Chugging down two tall drafts and stuffing a honey-almond pretzel in my mouth before sprinting to the nearest metro station in the center of Munich in hope of making my transatlantic flight taking off in just 90 minutes, I had only one thought: I cannot wait to come back!
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On my European “to-do” list, anything involving Germany has always hovered toward the bottom, after the sightseeing “musts” like the The Alhambra Palace and the Louvre, and personal “wants” like horseback riding in the Scottish Highlands and culinary tours of Italy. So, when a couple of years ago I found myself in the heart of Bavaria, it was almost by accident.
A seven-hour layover in Munich on the way from Prague to New York City presented me with an opportunity to check Germany off of my “visited countries” list, so I took it. Before setting foot in Deutschland, I knew quite a bit about German history and politics (Holy Roman Empire, World War II, that sort of thing), yet almost nothing about Munich or Bavaria, aside from their synonymy with beer. I reached out to an old college acquaintance, whose family hailed from these lands, for a culinary recommendation, and did a quick Wiki search of essential landmarks. Armed with that info, 20 Euros in cash, and just over 4.5 hours of actual sightseeing time, I sprinted for the commuter rail as soon as I cleared customs.
Those 4.5 hours turned out AMAZING. The locals, even those who did not speak English, went out of their way to help me find the best way into the city and explain the INSANELY convoluted ticketing system (I still got it wrong and technically never paid for all my metro and rail travel, because the system runs on “trust”). I spent €18.50 of my €20 on the hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tour that introduced me to the Nymphenburg Palace, Olympic Village, BMW headquarters, Hitler’s beer hall, reconstructed old town and opera house, King’s Square, Victory Gate and much more.
I hopped off in Marienplatz, the city’s gorgeous Gothic central square, wandered the adjacent streets taking photos of porcelain-rendered gingerbread houses and pork-rendered sausages, and finally parked my tired bottom at a huge beerhouse, where I proceeded to order half a menu – to make sure I tasted all the regional specialties recommended by my friend. If the ever-pleasant staff though me ridiculous, sitting by myself, eating from four plates and drinking from two steins (a blonde and an amber), they never showed it.
When frazzled and out of breath I made it to the airport check-in counter with barely 45 minutes left to my flight, these ridiculously nice and calm Germans could not understand my rush – after all, everything was on-time, there were no lines, and I would be at my gate in about five minutes, so really I had plenty of time to browse the shops or get a drink! Boarding began less than 20 minutes till take-off. Finished in ten. In another ten we were up in the air and I was counting down to my return.
This essay first appeared at part of an “Off My Bucket List” series that shared stories of destination that fellow bloggers and casual travelers visited and loved despite those places having never previous been on their “must see” list — like Germany for me. Thanks to those amazing 4.5 hours in Munich 6 years ago, I built my entire 2-week summer-2015 trip around Germany.