Sunday, July 20, 2014

Deutschland: Part II - Munich

Our second and favorite stop on our tour across Germany was Munich. Munich is the capitol of the southern state of Bavaria (I didn't even know Germany had states!). Munich is also the third largest city in Germany, but it definitely didn't have the same "big city feel" that we noticed in Berlin.

Munich is most well known for their beer, and specifically for Oktoberfest. Most of the beer we drank came in these large one liter mugs like these:

We also had lots of really large pretzels, like this one:

Generally, we found the food in Germany to be pretty simple, with minimal seasoning. Many things were served with minimal preparation. Restaurant food in the US seems very "dolled up" by comparison, with heaping spoonfuls of salt and sugar. The food in Munich seemed especially hearty. Many dishes consist of meat and some sort of starch, like this one with a potato dumpling:

Here's another example of schnitzel and potato salad:

Another interesting food-related observation was this thing called "steckerlfisch", which is simply a roasted fish on a stick. These were typically sold at little stands in beer gardens. The fish is either trout, mackerel, or fingerling. I was really curious about trying one, but I wasn't sure how to eat it! On the last day of our trip a german girl that we were sitting with at a beer garden bought one and was eating it with a little wooden utensil that resembled a popsicle stick with prongs. She was kind enough to let me try a bite, and it was actually really tasty as long as you don't mind the fish staring back at you while you eat it!

One of the coolest things about Munich is that they have a spot on one of the rivers that has been engineered to have a standing wave that you can surf! There's a nice article about the history of the wave in Munich here:

Being the huge nerd that I am, I had to check out the Deutsches Museum, which is the world's largest science and technology museum. This place was incredible, and it was so big that we couldn't explore it all. I wish we had set aside two days to explore this place. There was an entire hall dedicated to lasers and holograms, but by that point we couldn't take anymore science and had to go do something else.

A large portion of the museum is about various vehicles, such as boats, planes, and spaceships. The life-size exhibits included many odd and interesting prototypes to illustrate the history of how these things have developed over the last few hundred years.

Another part of this amazing museum that caught my eye was the section dedicated to musical instruments. The first section was all about piano-like instruments. I had no idea that there were so many different mechanisms for hitting or plucking a string. There was one great exhibit that showed all these different mechanisms (there must have been over 30 of them), and you could hit a button to activate each one and see how they worked. Many of the pianos were incredibly ornate, and had keys capped with ivory or abalone shell.

The second half of the musical instrument exhibits were all sorts of strange string and wind instruments, like this bowed string instrument that used a horn to amplify the sound:

The last thing I'll say about this spectacular museum, is that they had a clock tower that also showed the wind speed, wind direction, pressure, and relative humidity! I think more towns should have stuff like this for all the aspiring weather nerds out there.

For the first few days in Munich, we just walked around randomly on our own, and didn't really understand what we were looking at. On the last day, we opted for a bike tour of the city, during which we learned the significance of all the stuff we had been casually observing. In the lead up to WWII, Munich was the center of the Nazi movement. This was where Hitler staged the Beer Hall Putsch revolt (which failed), and eventually came to power. We rode by the building where Hitler gave many of his rambling hate speeches, and rode down the streets where he would lead the Nazi rallies. Munich was also home to famous "White Rose" student resistance movement in 1942-1943. The bike tour was a great way to connect all these places and historical events. I also liked that we waited to do the tour at the end of our visit, because we already had a good feel for the layout of the city.

Overall, Munich was our favorite city that we visited. One reason for this was the enormous park known as the "Englischer Garten". We ended up spending a few hours each day in this urban park, to either have a picnic or just stroll through.  All that green space made Munich seem like a nice place to live. Although, I could do without all the old men sun-bathing in the nude.

The last thing we did before hopping on a night train to Cologne, was to find a beer garden to watch the world cup game between the US and Germany. Even though the US got trounced (1-0), it was a fun game to watch. When Germany scored the single goal of the game, the whole placed erupted with a deafening sound! We got heckled by some Germans during the game, and we weren't sure what they were saying, but it definitely wasn't very nice. Luckily, we also made some friends with the germans that were sharing our table.


  1. Sounds like fun. I want to go to that museum, Guy would love the instruments! You write very well, it is a pleasure to read and the pics are great.

  2. That "bowed string instrument that used a horn to amplify the sound" was known as a Stroh Violin, and was widely used in place of Traditional violins during the age of Acoustical Sound Recording, which lasted from about 1890 to 1925. The vocalists and musicians would gather around a large horn, perform their music, and the vibrations would be cut into wax discs...... this was before Microphones existed.

    1. Very interesting! Thanks for the info Garr!