Since I’m no longer adventure-ing in Germany, I changed blog addresses and you can now find out about my adventures here! Please “follow” my new blog and comment often 🙂
a.k.a. Munich. So I know this is very delayed, but with packing and finishing up everything with the German bureaucracy before we left, I didn’t really have the time. So here is the shortened, probably less interesting, version of what we did for three days in Munich.
We got in on Friday night after visiting the bunkers in Obersalzberg, checked out our hotel room which had an interesting (read: bad) smell and little gummy sheep on the pillow. We asked the receptionist for a good place to eat dinner and she recommended a bar/restaurant around the corner which was just what we were looking for. After a delicious, late dinner and friendly service, we headed to bed for the night.
The next morning, we went on a Third Reich Tour. New Europe Tours offers a few different tours and this one focused on all of the important Nazi sites in the city where Hitler gained his power and rose to power. 90 percent of the city was leveled during World War II so most of the original buildings are just replicas but there are also tens or hundreds of memorials built around in alleys, on buildings, in gardens, and everywhere else there is room for one. However, in comparison to the humongous and imposing structures in Berlin, in Munich the memorials are small and sometimes without explanation of what they are. If you are in Munich and are at all curious about National Socialist history, the tour is really the only way to do it to make sure that you don’t miss the important landmarks.
After our tour we rode out to the Olympic Plaza to look for a hockey jersey for my dad’s birthday. We had no luck with that venture but while we were there, we went to the aquarium, despite Austin’s protests. For me, it was definitely worth it though.
In exchange for Austin’s suffering through the family tourist attraction, we went on a Bavarian food and beer tour that night. We tasted different quite a few different beers, visited the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, and ate off a sampler plate at the Hofbräuhaus Keller (Court Brewery House Cellar) with traditional Bavarian food. After dinner, we ended our tour at the Hofbräuhaus which is the most famous beer hall in the world. Just like every night, it was packed with some locals but mostly a lot of tourists. We had to have at least one Maß (1 Liter beer) while we were there, so we sat down with an older man who happened to actually live in Munich. He goes there often to listen to the band and just talk to different people from all over the world. He was very friendly and let us practice our bad German and he worked on his English a little bit also. I don’t think the tour was actually worth the money but the night ended well either way.
On Sunday, we went to yet another tour. This was just the general tour of the city. Done by the same company as the 3rd Reich Tour, but for this one it is based purely on tips so you only pay what you think it was worth. Just like the other one, there were a lot of very interesting facts but the two tours overlapped in the information quite a bit, but surprisingly the numbers didn’t always match up so it left us looking for more answers than anything.
We left the tour a few minutes early to catch our train to Mannheim where we watched a hockey game and did find the jockey jersey. It was fun just like every other hockey game and the only noteworthy thing about the night was the smoking area. During the break between each period, the entire stadium emptied out so everyone could go out into the staircase to smoke. The entire area was completely filled with a combination of every type of cigarette smoke imaginable; which again left an “interesting” smell. The smoke was thick enough that it was honestly strained just to see through it.
After the game, we went back to the apartment to the biggest surprise in the six months that we had been there: we got Comedy Central and John Stewart was on it…in English! I wish we would have known that starting in October when we found the TV!
On our way from Salzburg to Munich (München with German spelling), we stopped in Obersalzberg which was not actually on the way but we wanted to see the Nazi bunkers there. It is also home to the Eagle’s Nest (for those of you who didn’t know, like me, it was Hitler’s retreat in the mountains). The Eagle’s Nest is closed in the winter because of limited access due to the snow, but the bunkers and Nazi Documentation Center are open all year round, albeit with shorter hours during the winter. It is all in German, but you can rent an English audio guide, but the pictures alone are disturbing enough. It does give interesting information on the area and how Hitler rose to power. After you walk through the documentation center, you go downstairs into the bunkers which are dark, bare, and in general pretty creepy. I could never imagine living down there like Hitler and Goebbels did right before killing themselves.
