One year ago at a Thanksgiving Dinner I was hosting at my place, one of my monsooners from my 2016 Southern Africa trip and the 2017 Trans-Mongolian + Tibet trip, JC, brought over his new roommate Stephanie. She had just moved into NYC from her hometown of Munich and within a few months we would find out we’d share a scary number of unrelated, unconnected mutual friends from all over the world.
When I saw that I had a 22 hour layover in Munich on my way back home from Chisinau, Stephanie came to my rescue. This wouldn’t have been possible without her guidance.
But before I even start something crazy happened the moment I landed in Munich Airport. 3 months ago while hiking up Kotor Fortress I had made a friend named Terri from Australia, who since our chance meeting has been trying to come travel with us on our weekend trips to Slovenia and this very one to Moldova and Transnistria. However, neither came to fruition given her previously scheduled plans.
And alas, guess who I would run into the moment I landed in Munich Airport, on her one hour layover here?
Can’t make this up. It was meant to be, Terri!
After this chance meeting, Nick and I spent about a tortuous hour trying to locate our Uber before we were able to get into the city center at 4:30pm. We then checked into our accommodations at Gspusi Hostel before heading out into the cold, nasty rain. And to make things worse, we came in on a Sunday, which meant most places at this time would be closed.
Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to see in Munich so here’s the list of what we saw in order, making it all in 2 hours:
We started at Sendlinger Tor, an arched 14th century brick gate flanked by two towers that was part of the original city wall.
Asam’s Church, built in the 1700s and known for its baroque interior swathed in gold leaf.
200 year old Victuals Market boasting over 100 stalls.
Heiliggeistkirche, a 14th century Gothic church:
St. Peter’s Church, known for its tower overseeing the city:
The official city-center Square: Marienplatz and the neo-Gothic New Town Hall:
To the west is Frauenkirche, known for housing the Devil’s Footprint inside.
According to legend this was where the devil stood when he pondered and then ridiculed a windowless church. And in another treatment of the legend, the devil made a deal with the builder to build a church as long as it contained no windows. When the builder tricked the devil by placing columns to obstruct th e windows — which prevented the devil from entering the church — the devil stomped furiously at the foyer to which he could proceed no further.
A little more west of Frauenkirche is St. Michael’s Church, built during the Renaissance:
Turn back around so you don’t miss legendary beerhall dating back since the 16th century: Hofbräuhaus München.
Then head to Max-Joseph-Platz
…where to its north is 19th century Odeonsplatz, which is home to Feldherrnhalle, the19th-century Italianate monument to the Bavarian army & the site of Hitler’s 1923 Beer Hall Putsch:
…as well as Theatine Church…
A few blocks over and you can enjoy a calm respite within Munich Residenz…
…and with another 5 minute walk, Prinz-Carl-Palais…
From Prinz-Carl-Palais you can enter the English Gardens (Englischer Garten’s) to catch a sight of Eisbachwelle, a hotspot featuring year-round surfing on a continuous wave on the Englischer Garten’s Eisbach River. Even more north in the park is the Chinese Tower (Chinesischer Turm), where there’s a beer garden here. Unfortunately, the heavy rain and early sunset deterred us from seeing anything interesting.
If you’re in the English Gardens, exit from its west side to reach the Ludwig-Maximilian University Campus where in front is the poignant Weiße Rose pavement memorial in front of the main entrance (address: Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1)
Here members of the White Rose — including the Scholl siblings — who had distributed anti-Nazi leaflets in the university’s main atrium — were arrested by the Gestapo on February 18, 1943. They were subsequently interrogated and executed by beheading 4 days later. However, their efforts did not go down in vain as their final leaflet was smuggled to Allied troops and later dropped out of planes across Germany, leading to posthumous recognition of the group’s activities in the postwar era.
Inside is a church-like interior in Germany’s 6th oldest and highest-ranking universities.
