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Germany - Bavaria


A Karen Brown Recommendation
*Munich, the “gateway to Bavaria,” stars as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Locals refer to Munich as “the village” because it is compact and easily explored on foot with the aid of short trips on the clean and efficient U-Bahn and S-Bahn underground railway systems. Munich, a wonderful beer-drinking, music-loving city, rivals Paris and London with its excellent shopping, museums, cultural events, and plethora of things to see and do. You do not need a car during your stay here, so if Munich is your first German destination and you are arriving by plane, leave your large pieces of luggage at the luggage office at the airport, and travel downtown via the S-Bahn, returning to pick up your car and bags as you depart. Purchase a pass for the subway system: it’s a great deal and allows five adults, up to three children, and a dog unlimited U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus, and tram travel for 24 hours. A logical place to begin a tour is the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), a dynamic, lively place with tourist information, fast food, bookstore, bus terminal, and the convergence of many of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines. Walk out the front door of the station and head for the first square, the Stachus, whose official name is the Karlsplatz, after Elector Karl Theodor. The townspeople, however, had such a high regard for Foderl Stachus that they named the square after him in 1730. Leaving the Stachus, wander under Karlstor Gate (past McDonald’s and Burger King) and into the pedestrian zone of the old city, which is alive with fountains, fruit stands, ballad singers, and lay preachers. Off to the left, notice the Renaissance façade of St. Michael’s, and ahead, the twin turrets (square with rounded domes) of the Frauenkirche (cathedral), both a landmark and symbol of the city. *Marienplatz , the beautiful square that serves as the heart of Munich, is just a short distance farther. Tables and chairs spill from cafés well into the square dominated by the ornate, lacy, wedding-cake, golden-sandstone exterior of the *Neues Rathaus (town hall). When the clock on the town hall strikes 11 am, noon, or 5 pm, colorful figures emerge from around the clock to perform a jousting tournament. Awaiting the hour is a perfect excuse to frequent one of the little cafés in the squareTake a short walk off the square to Munich’s oldest parish church, Alter Peter, with its impressive 11th-century interior. Climb its tower for a panoramic view, which on a clear day extends to the Alps. Close by the Alter Peter church is the Viktualienmarkt, a permanent marketplace/beer garden full of stalls providing excellent, inexpensive things to eat. Head back towards the Marienplatz past the Speilzeugmuseum, a toy museum with lots of dolls and soldiers, along with a vast array of cars, planes, and trains, and onto the Tal. Munich is famous for its beer halls, which serve well-priced food, as well as huge quantities of beer, and at Tal 7, you find Weisses Bräuhaus with a sophisticated, pub-like atmosphere. If you are looking for oomp-pa-pa music, singing, joviality, and fellow tourists, the famous Hofbräuhaus is just a five-minute walk away. Head down the Tal, turn left on Hochbruchstrasse, turn left again as you face the Hotel Rafael, and you arrive at the enormous barn of a building that houses the *Hofbräuhaus . Row after row of rough-hewn tables and benches surround the musicians, and in summer, the merriment spills out to the tables and chairs set beneath the trees on the large patio. (Our favorite beer garden for a warm summer evening is found in the vast park *Englischer Garten near the Chinese pagoda.) There are three outstanding museums to visit: the Alte Pinakothek, the Residenz Museum, and the Deutsches Museum. The *Alte Pinakothek has an incredible collection of works by 14th- to 18th-century masters such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Brueghel, Goya, and Titian. To help you find your way around, the museum provides an excellent plan of the rooms organized by country and period. Start upstairs with the Dürers, Rubens, Rembrandts, and Italian masters then tackle the Brueghels and Germans on the ground floor. (Alte Pinakothek, Barer Strasse 27, U-Bahn 2; Neue Pinakothek, Barer Strasse 29, U-Bahn 2, 10 am–5 pm, closed Mondays.) The Deutsches Museum, often referred to as “Germany’s Smithsonian,” has a vast array of displays where you push buttons, turn wheels, and pull levers, making the serious subject of science and technology great fun. There are over 19 kilometers of displays, so you need to be very selective. The lack of explanation in English makes it frustrating for non-German speakers, though you can purchase a guidebook in English. (Located on its own island in the River Isar, S-Bahn to Isartorplatz, 9 am–5 pm, closed certain holidays.) The *Residenz Museum is so huge (over 100 rooms) that different tours are offered on alternating days. This was the enormous gilded home of the Wittelsbachs, who ruled Bavaria for more than 700 years. A separate ticket admits you to the Schatzkammer, a treasure house filled with the Wittelsbachs’ glittering crowns, jewelry, and knickknacks. (Located on Max-Joseph Platz, 3 blocks from Marienplatz, 10 am–4:30 pm, closed Mondays.) An easily accessible half-day trip from Munich is Hitler’s first concentration camp, *Dachau (1933). The barracks are gone but reconstruction gives an idea of the conditions prisoners had to endure. Around the perimeter fence the watchtowers still stand and a museum (unsuitable for children) exhibits, without compromise, what life was like here. You can view the crematorium ovens where over 31,000 people lost their lives, even though this was not primarily an extermination camp. A visit here is a very powerful experience, and the camp’s motto, “Never Again,” strikes home. Dachau is 45 minutes northwest of Munich. Take the S-Bahn 2 towards Peterhausen to Dachau and the 724 or 726 bus from outside the station. The driver knows where you are going and indicates when to alight. From here, it is a ten-minute walk following signposts for Konzentrationslager. When you leave, the bus will take you from just outside the camp gates back to Dachau’s train station. (9 am–5 pm, closed Mondays.) Fall, of course, translates as the Oktoberfest and many people from all over the world congregate in Munich to participate in the festivities. This happy, noisy celebration of sausage and hops begins in September and concludes on the first Sunday in October. The festival confines itself to a meadow in the southwestern part of Munich called the Theresienwiese.
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