Hear about travel to Munich Germany as the Amateur Traveler talks to Laurel Robbins of monkeysandmountains.com about her adopted city.
Laurel tells us that while we should all get to Oktoberfest, there are many more reasons to visit this beautiful city. Laurel says, “I think that everyone should go to Oktoberfest at least once in their life. It’s the world’s largest beer festival. It’s crazy. You’re probably going to enjoy it a little more if you are in your 20s or in your early 30s, but even if you are a little older you can still have a great time at Oktoberfest. My favorite thing is that they have a parade leading up to Oktoberfest. You have lots of traditional bands, traditional costumes. The mayor is there and that’s good for families as well. And they have rides, they have amazing rides. I recommend going on the rides in the middle of the week preferably Wednesday so won’t have to wait in long lines.” Part of Oktoberfest is in October but more of it is in September. They moved the festival because September has better weather.
To see the city itself, Laurel starts is in the Marienplatz where the old and new town halls are located. She recommends renting a bike or exploring on foot. You can explore the 3 remaining city gates. You can also visit the Munich Residenz which is one of the largest palaces in Europe. “To be honest it doesn’t look that impressive from the outside but inside is absolutely spectacular.” You can either do a guided tour or a self-guided tour. After the palace explore the gardens.
Oddly enough, even in the winter, in this landlocked city, there are surfers surfing a standing wave in the Isar River that runs through Munich’s big, central park. “Müncheners are very active. In Munich alone, there are over 1200 Km of bike paths. On the weekends, locals leave the city because they want to be up in the mountains are on one of the Great Lakes doing things. Locals are always outside.
Laurel also gives us an introduction to Bavarian food as well as suggestions of her favorite restaurants, pubs, and beer gardens. She also suggests what other places we should see outside of Munich including some of the castles of King Ludwig of Bavaria.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides – One of my favorite guidebook series
Munich Hotel Oktoberfest – Official Website for the city of Munich
The Official Site for the Oktoberfest
The Traditional Costume Parade
Munich City Gates
English Garden, Munich
Surf A River In The Middle Of Munich, Because You Can And It’s Awesome
Mike’s Bike Tours of Munich
Bier- und Oktoberfestmuseum
Kasspatzen – Spaetzle with cheese receipe
Groups and clubs in Germany
Official Website of FC Bayern Munich
Church of St. Peter
Olympiapark on TripAdvisor
Frauenchiemsee / Fraueninsel
Ludwig II of Bavaria
Westpark in München
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Jodi Ettenberg sent me a copy of this email:
Hey there! I listened to a podcast you made on Ho Chi Minh City, as a transport planner, who also studied in Montreal, it made me really want to visit, so I chose to write my thesis on transport integration and motorcycle taxis in HCMC. Hoping to interview loads of locals.
Booked my flights yesterday, super excited to visit and discover Vietnamese food.
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All the best!
How awesome is that? Hah a whole thesis because of us 🙂
Chris: This episode of Amateur Traveler is sponsored by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. These colorful guidebooks are filled with great information and are one of my favorite guidebooks. I have 25 of them right here on my bookshelf. Learn more at dk.com.
Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. This is about four episodes before our 10 year anniversary. Although I have no particular ideas of how we will celebrate that, I thought you might be interested in knowing. And now, let’s talk about Munich. I’d like to welcome to the show, Laurel Robbins from monkeysandmountains.com. She’s also the local expert on Munich for BBC Travel and coincidentally enough, has come to talk to us about Munich, Germany. Laurel, welcome to the show.
Laurel: Thanks so much, Chris.
Chris: So Munich, Germany, let’s put it on the map first of all. We’re talking about southern Germany and Bavaria.
Laurel: That’s correct. Yeah, the capital city of Bavaria.
Chris: And the second largest city in Germany. Am I correct about that?
Laurel: Actually it’s the third largest.
Chris: The third largest, okay.
Laurel: Yeah, Berlin and Hamburg are bigger.
