Munich, Germany: The Precursor to Ireland
Even though my planned vacation for Eid 2017 was to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland, I made a stopover in Munich, Germany. Prior to deciding to make a stopover there, I had looked at every possible option of getting to Dublin in the most straightforward manner possible. Of all the options I looked at and investigated, the most reasonable option was to arrive in Munich on Saturday evening, spend Sunday in the city, and then hang out in the city until my flight to Dublin at 8:30pm on Monday.
Having a stopover in Munich was not my ideal choice, but I accepted it since all the other options either required extremely long layovers or cost more money than I wanted to spend. Plus, it wasn't too bad. If I had to have a long layover anywhere, I would take Munich over most other places. I had spent about three weeks in Munich and southern Germany 2 years ago when I took an intensive German course there. I was last there during Oktoberfest, and I was pleasantly surprised by the city. It is a beautiful place and definitely worth visiting again. Plus, it has a lot of things to see and do, so the possibility of getting bored is not likely.
I actually arrived late to Munich on June 24 due to a delay with boarding, and I got to the hotel around 8:30pm. Getting to the city from the airport was easy. I just made use of the train that took me right to the central station from the airport. From there, it was a very easy journey to the hotel and required only crossing the street and walking about 2-3 minutes.
The hotel I stayed at was literally across the street from Munich Hauptbanhof (Central Station), so I didn't have far to go. Anyone who has ever been to Munich has probably experienced this area. This is definitely the seedier part of Munich. It is a loud and dirty area with questionable characters all around drinking and shouting at each other. It is a place where I would not walk around late at night. Based on that type of environment, I also knew the quality of the hotels was not particularly good here. The first time I stayed in this area, I booked a room at one of the worst hotels I had ever stayed at. However, knowing the possibility of staying at a dud, I decided to book a hotel in this area for the convenience of being near the train station and within easy walking distance to the Old Town. In addition, the prices of these hotels tend to be somewhat reasonable for a more budget-minded traveler. However, it is important to realize that what you get in convenience, location, and price, you will probably lack in comfort.
The hotel I stayed at for this stopover was no exception. While the hotel was indeed right across the street from the station, it was very noisy from cars on the street and people talking in the bar next door at all hours. That didn't bother me so much since I always bring earplugs. Instead, the thing I was not expecting was the fact the hotel had no air conditioning and very little ventilation. This meant my room was a sauna and became stuffy very quickly, especially since the weather was in the 80s (20s in Celsius). Aside from the lack of air conditioning, the room was the size of a prison cell, and the single pillow in the room had seen better days. In addition, breakfast cost 14 euro, but luckily there are tons of food options around the area, so that was not too much of a concern. Now, based on my experience with hotels in this area, I was not surprised about this place, but I have stayed in worse places before, so I dealt with it and made note to try something different next time.
Originally, I planned on doing a day trip to another city during my free day in Munich hence my decision to stay in this area. However, one thing I did not anticipate was the weather. When I checked the weather forecast, rain was expected for pretty much all of the places I thought of visiting (Regensburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Ulm, Augsburg, and Salzburg). In addition to the questionable weather, it was also Sunday. This meant that if I wanted to visit some historical churches, I would no doubt have to wait forty-five minutes to an hour for services to be over before I could go in and check things out. Based on the weather and it being Sunday, I decided to forego my plan for a day trip. Instead, I decided to make the most of my time in Munich and see some sites.
Because it was Sunday, I decided to attend Mass at the Asamkirche, which is a church that was built as the private church for Egid Quirin Asam and his brother Cosmas Damian Asam. These two men were notable artists and designers during the 18th century, and one can see their works throughout the churches of southern Germany. I am not religious and rarely if ever attend religious services, but the Asamkirche is an absolute jewel of eighteenth-century sacred architecture. Because I was in the neighborhood, I figured it would be a relatively unique experience to attend Mass in a place like that since it is entirely unlike churches that are commonly found in the US.
I left the hotel at about 8:45am because I thought Mass would start at 9am, but it didn't. It actually started at 10am. Therefore, I arrived about 40 minutes early. During that time, I took some pictures of the interior and tried to get some unique shots and angles away from the eye of the assistant who was preparing everything for the service. I also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get pictures when the church was empty and not filled with people arriving for service or other tourists who wanted to take pictures.
When it was time for Mass to start, there was a sizable group of people (mostly elderly and middle-aged) that filled the church (it is a rather small space). The Mass itself was pretty typical, but since it was in German, I only understood bits and pieces. Strangely enough, I had a really difficult time understanding the priest, but I had a significantly easier time understanding the two readers since they spoke very clearly and relatively slow. When the Mass was over, the rain had started, so without a jacket or umbrella, I started walking and soon found myself inside the Michaelskirche (Church of St. Michael) about one street over.
