On our final full day, we decided to spend the day in Munich like good tourists. Colette would provide the oohs and aahs and I would provide the photographic memories. Drop the luggage at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport, drop the rental car at the airport, and catch the S-bahn train into the city. A good plan.
There are 2 S-bahn trains that run from the airport into the city, S1 and S8. Be careful though – the S1 splits going from Munich to the airport, with the front half of the train going to the airport and the back half going elsewhere. That could certainly put a kink into your travel plans if you’re not prepared for it! The trains are impeccably clean, amazingly quiet, and a joy to ride. Quick and efficient, I wish that we had something this well executed in the States.
The Marienplatz exit puts you (amazingly enough) right under the popular Marienplatz in the heart of downtown Munich. It’s amazing how quickly your day changes from the sterile spartan airport to the quiet train to the sensory overload that is downtown Munich. Walking up the subway stairs immediately transports you into an entirely different world – throngs of people and the noise that accompanies them, buildings stretching into the sky, street performers, the sights sounds and smells that can only be a major European city.
Your first few minutes are spent gawking at the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall), trying to take in the sheer size, the expanses, and the intricate Gothic Revival architecture. Once you’ve managed to wrap your mind around the outside, spend the $2.50 to take a quick elevator ride up the tower for a 360 degree view of the city. There are numerous displays around the perimeter of the viewing platform to help you identify the various buildings and elements of the city, and the open deck provides a great spot to shoot a few photos for the day’s collection.
Luckily enough most of the things on our agenda were within a short walk, and we ruled out the two others which were a much greater distance – the Isartor (a famous city gate) and the English Gardens. While both were worth seeing, our short time window and spotty weather relegated them both to ‘also ran’ status, worth seeing sometimes equates to worth saving for the next trip. You have to see the Hofbrauhaus, the Viktualmarket, and the other popular tourist spots – there’s a reason that they’re popular!
A late lunch and German beers (which I personally think pale in comparison to many of the fine craftbrews that we have available here) at one of the many restaurants in the Marienplatz square area provides a tremendous people-watching opportunity if that’s your cup o’ tea. Or beer. From the soccer fans all decked out in their regalia and authentic german outfits to the locals doing their high-end shopping to the wildly trendy and eclectic European fashion, it’s quite a bit like the lions, the tigers, the bears, oh my. You will not be disappointed.
Finish up lunch just in time to catch the 5pm showing of the glockenspiel in the City Hall. The most popular tourist attraction certainly attracted the crowd en masse today, and Mother Nature exacted a cruel toll upon them. At 4:55pm, the drizzle started. At 5:00pm it started dumping. If the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, well then the rain in Munich falls mainly on the tourists waiting for the show. Luckily we planned ahead with hats and umbrellas, so we were not the miserable ones in the crowd.
Since the rain didn’t look to be letting up anytime soon, another quick silent ride back on the S-bahn to the airport and another short ride on the hotel shuttle put us back at the hotel far too early. Despite having run ourselves hard with a very hectic schedule for the last week, we forced ourselves to stay up until 10:30 watching a few movies to start our time zone acclimation back to Eastern Standard Time.
All in all, a very satisfying trip. We came, we saw, we crossed some of the big things off our list. The entire experience really helps us visualize our next European trip – the places, the people, the culture.