Chris: Got it. Oh, that makes sense. And why should someone go to Munich? And I think we might as well talk about it. A lot of people, when they hear of Munich, they just think of Oktoberfest.
Chris: Let’s start with Oktoberfest. Should I go to Oktoberfest? Why and who should go there? And then, why should I go other times of the year?
Laurel: Okay, I think everybody should go to Oktoberfest at least once in their life. It’s the world’s largest beer festival in the world. It’s crazy. You’re probably going to enjoy it a little bit more if you’re twenty, maybe early thirties. But even if you’re a little bit older, you can still have a great time at Oktoberfest. Having said that, as a local I probably go twice every year. As a local you have to go. It’s a little bit too rowdy for my taste, but it’s just great fun. It doesn’t matter how old you are. People are dancing on the tables, drinking beer so you really go for the atmosphere.
Chris: And does it matter if I don’t like beer?
Laurel: No, but it’s a lot more expensive, actually, if you don’t like beer because a Maß of beer, which is about a liter of beer, costs about ten euros. So if you’re drinking something other than beer, I don’t drink beer, I drink wine, then you’re really overpaying for that. Whether it’s a Coke or whether it’s wine. If you are drinking non-alcoholic, some beer tends will, if you say you’re a designated driver, they will give you free beverages, but you have to check that out beforehand.
Chris: Oh, interesting. Good to know. And besides drinking beer, I get the impression it’s a large festival. Are there other things to do besides drink and sing?
Laurel: Yeah, actually my favorite thing for Oktoberfest is they have a parade leading to Oktoberfest and that’s amazing because you have lots of traditional bands, traditional costumes. You know, the mayor’s there. I think that is absolutely fabulous and that’s great for families as well. And they have rides. They have amazing rides, so anything the rides . . . the rollercoasters that you’re turning around on, everything like that. And I recommend going on the rides during the day, ideally on a Wednesday afternoon because then you don’t have to wait in line. If you go in the evenings or in the weekend, it’s just a lot busier and you’re going to have to wait in line.
Chris: And I naively assumed that Oktoberfest was in October.
Laurel: Yeah, actually it used to be and the reason that they moved it, well part of it is in October but more of it is September, is because of the weather. It’s a lot more fun when it’s outside. And they said, “Okay well we have . . . it’s usually a little bit warm in September so we’re just going to move it up a little bit.”
Chris: And you mentioned the weather being better in September, when is your favorite time of the year to be in Munich?
Laurel: Either spring or fall. I think spring and fall are both amazing in Munich and it’s a great time to visit Munich as well because it’s not as busy with tourists, the hotels are not as expensive, and the weather is usually fairly good. Not today, got rain today, but in general.
Chris: I’d take your rain, gladly. And what should we do when we come to Munich?
Laurel: The first thing you want to do in Munich is very iconic, is visit Marienplatz. It’s called the Altes Rathaus, which is the [inaudible 00:04:24] which is the old and the new town hall.
Chris: The old city hall.
Laurel: Yeah, it’s absolutely beautiful. And so you want to start around there and either rent a bike or go for a walk. I personally like doing it by foot, but on foot you can visit the three remaining city gates. There were four city gates at one point, now there is three, and walk and visit those gates. You could also visit the Munich Residenz, which is one of the largest palaces in Europe, which to be honest, it doesn’t look that impressive from the outside, but inside is absolutely spectacular.
Chris: And the largest palaces, so this would be a Hopsburg Palace? Or whose palace is it?
Laurel: The Munich Residenz is one of the largest palaces in Europe and it’s the former resident of the Bavarian Monarchs of the House of Wittelsbach. So it’s really, really impressive.
Chris: Okay. And is that some place . . . I assume you’d take a tour.
Laurel: Yeah. So you can either do a self-guided tour or you can do a guided tour. I’ve only done a self-guided tour. It’s an audio-guided tour, so for me, that was enough. But obviously you could go with a tour guide, if you want to do that. And from there, you’d want to walk through Hofgarten which is the Royal Garden and you walk to the English Garden. And something you have to see in Munich, which surprises everybody, is their surfers. In the middle of the city, in the river, it’s on this standing wave and it’s amazing because you can go there in January, it’ll be freezing, it’ll be snowing and the surfers are there. Obviously in the summer, there’s more surfers and you can find it really easily because there’s always a crowd of people watching the surfers.
