Here in Paris, the kids have a one-week break over “Toussaint” (or “All Saints Day”), which falls at the end of October/beginning of November. After debating where we should try to go for a few days, (narrowed down to Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Munich) we allowed the kids to vote. They chose Munich.
We left on an early morning flight so that we’d have plenty of time to explore the city. It’s only a 90 minute flight, so a very easy trip. We checked into our hotel, the beautiful Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, which was an old post office that has been renovated into the hotel. Once again, we were not disappointed by the service at a Sofitel. We were lucky to have scored an upgrade to one of the hotel’s large suites, which made our stay even more comfortable.
After quickly grabbing lunch at the hotel bar, we headed out to do some exploring. Anyone who knows my husband knows that he loves cars…and that he especially loves BMWs. I think we’ve owned more BMWs than any other brand of car! So, naturally, our first stop was to the BMW Museum in Munich. Now, if you don’t like cars, it’s probably not the place to spend a few hours! But, the history of the company and the cars was interesting. They even had a special exhibit discussing the divide of East and West Germany, and how BMWs were used to drive people to freedom.
After the BMW Museum, we headed back to the hotel to find a recommendation for dinner from the concierge. We asked for a Bavarian place with a good wine list, and he recommended Weinhaus Neuner. We had way too much food, good wine, and excellent service. In fact, we almost went back to the restaurant a second time (Fern didn’t order the schnitzel the first time and was regretting it), but the kids vetoed our plan to walk that far on the last evening because they were tired. We did have some fun trying to eavesdrop on the couple next to us that night (they were speaking German, so we were unsuccessful), but we weren’t sure if they were on a first date that was going badly, if they were breaking up, or if they were just really odd!
The next day, we set out to explore more of Munich…and this meant trying to see some of the Bavarian royal history. Everyone in my family knows that I love visiting old castles, and the Residenz Museum in Munich did not disappoint. Let me tell you, this place was absolutely gorgeous. We spent time both in the castle as well as in the Treasury, where the jewels from the former Bavarian rulers now resides, along with many religious relics. Belinda was in heaven seeing all the jewel encrusted tiaras and fabulous necklaces and earrings!
After spending several hours walking through the Residenz, we wandered out to tick some more of our sightseeing goals off of our list. We wandered into a large restaurant serving traditional Bavarian food (again), and ate our fill of sausages and sauerkraut…it was yummy. Then, we set out to see a few things. First up was the Frauenkirsche, which is the home of the “Devil’s Footprint”. Legend has it that the architect who was building the church ran out of money, and made a deal with the devil to fund the remainder of the church. The stipulation, however, is that there could be no windows in the church. When inside the church, all of the windows are somewhat obscured by the pillars, so you can’t see them from all angles inside the church. Upon seeing the completed church and realizing he’d been tricked, the devil stomped his foot on the ground, thus leaving his demonic footprint in the church for all time. Likely was a careless worker in actuality, but the legend certainly is a lot more interesting!
After the Frauenkirsche, we headed to another of Munich’s beautiful churches, the Peterskirsche. While the Frauenkirsche was interesting because of legend, the Peterskirsche was stunningly beautiful. Extremely ornate ceilings and pillars made the church feel very majestic.
After seeing the churches, we wandered through the Viktualienmarkt, an outdoor market in Munich that reminded us a lot of the markets in Paris. We finally went into Marienplatz and found ourselves a good seat opposite the famous Glockenspiel in preparation for its chime. It was a good deal colder in Munich than it was in Paris at that point in the year, and the restaurant already had blankets out for patrons to sit on the patio. Fern and I ordered a gluhwein to keep ourselves warm while we waited!
Finally, Belinda’s chosen souvenir was a stuffed animal from the Steiff store, so we stopped to buy her a high quality stuffed puppy from their collection on our way back to the hotel. Everyone was exhausted from this day, so we ended Day #2 with dinner at the hotel.
For Day #3 in Munich, we decided to pay a visit to the Dachau concentration camp. Kenneth has always been interested in WWII history, and a visit to the concentration camps is something that is on his bucket list. He wants to visit Auschwitz someday, however, since we were in Munich, we decided to go to Dachau, which we understand is not quite as horrifying as the visit to Auschwitz is, and thus, maybe a better first stop. We had to go on our own to the site as tour guides are not allowed to give tours to any visitors under the age of 14, obviously due to the horrific material that can be presented there. We chose not to shield Kenneth from anything, and we went to the movie on site as a family, and allowed him to explore everything he wanted to see. While Belinda was with us, we had her shield her eyes during part of the movie, and directed her not to look at certain exhibits. We told her what happened, but there are some things that are horrific for adults to see there, and since she is only 9 years old, we figured we’d spare her from the horror.
I really don’t have any words to appropriately describe how I felt walking through Dachau. It was the first Nazi concentration camp, and the one that all of the other camps they built were modeled off of. It is a odd juxtaposition of seeing that the area around the camp is really quite picturesque, particularly with all of the fall foliage, to then reconcile that beauty with the horrors that happened here. The fact that normal citizens were imprisoned here solely due to religion, race, nationality is scary…but what’s scarier to me is that the SS guards who carried out their orders were likely also, at one point, normal citizens, who were methodically and diabolically convinced to carry out an evil master plan. Frankly, that’s the message I wanted the kids to leave with…listen critically to the messages that you’re fed. Listen to the inner voice that tells you that an action is terribly wrong. Speak up. Do everything you can to prevent it from happening. Kenneth mentioned today as we were walking towards the crematorium that he can’t believe he’s walking through a place where tens of thousands of people were murdered. I want them to always remember Dachau and those that died…because the further removed we are from the memories of things like this, the more likely it becomes that something this awful could happen again. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Our final day in Munich was spent checking out the Eisbach surf wave on the river in the English Gardens. It was so odd to see people surfing in the middle of Munich in a park! We chose to then complete our Munich visit with a stop at the Hofbrauhaus for a beer and a pretzel. Anyone who knows Fern and me knows that we aren’t beer drinkers. In fact, the last beer I’d had before this was when we were visiting the Guiness factory in Dublin about two years before! But, again, this was situationally appropriate as we figured that 1) we had to have a beer in Germany and 2) we should do it at the most famous of all of the beer gardens!
We packed as much as we possibly could into our four days in Munich, but there was still a lot more we wanted to see and do. We could easily have spent several more days exploring not only Munich but also other places in Bavaria. It is certainly a city that we’d love to visit again someday!