)” He was quite affable, down-to-earth and actually, rather sweet. He was more than willing to talk to random strangers like us.