Chris: Excellent. Yeah, I’ve heard that. The first time I heard it I was surprised, but definitely seems like something to see.
Laurel: It’s so cool and they’re really, really hardcore. The wave doesn’t look that big to me, I’m not a surfer, but from what I’ve been told by friends that you actually have to be a really, really good surfer. And there’s some peer pressure as well because you have a crowd and it’s a hot summer day, 500 people watching you, you know, judging you. “Oh, you’re not as good as that guy. You weren’t as good as the guy before you.” So there’s a lot of pressure for them.
Chris: Well and my impression is that like so much of Europe in summer, that the residents of Munich really do enjoy getting out and enjoying the outdoor spaces of the city.
Laurel: Absolutely. Müncheners as they’re called, are really, really active. In Munich alone, there’s over 1,200 kilometers of bike paths. So, on the weekends actually, locals usually leave the city because they want to be up in the mountains or at one of the great lakes doing things. There’s just so many things in the surrounding area and so locals are always outside. It’s also a really, really friendly bike city. So that’s another great thing to do in Munich is do a bike tour, either self-guided or one of the organized ones. A lot of locals don’t have a car and they just cycle to work and they use it to get exercise and it’s their means of transportation. So cycling’s a great way to feel like a local.
Chris: And is there a bike tour that you recommend?
Laurel: There’s Mike’s Bikes Tours which I’ve heard really great things about, but to be honest I haven’t gone with them.
Chris: Okay, excellent. What else should we see while we’re in Munich?
Laurel: One of my favorite things, which a lot of people don’t go to, it’s the oldest residential building in Munich and it’s in the Oktoberfest museum. Now the Oktoberfest Museum itself, if you don’t speak German, you’re not going to get a lot out of it, it’s okay. But what I really like there is the Pub. The Pub is the oldest residential building in Munich and just is really quaint, quintessential pub. Great service, really great traditional Bavarian food. And that’s something a lot of people don’t go to because they’re busier going to the bigger beer gardens, which are also fantastic. But that’s definitely worth checking out. And we are in Munich, so we have to talk about beer. There’s a couple hundred beer gardens in the city, so you’ll have no shortage of beer gardens. There are six main breweries. They all have their beer gardens and those are really worth going to as well, along with some of the smaller ones. And at all the beer gardens and the breweries, you can get really great traditional Bavarian food.
Chris: And since you’re drinking wine at the beerfest, I’m not sure if you’re the right person to ask about a favorite brewery.
Laurel: Yeah, unfortunately in terms of that, I’m allergic to beer. So I really don’t know.
Chris: Oh wow, okay. Wheat allergy or?
Laurel: Yeah it’s a gluten allergy so . . . the bread in Munich is absolutely loved and all of Germany is absolutely incredible, so I’m living in the wrong country to be allergic to beer and to bread.
Chris: And then you mentioned the Bavarian food and you say Bavarian and I think Weisswurst. I don’t know . . . sure what else I would be eating in Bavarian.
Laurel: Yeah, traditionally Weisswurst was only eaten in the morning and that was so the meat wouldn’t go bad, and when you eat Weisswurst, it’s usually served with a pretzel and a mass of beer, which is a liter of beer. So that’s how you start of the day. In my company . . . in my husband’s company, they still do this. So every second Friday, they have a Weisswurst breakfast. So it’s a tradition that’s very much alive, but they mix the beer so it’s half beer and half lemonade since they still have to go to work the rest of the day. So yeah, the Weisswurst tradition is very much alive. You can get it at other points at later on during the day, but especially if you live here, the people will be making jokes, like “Oh you’re not a tourist, you should know better. It’s the wrong time of day to be eating Weisswurst.”
