If when you think of Germany you think of beer, Oktoberfest, pork knuckles and lederhosen, what you are picturing is Bavaria. Bavaria’s capital, Munich is a bit of a contrast to youthful, hipster Berlin, but it’s a beautiful city full of culture and meticulously restored architecture.
Although Munich definitely isn’t just about beer, we did indulge in a lot of the stuff whilst we were there – some are better than others, but overall it rivals Belgium’s fantastic beers in terms of quality. We tried Munich’s three most famous beer halls: Augustiner Gaststätten, Hofbräuhaus and Paulaner im Tal. Although all were great fun and had great beer the best was Augustiner Gaststätten, where we shared a table with a pair of exuberant (and rather drunk) Germans who quizzed us about our travels and Australia with many exclamations of ‘iiiiiiincredible!’.
On the free walking tour we saw many meticulously restored buildings – even a small canon ball, lodged in a wall during a previous war, was replaced in the exact same spot once the building was rebuilt. We also saw the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, a chiming clock with life-sized figures performing a royal wedding, joust and ‘cooper dance’. Our guides joked that it was one of the most underwhelming tourist attractions in Europe, but the sight of a huge square full of tourists with cameras, phones and iPads pointed determinedly at clock tower for close to ten minutes is hilarious enough to make it worthwhile.
Later we visited the Deutsches Museum, a massive museum full of eclectically mismatched exhibits on all facets of science and technology. Based on a tip we ventured into the basement level to see the mining exhibit – which turned out to be a labyrinth of dimly lit tunnels made to look like mines, complete with eery life-sized mannequins frozen in their work, completely devoid of any other visitors. After almost an hour of wandering and genuinely fearing for our lives, we eventually emerged into a well-lit environmental exhibit. It was probably one of the most bizarre and terrifying experiences of the whole trip. I recommend checking it out if you’re ever in Munich!
- At beer halls and some restaurants in Bavaria, unless you have a large group you will have to share a large table with other patrons rather than having your own. This usually leads to fun conversations – embrace it, or seek out a more expensive restaurant.
- A litre of beer is called a mass, not a stein (which actually just means stone and was somehow adopted into the English language rather than mass). The big glass feels very impressive, but unless you drink very quickly it will be warm by the time you get to the bottom. Our ‘iiiiincredible’ friends from Augustiner Gaststätten advised drinking multiple pints rather than mass (they were up to their twelfth when we sat down with them), to ensure a nicely chilled beer to the end.
- The very famous Hofbräuhaus is fun but definitely dominated by tourists, and personally I preferred the beer of Augustiner. However the wiesswurst (white sausage made of veal and pork served with sweet mustard) is definitely worth trying.