A weekend in Munich

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I should know better than to order anything off a German menu when the only German phrase I know is “beer, please.”

Clearly this wasn’t the case after I found myself at the Haufbrauhaus in Munich, staring down at a plate of something that looked more or less like pig ankle (although I imagine it could have been an elbow or knee). Curious, and fearing retribution for wasting, I dug in, but not before a friend reminded me to take the furry skin off. I got through it unscathed, and it wasn’t so bad – it actually tasted like ham.

After this somewhat dramatic start to my weekend in Munich, things did improve. Saturday morning we woke up early and picked up some brezel (soft, salted pretzels), senf (spicy German mustard), and apfelschorle (a sparkling apple cider). These classic treats tided us over during our drive through the Bavarian countryside on our way to Neuschwanstein Castle, the most photographed building in Germany and the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle.

Ludwig II commissioned Neuschwanstien, but he died before he ever got to live there. Although the castle is a little far from Munich, the history and beautiful views make the trek well worth it. Also, although we drove, Neuschwanstein is accessible by public transportation.

After a groggy drive back into Munich, we thankfully found ourselves at the Viktualienmarkt, a beautiful outdoor market filled with family-run stalls selling everything from flowers and honey to cheese and milk. We had our dinner at the market, capping a wonderful day full of architectural delights, spectacular vistas, and a whole lot of food.

On Sunday, we visited central Munich. First we went to the Residenz Museum, which was originally built in 1385 and was used by the Wittelsbach rulers as a residence and seat of government until 1918. Make sure to splurge on audio tours – they were crucial to making sense of this sprawling palace.

After some time indoors, we headed to the Nymphenburg Palace and Park. The Nymphenburg Gardens, which were influenced by French artists and architects, have a distinctly Versailles-like layout. When we arrived, we sat outside and ate Bavarian sausages, spätzle (a German version of gnocchi), and kaiserschmarrn (a large, lightly caramelized pancake that is shredded into strips and topped with powdered sugar). This delicious lunch gave us the energy we needed to explore the sprawling gardens.

We could have wandered aimlessly for hours, but our weekend was drawing to a close. We were sad to leave this friendly town with its stunning architecture, but I have no doubt that I will return to Munich the next chance I get. In the meantime I will just have to brush up on my German. Bier bitte!