Chris: Okay, it’s like eating . . . drinking a cappuccino after ten o’clock in Italy. Okay.
Laurel: Exactly. Right. Yeah, same thing.
Chris: And what should I get for lunch or for dinner then?
Laurel: Schnitzel is very, very popular.
Chris: Oh sure.
Laurel: Lots of different kinds of schnitzels.
Chris: And I actually should have you define what schnitzel is. I said, “Oh, yeah” as if everybody would know, but that isn’t necessarily true.
Laurel: Sure. So in Germany, it’s usually a really thin pork meat that’s been beaten down and tenderized and then it’s breaded with breadcrumbs. It’s really good. Sometimes it’s served on it’s own, sometimes it’s served with different sauces. There’s so many different kinds of schnitzel that you can get. You can get hunter schnitzel, you can get the schnitzel with mushroom sauce, you name it. There’s lots of different kinds of schnitzel. Something else which some people aren’t so sure about, but it’s worth trying, is a schweinshaxen, which is the pork knuckles. That’s interesting. And one of my favorites, which I’m allergic to, but I can make at home, is the kaesespaetzle which I like to call the German macaroni and cheese. So it’s homemade noodles, which are smothered in more cheese than you could ever imagine. And usually it’s covered with a little bit of bacon bits, it’s absolutely delicious.
Chris: Now with that being spaetzle, is that fried then?
Laurel: No, it’s not.
Chris: Oh, okay.
Laurel: It’s just noodles that are dropped in water, but it’s the cheese sauce really makes it. You can get it without the cheese and without that it’s okay, but it’s the cheese that really, really makes it.
Chris: Excellent. Let’s take a break here and hear from our sponsor who is DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. I don’t have a guide book for Germany right now, I’m surprised that there’s that hole in my collection. But speaking of beer, I do have an Ireland guide left over from my trip to Ireland in 2014. And so I thought, what do they say about beer? And as I expected, there’s an entry on the Guinness storehouse in Dublin, but what I didn’t expect, and one of the reasons that I really love these guides, is a diagram that diagrams the whole process of beer-making. Step number one, Irish barley is prepared in three ways: malted, flaked and roasted to give the distinctive tint. These are all ground together in a grist mill to form a grist and it goes on to add the hops and put things through centrifuges and tells me about when things have become a stout and I am just nerdy enough to find this completely fascinating. I don’t even drink beer, but it’s one of the reasons that I love the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, which show me and don’t just tell me. You can get your own at dk.com.
What’s the best way to connect with Munich culture? Modern Munich, not Munich of the Bavarian princes.
Laurel: In general, I would say Germans are more reserved. So it’s more difficult to meet people. So the easiest way to meet people is at the beer gardens. And the thing I love about the beer gardens is everybody goes to beer gardens. So you have everybody from university students to CEOs and so it’s really where the city comes together. And because you’re sitting on picnic benches, you ask somebody, “Is this place free?” And so, because you’re sitting at the same picnic bench with people, then it’s just a really great way to start a conversation. And I think as a great thing about being a tourist is people expect, especially for Americans and Canadians, they expect us to be a little bit friendlier. and so if another German was talking to them, they might think, “Oh, that’s a little weird.” But when you’re American or Canadian, they’re kind of excited to talk to you as well. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, you’re just Americans and you’re friendly.” So it’s kind of great because it gives them a really good excuse to be a little more open than they normally would be, as well.
Chris: Is there a local that you wish everybody could meet?
Laurel: Not one that stands out. There’s so many locals that I know personally that are fabulous people. Probably one of the most famous and eccentric ones is a guy who walks around with a bird.
Laurel: Who walks through the entire city with a bird. But I haven’t actually had a conversation with him because he’s known for being quite strange. So, he’s definitely one to watch out for, whether you’d want to speak to him? I’m not so sure. He has like a big parrot on the back of his shoulder.
Chris: And when they’re not at the beer gardens, what else do the Munich residents do besides surf and . . .
