Germany - Nuremburg and Munich

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September 23rd 2016
Published: September 26th 2016
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We arrived in Frankfurt (with a short connection Ljubljana) with about 2 hours sleep due to our early morning flight. After validating our German rail pass, we got on a train to Nuremburg. The three hour train trip seemed much longer as we were very tired. When we arrived, it seemed as we brought the rain with us as it was wet and cold. After checking in, we went to get some sandwiches from the train station then went back to take a short nap.

Just after the sun set we went out into the old town to look around and for dinner, Nuremburg alstadt (old town) is very pretty and compact with rows of shops and restaurants lining the streets and cathedrals dotted around the place. We went to a Thai restaurant recommended on trip advisor as after 2 weeks of Balkan food we needed Thai food! However they said it was reservation only but we found another Thai restaurant nearby. Not the best Thai food – the Tom Yum Goong was so salty and didn’t actually look or taste like Tom Yum Goong!

The next day, feeling refreshed after a good nights sleep we ventured out, rain and cold, into the aldstadt ( old city). The first Thai restaurant told us they were closed on Sunday, and the one we went to was closed Sundays too. But we didn’t expect all shops and cafes to be closed too! Well, most restaurants and cafés. We found one called Alex next to the open air market open and they did a lovely brunch buffet and the café au lait was huge. It was actually a bowl not a mug. After a walk around the market we went into St Sebald Cathedral. It’s a lovely cathedral in the gothic style. Lovely stained glass windows and not too many pictures of Jesus and Mary or cherubs, which is good as we are more interested in the architecture and I think that is what makes these religious buildings grand. We noticed a wine tasting, however it looked rather official, and given it was Sunday I think it was part of the service perhaps.

We then went to the Albrecht Dürer house. Dürer was an artist and theorist from the late 15th/early 16th century during the German Renaissance who lived in this house with his wife. The house is now a museum and, unfortunately, as the original paintings are in other museums such as Munich, only copies (good copies at that) are in the house. The house also withstood the war, so it’s a great place to have a museum. Dürer lived here with his wife until he died, and as they had no children, the house changed hands very quickly. Other rooms such as a kitchen and artists room were on display, but as they are no records of what each room were used for its only a guess at the function of each room, except for the kitchen as there is a basin and chimney there. After that we went to the Nuremburg castle. The museum is large, and many rooms including a chapel and arms and amour museum (guess who loved that!) The visit was complete with a walk up the tower to view Nuremburg 360 degrees! As the weather was still pretty bad, and its Sunday there wasn’t much we wanted to do but see where the Nuremburg trials took place after WWII. We walked and walked but couldn’t find the place. Finally we gave up, went back to the Hauptbahnhof to buy sandwiches for dinner and look at the few shops that were open (which happened to be very busy – funny that!) We had dinner in the room to save money that night!

The next morning it was back to the hauptbahnhof for breakfast and another giant coffee (!) before boarding our train to Munich!!! We arrived in Munich, fresh for Oktoberfest. We came to Oktoberfest in 2009, and learnt our lesson in booking accommodation early. In 2009, we booked accommodation I think in April, so we had stayed in Erding which is about an hour away by train and commuted in every day! This time we booked in December, and our hotel was close enough to the U-bahn and a short ride to hauptbahnhof. We caught a taxi firstly as we weren’t sure where we were going and it was just easier in the rain. After checking in and freshening up, we found one of our U-bahn stations and went to the hauptbahnhof (6min trip!) and walked down through the shopping strip to Marienplatz, the unofficial centre of Munich! So many memories came back, especially of shops! In addition to 2009 with Bill, I came here with my cousin Biab and Douwe in 2003. Unfortunately it was still raining lightly, so we looked for a place to eat. Where else but at one of our favourite beers’ restaurant? Paulaner of course! We had weissbiers and sausages with sauerkraut and said ‘prost’ to our Munich journey! Later we heard a little dog barking in the restaurant and Bill made a distasteful joke that they were making ‘hunderwurst’ dog sausage! Awww no! Afterward with our bellies full, I decided I wanted a Dirndl, the traditional women’s Bavarian dress complete with apron for Oktoberfest. You can’t turn a corner without seeing one of these shops selling a plethora of outfits! So after trying on two (and taking a photo in the dressing room even though I wasn’t supposed to shhh) I bought one! And I can get my tax back too! So I was set for Oktoberfest, Bill was still adamant he didn’t want Lederhosen. I know right, go figure! We went back to the hotel, and later decided to go to a nearby brewery called Giesing brewery for more weissbiers and German food. I had a lovely pork with bread and potato dumplings. They has an ‘eisbock’ a 33% beer!!!! I know….what?! Beer 33% even the Belgians haven’t attempted that (of what I know of). Apparently it is to be shared amongst 4 or 5 people, and no we didn’t try it!

