Welcome to the first of three travelling posts! After leaving Mulhouse at the end of April I had a family event in Dublin in the middle of May so I was looking for something to do in between. I had friends that were studying in Mulhouse last semester during their Erasmus year and who had moved to Innsbruck in the second semester and I thought that this would be as good an opportunity as any to visit them. I was looking for somewhere to go on the way there and Munich, while not on the way, was in the right area. I’ve wanted to go to Munich for a long time so I figured it was a perfect addition to my itinerary. While I was in Austria to go to Innsbruck, I also fancied going to its capital, Vienna. Innsbruck and Vienna are on almost opposite sides of the country but only four hours or so by train. And that was how I decided on my two week itinerary.
I’m going to take you day by day through my itinerary for each city because while some of the things I did were very specific to my own interests (you’ll see what I mean), I think in general I found a good balance of seeing some of the main sights and discovering some nice hidden spots. There’s also always more places that you wish you had time to go to or to see, no matter how long you spend anywhere so I’ll let you know what those are for each place as well.
Something else I’m going to include is a breakdown of what the trip cost me. I think there’s this impression, or at least I had the impression, that this kind of backpacking in Europe is really expensive and more unattainable than somewhere like Central or South America or Southeast Asia. Some things are expensive, like hostels and transport, but on the day to day it’s possible to keep costs down. I started out wanting to keep to a €20 a day budget and by the end of the two weeks I had increased it to €30 a day (not including accommodation or transport). €20 was fine for days when I wasn’t doing any activities that I had to pay for or when I was cooking my own food for all my meals but it didn’t have a lot of wiggle room. Sometimes I wanted to eat lunch or dinner out, especially if I was away from the hostel for the whole day, and if I wanted to do something that I had to pay for, it was impossible. I wasn’t rigorous with the budget, there were days when I went over even €30 but it was a good limit to aim for.
So without further ado, let go!
Saturday 30 April
This was my first travel day. I wasn’t leaving until 1pm so the morning was spent packing up the remnants of my stuff in my flat. Thankfully I’m able to come back in September so I can keep my things there but I’m changing rooms so I still needed to put everything into boxes.
I got to the train station in Mulhouse with plenty of time to spare and loaded up on train snacks (€7.10 for a baguette sandwich, some crisps and a bottle of fizzy juice). My travel involved taking a train to Basel where I changed onto a service heading to Berlin (a whopping 8 hours long!) although I was getting off at Karlsruhe, only 1 hour 45 minutes later. I was only supposed to have 7 minutes in Karlsruhe to change to the train that would take me to Munich but 7 minutes would have been too easy. Instead the train was a little late so it was only 3 minutes to transfer. The conductor was very encouraging when he told us over the speaker that we should have enough time to make it if we hurried! You could tell who was trying to make the same connection because we were all pressed up against the door, raring to go and raced out as soon as the train pulled to a stop. Thankfully we just had to go down some stairs and across a few platforms and I think everyone made it. They might have even delayed the Munich train for a few minutes to make sure everyone could get on. Overall this little adventure from Mulhouse to Munich cost me €28.25 (all my train tickets were bought using my carte avantage jeune, a young person’s discount card).
It turned out that my hostel, Wombat’s City Hostel Munich Hauptbahnhof, was right by the train station (the name should have given it away, bahnhof is German for train station). I stopped in at a supermarket on the way as the following day was Sunday and like in France, not much in Germany is open. I spent €5.10 on some bananas, pasta and pesto, the traveller’s staples!
I immediately liked the hostel when I walked in. It has this great common area with a big high ceiling made out of windows that makes you feel like you’re in a building in a botanic garden. Food was high on my agenda and the first person I met while I was cooking in the shared kitchen was a Chinese girl who studied in Dalian of all places! We were there at different times and studying at different universities but what a coincidence!
After all the travel and commotion of the day, I was very tired so I didn’t actually go out anywhere on the first evening. I chilled in the common area for a while and then went to bed. My spending for the day came in way under budget at €12.20.