Laurel: Everybody has a hobby in Munich, well in Germany. And so everybody belongs to a hobby club.
Chris: Oh, interesting.
Laurel: So yeah, I absolutely love it because that’s how Germans socialize. So for example, if your hobby is cycling, you belong to a cycling group. If your hobby is badminton, you belong to a badminton club. Everybody has different hobbies, whether it’s painting, whatever. Every person, I would say, all my German friends that I know, belong to a hobby group based on whatever their interests are.
Chris: Like a painting club?
Laurel: Yeah, it’s really cool. And it’s not just, “Oh I paint once in a while.” It’s like no, every Thursday from seven to nine o’clock I go to my painting club.
Chris: Now that’s something that an expat can get involved in, but is that something a tourist can get involved in, though?
Laurel: With a tourist, it’s a little bit trickier because it really, again Germans, it takes a little while to warm up to them. And so it really is more of a long-term relationship. So that definitely is a little bit trickier. That’s why I think the beer gardens are really good. The other thing is Muncheners love their football. Soccer is what we would say in North America. And a lot of times, they have public viewings and those are a really great chance. Sometimes they are in big fields, sometimes they are in big beer gardens. That’s a really great way to connect with the locals, as well because a lot of Americans really enjoy soccer.
Chris: A public viewing meaning a game that you don’t need a ticket for?
Laurel: Usually they charge you for a ticket.
Laurel: But you get to see the game on an absolutely huge screen and be part of that atmosphere.
Chris: Oh, okay. Got it. So maybe an away game or something like that.
Laurel: Yeah, exactly. And obviously if Munich is playing, then the crowd is just going to be going crazy and that’s just really fun as a tourist to see how crazy locals go when their team is playing. And there’s a lot of soccer games here, so it’s great.
Chris: Excellent. What do the guidebooks recommend for Munich that you personally would not recommend.
Laurel: For me, the one thing that every guidebook will recommend, which is not my favorite thing to do, is the Hofbräuhaus, which is one of the main breweries in Munich. It’s very famous because that was where the Nazi party used to meet.
Laurel: And so that’s why people want to go. I know maybe two locals that actually go there. Most locals do not go there because when you walk in, you hear much more English than you do German. And I think there’s so many other amazing breweries and beer gardens you can go to. You might want to go check it out, but then be like, “Okay, I’m going to eat somewhere else, I’m going to hang out somewhere else.”
Chris: So where is somewhere else? Where do you take your friends when they come, for instance.
Laurel: The Augustiner beer garden is fabulous. So it’s one of Munich’s most rustic beer gardens and the great thing is that they also have an inside, so if the weather starts to rain, then you can go inside. I also like the Park Cafe, which is another beer garden/restaurant, for the same reason. You can start outside and if it gets a little bit chilly, then you can move inside.
Chris: Okay, any museums or cultural things that you would recommend in Munich.
Laurel: Yeah, the Deutsches Museum is one of the most well-respected science museums in all of Europe, so it’s absolutely huge. Something kids really, really like because they have lots of interactive exhibits. There’s also a planetarium there, that one is really popular. The Bavarian State Museum is absolutely gorgeous. I think it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Munich. And if you go there, you’ll get a really good sense of Bavarian culture.
Chris: And are those two accessible to those of us whose German is not so good?
Laurel: I’m impressed, Chris! Yes, some of the signs are in English, not all of them, but I would say enough of the signs are inEnglish that you’re going to be able to enjoy them.
Laurel: Yeah, and in addition to that, the Munich Residenz is also considered a museum, so that is also worth seeing and there is also another palace, which I love, which is Schloss Nymphenberg, which is another palace in the city, which is from the grounds, it’s absolutely incredible. It’s worth spending a half day there, especially if you go at sunrise or sunset. It’s absolutely beautiful. And then you go inside there, you can do a palace tour on your own and then they have different museums as well. So they have an old carriage museum, they have a porcelain museum. So that’s a really good way, you can easily spend a day there if you’re going to do all of the museums.