The next day we ventured out to Marienplatz to join a free walking tour. Even though we did one in 2009 we thought to do one again. Our English tour guide (she married a German) showed us the main sights and gave us some history about Munich. We booked a Dachau tour with the same company during the break. The tour finished at the Englisch Gartens and then Bill decided he wanted Lederhosen. We tried Tk Max as our guide suggested, none in sight. So we went to C&A where they had 25% off Bavarian Tracht, traditional clothing. An hour later, lederhosen and socks in hand, we were off back to the hotel so he could change (I was already wearing my Dirndl!) So we went to the hotel, changed and back to the hauptbahnhof and walked to Oktoberfest!

Extra security this year, so were warned they’ll be bag checks and no backpacks allowed. But it was fine, quick and easy to go in. We felt very much the part, and I’m sure at least a half of people dressed up were tourists!! Anyway, given it was after 5, of course the beers tents were full, non-reservations were taken up and when I looked up reservation it was for 10 plus people. Still, we enjoyed walking around the tents and settled in the outdoor beer garden (with heating) of the Hofbrau! 2 steins each, chicken, sauerkraut, , sausage salad and giant pretzel later, we were cheerily singing ‘ein prosit, ein prosit’ every 20 mins with the band!!! After the second beer, we were ready to call it a night but before we left we walked around the grounds looking at souvenirs before we headed home via the U-bahn.

The next day, we started early as we had a brewery tour at Erding, which is where we stayed in 2009. Back then, we went to the brewery not knowing we had too book in advance for the English speaking tour ( and these were the days before wifi was widespread and personal devices!) This time we booked in advance no English tours available so I specifically asked for one. Very quickly they added two tours, only one we could go to which happened to be at 9.30 am! Decked out in our Oktoberfest gear, we headed out of our hotel at 7.30am in 6 degree weather (I looked it up). U-bahn to hauptbahnhof and a 50 minute S bahn trip later we were in Erding. We couldn’t recall exactly how we got to the brewery last time, but we know there was a lot of walking and a taxi involved. So we used Bill’s Galileo maps (great app, get it!) and it did get us to Erdinger weiss….. just not the brewery but the head office and hotel! So we had to head back to the train station and get a taxi to the brewery. Luckily, when we got to the fan shop, we weren’t the only ones late – two other Australian guys were late too so we checked in an headed to the visitor centre where a very large group was watching a welcome video and having a beer at 9.30am!! Who were we to say no?? So we then donned our high-vis vests and followed our very informative guide who gave us a sample if hops and yeast to smell and we went around this large brewery which was founded in 1886. The water comes from a pure underground source (Erding is famed for its natural thermal springs) and the Reinheitsgebot (1516) the oldest food law in the world where it says beers can only be made from water, barley and hops and is strictly adhered to in Germany. We went though to look at fermentation tanks (horizontal and vertical) and the large bottling facility where they export all over the world (Australia since 2000 and Thailand since 1993 apparently!) Erding do not brew anywhere else other than at this brewery so the exporting side is huge. There are 11 beers, two of which are limited editions (the summer beer and winter beer). The Alkoholfrei beer, as we found out is considered to be a sports drink as it is highly isotonic and contains many essential vitamins. It is even at sport events and a large sponsor. After the tour, we went back to the restaurant for a tasting and traditional food (which is actually a traditional Bavarian breakfast as our free walking tour guide told us). White sausage with herbs of which you have to peel the skin, sweet mustard and of course a beer. We actually tasted 3 beers (half pints!) including the Pikantus, a dark beer over 7%!a(MISSING)nd considered an appetizer beer. Very nice and smooth and a great way to finish the tasting! After we went to the fan shop to buy souvenirs we headed back to Erding bahnhof by taxi and back to Munich! We had to drop our stuff back to the hotel before we went back to Oktoberfest!

