Our first trip to Germany saw us take a 3 and a half hour train journey to the capital of Bavaria – Munich. Arriving in the city just in time to see all the Christmas market stalls in the Rathausplatz being packed away and boarded up for the season.
Despite this initial set back the city still had a very festive feel to it with lots of lights, trees and decorations adorning the squares, shops and buildings.
Some beautiful street lights and shop front displays managed to reflect the feeling of Christkindl and the pleasure of being in the buzz of a big city, with different languages, skin colours and variety of cuisine was a really nice change.
As a Christmas day ‘treat’ we headed to the national theatre to watch the ballet Spartacus. Little did Dan know that the performance had two intervals and lasted more than three hours and little did Lou know that she had inadvertently booked standing tickets. After a long day walking round the city this provoked a rather muted response!
In response to the culture and beauty of a ballet performance we then headed off to the village of Dachau, which is notorious for being the location of the first ever Nazi concentration camp, opened in 1933. Dachau was a blueprint for all Konzentrationslager to follow and is now a museum and memorial to those that died.
Despite being designed as a prison camp rather than a death camp more than 32,000 people (and that does not include those undocumented deaths) eventually lost their lives in Dachau largely due to overcrowding, disease and starvation. A pretty unforgettable experience the museum is very thorough in its approach towards discussing a very difficult subject. The audio headset provides some real accounts of life inside the camp and also of those people who liberated Dachau in April 1945.
Munich hosted the Olympics in 1972 in an event now infamous for the attack on the Israeli team by the Palestinian group Black September. However, the occasion rose above the attack and was completed as a tribute to the power of sport. Nowadays the Olympic Park and Stadium are open to visitors and provides a tranquil break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city.
Now used predominantly as a concert venue the Olympic Stadium looks rather dated but is still quite impressive. The spider web design of many of the buildings in the park still looks unique and it is good to see how the site has been maintained and is still put to use, the former Olympic swimming pool is open to the public.
Some of the metro stations had their own distinctive design features and provided a super efficient means of travelling around the city. The variety and choice of food was excellent but a sausage in a beer house was of course the most available option.
As the temperatures started to dip we wrapped ourselves up and continued to brave the outside world. Schleissheim Palace complex is just outside the inner city limits and consists of The New Palace (built between 1701-1719), the Old Palace, the hunting lodge of Lustheim and a Baroque-style Palace Park.
Hellabrunn Zoo (which is pretty big, covering an area of 36 hectares/89 acres) is unique amongst zoos as the high ground water levels in the area means the animals water needs can be met using the zoo’s own freshwater wells. The zoo was ranked the 4th best in 2013 following a big investment in enclosures which continues to this day. However, the coffee still needs some work; lukewarm coffee on a cold day doesn’t really fit the bill!
A night-time dash to the Allianz Arena as we waited for our showing of Arrival at a local cinema was also incorporated into our tourist needs. The two pictures below are taken literally twenty seconds apart as minutes after we arrived they turned the lights off!!!!
Overnight the temperatures went from cold to freezing and clear skies turned to grey as snow began to fall. Somewhere amongst the grey skies in the pictures below you’ll see the Castle of the Nymph (Nymphenburg Palace), the former summer residence of the Bavarian rulers and now a popular wedding location.
Our final day was spent wandering around Odeon Platz, the posh quarter of the city, wrapped up in hoods, hats, scarves, gloves, thermals and supplemented by frequent hot drinks.
So, that’s it from Munich and what a difference 12-months can make. This time last year we lived in the Middle East and were hiding from the sun while diving in crystal clear Zanzibar waters. What will next year hold I wonder?????