A couple of weeks ago I shared the beer festival experience in Bavaria. Man cannot live on beer alone (no matter how hard he tries) and we spent the rest of our visit to Munich trying some of the other sights.
We never ate in the hotel in the evening. We may have been missing something special but somehow I like to enjoy the experience of getting out and exploring however possible. We did eat breakfast however. The continental breakfast buffet is always a bit of a challenge. Quite honestly I don’t know what to do with one. I like a breakfast and I’m not tied to the Full English by any means. The problem I have is that none of the German specialities do it for me. Essentially we are talking about breads and wurst. The breads are fine but quite honestly I’d rather have the bread rolls. The wurst are, to the ignorant, a bit of a lucky dip. The least appealing are the ones which ‘shine’ and the textures of some of the promising ones just make me think of supermarket Billy Bear slices (parents will know what I mean). The yoghurt is generally pretty good along with the surrounding fruits and mueslis. The pastries are reliable though and my default is black coffee with croissant and honey. There are two great things to be said about the breakfast at the altogether very good Hotel Concorde: 1. Lots of choice and regularly refreshed 2. €7! All those greedy hotels in Britain charging utterly ridiculous prices for frankly mediocre breakfasts should pay attention. My daughter joined us for breakfast on a couple of occasions and she was charged €7 for the privilege – fantastic.
Day Two was a bit wet and so our planned picnic quickly changed to an Indoor day. In the morning we visited the Aramskirche – an extraordinary small rococo interior which is hugely ornate and quite frankly a bit bonkers. We spent a while taking it in and dodging the drunk molesting all the visitors. We then visited the Neue Pinotek. I like an art gallery but for me the attractions of the Alte Pinotek with its old masters was far outweighed by the more modern stuff. In Paris the Louvre left me cold but the Musee Dorsee was much more enjoyable. The building itself is beautiful – a modern white interior with a huge round glass ceiling to a central core to the building. Off it run broad corridors on two levels. The galleries weave through three concentric rings which gives the gallery great flexibility in how to show some collections. We spent three hours there and didn’t get round half of the work. We began with an exhibition of design in the basement. It displayed everything from cars and motorbikes to furniture, technology and worked its way through tableware. It was a great reminder about the timelessness of good design. We then went through an exhibition about architecture. This was quite hard to follow because it was all in German but the models and the preparatory sketches for schools and tower blocks were interesting even though some of the buildings are eyesores today in some people’s view. We had a quick bite in the gallery cafe – homemade cakes and a peppermint tea – a nice setting but unremarkable. A dip into the galleries had a fascinating section on the art of the Nazis, a superb Picasso collection and a really well presented installation by an artist using light and shadows projected on to simple line drawings on white walls – very clever.
We’d done a lot of walking and so we stayed close to home to eat in the evening. We went to the Tegernseer Brauhaus which is a much smaller affair than the big Hofbräuhaus. It serves good beer but also the food is a little more thoughtful and better presented. I played safe with a very good Wiener Schnitzel served on a potato salad with horseradish. The schnitzel was lovely and crisp. The meatballs were pronounced very good but the highlight was the Grostl which featured egg, dumplings, pork, duck and mushrooms. We really enjoyed the simple food cooked well and the Brauhaus atmosphere. We enjoyed it so much we went back to the Tegernseer Brauhaus again for dinner the following evening and this time I had the suckling pig while the pick of the selections was the roast beef with a wonderful earthy coarse onion sauce. Germany vs Scotland was on the TVs and it was nice to see a large restaurant work as a pub as well as eating place. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the
brauhauses. Who wouldn’t like simple food cooked well alongside excellent beer in a really friendly and sociable environment.
The third day was planned at the very last minute. We booked a New Munich tour to Schloss Neuschwanstein. This is the work of King Ludvig I of Bavaria who, after a tough childhood retreated into the Bavarian countryside and built a castle on the top of a mountain in stunning Bavarian countryside. It is decorated like a mediaeval castle painted with scenes from Wagner’s operas. It was never finished because of a money shortage and the premature death of the King in mysterious circumstances while he was under arrest. The tour took us on a two and a half hour train journey from Munich through beautiful farmland to Fussen close to the Austrian border. From there we got on a short bus ride to the village at the foot of the mountain. Our guide Hein suggested we visit the little cafe nearby before the climb and this was a good choice. Our chef patron cooked wurst on a griddle with heavy metal playing loudly – very incongruous. The sausages were fantastic as well as inexpensive and set us up for the slow walked ascent to the top. Hein stopped a few times along the way to tell us King Ludwig’s tragic story as horse drawn carts conveyed tourists past us. The castle looks far less attractive up close than at a distance. It is made of a light stone that looks like a Disney film set. We did the tour round the interior but it was all a little artificial and tacky for my taste. The views though are breathtaking and worth the admission just for that. The view from the balcony looking down on the town and lakes is wonderful (shown at the top of this blog). On the way back we stopped at the lakeside hotel for a weissbeer, hot chocolate and an Almdudler which is a herby soft drink that is clearly the wasp’s favourite. It reminded me a little of some thyme cordial I made.
The journey back was just as straightforward and allowed us to pull into Hauptbahnhof which was the station the migrants from Syria were arriving at (making pretty much the same final journey we were). Seeing the welcome barriers, banners and people ready to greet the new arrivals was fascinating and a real contrast to the reporting by CNN we were watching in our hotel in the evening. Germany sees migration as a solution to the aging population and pension liabilities – not as a threat to sovereignty. There was no real sense of the event in Munich as a whole other than it being the greeting point acting as ambassador for the rest of Germany. Even more of a contrast was the outrageous reporting in the UK which talked of swarms of migrants invading the country. Reporters these days seem to report a version of events they think their readership want to hear…not in my name.
On our final day we headed to the Viktualenmarket which is a large square covered in permanent market stalls. We planned our picnic and bought some local Weisswurst, Allgau cheese, fruit and a roast ox sandwich. We are still not sure which bit of the ox was in the bread but it was pronounced tasty. We then caught the U-bahn to the English Garden and settled down on the grass for a lazy sunny afternoon. The English Garden was based on Hyde Park and it is huge. There are beer gardens within it but it probably most famous these days for the surfers who show off for the crowd on a wharf near the edge of the park. The food was good. The Weisswurst must be good because a runaway Yorkshire terrier tried to pinch it despite the cries of its owner.
We really enjoyed Munich and Bavaria. This was my second visit and I would like to go to Germany again to learn a bit more. The food is not exceptional and an absolute car crash for the vegetarian. It is intertwined with the culture and the beer however and all the better for it.