Tuesday, April 8, 2014

CNY 2014 - Munich, Germany: All Hail the Chicken Schnitzel

Now before we go any further- Alle Rüstungs Exporte Verbieten: All export of armour is forbidden. Whatever that means. Why post a picture of what looks like some political party's slogan emblazoned on a minivan, when I have absolutely no comment or understanding of what is going on here, and it really has no bearing on what you will be reading in the wall of text to come? It's simple really. I chose this photo to start off this post, and so I felt that I just had to explain what's going on in it. Why choose this photo, you ask? Oh, you don't want to hear the honest answer to that, do you. Well isn't this photo just amazing? It encapsulates everything about Munich at the time of our visit. That's the Mariensäule right in the middle, standing tall and proud in the middle of a sprawling cosmopolitan city; then there's the active display of democracy, a large group of protesters or supporters of some odd political party, contrasted with authority backed by weaponry. This is the beating heart of Munich, the center of Bavaria...... 

What you have just read- that would be the lively, travel writing-ish answer you would expect to see in, oh, Travel Weekly (apologies if such a publication actually exists!). The real answer is that I was told off for taking hundreds of photos on this trip with hardly any people showing, so I picked one with plenty... oh wait, I just realized that that criticism was for my previous trip to Japan (to be fair it was a winter, a national holiday, and everyone was staying in)- but hey, it still holds true for this trip, I suppose. This is the one photo I could find with the most people in it- so there.

Now that that's over... time for the specifics. You might find this somewhat boring to read, since these travelogues essentially function as a sort of replacement for my physical diary. Anyhow. As usual, I was in charge of planning the trip, and I figured that since we were heading all the way to Europe, we might as well check out more than one place. The initial proposal only covered Austria- I decided to change our starting point to Munich, and to end in Vienna. As usual we stayed in the Sama-Sama hotel attached to KLIA before our flight the next morning- even at this point complications had started to arise, first when I was misled by road signs and ended up driving in a large circle twice (or thrice?) before giving up on Malaysian road planners and relying on the omnipotent Google for directions. Google said to ignore the signs, and we finally arrived at the hotel. Funnily enough our standard rooms were upgraded to premium rooms- one would have been large enough for the entire group. That was a nice surprise, but we woke up to a rather unpleasant one, when I realized that my Booking.com booking didn't include breakfast. Bah. On to the flight- we flew with Emirates, which necessitated a stop for a few hours in Dubai. I blew most of my phone's prepaid credit on a Foursquare check-in. It wasn't too long before we were on the next leg of our flight, from Dubai to Munich. The in-flight entertainment system was rather well crafted- I was quite pleased by one movie in particular on both flights- reviewed in my previous post, and the USB and three pin charging ports might as well be declared holy ground.

By the time we exited Munich Airport, it was already pretty late- around 8pm. It was pretty chilly, probably hovering around zero degrees centigrade (In case you're wondering why zero is plural... all I can say is that English is just funny like that). I thought I'd test the cold and exited the airport wearing sandals and no jacket. I was alright for a while, but it didn't last long- the jacket came on shortly after. As for the sandals- I dumped them for my formal fake-leather H&M shoes (100% unsuited to long distance walking, but the best I could decide on before the trip- a rushed decision too) once in our hotel room, before heading out for dinner. We walked a short distance away along the main road, in the direction of the city center, and found ourselves an old biergarten- Augustiner Keller. According to their coasters, they've been around for some 500+ years, in one form or another, though I'm not sure if that applied to the restaurant itself. Dinner was... not really to our tastes. Pork (which I just looked at queerly), chicken schnitzel, a slab of diamond hard duck, and lots of potatoes. Standard fare which we would continue to have over the next few days- German food, as far as we were concerned, was uniform and rather dull. I ordered a glass of non-alcoholic beer for the heck of it. Whatever in blazes that means. I felt like puking after that.

