Yes, I know it’s September 2nd, and you’re probably wondering why I’m so far behind the times and talking about Spring Break. I guess you could say the trips happened faster than the blogging, and now that I’m back at school to start my senior year, I am officially committing to a regular writing schedule. We’ll see how long it lasts before I get bogged down with assignments, but here’s hoping that my impending senioritis stays away for just a little while longer. So, here we go.
Two months into my study abroad adventure in Prague, my grandmother and aunt flew over to take me on what would soon become an unforgettable spring break. Our itinerary, which had been mapped out by a helpful AAA agent back in January, consisted of the following cities:
- Munich, Germany
- Zurich, Switzerland
- Salzburg, Austria
We spent roughly two days in each city exploring the main sights. My grandma had been to all three places already, so she had a wealth of knowledge that would come in handy. If I haven’t mentioned this already, she’s the world traveler of the family and most likely the one responsible for giving and encouraging my wanderlust.
Our travels started from the Prague Hlavní Nádraží train station, and we essentially made one giant loop through each of the countries to end up back where we started. I could detail the number of interesting mishaps, stories, and sights we experienced while on board the various trains, but I’ll save that for another post.
Munich was a beautiful city, and I was impressed with its architecture and food. Previously, most of my travels consisted of a lot of walking, but we opted to take a Munich hop-on hop-off bus tour to accommodate my grandma. I’m normally not a fan of bus tours, but this one was convenient because it let you do the sight-seeing on your own. It was only really there to provide you with the transportation.
Although there were a few things we ventured out on our own to see, the majority of the sights we hit were courtesy of the bus tour. Below is a list of the top sights in Munich that you should make a point to stop at if you’re ever in the German city. The (*) after a sight indicates that it was part of the bus tour.
This popular beer hall is a booming tourist spot because you get a taste (literally) of German culture. It was founded in the late 16th century and is located within 20 minutes of Munich’s main train station, München Hauptbahnhof. The hall is very spacious and crowded, and it is not uncommon to share a table with people you don’t know. Order a Hofbräuhaus Original Beer and fried sausage served with sauerkraut, and you’ll be full until the next day.
The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is located in the center of Munich known as Marienplatz. It was built in 1908 and is part of Munich’s New Town Hall. The glockenspiel chimes every day at 11am to tell two popular German stories of which you can read about in more detail here. The entire show lasts about 12 minutes. I was surprised at how long it lasted after becoming accustomed to the Prague Astronomical Clock’s short 12-second hourly chiming. The glockenspiel is an impressive sight, and the show brings in a hefty tourist crowd.
This vast palace was founded in the 17th century to celebrate the birth of the Bavarian heir to the throne Max Emmanuel. It serves as the summer residence for the former rulers of southern Germany. We just stopped to tour the front of the palace because the gardens behind the residence could only be viewed with the purchase of a ticket. It was still a gorgeous sight to see, especially because a canal modeled after the waterways in Amsterdam leads right from the palace.
4. BMW World*
BMW World is located across from the BMW Group’s offices and is a short distance away from the Munich Olympic Park. It is a museum attraction that goes into the history of the company and features car displays, gift shops, and eateries. Although I don’t consider myself a car enthusiast, it was still worth the while to make a stop, especially since there was no entrance fee.
5. Allianz Arena*
This was the stop on the tour I was most excited about. Home of the football club Bayern-München, Allianz Arena is also the stadium that hosted some of the FIFA Men’s World Cup games in 2006. I grew up playing soccer in high school, so it was cool to see a professional team’s home stadium. For a fee, you can go onto the field. Unfortunately, we were crunched for time because of the bus tour departures, so we only saw the outside of the stadium and stopped at the gift shop.
I have always wanted to see an Olympic swimming pool. I don’t know what my infatuation is with this, but I guess it stems from my love of watching the swimming and diving competitions every four years. If I had known that you could also swim in the pool that played host to the competitions of the 1972 Summer Games, that would have been a top priority on the trip. But it was just as cool to set foot inside the swimming pool area. In addition to the pool, there is also the Munich Olympic Tower complete with observation deck to look out into the park. We didn’t go up it, but we admired from afar.
On our last night in Munich, we scoured the internet for a place to eat for dinner. We read great reviews of Steinheil Sechzehn, and it was a short walk from our hotel. As we came upon the restaurant, we realized it was a hole-in-the-wall type place with a small seating capacity and worn-in wooden tables. I learned quickly in Prague that it’s the restaurants that are off the beaten path that have the best local cuisine. I was hoping this would be the case in Munich.
I was right. All three of us ordered the Vienna-style pork schnitzel with potato slices and a side salad for an inexpensive price of 10.90 Euros. When the food came, I was blown away by the size of it. The schnitzel was as big as the plate it was served on, and the generous portion of fries that formed a bed for the schnitzel created this massive mound on the dish. Not only was it a huge portion, but it was also delicious and beyond filling. I paired the meal with a Strongbow Hard Cider, and I kid you not when I say I wasn’t hungry until the following afternoon.
Munich was full of interesting places, hearty food, and good company. I was sad to leave, but I knew that I had two more countries to go before my break ended.
Stay tuned for a post on part 2 of my journey featuring Zurich, Switzerland.