Day 5 – our arrival in Munich, Germany

We were up with the crows in Cesky Krumlov.  Breakfast was at 8 am, and we wanted to eat fast so that we could try to reschedule our shuttle.  Originally, I had booked two seats on a Pension Lobo shuttle bus that was to leave at 11 am from Cesky Krumlov and go to Linz, Austria.  It’s fairly cheap (390 Czech crowns per person – about $18), convenient and an easy way to get to Linz, where we would take a train on to Munich.  We wanted to see if we could bump up the time to 9 am, so as to have some time in Munich once we checked into our hotel.

I had no way of contacting the shuttle company, unfortunately.  I tried emailing but no one responded.  While we were eating breakfast, I explained our problem to one of the women who worked in the hotel, and she very kindly called Pension Lobo to ask if we could switch times.  They agreed, so we went back to enjoying our breakfast.  This morning it consisted of a basket of rolls and bread, salami and lunch meat, various cheeses, fruit, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and hard-boiled eggs–and of course, coffee.

After breakfast, we checked out and waited for the shuttle. It soon pulled up and we climbed in with our luggage.  The shuttle hit a few other spots, picking up random passengers, and we were finally off to Linz, Austria.  The drive there was very pretty – mostly farmland in the Czech Republic – and then as we headed into Austria, the scenery became hillier and more wooded. We could even spot glimpses of the Alps in the distance. The driver was very familiar with the roads and continuously zipped around hills and roads like lightning (with me clinging madly to my safety strap).

View from the train

About 75 minutes later, we pulled up to the Linz train station and were unceremoniously dumped off at the curb.  I was hoping to buy our tickets at the ticket machines, but the route I wanted wasn’t listed – probably because it terminated in Germany – so we had to go to an agent to buy them.  It was pricey – 110 Euros for two tickets.  Welcome to Austria and Germany – the home of expensive trains that run on time!

We had about 15 minutes to find the right track and board the train. We were soon comfortably settled into a compartment with a table.  Pat settled back to read and look at the view, and I worked on my journal.  After about an hour, we arrived in Salzburg and it was time to change trains.  Because our first train was late, we only had a few minutes to find the right train and get our butts over there.  Luckily, it was only 3 tracks away, and the train had already pulled in so we were able to jump right on.

Pat taking photos from the train

This time there was no table, but we had the whole compartment practically to ourselves so we were able to open the window and shoot photos of random scenery as we headed through Austria and Salzburg.  I pointed out to Pat that we were going to be in Salzburg for two nights, and would have plenty of opportunity for taking pictures.  She shrugged and continued shooting.  I soon joined her…

We pulled into the Muenchen Hauptbaunhof around 2:20 pm. From there, we headed off to the Hotel Uhland about 4-5 blocks away where we had a reservation.  At least, where I thought we had a reservation…  Unfortunately, they told me they had no record of it.  While I was frantically trying to pull up my old emails, Pat was talking to the receptionist who told her that regardless, they would still have rooms for us, but we would probably have to change rooms after the first night.

Hotel Uhland

And that’s what happened. I had evidently confirmed our reservation by email but never sent the credit card information.  It was fine, though – I was happy to have a room for the night.  The first night’s room was large (as was the price – 105 Euros), but it was nice to just kick off our shoes and relax for a while.

After unpacking, we set off for Marienplatz, the main square in the old section. Unlike Prague, where everything seems old, Munich is a wonderful combination of old and new architecture.  As we walked up Sendlinger Strasse towards the square, we saw modern office buildings sitting side by side with medieval stone palaces.  Once at the square, we spotting the Rathaus–the old Town Hall.  We wanted to see the glockenspiel show that performs at the town hall above the clock, but figured we had time to do a little sightseeing, so we headed over to St. Peter’s Kirche (Church), the oldest church in Munich.

St. Peter's Church altar

The exterior and interior were beautiful – the church was first built in the 11th century, but was destroyed by fire a few centuries later and rebuilt in the 14th century.  For a long time, it was the only Catholic church in Munich.  The church allows travelers to climb 306 steps to the tower to view the city (on a clear day, you can see the Alps), but both Pat and I decided against it.

After that, we headed back to the square for the glockenspiel show.  Every day at 11 m (as well as 12 noon and 5 pm in summer), the clock in the town hall chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century using 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures.  The figures perform the Schläffertanz or Cooper’s dance, which was originally performed in 1517 at the Marienplatz to commemorate the end of the plague.  Unlike Prague’s Astronomical Clock show, which lasts around 1-2 minutes, the Marienplatz performance went on for about ten minutes.  It was charming for the first couple of minutes but after that, I started thinking about how my neck hurt from looking up.

The glockenspiel show

After the show, we started wandering through the streets.  We briefly discussed heading up to the museums, one of which was open till 8 pm, but I wasn’t in a museum mood so we just continued our meandering.  Munich is really a great city – loads of beautiful old architecture, but very alive and modern with lots of stuff going on.  There are bikers everywhere and many of the main streets have paths specifically set aside just for bicycles.  It’s easy to forget they are there, until all of a sudden a fast-moving biker whizzes past you with inches to spare.

We window shopped as we walked, and saw a variety of very cute dirndls in store windows–evidently they are making a comeback.  Who’d a thunk it?  We spotted some interesting street sculptures as well as a bizarre memorial to Michael Jackson set at the base of the statue of a long-dead German composer, who’s probably turning over in his grave at the thought of it.

Dirndls in a shop window

Munich reminds me a bit of Rome, in that you can turn the corner and stumble upon an ancient small church or building that’s not listed in the guidebook.  We came across a small church that I later found was St. Salvator, also called Salvator Church (Salvatorkirche) from 1494.  Originally the cemetery church of the parish Frauenkirche, it is now used by members of Munich’s Greek Orthodox community. The churchyard contains the grave of François Cuvilliés, who designed the theatre at the Residenz Palace complex, which we will be visiting tomorrow.  We walked inside and it was indeed beautiful.  We didn’t stay long, though, as they were preparing for a service.

Rubbing the lion

Heading back towards the square for dinner, we came across the brass lion statues that are outside one entrance to the Residenz. Munich locals (and tourists) rub the faces of the lions for luck, and you can indeed see that that the noses are bright and polished compared to the rest of the statue.  Not willing to be outdone, Pat and I rubbed their noses and took each other’s photo doing so.

It was time for dinner – and what better place to eat than the world-famous Hofbräuhaus, which has a history dating back to the 16th century.  It’s touristy, sure, but still fun.  The place was absolutely packed, but we managed to find two seats at a table with a German couple and ordered our meal – marinated beef and dumplings for me, and roast chicken for Pat. We also got a couple of thick Regensburger sausages for starters, which were incredibly tasty and juicy.  The Munchner Weisse  beer I ordered was delicious, too.  A German brass oom-pah band played in the center of the restaurant (which can hold up to 4000 people) and the atmosphere was loud and spirited.

Hofbrauhaus

By the time we finished, we were ready to call it quits and so we slowly walked back to our hotel.  Most of the shops along Sedlinger were closed but that didn’t stop us from window shopping as we walked.  Back at the hotel, we collapsed in our large room and went to bed.

Tomorrow – the Residenz Palace and shopping!

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