Back to the hauptbahnhof we sorted out our tickets to Amsterdam then went back to Oktoberfest. This time we wandered around first and went on some rides (a rollercorster and a giant drop where your shot up to the top and free fall back down many times!) We only felt like weissbier so we went to an outdoor beer garden and had some Paulaner weissbiers. We also went for a walk around the Hofbrau beer tent again. Packed as always with revelers drinking and dancing in their Tract. We left before sundown, and just had a cheap meal at the hauptbahnhof.

The next day we set off on our day tour of Dachau concentration camps. The Germans are very good in that they have made these places of absolute atrocities memorial sites do the public can mourn, learn about history and to commit to never allowing society to repeat these kinds of atrocities. I learnt quite a bit about Dachau. We went to Auchwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 2009 during our Intrepid trip in Poland. Nothing can prepare you for the glass cases after glass cases of personal belongings – suitcases, children shoes, human hair, glasses etc; the railroad that ends just short if the gas chambers – the gas chambers themselves you feel the ghosts of those who had to endure their fate. In Dachau, no one was killed en masse – people died of course through starvation, disease, hypothermia etc, however Dachau initially was set up as a concentration labour camp for political prisoners as the numbers of political grew in the 1930’s with the rise of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) or, as we know it, the Nazi party. So political prisoners were taken here, extreme conditions and they were forced to work extraordinarily hard for little food, and were tortured physically and mentally. Approx 32 000 died at Dachau, directly or indirectly at the hands of SS guards. Eventually as WWII happened, Jews, other German and Austrian political prisoners as well as a large number of prisoners from countries that Germany either occupied or invaded. So it became an International concentration camp of sorts. Punishment included pole hanging and standing to attention (imagine in the depths of winter) for a long time. After liberation, many of the prisoners no longer had a home, no longer had a family. So Dachau then became a refugee camp until the mid sixties when the last family left. The Russians had it pretty tough. After enduring being a prisoner at the concentration camp, if any Russian had survived, upon being sent back to Russia, they were imprisoned for a further 25 years for being captured by the Germans! Today the memorial consists of a massive building dedicated to photos and the history of the prisoners many rooms bearing signs of what happened eg. Beam pins of where beams where that held prisoners in uncomfortable hanging positions. The sleeping barracks where reconstructed, however wash basins and toilets are original. Also original is the crematorium, delousing gas chambers as well as gas chambers for mass extermination, however there isn’t actual documented proof that any mass exterminations took place here. It was a moving day – our guide was excellent in his historical and cultural knowledge and shared his thoughts on how society has not learnt from dark dark chapter of history. The Rawandan genocide in 1994, Pol Pot in Cambodia in the 1970’s, the Balkan war in the 1990's and ethnic cleanings etc etc. Its still happening today and its scary. People should come to this places, look, learn and come away with of what was done wrong and commit to never, ever allowing the government or any other human being to commit such atrocious acts again.

After the tour finished at hauptbahnhof, we set off for a leisurely stroll down towards Marienplatz, looking at the shops along the way. We had lunch at the Victuals market, theViktualienmarkt behind Marienplatz. A farmers market of sorts, we discovered this on our walking tour. There is a beer garden there where you can buy food from any of the vendors or BYO, as well as specific restaurant seating. We got weissbiers at the fraction of Oktoberfest prices, as well as German fare. This is also where the Maypole is, displaying figures of what trades and crafts of this part of Munich. Maypoles are interesting in their own right, we were told dating back to times when a man was interested in a lady, placing a maypole in her yard and waiting for an answer! Afterward we did more souvenir and clothes shopping. We then went back to the hotel, freshened up and set out on our metro line to find the best Thai restaurant in Munich ( and trip advisor number 2 overall restaurant) but it was full, but we found another one close by and it was surprisingly ok. Then it back to the hotel to pack for our next stop, Amsterdam!!

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