Chris: Now, how long have you lived in Munich?
Laurel: I’ve lived here almost four years.
Chris: And what surprised you when you first came to Munich?
Laurel: For me I was really . . . I lived in Stuttgart before, which is another city in Bavaria. I was surprised at how friendly people were. So when I first came here, I didn’t know what I was doing, had my map out looking like the confused tourist I was and people would ask, “Can I help you?” People were really, really friendly. Again, not the kind of friendly we’re used to in North America, but I would say in terms of Germany, people are really, really friendly. And the other thing I really appreciate is people take their hobbies very seriously. And I think that’s really interesting, people really don’t watch that much T.V., but they are very passionate about something. If you ask a German, “What is your hobby?” which is a great conversation starter, the people will tell you about their hobby and you can just see their passion when they talk about that. And that’s something I really, really love about Munich.
Chris: And if you had to describe the perfect one-day Munich experience, what would it be?
Laurel: I would either do a walking tour or bike tour starting at Marienplatz going up to the Residenz, hanging out in the English Garden, which is absolutely incredible. There’s four different beer gardens in the English Garden, which is over 12 kilometers long, so that you would probably want a bike for, you’re going to have a very long day if you’re walking. And it’s just a really great way, hanging out in the English Garden, it’s just a really great way to see how locals live because that’s what locals do when they are in the city, is that they will hang out in the English garden. I do have to warn you though, there’s one section of the English Garden where clothing is optional. If you don’t want to see that, you might want to avoid that part because it might be more than you bargained for.
Chris: Excellent. And more so in the summer than the winter I’m assuming so.
Laurels: Yeah, exactly. It’s quite interesting. There’s also parts along the Isar River where you can see that. And just to kind of show you a little bit about the culture with that, is somedays when it’s really hot out, the people in the nude part of the park, they will go for a swim and then they take the train back. Obviously they’re naked because they went for a swim, and the problem that Muncheners find is not that they are riding the train in the middle of the day with no clothes on, it’s because they’re riding without a ticket. Because Germans are very, very frugal. So I think that kind of sums up the attitude about how open people are.
Chris: That’s funny. You’re standing in the prettiest spot in all of Munich, where are you standing and what are you looking at?
Laurel: I was just there recently, and because I think sometimes when you live in a place you think you’re too cool to go visit a place, and it’s at the top of St. Peter’s Church, which is the oldest church in Munich. And it’s about 300 stairs to get up there. So you’re definitely going to have to work to get up there, but it’s an incredible view. If you’ve ever seen a postcard of Munich, you’ve probably seen it and you will find it in every guidebook, but it’s absolutely beautiful. That would be one of my number one choices. And the other one is in Olympic Park. And this one is a free one, so you can just walk up. It’s just a small little mountain, a hill really, that you walk up. They call it a hill but it’s really a small little hill, and you get gorgeous views over Munich. And that one is not nearly as steep climb and something that almost everyone would be able to do.
Chris: Okay, excellent. is there anything else we should do in Munich before we start talking about getting out of the city a little bit?
Laurel: Go for a bike ride along the Isar river.
Laurel: So like before, Muncheners are really, really active and that’s something people love to do. There’s beer gardens along the river so you can cycle for an hour, hang out at a beer garden, cycle for another hour, hang out at a cafe. And when I mention beer gardens, I make it sound like everyone’s getting drunk, but that definitely isn’t the case. Of course you can get beer there, but they are also very family friendly so most beer gardens have a playground as well. It’s really a place for the community to come together.
Chris: And then you . . . in terms of getting out of the city, you mentioned the great lakes and I’m assuming we’re not going to the American Midwest when you say the great lakes.
Laurel: No, not that far. Yeah there’s a lot of really wonderful lakes around Munich. So one that’s very accessible from Munich, it’s called Starnberger See, which is Starnberg Lake and you can reach that from the S-Bahn, which is the local train system directly from Munich, that will take you about half an hour to get outside. There’s also Ammersee, the Ammer Lake, which is also really good. And so those are really accessible just from within Munich. You literally get on the train and you get off at that stop.