Right behind the main building of the university is Verrückter Eismacher – an ice cream place featuring flavors such as sauerkraut, sausage, and beer:
Look left to see Siegestor, a famous 19th-century triumphal arch featuring a bronze sculpture of Bavaria with 4 lions.
Begin heading south and recharge at Pommes Boutique, arguably the best Belgian fries in Munich featuring 15 different sauces (and you can try as many as you want for as little as half a euro for each sauce!)
Then head further south to reach Karolinenplatz and walk back east to reach Wittelsbacherplatz to return to the city center.
And if you have any more time, check out Maximilianeu — home of the Bavarian State, and to your south south the majestic and towering Bavaria Statue. Too bad it was pouring rain throughout…so after a round of shisha at Babylon to celebrate a weekend well spent, we turned in back at our hostel.
Thanks for the tips Stephanie. Not bad for a few hours here during a cold, rainy Sunday in Munich!
And you too Terri. Munich how holds a special significance for me after what just happened with us at the airport.
- At time of posting in Munich, Germany, it was 8 °C -
Humidity: 85% | Wind Speed: 19km/hr | Cloud Cover: rain
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“…Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac
You’re going to miss…
You’re going to miss that first meal together, the seemingly unending introductions to the 16 other people you will spend the next 6 days with, the mental scramble to match faces to names and pictures from a blog.
You’re going to miss the butterflies before waiting to board airplanes going halfway around the world, those moments leading up to a trip promised to be filled with first-times and new experiences and unknowns.
You’re going to miss those first moments of dawning realization that barely a day into the trip you are already lost, navigating signs and subways in a language you can’t read, trying not to lose anyone in a city you know of only from the first scene of “Mission Impossible.”
You’re going to miss breaking bread over a belated Christmas dinner with new friends, followed by standing on random street corners trying to find a way to the supposed “spectacular” nightlife of Arcadia beach.
You’re going to miss arriving at a deserted carnival that is Arcadia in the dead of winter, suspecting that zombies might be lurking in the fog, but heading in anyway only to stand on a forsaken beach, staring off into an uncertain abyss over the Black Sea.
You’re gonna miss taking photos of yoga poses next to crashing waves before crashing a dance party for old people, and then passing out in an empty restaurant before assumingly missing the last tram back to the city and, to the chagrin of several curious Ukrainian locals, subsequently haggling down 4 taxis that could help you make it onto your overnight train to Kiev.
You’re going to miss waking up on a moving vehicle to a snowed-in Eastern European city and trying not to slip on ice-covered streets to get to your hostel before catching a 10:30am bus.
And you’re going to miss the 4 hour bus ride passing through barren Ukrainian landscapesduring which you finally found time to write in your journal, stopped by a roadside gas station to pick up cup ramen for lunch and a supply of cookies, meat chips, and candy that would last you for days. You’re going to miss eating the aforementioned ramen with coffee stirrers, and you’re going to miss belting out the lyrics of “Drops of Jupiter” before drifting off to sleep to the lyrics of “Just Breathe.”
You’re going to miss the feeling of knowing you are in the middle of nowhere, being unable to pinpoint where you are on a map, and juxtaposing the thought of being in universally-unknown Pervomaysky, Ukraine (did any of you know that was where we were?) with the thought of having just 2 days ago been in universally-known NYC.
And you’re going to miss the $12 steak dinner, the endless orders of beers, and the anticipation of participating in the next random Ukrainian drinking “tradition.”
“No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep.” – Anonymous
You’re going to miss the 4 hour dance marathon…
…and you’re going to miss waking up to the sight of one of your group leaders passed out on the floor next to a freshly opened beer bottle, that WTF moment when your hostel was raided by Kalashnikov-wielding cops looking for a massage because they mistook the place for an Asian brothel. And you’re going to miss realizing that you spent that 1 night when you had a proper bed by partying in Kiev instead, heading to bed a mere 3 hours before you headed out the door again.
