Wednesday, May 9, 2012

i fell in love. again.

Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz in Munich, Germany

I'm going to use this post to declare my love for Munich. Munich, Germany is decidedly my favorite European city. Up until this time I have seen Paris, Madrid, Zurich, Athens, Milan, Siena, Brugge, and Ljubljana as well, but none top Munich, which I have now visited twice. My first visit in 2008 with my high school Euro tour, I did not expect to love Munich as much as I do. I had predetermined Italy and France as my favorite countries, but was taken by surprise after the trip, when I realized how much I wanted to go back to Munich.

Inside the Hippodrome beer tent
We planned the trip around "Springfest", known as Frühlingsfest in German, which is the spring equivalent of Oktoberfest, but on a much smaller scale. I visited with my roommate, who hadn't yet visited Germany. I was so excited to show her a city that I had fallen in love with 4 years ago. We lucked out with the trip as well: we were able to escape the Parisian gloom and rain that has been plaguing the city for weeks in the hot, German sun. It was 75-80 degrees and sunny most of the weekend, and we soaked it up. We ate döner kebabs, potatoes, and lots of bratwurst. We also tasted a lot of different beers, as the city unites itself around this hoppy beverage.

Wheat beer at Schneider Weisse

One of the highlights of the trip was our beer & brewery tour. We visited Schneider Weisse first, a brewery based on wheat beers. It is no longer considered a "Munich" beer as their brewery is outside the city limits, and can no longer serve at Oktoberfest because of this, but is still a popular beer in Munich and is served at several restaurants, including their own. Munich is said to have the best beers in the world, partly due to having some of the purest water in the world which doesn't add to or change the flavor of the hops and wheat. The wheat beer was very good, and then we moved to Paulaner, a very popular beer in Munich. There we were able to visit their microbrewery (separate from their large brewery with brews tens of thousands of liters of beer per day) which only produces one to three thousand liters per week. We were able to see the beer-making process, taste the barley which is cooked at different temperatures and lengths of time for different flavors, smell the hops, and then taste three different Paulaner microbrews: a lager, wheat, and dark wheat beer. It was hard to pick a favorite, but the dark wheat was the most interesting. Then we got on the U-bahn and headed to Hofbräuhaus, the most famous beer hall in Germany. It is not only a social center, but holds historical significance as well as it has been used for many political speeches, most notably by Adolf Hitler. It is said that beer halls are used for these speeches as all classes of citizen are there from the lower to the upper. Additionally, research was done in the 1970s that people are more easily influenced when drinking alcoholic beverages (a surprising find, don't you think?)

Linderhof Castle

We also spent time at the Frühlingsfest carnival (described as 'cheap' by some Germans, but I felt like I was in the US for a few minutes so I didn't mind) riding the rides. Saturday we visited the Linderhof Palace, about an hour outside of the city. It was built by King Ludwig II who was obsessed with Versailles and the French court, so everything in the palace was styled in the same manner, and the only portraits in the palace are of French royalty, but no pictures of him or his family. On Sunday we visited Dachau, which I had visited in high school, but was still just as moving as the first time. Throughout the weekend we also spent some time at the Viktualienmarkt, a large market place near the town center with stands upon stands of fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, bratwurst and beer. Its a great place to go to find a cheap brat or beer for lunch and sit under the trees among the locals. Our last day was spent walking through the Englischer Garten, an English style garden on the northeast side of the city. A river runs through it, the paths wander in and out of trees and grassy fields, everyone is reading a book or riding a bike, and of course in typical Munich fashion, there is a beer garden right in the middle by the Chinescher Turm, a large Chinese structure.

Meadow in Englischer Garten

I cannot express my love for Munich in simple type-written words. Even in person amid my emotional hand gestures, squealing tone of voice, wiggling in my seat and exclamations of joy at every memory, you probably still wouldn't understand just how deeply in love with this city I am. Its more than the buildings, the food, or the people. Its the way of life, a freshness in the air, a pulsing through my veins I felt when I stepped out of the train. This almost-high I had the entire trip is inexplicable. Munich is comfortable. It is welcoming and feels like home immediately. Before I left I was counting the days until my return. Until next time Munich, know you have my heart.

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