Sunday 1 May
For my first full day in Munich I didn’t have anything in particular planned. I have to admit that I was a little underprepared for this trip. Other than asking people for recommendations for the cities I was visiting and putting all the answers onto a Google Map, I hadn’t done much research. In a way this was nice though because I was able to look around the city, read the information boards in the hostel and talk to people who had already been there for a few days to get inspiration. I definitely got some good recommendations that way, both for what to do and what not to do! The weather was also a little limiting while I was in Munich because while it didn’t rain that much other than two evenings, the weather forecast kept threatening that it was going to.
I figured a good starting point would be the main square in Munich, Marienplatz. This is where you will find the Neues Rathaus, the new town hall. The building includes the famous glockenspiel, a clock that reenacts two very important events in the history of Munich. The first is the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine, commemorated by a jousting competition, and the second is the Schäffler dancers who danced in the streets once the plague was gone from the city. It can be seen every day at 11am and 12pm and also 5pm between March and October. However, today the main attraction was very different. Seeing as it was 1st May, Germany was celebrating May Day or Labour Day. There was a big stage set up with performers and the square was packed with people waving banners and handing out flyers for unions and other organisations. Someone even tried to recruit me until I sputtered out my go to line in German – ‘Ich spreche kein Deutsch!’ (I don’t speak German!).
From Marienplatz I headed deeper into the old town, with the vague destination of the English Garden in mind. It’s basically just a massive park but seeing as this was potentially going to be my only day of dry weather I wanted to go and wander around while I could. On the way I passed by the Munich residence which was the official residence of the Bavarian royal family for more than 400 years until 1918 and is the biggest city palace in Germany. I didn’t go in but I walked through the garden and later learned that the building now houses multiple museums so if that’s your thing it’s a good spot!
Just beyond the residence was the bottom of the English Garden. Here is where you will find one of my favourite spots in Munich and a bit of a legendary sight. The Schwabinger river runs into the garden and at the most southern point in the park you can find the Eisbach wave. The rock formations at this point in the river create a wave that is perfect for surfing! It’s only for pretty advanced surfers but even if you can’t partake, it’s fascinating to stand on the bridge overlooking the wave or the banks of the river to watch those that can. It’s such a curiosity and I loved whiling away some time watching the surfers there.
After being entranced by the surfers, I walked into the actual garden and wandered around for a while, coming across the Monopteros, a small Greek style temple. I was starting to get hungry so I found a biergarten, appropriately enough the Chinesischer Turm Biergarten (Chinese Tower Beergarden) which has a pagoda in the middle. I spent €9 on some currywurst (sausage with a sweet tomato and curry sauce poured over it) and kartoffelsalat (potato salad, pretty much the only reason I got this instead of chips was because when the guy asked me what I wanted, I recognised the words and was very chuffed with putting my Duolingo level German to use!). I was tempted by a beer but the only option was a 1L stein that would have cost the same as my food!
After a busy morning full of walking I was a little tired so headed towards one of the recommendations I’d been given, a coffee shop in the university district to the west of the garden. It was called Lost Weekend and was exactly my vibe! It was filled with young people with their laptops and books out, was part bookshop and has events like open mic nights and poetry readings in the evenings! I got a coffee and read my book there for a while, happy to take a break from being a tourist and blend in for an hour or two.
I dandered back towards the hostel past some of the museums that I was considering visiting later in the week and then stumbled across a square with a Greek style gate called the Propyläen and also the Sculpture Gallery and the State Collection of Antiques which were both in interesting buildings. Back at the hostel I was wiped out so I just made some more pesto pasta, got a beer from the hostel bar (€2.80 for a pint!) and got chatting to an Australian woman about her extensive travels.
My first full day in Munich came out to €14.30 after walking everywhere, just taking in the sights of the city plus eating breakfast and dinner in the hostel. Off to a good start!
Monday 2 May
My plan for day 2 stemmed from the conversation I had with Lisa, the Australian woman, the night before. She recommended going to see Schloss Nymphenburg. It’s a palace a little further out from the centre of the city but is easily accessible by tram. It was €3.50 for a one way ticket, a little expensive in my opinion, and I was very confused about where to buy it until I realised that the ticket machines are actually on the trams. From where I was staying near the main train station it was about 15 minutes to the tram stop named Schloss Nymphenburg and then the palace is right there. I decided to skip the pais entry to the building, at a certain point once you’ve seen one fancy building you’ve seen them all, and instead spent a few hours wandering around the extensive gardens. There were some nice buildings and statues hidden away amongst the trees and I paused by a lake to read my book as well.