You’re going to miss getting on the wrong train during your adrenaline-fueled rush from your hostel to catch buses that would take you to Chernobyl — the feeling of searching for a needle in a haystack in Kiev’s sprawling Independence Square, the uncertain dread of whether you’ve missed the opportunity to visit the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. And you’re going to miss that sigh of relief and a renewed belief in miracles when a stranger approaches you to ask if you’re looking for the Chernobyl buses, 35 minutes after you were supposed to be there.
And then you’re going to miss that second adrenaline-fueled dash to the bus station that night, that momentary panic when you count up your group and realize you’d left one of your compatriots behind, the relief at having him make his way to the bus station in time anyway (leading to jokes afterwards that never got old). And you’re going to miss biting into one of the 100 last-minute orders of shawarma sandwiches made at the bus station to hold you over on your 7 hour overnight ride, and you’re going to miss those late-night conversations about politics, race, sex, and civil rights.
You’re going to miss standing for an hour in the shivering cold while making crude jokes and waiting for the morning bus, telling horror stories on the way to Lviv’s train station, and spending the 3 hours before shops opened at one of the sexiest cafes you’ve ever stumbled upon.
You’re going to miss dancing in the streets to music blasting over speakers and you’re going to miss that awkward moment when a passerby gives you a 50 cent Ukrainian coin for your efforts.
And you’re going to miss wandering through Lviv with a local, warm from honey vodka shots required of you before you entered that password-protected underground bar, and buzzed from champagne popped at the top of a viewing tower overlooking the city to celebrate having just climbed a million flights of stairs (…and being in Ukraine!).
You’re going to miss taking photos in a random car at the top of a restaurant…
…and you’ll miss popping another bottle of champagne just in time for a fiery red sunset on High Castle Hill…
…and you’ll miss that last-minute costume party under a legendary opera house.
You’re going to miss trying to figure out the ‘Ukranian Bear’ as he cargoes you across the Ukrainian-Polish border at 1am in the morning, debating conspiracy theories as you’re told to wait in an interrogation room while your vehicle is searched in a sketchy garage.
You’re going to miss waking up in a new country after driving for hours, dumb to the awe of Wawel Castle at dawn as you get out of the van, taking over a nearby Sheraton bathroom – the nicest you’ve used in days – walking through atmospherically serene Krakow before anyone else is awake, and getting a rushed breakfast before scrambling for seats on a standing-room packed bus to Auschwitz.
And you’re going to miss the feeling of arriving back home, just in time to ring in 2013, just in time to reflect on 2012 and realize you ended the year with a series of 6 days that you’ll never forget.
But most of all, you’re going to miss the first time when it’ll hit you: that nobody else for the rest of your life will be able to understand what 17 strangers went through together in only 6 days.
And yes, most of all, we’ll miss each other.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill
We had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt after leaving Iran, which we made the most of despite being severely underslept. From the airport we took a 10 minute train ride (4 stops I believe) to the main area of Hauptwache.
Scatter up to the top of the Galeria Mall next to the Hauptwache train station to get some great views of the city:
From Hauptwache, head south towards the river, where you’ll pass by Frankfurt’s distinctive Römer square. It’s famous for its reconstruction of 6 old-school style buildings that was characteristic of Frankfurt before it was bombed out during World War II.
Römer square just got served
Inside one of the churches by Römer square
Keep heading south until you hit the River Main. Cross the bridge and let your heart flutter over the thousands of public displays of affections via literal “locks of love.” Each one is supposed to represent a real life star-crossed couple.
If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll come across a street fair. Shop and eat to your heart’s delight:
Throwback! Photo credit: Cynthia Koo
Nina gets a little excited over her childhood. Photo Credit: Cynthia Koo
We walked westwards for a bit before deciding to head back across the river to see the giant Euro in front of the European Central Bank and the remnants of the Frankfurt chapter of “Occupy Wall Street.”
The European Central Bank, "Occupy Frankfurt" and the Euro all just got served at the same time
And then it was back to Hauptwache before returning to the airport.
- At time of posting in Frankfurt / M-Flughafen, it was 12 °C -
Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: scattered clouds