The Michaelskirche is a significantly larger church that was absolutely packed with people (standing room only). I first wondered why it was so crowded since as far as I knew, it was not a religious holiday, such as Easter or Christmas. I then saw why it was so crowded. The Archbishop of Munich and Freising was leading the Mass, and a full choir and orchestra was providing the music for the service.
I really did not want to stick around for another Mass. One Mass at the Asamkirche was enough. However, it was pouring rain, and I had no umbrella. I had two choices. I could either stick around and dry off or start walking in a downpour in the general direction of the Bayerische Nationalmuseum (I was not 100% sure of the way, and I didn't have a map). Faced with those choices, I stuck around to dry off for a bit. After the Mass concluded (2nd one of the day), I walked around the church for a bit, took in the decorations, and figured out my next move before heading off into the rain again.
To make a long story short, before the rain ended in the early afternoon, I had stopped into two other churches to dry off (Frauenkirche) and (Theatinerkirche) on the way to the Bayerische Nationalmuseum. By then, I had had my fill of religious sermons in German, so I didn't stay for those entire services. After I came out of the Theatinerkirche, I was right by the Muencher Residenz, which was the royal palace of the Wittelsbach family. I still was not entirely certain of the location of the museum (I knew it was around this area but not exactly where), so I headed to the Residenz Museum. I had visited here a couple years ago and was quite impressed with what I saw at the time, so I decided to visit again. I'm definitely glad I visited that place again. It proved to be a nice substitute for the Bayerische Nationalmuseum since it provided a mix of art and history. Plus, it allowed me to get out the rain for an hour or so.
After I finished visiting the Residenz, the rain had completely stopped, and the sun started to shine. By this time, I was not sure I still wanted to go to the Bayerische Nationalmuseum or Alte Pinakothek, so I decided to walk around and find something else to do. While I was walking through the Marienplatz, a brass band started to play, and a procession of young and middle-aged men in traditional Bavarian tracthen and women in dirndls made their way through the crowd. I watched them for a bit then went on my way.
Strangely enough, I found myself at the Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter), and sure enough a Mass was in progress, but this one was different. The people from the procession I saw about 15 minutes prior had ended up here as well. All the pews were filled, and the men and women in traditional Bavarian clothing stood in front the entire time while the priest essentially lectured them and everyone else sitting in the pews about who they wanted their God to be. Based on my limited understanding of German, the priest asked them at one point if they wanted the god of money or the god of love in their life? The priest also said a lot of other things, but frankly...at the 30 minute mark of his sermon, he was still going, and I had become completely lost and disinterested in what he was saying.
This Mass at the Peterskirche was just as crowded, and even though I really didn't want to attend another Mass, I was curious as to what this was for, so I stood in the back with other tourists and leaned against a kneeler which I very nearly tipped over in the middle of the service. Generally, during these religious services, pictures are not permitted, and this one was no different. In fact, during the service, an absolute hound dog of a custodian continually held up a card with a camera and red "X" through it to anyone and everyone who came in and waved it in their faces and right in front of their cameras. He even came up to me after awhile for simply checking the time on my phone and waved the little sign he was carrying in my face. I put the phone back in my pocket and said "Nur die Zeit" (Only the time). After this Mass ended (5th in one day), I was completely "churched out" and exhausted from interpreting the German of priests who were difficult to understand and long-winded. It was definitely a mental exercise, but I surprisingly remembered a decent amount.
On my second day in Munich, I was scheduled to fly to Ireland, but that wasn't until the night. Therefore, I decided to spend the morning and early afternoon at Nymphenburg Palace, which was the main residence of the Wittelsbach family, who were the previous rulers of Bavaria. I had been here before a couple years ago and fell in love with it, so I that meant I definitely had to make a visit again. For me, even though I had been here before, this was a must-visit attraction, and it was something I could not leave Munich without doing. In fact, one of the big reasons why I decided to make the stopover in Munich was for the opportunity to visit the Palace again.
I would have done this on my first day in Munich, but since it was pouring rain for the better part of that day, it was not going to happen, especially since most of the time would be spent outdoors and without an umbrella. Plus, the rain and clouds would not have been conducive for good photo ops. However, on this day, the weather was beautiful and ideal with a high of about 80 and a nice refreshing breeze. You couldn't ask for better weather to visit the palace. There were hardly any clouds in the sky. Not only was it comfortable, but the ideal weather presented the opportunity to take some great photos.
Getting to the Palace is quite easy. From where I stayed, all you do is take Tram 17 from Munich Hauptbanhof to the Schloss Nymphenburg stop. It couldn't be easier, especially since the tram drops you off literally right in front. Plus, it is only a 20-25 minute ride, so it is definitely not far. In fact, it's actually a very pleasant ride.