When we left the center, we went to catch our bus to go back to the train station and on to Munich. However, for some unexplained reason, the bus was stopped for about an hour and a half right at the time that we wanted and needed to go. We ended up walking down the steep road for 5 kilometers (3.2 miles) back to the city and then still a little further to the train station. We got there 2 minutes after the train left and had to wait for another hour. It wasn’t the best experience especially after visiting such a depressing place, but it was a beautiful area that we were walking through so it wasn’t all bad.
Well, our tour was pretty good. We got to see the beautiful Austrian countryside in the snow, while listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack and she did give us some interesting details about the city itself, but it was definitely heavily influenced by the Roger and Hammerstein musical. She essentially just pointed out all of the exaggerations and changes they made to the film to make it more Hollywood-suitable. Our tour guide said that last week she had a woman break down in tears when she learned the true von Trapp family. I like the
movie, but I’m not that crazy about it. If it were the Music Man, that would be a different story. Most of the sights we saw would have definitely been better in the summer when it would all look just like the movie. Covered in snow is good too but we didn’t get the chance to frolic through the meadows and sings about the hills being alive. The most interesting tidbit about the movie that we learned was that Maria and the rest of the von Trapps did not escape from the Nazis over the Gaisburg mountain in real life because if they had, they would have
landed about 5 miles away from the Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and the only reason they put that specific mountain in the film was because of the special significance it has to the residents of Salzburg. Austin and I did get our pictures in front of the gazebo and we danced on the fountain while singing “Do Re Mi” so in the end, it was very successful.
After the tour, we just figured out what we are going to do about a hotel in Munich and decided what to do tomorrow (we chose to visit the Nazi bunkers on the way to Munich) then we went to a brewery. It was exactly what you imagine when you think of a German (in this case, Austrian) beer hall. We went to the back, picked out our own Steins, rinsed them with water in order to make the beer stay colder longer, and then got them filled out of a wooden barrel. We also had some good food and enjoyed the atmosphere for a little while. Some old men sang some drinking songs in the corner, and everyone else just enjoyed the company and the drinks!
We did absolutely zero sightseeing when we got into Salzburg, Austria last night around 8 o’clock but just checked into our hotel and relaxed. The hotel is a very nice change to the hostels that we have been staying in. None of the hostels (besides in Zagreb maybe) has been bad, but it is nice to have a TV, our own bathroom, and even a hairdryer! They even had complimentary buffet breakfast in the morning which we had read was supposed to be the best on the continent. If you make sure to just compare it to other European breakfasts, they may be right! This one even had eggs and bacon! We liked it so much that we decided to stay two more nights!
After breakfast, we walked around the city to get our bearings a little bit and decided to take the funicular up to the top of the mountain to see the Hohensalzburg which is a castle/fortress on the top of the Mönchsberg (Monk’s Mountain). Our ticket also included entrance to the castle and the museums inside (one being a marionette museum) and an audio guide. The audio guide was not particularly interesting but we did learn that Salzburg got its name which means Salt Village because of the large production of salt in the area that was a major benefit of the city because salt was the best and only means of preserving food at the time which meant they could be isolated for a longer time than most other cities when under attack.
On the other side of the Mönchsberg is a modern art museum which is worth seeing if you have the time. When we were there, only a third of the museum was open because the other parts were being prepared for an upcoming exhibit. Even just the views from the café and the views on the walk over to the museum are worth the trip. Salzburg is just as beautiful a city today as it is in Julie Andrew’s world, even if it is overcrowded with tourists even in February.
We went out to dinner at a chic little café that served good thai food and now we are back in the hotel watching “The Sound of Music” on Austin’s computer to prepare ourselves for our 4 and a half hour Sound of Music tour tomorrow morning!