Chris: Okay, and then you say S-Bahn which in Germany would be the Strassenbahn, the above-ground-street car. Is there also an U-bahn, a subway system?
Laurel: Yeah, so when I’m talking about the S-Bahn this is actually the underground one. There’s also the U-bahn and then they also have the Strassenbahn, which is the one on the street.
Chris: Okay, got it.
Laurel: But the great thing is, once you have your ticket for that, you’re covered for all three of those plus buses as well. So it doesn’t matter which one you’re taking it’s all the same ticket, so that part of it’s really easy.
Chris: Excellent. And it sounds like walking, taking public transportation or renting a bike is the easiest way to get around.
Laurel: Absolutely. Driving in Munich is a little bit scary if you haven’t done it. And for me, I’ve got a drivers license here, but I never drive because the parking spots are so small. I think in North America we’re used to such great big parking spots and here they’re tiny, tiny, tiny. And Germans are very particular about their cars, especially in Munich so you don’t dare hit anyone’s cars. So I can drive, but I don’t because I can’t actually park the car anywhere, especially if you’re in the city center. And you pay a fortune for parking in the city center, as well.
Chris: And if you were to get to one or two other sites out of Munich, what would you recommend?
Laurel: The one that a lot of people love is Neuschwanstein, which is the castle that Disney was based off of. It’s probably one of my least favorite.
Chris: And that’s a little far from Munich, isn’t it? Is that a couple hours?
Laurel: I think it’s probably a couple hours, an hour and a half by train.
Chris: Oh it’s that close, okay. Over in Füssen.
Laurel: Yeah, exactly. Oh, you know your geography. I’m impressed.
Chris: I’ve been to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.
Laurel: Oh, great! Yeah, something that is definitely very doable, most people that come to Munich do that for a day trip. I think the castle’s absolutely beautiful from the outside, but the King Ludwug castle that I like so much better is called Herrenchiemsee and it’s on an island. So you take the train to a town called Prien am Chiemsee and you take a little boat across to the island and it was based on the palace of Versailles. So it’s absolutely incredible and it costs more than King Ludwig’s other two castles combined, so it’s completely opulent. And so you can hang out there for a day. There’s also a little beer garden that you hang out with that’s a short little walk to get to the palace. And then what I like to do is you can take a boat, it’s maybe a five minute boat ride, to another island called Fraueninsel, which is a nunnery and they’re really, really famous for their fresh fish which is straight from the lake. And so it just makes for a really fantastic day trip.
Chris: And out of curiosity, do you happen to know if this is the lake where King Ludwig drowned under suspicious circumstances at the end of his life?
Laurel: Yeah, so that wasn’t the Chiemsee that actually was the Starnberger See which I mentioned earlier.
Chris: I’ve got it.
Laurel: And when you go to the Starnberger See, yeah I should’ve mentioned that you can walk there from the town. It’s a few kilometers walk from the town and they’ve got a beautiful memorial there and then in the water, there’s a little cross, depending on how high the water is, to show exactly where he was drown.
Chris: Was . . . I noticed you said, “was drowned” instead of “drowned,” but . . .
Chris: You have a conclusion that you have reached about that.
Laurel: Yeah, I think most locals probably think that he was murdered.
Laurel: Due to the circumstances, it seems a little fishy, but you’re absolutely right. Nobody knows 100% sure.
Chris: Excellent. Before we get to our last three questions or so, anything else we should know about Munich before we head there?
Laurel: I mentioned Olympia Park. Olympia Park is a great place to go. In the summer, what’s really great about that is that they have an outdoor cinema. Now, at that one, a lot of the movies are in German, but at West Park they also have an outdoor cinema and that one has a few more movies that are English and are in English so you just need to check for local listings because that’s just a really great experience. The movies usually start around ten o’clock or ten-thirty and so to watch a movie under the stars is something a lot of locals do. It’s just a really cool experience in the summer.
