Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Travel | 24 hours in Munich

Our mission was a simple one. Get up. Reluctantly leave the gingerbread houses and terrifying peaks of GaPa. Take the reverse train of the one we took two days prior and make the best of less than 24 hours in Munich. A bit of a first world problem (hey, we could be doing a proper job) but a challenge nonetheless.

We did as much as we could. A quick cab from the central Hauptbahnhof train station meant we were in our excellently-located hotel at lunch. Located to the north near the Giselastrasse tube station, Schwabinger Wahrheit is a new addition to the Munich hotel scene (our cab driver didn't know it!) and thus is in unbelievably mint condition. Murals line the wall, the open restaurant just screams 'Look, I'm very modern and these free sweets are lovely' and the rooms are immaculate - fun printed walls, lush soaps and gels (think a German Cowshed), big comfy ol' bed and Velux windows with blackout blinds that may sound boring but really help if you're a light sleeper and staying in the heart of a city.

But bed would come later. This was Munich. Time to explore. Armed with a map and some suggestions from the hotel, we hired bikes (same deal as Boris Bikes or YoBike - download the app, enter numbers into your phone, ride, park, ride, park, pay about €12 for a day's freedom) and headed out. The hotel has four bikes to lend out. Unfortunately these had long gone by the time we arrived - no problem and you can understand why. Munich is a REALLY great city to see by bike - it's relatively small, flat with cycle lanes everywhere.

First port of call was the Englischer Garten - 78km of gorgeous green and blue. Europe's largest city park, it's chris-crossed with wide paths for walkers and cyclists, full of beautiful lakes surrounded by tea houses with places to wander and lose yourself. We circled the park, only stopping for inevitable selfies with passing flora/fauna. All points in the Gardens lead to the Chinese Tower - a facsimile of the Great Pagoda in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and filled with people taking refuge from the blazing sun and enjoying a carbs and liquid pitstop via a handy food court. Translated - a massive litre glass of lager and a pretzel the size of a house. Salad was also present but this is not a town for the greener side of life. But no time for a nap - back on the bikes! We left the park via the bridge at the 'bottom' near the Max Ernst Museum, stopping to watch the famous surfers. An artificial wave allows young wet suited men and women with straggly hair surf against the tides - it looks cool, it looks hard and you'd probably be best off walking down stream a bit and having a swim with the locals. Unlike us, pack a towel and your cossie - the water here is clean and on a hot day, it would be a day wonderfully wasted.

But no rest for us. Time to ride. With limited time, we took the decision to skip the many museums Munich has to offer - the likes of the Brandhorst Museum in the Maxvorstadt university district sounded amazing but we needed to see the city, not be stuck inside. We biked down through the tourist-heavy Theatinerstraße and to Sendlinger Tor, with three targets Biro-ed on our map. First, Asamkirche, a beautiful 17th century Baroque church teeming with frescoes and stucco. It's small, unbelievably lavish and will leave your brain reeling.

Second, the most Instagrammable cafe in the world as recommended by Porthjess. Cafe Playa is full of plastic flamingos, plants and flower arrangements and ridiculous chairs. It's ultra-kitsch fun, a welcome pop explosion of colour in a city and the perfect complement to Asamkirche. It also does a mean Aperol Spritz and who can want more than that?

Third? Kiehl's. The prices may not differ too much from the UK but the chance to experience the full range, buy a massive jar of Ultra Facial Cream and beg for samples was too good to miss. Retail fever took hold and, a quick ride through the Viktualienmarkt food district later, we ended up at Manufactum. Summary: the greatest department store in the world ever. Ballpens of the gods, lush tea towels, bath mats of dreams… Imagine all your favourite stationers, kitchen stores and minimalist clothing stores in one. If you're lucky enough to have been to Merci in Paris or Baileys in Ross-on-Wye, Manufactum is as good as that. Our haul? A melamine jug, a matching tray, some sweets, some soaps for our friends Nick and Alice, some Italian glue… Don't @ me, it's the best and smells like almonds!

Back on the bikes and a ride through the park back to our hotel. The Schwabinger Wahrheit has a fantastic rooftop jacuzzi and while it was getting late, we couldn't resist a dip before an incredibly relaxing sauna and a look at what is a very stylish gym (with zero intention of going in obvs - this is a holiday (kinda)).

Which left us an evening. Food hasn't been easy for a vegan in Bavaria (hence the beer-and-pretxel regime) but Munich has plenty on offer, with even the briefest Google throwing up plenty of options. We choose Thai and enjoyed a walk through the centre. Window shopping revealed some interesting fashion (this is a land of acid-washed black denim and sequinned Spandex hiking tops) but the town itself is beautiful - diverse architecture, plenty of green spaces and so clean. A city guide on a lifestyle blog is hardly the place for political discourse but with no homeless people sleeping in doorways, cycling friendly infrastructure, superb public upkeep and an underground, here is a city and a country representing the very best of what we'll be potentially missing post-Brexit.

And that, after a very sumptuous hotel breakfast and S train to the airport, should've been that. With our flight re-routed via Frankfurt, we got to spend a few more hours in the city before home.

Rearranging flights meant we got to spend time in Munich airport - not much fun, right? Wrong. Here is a defiantly new airport where the cafes aren't chains, the architecture is stunning and it's been designed to be a destination in itself, supporting and employing the surrounding villages.

The covered outside area hosts music and food festivals, live football screenings whilst the inevitable beer garden isn't just an excuse to over-charge for Foster's  - it has its own on-site brewery, with helles, pilsner and weisbiers for all tastes plus a steady flow of exclusive micro-brews to celebrate, well, whatever needs celebrating. In our case, a few more hours in Munich.

Last on the list? A quick trip back into the city, to meet Peter from the local tourist board who talked us round the the history of Marienplatz, including the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Taking a guide is really recommended here (especially one as knowledgeable as Peter) - like pretty much everywhere in Germany, the level of English is both extensive and impeccable. If you've slightly nervous about countries where you're not fluent, Germany is a stress-free visit.

And that is/was Munich. Next time (and we ARE going back), the museums of Maxvorstadt await, as does a lot more food sampling in Viktualienmarkt, the pebble beaches of the Deutsches Museum island, a home game at Bayern Munich (if Mike has his way) and, yes, probably an extra biergarten or seven. Whilst there are delights if you venture out, the town centre is compact and packed with diverse delights. Hire a bike, scribble on a map, get wonderfully lost and take your swimmers - with deeper delights way beyond the cliches of Oktoberfest, Munich is a feast for the eyes.

Want more? Read Part one: 24 hours in the Bavarian alps!

Disclosure: We were invited to experience this adventure by BMI airlines, who paid for our flight and accommodation plus some expenses. 
They did not pay me to write this review so you can be sure that my views are 100% accurate. 
Thank you for supporting the posts that make this blog possible. 

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