We really had no itinerary for Ljubljana and no ideas of what we should see or do. The first thing we did was walk up the hill to the castle. It was different from the other castles that we have seen in that it is still functioning. Not with royalty living inside or anything but they hold workshops for kids, concerts, and other things inside. It wasn’t a very exciting castle as far as castles go but if you happen to be in Ljubljana, you might want to check it out. Afterwards we tried to go to a museum for graphic art but they were closed on Tuesdays. Then we tried a modern art museum but it was under construction. We settled on eating some ice cream, strolling the main street and then finding an artist’s squat. Behind our hostel, after the area was abandoned by the military who had used the area as a prison among other things, artists took over the area, covered the walls in graffiti and sculptures which still remain today. Now there are also different galleries open during the day (although we didn’t really see any) and bars and clubs open at night. Graffiti is one type of art that is extraordinarily underrated. Granted, some of it is just defacement, but a lot of it is done by truly talented people!
When we got off the ferry at 7a.m. today, we realized that nothing is really open, the Croats make much better early-risers than the Germans though. Usually, when we get up before 9 in Heidelberg, it is just us and the tourists out on the streets. We looked through our Lonely Planet guidebook about Rijeka and it basically told us to avoid it or pass through as quickly as possible. We did do just that, but one o’clock was the soonest we could catch a train to Ljubljana, so that meant 5 hours to kill with only one shopping street even worth stopping at. To be fair, it was heavily decorated in streamers for Carnival because the city apparently holds one of the biggest celebrations in the world. We sat in a coffee shop for a while but when I got the vibe from the waiters that they were sick of our loitering, we were back on the street with our 50-pound backpacks strapped on. We walked through a few stores and a couple of small malls where we weren’t helped by anyone and they just looked at us annoyed. I think they might have been able to tell that we were tourists. We had looked up our train information on the Deutsche Bahn website and it said it was a direct trip that takes about 2 and a half hours but when we went to make our reservations, they told us it was actually a bus to the Croatian/Slovenian border and from there we would get on a train and go the rest of the way. When the bus pulled off the side of the road and started going down a single lane “road” alongside train tracks we realized we must be there. There was a gate surounding everything and only one entrance guarded by two Slovenian police officers who checked passports before allowing us to board the train that was waiting there for us. It was a little bit unusual and you really have to put your trust in the people in authority to believe that they aren’t taking you to some remote location to shoot you or something, but like always it worked out just fine.
In Ljubljana, we are staying in prison! The building was used as a prison by the Austro-Hungarian military and has recently been artistically converted into a hostel. There are 20 different cells which were each decorated by a different artist. Ours is not really so artsy but it surprisingly doesn’t feel like we are staying behind bars, despite the actual physical presence of bars for a door (there is also a solid door behind it so people can’t watch you sleep and change).
Austin and I didn’t really go about seeing any of the sites tonight after we got here because we were kind-of hungry. We asked the receptionist where we could get some “traditional Slovene food.” This was our first mistake. Don’t get tradtional food of another country if you don’t have any idea what they traditionally eat! The restaurant we went to had other foods also but for the sake of a new experience, we both stuck to the Slovene portion of the menu. Austin was even more daring than me and got the deep fried bull testicle with mashed potatoes and a very mediocre house beer while I had the “Country Feast” which was described as sausage, another type of sausage (turned out to be blood sausage), pork, cabbage, turnips, and a dumpling. I got those things but I also got two other types of mystery meat, one of
which very well might have been brain. None of which was very good. In fact the only thing that I could choke down was the normal sausage and the blood sausage literally had me fighting back the urge to vomit. You wouldn’t have expected it but Austin’s bull testicles were actually better than what I ordered. After all that you would think that we had learned our lesson and steered clear of the Slovenian food, but we didn’t. We figured they couldn’t mess up desert but I think they may have put the brain meat from my dinner back into my desert along with squid and sardines all covered up with powdered sugar, as if that would trick anyone. Austin got the “Cottage Cheese Rolls” served with some type of licqory sauce. We were both envisioning a roll like a bread roll with a sweet sauce on top (more like the Germknödel we had in Germany) but they used the word roll more in the sushi sense. There was no fish involved but it was some sort of gummy dough with cottage cheese rolled in the middle. Not particularly sweet, and not particularly good. At least we tried it, that way we never have to again! Austin told me that it’s another thing I can add to my “manumé” at least.
After dinner, we just walked along the pedestrian areas doing some window shopping and searching for some good chocolate to get the taste out of our mouths then heading back to the hostel.