I had developed a nasty cold, and apparently I ended up snoring loudly throughout the night, disturbing my room-mates. I got to sleep through it. The day after- we had one full day in Munich, and I intended to spend most of it sight-seeing. I really should know better by now, really, as most of our time was spent in restaurants. Ahem. I suppose I am exaggerating a bit here. Anyway, we had breakfast in a nearby cafe, and they fell in love with the little old lady and her bread... just her bread, I suppose. With breakfast done, we headed on to the main part of town, eventually ending up at the Old Town Hall, the Rathaus (if memory serves me correctly), with it's famous clock tower- performance? Show? Or tourist scam. I'm pretty sure Munich's mayors did not treat consecutive Lonely Planet authors to a free dinner on the roof of the opposite building with a grand view of the ancient clockwork contraption, but not everything ages well- what was amazing wizardry a few hundred years ago is elementary school science fair stuff now. I took a video- judge it for yourself.

They (rest of the group) weren't entertained much, so I moved on to the next item on our list to lift their spirits- food. A few minutes later we found the Viktualienmarkt Munich, a food market formerly located on the Marienplatz, where we'd come from, but moved a short distance away when it grew too large. Cheese, preserved foodstuffs, fruits, nuts, pickled meat, spices... lots of lovely (but still pricey) stuff. I actually misread Viktual as Virtual... which had me puzzled for a while, and kept me from realizing that the German word was strikingly similar to the English term victual (food). We stuffed ourselves further with some fried shrimp and fresh juice- sister chose grapefruit despite my telling her that she would hate it, and I had to finish it off- before heading to our next destination, the Dallmayr, a 'luxury delicatessen'... for more food. Yup.

Anyway. Dallmayr. It wasn't too far away, just a few hundred meters away from Marienplatz. On the ground floor, they sold foodstuffs and chocolate, and upstairs was a fancy cafe and a gift shop. The place was packed though, and we had to wait for around 20 minutes or so for tables. Once seated I showcased my logistical genius by divvying ourselves into two groups, each one seated at one table- I took the liberty of appointing a Head of Table for the table not graced by my presence, absolving myself of all responsibility whatsoever. Back at my table, I made the decision that each of us should order one slice of cake, and we would nibble on each in turn (the place is famous for its cakes). I can't remember what we ordered, but we got this, this, and this. I made a terrible mistake of ordering a rum infused cake and mocha- a really bad call. The rum overpowered every other ingredient in the cake and drink. The other cakes were fine though. Some of us ordered tea- which came in a little pot. It was most charming how they used a sandglass as a sign for when the tea would be just nice to drink- it did end up taking up some precious space on the small tables though.

With tanks full once more, we moved on to our next destination- the Dachau Concentration Camp. A slight moment of panic as I popped into a tourist information center to get directions on how to get there, but the others were enamored by a fancy door handle on a neighboring shop and didn't notice my vanishing off. Forget the panic I felt at getting separated from the group for a moment. Enamored with, by, or of? The blasted word set me off on a chase for the one right answer, and characteristically of English I found none. Bah. Anyhow- we had not established a method to deal with these sort of happenings, so my only option was to stick my head up high in the air and hope to catch sight of a clump of Asians. Doing so didn't help much, but I found them eventually a short distance away.

Onwards to Dachau. A train and bus ride later, and we found ourselves at the Concentration Camp. The compound itself was rather large, but there weren't many buildings- I might be mistaken, but I think some were destroyed or knocked down. Anyhow, whatever was left was turned into a sort of museum (no entrance fee too!)- random exhibits littered the hallways, items such as letters by prisoners, camp records, utensils and other stuff. I wonder if the beds and cabinets are just replicas or originals, though. There was a lot of reading though- I'm not sure if they found it enlightening or not though. I almost typed enjoyable there. Sheesh. We headed back to town, and had a kebab meal before heading back to Munich- frankly speaking this might have been the best meal we had during the whole trip. German- and Austrian food- just didn't do it for me. Most of what we ate seemed to amount to your choice of meat + a potato based side dish. We spent our remaining time wandering around Munich. The next day- on to the holy land of classical music afficionados, maestros and pretentious pretenders who boast of loving Beethoven hoping to land a date- Vienna.

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