Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas in Munich, Germany

I really like Germany.
We had an early flight, 6:35, out of Naples and landed at about 8:20. Took a train in from the airport. The airport is actually about a 40 minute train ride from Munich (I think I mentioned that in one of our first posts). We were standing at the automated machines and a guy came over to help explain because we looked confused. After he showed us the ticket to get, which matched what I had in my head from reading, he offered us his ticket, the same kind, for a slightly lower price. It worked out well. I figure he bought it earlier that morning in Munich, rode the train to the airport and then sold us his ticket (its an all day ticket) for most of what he paid. He got a cheap ride, we got a discounted ticket...
We got into the hotel in Munich at about 10:30. Carey did really good with this one. It was actually an apartment. 2 bedrooms, a bar area and a living room. The only problem was the TVs didn't work. Not a huge deal since we didn't spend a whole lot of time there.
That afternoon, Thursday, we went downtown to the Christmas Markets. In addition to the markets there were sites to see. The "New" Town Hall is still over 100 years old. It served as US headquarters in WWII since it survived the bombings. It has a huge glockenspiel. Munich's largest cathedral is also here. At 2:00 all the booths were closing so we went back to the hotel to rest a little. After that we went to dinner at Hofbrauhaus. It is a touristy place but fun. Really good food. Excellent beer. Reasonably priced. The beers come in 1 liter mugs. The Dunkel (dark beer) was amazing. Even Carey had a sip and said she may be able to "acquire a taste" for it. This was the first place Hitler had a mass meeting/ speech.
Christmas day we slept in a little, then the kids opened their stockings (we opened everything else on the 23rd). Not a lot is open on Christmas. We did take a hop-on, hop-off bus around the city to see, or at least drive by, all the major sights within the city. The 1972 Olympic park, Nymphenburg Palace, BMW museum, and the Residenz (another royal house/ now museum) to name a few. After that we let the kids go ice-skating at an outdoor rink while we drank hot cider with Amaretto. It still made for a nice day.
Saturday we took a tour of Dachua. It was one of the first Nazi concentration camps. If you ever get a chance to go to a concentration camp, you should. This one was one of the only ones to be open the entire time the Nazis were in power from 1933 to 1945. It is where the SS were trained. It was essentially the prototype for every other concentration camp. As explained, if the "technique" was used in any other camp it was because it was done at Dachua. Our tour guide was very good. We actually got a really good deal out of it. He was meeting some friends of his from out of town at the site right after our tour was done. This meant he just gave us the transportation tickets and gave us the option of going back with another tour group or sticking around and getting back ourselves. This gave us all the time we wanted and translated into about an extra, well deserving, hour in the museum part. It wasn't just about exterminating Jews (that was a big part) but more about absolute power and destroying the human spirit. There is just way to much to talk about with it but it will be something we, and the kids, remember for life.
That night we went to a smaller restaurant down town and had another great dinner. The German and English written menus were slightly different (Carey's dad, John, noticed it first). I had something that was like a meatball but it was veil and ox that was on the German nightly special list (i.e. not in the English menu). Really good.
Sunday we flew out in the morning and got home in time to relax a little and then caught the Dolphin game (maybe more beer in Germany would have been better).

Some other highlights and side thoughts:
German mass transportation is amazing. You can get anywhere, cheap. A 3 day group ticket (covered all 5 of us) was 22 Euro and got you unlimited train and buses. If you wanted to go further outside the city you needed a different pass but it is still cheap and easy. It is run largely on a trust system. You buy your ticket at a machine. There is no gate to go through. Supposedly there are people that do random checks on the trains, but we never saw one. People must pay... the system is still running.
Munich is very clean.
There was a large pedestrian only district downtown. They started it in 1972 for the Olympics. Originally the store owners fought it but then realized it was a great idea because there is so much foot traffic.
The Germans are quiet people. The Italians stood out like a sore thumb (you could hear them).
German food and beer. What else is there to say. Delicious.

We are definitely getting to experience a lot. Just because its not "American" doesn't mean its wrong, or that it doesn't work as well. Why do we have stop signs? London doesn't, I didn't notice any in Munich, and Italians ignore them. Yet people don't run into each other... Why do we go to work so early and why don't we take extra time off (almost nothing was open Saturday)? Why do we think it is horrible service in a restaurant if we have to spend more than 45 minutes in the restaurant and have to ask for a check? I'm not saying we do things all wrong. I do miss having a covered tunnel to get on airplanes (most flights we've taken you go from terminal to bus to plane to bus to terminal). Our way is not the only "good" way though.

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