Hello Again, Munchen!
We first explored Munich, amongst other destinations in Bavaria and beyond, during our last trip to Europe. That I would end up loving Munich so much was something I did not see coming. And since we are planning to explore the romantic road and Bavaria again in greater detail in a few years, I certainly did not expect that we would make a return so soon. But the opportunity presented itself (in the form of our national carrier flying to Munich Airport, the airport closest to Austria, the focus of this trip) and I grabbed it in a heartbeat, even if it was just for a night. Coincidentally, we were in Munich on the exact same day 4 years ago. Since it was such a short visit, there wasn’t time to do very much, except revisiting the places we really loved during our last.
After depositing our luggage with the NH Deutscher Kaiser Hotel reception (it was too early for check-in), we made a beeline for Café Frischhut -Die Schmalznudel, a Munich institution we chanced upon quite by accident 4 years back while looking for The Viktualienmarkt. Back then we didn’t even know that this cafe is that big a deal to the locals although we did manage to strike up quite an interesting conversation with an elderly Brit gentleman seated at the table next to ours. After he ascertained where we were from, he shared that he stayed in Singapore for a spell with the British army decades ago. Wow. Talk about coincidence. T’is indeed a small world we live in.
Oh lordy, simply seeing the picture of a schmalznudel makes my mouth water so. It’s essentially fried dough, and we Chinese also have a snack called 油条 (‘youtiao‘, but I like to call my favourite snack ‘you zha kueh‘ – same thing but pronounced differently in different dialects). The similarity quite stops there. While youtiao always tend to be cloyingly oily where you can literally see the oil oozing out when you take a bite (blame it on the Chinese’ predilection for more oily foodstuff), schmalznudel is much less of an oil offender. Somewhat a mix between youtiao and donut, if you would have it. The mister and I ordered different shapes of the same thing, and they were warm when served. Exceptionally tasty, with or without sugar sprinkles. Give it a try if you ever find yourself in Munich!
Since we only had a short night in Munich, we chose to stay close by Munich Hbf so that we didn’t have to lug our luggage too far to catch our connection to Vienna the following day. NH Deutscher Kaiser Hotel was a decent choice – not too excessive, yet not too shabby either. View out of the window from our room was not great but we did get to see quite a bit of the city. Would have been prettier if there was a thin layer of snow cover blanketing the whole city but alas, it was simply not meant to be.
For some reason or another, I found the atmosphere to be rather flat this Christmas compared to the Christmas 4 years back. Snow does contribute much to a yuletide atmosphere was my verdict. At least for me, it does. Or perhaps having visited numerous Christmas markets before, the magic doesn’t quite work on me anymore. We browsed the Christmas markets at both The Viktualienmarkt and the main one found on Marienplatz, which is purported to be the oldest Christmas market in the city, dating all the way back to the 14th century. Since having visited Christmas markets in a few counties including Germany, Austria, France and The Czech Republic, I have come to the conclusion that German Christmas markets are the ones that deviate the least from traditional purpose of why they exist: to stock up for the long winter, to prepare for Christmas and to spread some cheer during the dark, gloomy months of cold.
The stalls selected to partake in the Christmas market at Marienplatz clearly had been chosen with care; there was a good balance of food stalls and stalls offering Christmas wares and Christmas tree ornaments. While browsing the stalls, we saw shoppers ranging from babies as young as several months old warmly wrapped up in prams to elderly couples carefully curating new additions for their homes. It was a very lovely sight and I have to confess at that point in time, I was reminded of my late grandmother whom always thought that Christmases should be celebrated with a strong focus on family bonding. Christmases for me have never been the same since she was called home to be with the Lord. But I digressed.
By and by, night fell and we found ourselves back at the cavernous Hofbrauhaus Munchen for dinner. We were determined to be a little more adventurous this round (unlike our last when we only had beer and pretzels) and despite having reservations about how we will take to the taste, we ordered their pork knuckle, a Bavarian staple that everyone says is a must-try in the Bavarian capital. Suffice it to say that we liked it enough to finish it and were, surprisingly, having much more difficulty with the basket of breads made from different grains since we are both quite the carb monsters. I couldn’t make myself look at breads the next few days after this meal. 😆
Just for laughter, I created a side by side comparison of the mister holding a mug of the signature HB beer, 4 years apart to the same day. He does look very much more tired in the more recent picture because it was the first day we landed in Europe, and we haven’t had a good sleep. The next morning, we headed out early to have some breakfast before challenging the tower of Peterkirche (Church of St. Peter) at Marienplatz. With 299 steps, it wasn’t too bad a climb but at some parts the stairs were only wide enough for one person to cross. Thankful that we started out early, didn’t have to give way to anyone on our way up, and only met with a few of climbers when we were on our way down so we were not terribly inconvenienced by having to give way repeatedly.
It was a beautiful day the day we left Munich, with blue skies and all. Rather cold at the top of the tower but t’was such a beautiful sight to behold. And it reminded me once again, why I should continue to insist climbing every church tower we come across in Europe, and press on even if it takes me a while to get to the top. I live for such views.
I do so look forward to explore Bavaria in greater detail in a few years.