However, there was a bit of a problem while I was on the tram. I had bought a ticket, but I forgot to validate it. As luck would have it, after about 2 stops two men came on in plainclothes. Once the tram started moving, one of the guys got up, flashed his ID, and made an announcement. It was a surprise inspection to make sure everyone had tickets. I was not worried since I had a ticket, but once I realized that I had forgotten to validate it, I knew it would be a 60 euro fine. I gave the guy the ticket, he took it, and I expected to have to pay 60 euro due to my forgetfulness. However, he simply took it, validated it in the machine, and gave it back to me. No fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. Of all the times I had taken public transport in Munich, this was the first time I had experienced a ticket inspection. I had always heard about it but never experienced it until that time. I definitely got lucky this time. Maybe it was because he knew I was a tourist when I tried to tell him in my broken German that I had forgotten to validate it. He either didn't care or felt sorry for me. Regardless, I got saved 60 euros, so I definitely was not going to complain. It could have been worse, and I could been 60 euros poorer for a mistake I should not have made.
The rest of the ride ran smoothly and within twenty minutes or so, I was in front of Schloss Nymphenburg. Once I got there, I immediately went past the ticket area and immediately into the garden area, which is free for people to walk around, ride bikes, and relax. My main goal was to get some good shots facing the length of the grounds while there were few people around. Part of the plan worked. Because it was still early, there were not many people out and about, but since it was still early, the sun cast a large shadow, so I knew that I would have to wait for awhile. Luckily, it was only a few minutes to opening time, so I hung out in the shade near the ticket office until it was time to go in.
Since this is one of my favorite places to visit, I bought a combination ticket that gave me access to the main palace and the five smaller garden pavilions (Pagodenburg, Badenburg, Magdalenklause, Amalienburg, and the Monopteros) located throughout the grounds at relatively sizable distances from each other. These smaller pavilions were essentially relatively isolated places for members of the royal family to relax. For someone who has never been here, it definitely worth buying a ticket to enter them. They are small and don't take long to look around in. However, for someone who has visited them before, I would say that out of the five that can be accessed, only Amalienburg is particularly impressive in terms of its decoration.
Because the grounds of Schloss Nymphenburg are so large and spread out, it honestly feels like you are in the middle of the countryside. It is hard to believe that you are right in the middle of the city. In some ways, it can be seen as the Central Park of Munich. During my time at Nymphenburg, I visited the different garden pavilions and took in the peace and quiet of the area. However, there was one thing always on my mind. Sweat.
My flight to Dublin was at 8:30pm. I originally considered requesting a late check out, making a visit the Palace, returning to the hotel, showering and changing clothes to be fresh for the rest of the day. However, I didn't want to pay extra for a late checkout at the hotel (the option was subject to availability), so I made the decision to check out of my room at 8:30am. This was fine, but even though the weather was very comfortable, and there was a nice breeze, I still began to sweat, and I could feel the back of my shirt getting wet. While I was walking from one area to the other, I tried to develop a plan. I didn't want to be too sweaty since I would be uncomfortable, sticky, and smelly on the plane. Therefore, I figured I would go about my day as usual, and if absolutely necessary I could change clothes in a bathroom stall either in the hotel lobby bathroom or in the airport. Doing that would require some acrobatics in a tight-fitting space, but I knew I could do it.
After I finished my visit to Nymphenburg Palace, I felt as if I could leave Munich fulfilled since I had seen everything I wanted, and this was the must-visit attraction for me. Not only had I seen the Palace on a picture perfect day, but I also got to see and photograph many of the sites in the city as well.
I returned to the hotel and spent about half and hour in the lobby in order to recharge my phone and figure out what I wanted to do next. It was still early in the afternoon, but I decided to head to the airport. Even though I knew how to get to the airport via the trains, I completely made a mistake. I indeed got on the correct train to the airport, but for whatever reason, I got the idea that it was the wrong and got off at a halfway point without thinking.
Once I alighted, I realized what I had done and felt somewhat stupid, but it didn't matter. I was in no hurry. I ended up having to wait another twenty minutes for the next train. However, this was a not a problem since I had more than enough time to kill. Eventually, I got to the airport and kicked around the terminal for a couple hours while waiting for check in. The whole process was smooth with no problems, but if I have to be honest, I found Munich Airport to be relatively confusing and difficult to find one's way around. This was especially true while trying to find the Atlantic Lounge.
The flight to Dublin on Aer Lingus, which is the national carrier of Ireland, was uneventful and comfortable, especially since I lucked out and got an entire row to myself (highly unusual). We got into Dublin at about 9:30pm, and of course it was pouring rain and cold. In addition, since Ireland is pretty far north relative to most of the US, it only looked to be about 8:00pm with plenty of light out even though it was approaching 10pm. That didn't bother me though, I had been up since 4am with little rest, so I definitely needed some sleep. Even though I was tired, I was extremely happy and grateful. I had made it to Ireland, and it became my 69th country.
Overall, Germany was a nice precursor to Ireland, and aside from the hotel in Germany which left much to be desired in terms of comfort and rainy weather on Sunday which cancelled my day trip plans, everything went pretty smoothly. Please stay tuned as I check out Ireland.