Chris: Excellent. Four last questions. One: your best money-saving tip for Munich.
Laurel: It would probably be during Oktoberfest and that would be to stay in an Airbnb or you know, one of the apartment rentals where you can stay in because the hotel prices for Oktoberfest go up over 200%. It’s absolutely crazy how much hotels cost here. And there are so many people that are willing to rent their house out and then that way, you get the local experience as well.
Chris: Excellent. One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Munich.”
Laurel: I think it would be the story I told earlier about the naked people taking the train and the locals being upset that they’re riding without a ticket, not the fact that they’re naked at two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon when there’s children and everybody else is on the train with clothes, but that’s one of those things where I’m like, “Yep, only in Munich.”
Chris: Excellent. Last two questions. Finish this sentence: You really know you’re in Munich when . . . what?”
Laurel: There’s a beer garden on every corner. And there literally is a beer garden on every corner, or brewery. It’s absolutely amazing. Like there’s at least 200 and I think that number is being quite conservative. I live in a really residential area and there’s probably four within walking distance from where I live. And that’s in super residential.
Chris: Interesting. And if you had to summarize Munich in three words, what three words would you use?
Laurel: Proud and outdoorsy.
Chris: Excellent. Laurel, where can read more about your travels?
Laurel: At monkeysandmountains.com
Chris: And what’s the most interesting story you’ve done recently at monkeysandmountains.com, which by the way just does make me giggle every time I hear it.
Laurel: That’s good! I wanted to do that with the name. I’ve done some cool and interesting things, but the thing that I’m really excited about that I’m doing is I’m going to be cycling across Finland, 1,200 kilometers on the iron curtain trail starting next week.
Chris: Excellent. Although, no monkeys.
Laurel: No monkeys. I’m hoping there’s not mountains because I’m going to be cycling. This is actually one time in my life where I don’t want to see any mountains, I only want flat roads. So we’ll see how that works out, and I’m so excited about that because I’m actually not . . . I didn’t start cycling ’til six weeks ago and . . .
Chris: Oh. Oh my.
Laurel: Yeah, I’m a big hiker. I’m in the Alps every weekend. I love to hike, but I’m really excited about this and I think that’s one great thing about travel is, you know, it pushes you to try new things and pushes you out of your comfort zone.
Chris: Excellent. Our guest again has been Laurel Robbins. Laurel, thanks so much for coming on Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love for your adopted city of Munich.
Laurel: Thanks so much for having me, Chris.
Chris: Or Munchen we should . . . we only vaguely referred to it.
Laurel: Yes, that’s true. Munchen
Chris: We’re still looking for feedback on where to go on the next Amateur Traveler trip and there’s no consensus yet so we need your feedback. And you can do that by joining the Facebook group, Amateur Traveler Trips and then you’ll find a link to a Survey Monkey survey, which will ask you about what destinations we should go to, how much you think it should cost and all of those important factors. This week, I got one of the most interesting emails that I received in terms of feedback from the show. It didn’t come to me, it came actually to our guest for the episode on Ho Chi Minh City, which was Jodi Ettenberg. And Jodi had a letter from Conrad and Conrad say, “Hey there, I listened to a podcast you made on Ho Chi Minh City. As a transport planner who also studied in Montreal, it made me really want to visit so I chose to write my thesis on transport integration and motorcycle taxis in Ho Chi Minh City, hoping to interview loads of locals. Booked my flights yesterday. Super excited to visit and discover Vietnamese food. There’s not a purpose to this message other than to thank you and encourage you to keep writing, smile emoticon, all the best.” And as Jodi wrote me, “How awesome is that? His whole thesis because of us.”
And as far as I know, in the almost 10 years of Amateur Traveler, that has got to be a first. One of the things that would be interesting to know as the 10 year anniversary approaches is, “Have you gone anywhere because of the Amateur Traveler? Have you booked any tickets because of something you heard about on the show? Or have you potentially changed your masters thesis?” Let me know, won’t you? With that, we’re going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. You can also follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram as chris2x and as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.