Often times work travel can be a drag filled with all sorts of lovely surprises, like delays and bad weather. Luckily there are some good trips were I can find some time or extend my stay to explore a new city... this was one of those trips.
During my few days in Munich, I found it is an ideal place to travel solo and still enjoy the company of others. It does require you, or at least me, to step out of my comfort zone, but Munich made it easier. Munich is famous for being the home of Oktoberfest and Biergärtens (beer gardens) and there is no shortage of beer gardens. There are twenty major ones with at least one thousand seats (yup... 1,000 seats) and a number of smaller beer gardens. I was able to make it to three of the more famous ones in Munich: Augustiner-Keller (a local favorite), Chinesischer Turm (Munich's second largest beer garden with 7,000 seats) in the Englischer Garten (a lovely huge park), and the Hofbräuhaus (the tourist favorite built in 1589 by Bavarian Duke Maximilian that was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt in 1958). Beer gardens are central to Munich’s culture and according to Wikipedia serve as a “melting pot for members of all walks of life, for locals, expatriates and tourists alike.” I would have to agree with that idea, although I didn’t actually get to meet any locals, I did get to meet an interesting group of Swedish men and an Austrilian solo traveler. Anyone who knows me is probably surprised by that notion, but beer gardens are designed to force you to be friendly and make you talk with new people. Anyone who has been to an American beer garden understands the concept, but probably goes with a group of friends and doesn’t talk to anyone else. When you travel alone and walk into these massive beer gardens it can be overwhelming, they are always filled with people and finding a place to sit can send you back to the first day of high school, walking slowly trying to find your place at a table. In my case, I was often forced by a usually rainy weekend to run to cover and find a seat. Often leading to a fun few beers, mostly raders (aka shandys) for me, with complete strangers.
In Munich I did more than just drink in beer gardens. I took a 3 hour walking tour around Munich (that is free, you just need to tip the guide) with Sandemans. I like to take walking tours around a new place, especially when I travel solo, I find it is a good way to get to know a little bit about the city and it can make it easier to find your way around, you might even be able to meet other travelers. After learning a bit about the city of Munich and its history during my tour I decided to stop by the Pride parade, which turns into a huge party in the street. I had no idea the Pride parade was that weekend, but I am glad I was able to experience it, the people of Munich know how to party. After watching the parade for a bit, I headed to the Englischer Garten.
The Englischer Garten is a huge park in the center of Munich. It was first created in 1789 and has been expanded and improved over the years. The park is massive, 1.4 sq miles or 910 acres, making it one of the world's largest urban public parks. Touring the park requires its own day or maybe even more, so I decided to walk through a section of the park hitting a few spots of interest. My first stop was the surfers on Eisbach River. It was quite unreal to see people surfing on a river, not to mention a river in the middle of Germany. According to my tour guide, any time any day, whether it is in the middle of the night or during a midwinter snow storm, the surfers are on the river catching the endless waves. After watching the surfers and taking a few photos, I headed to the Chinesischer Turm beer garden. This is quite an interesting beer garden that is a five tier wooden Chinese Tower right in the middle of Munich.
Zugspitze & Eibsee
After my day of touring the city of Munich and it’s beer gardens, I decided I wanted to spend the day in the Alps to enjoy the beautiful scenery that Germany has to offer. After a not so quick google search, I decided on Zugspitze (the highest peak in Germany). Zugspitze is about two hours outside Munich. It lies south of the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the Austria–Germany border runs over its western summit. After a lot more searching and researching, I finally figured out how to get to Zugspitze. If you are ever in Munich and interested, there is something called the Zugspitze Ticket that you need to purchase at the Munich Central Station (München Hbf), it's about 70 euros and includes all the tickets/passes you need for the day. Based on my understanding (which could be wrong) and depending on the time of the year there are only a number of trains that go so check the schedules and don’t miss your trains. In short, you can take the DB train from Munich Central Station (München Hbf) to Garmisch-Partenkirchen Station. The landscape transforms about 30 minutes into the hour and a half train ride. Once you get to Garmisch-Partenkirchen you need to take the cog railway either to Eibsee lake or all the way to the top. If you have the time the cogwheel train is supposed to be a beautiful hour long ride up the mountain side, I was trying to beat the bad weather and so I took the cable car from Eibsee to the peak which takes about five minutes.
Once I was at the peak it is quite breathtaking. It had just snowed before I arrived and even with the dense clouds and looming bad weather, it was a view I’ve never seen before. On a clear day you can see the Swiss Alps in the distance.
After viewing the peak from the safety of the observation deck (you can climb to the peak, but I wasn’t too willing in the icy snow and without proper shoes) I took a quick cable car to Gletscher. Gletscher is one of Zugspitze’s three glaciers. Here you will find the cutest outdoor beer garden / cafe, a good place to enjoy a coffee, beer, or lunch and take in the views. You can also wander around this portion of the mountain and don’t need to be a hiker to enjoy it. You’ll find, at almost 3,000 metres above sea level, a little chapel, Maria Heimsuchung, built in 1981 by Pope Benedict XVI. There is also sledding for children and I think adults if you want to have a little fun sledding on a glacier.
After a few hours of wandering around, I took the cable car back down to Eibsee lake. Here you will find a lovely walking trail around the perimeter of the lake with endless views of the crystal clear blue water and Zugspitze. If it's summer, you can even go for a swim in the lake. I was extremely disappointed I didn’t bring a bathing suit.To end the day, I had a nice dinner with a view of the lake at Eibsee-Pavillon. I hope to make my way back so I can spend more time exploring the area and stay at what seems to be a lovely lakefront hotel (Eibsee Hotel).