I went back to the hostel for lunch and went back out in the evening to explore Frühlingsfest. One of the things Munich is most famous for is obviously Oktoberfest, a beer festival held every year from mid-September until the first Sunday in October. Frühlingsfest is the much smaller version held in April and May (Frühling means spring in German). In comparison to Oktoberfest’s 14 large beer tents, Frühlingsfest has just 2. Due to the pandemic, Oktoberfest hasn’t happened for the last two years so this Frühlingsfest is the first similar event to take place since Oktoberfest 2019. I haven’t been to Oktoberfest but to me Frühlingsfest felt a little more like a funfair with a few extra beer tents than the mass drinking event that is Oktoberfest. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, it’s a more low key and still very enjoyable atmosphere. I wandered through the rides and the various food stalls until I was tempted by one of them. A Bratwurst sausage in a bread roll and a waffle covered in icing sugar cost me €7.
Along with my two tram tickets and food at Frühlingsfest, I also picked up some more groceries, things like cashew nuts, Pringles and some granola bars so my overall spending was slightly over my allotted goal at €23.16.
Tuesday 3 May
I had a slow start to my third full day in Munich because I was waiting around for a phone call that amounted to a job interview for some extra teaching once I get back to Mulhouse in September. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know it went well! I made it out just in time to get to Marienplatz to catch the 12pm showing of the glockenspiel which I had missed the first day I was there. I went to the neighbouring Viktualienmarkt, a food market, to get some lunch. I had been recommended a stall called Schelmmemeyers and been told to get the rostbratwurst, another form of sausage in a bread bun. I had a proud language moment when the guy asked me if I wanted mustard (senf) and I understood and was able to say yes! I also got a potato rosti purely because it was called an Elsässer rosti and Elsässer is how you say Alsace in German! It was €6 for the two.
My main activity of the day was very specific to my interests. I had been reading the information board in my hostel and came across an ‘off the beaten path’ recommendation from one of the staff members. There is a public swimming pool in a beautiful old baroque building that I thought would be fun to visit called Müller’sches Volksbad. It was a little out of the centre again in a direction I hadn’t explored but not too far by foot so I walked over and got to see a new neighbourhood on my way. It was only early afternoon when I arrived in the area so I found a cafe nearby and got an iced latte for €4.30. Café Blá itself was a great find!
The pool was actually just down the road so I found it easily enough but it took me a couple of tries to find the door because despite the building being very grand and impressive, it’s actually rather inconspicuous. I wasn’t totally convinced from the outside that it was currently in use. It must be a ploy to keep it a well kept secret because inside was stunning. It cost €3.50 for a student ticket which was 100% worth it because when I got through to the actual pool there were barely five other people in there! I don’t know enough about architecture to do a description of the inside any justice but I’ll just say that I’ve never enjoyed backstroke so much! There was so much to look at on the ceiling, even in the changing rooms. There are two pools that used to be separated for men and women but now the only difference is in temperature, with the former women’s pool being a few degrees warmer. Overall, this was actually one of my favourite things I did in Munich!
My evening was spent back at the hostel again with some sandwiches for dinner so adding in a few extra pieces I picked up at the supermarket my total for the day was a respectable €21.76.
Wednesday 4 May
Several days of well over 10,000 steps a day were catching up to me a bit at this point so I had a more chilled day planned. I wanted to go to a museum or gallery today and one that had caught my eye, again on the hostel information board, was the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art. I got talking to a guy while I was eating breakfast and he was looking for something to do that day as well so asked if he could come with me. The more the merrier!
The museum itself was really cool. You couldn’t take pictures which was at the same time a shame because there were a lot of pieces that I really liked but also a really nice idea because it lets you just enjoy the art that is in front of you. There were a lot of pieces from Banksy, including one from his Dismaland installation and one entitled ‘Are You Using That Chair?’, based on Edward Hopper’s famous late night bar scene ‘Nighthawks’. My favourites were by an artist called Vhils, sheets of iron that had designs burned on to them with acid. The skills it must take to get the level of detail that there was is incredible. There was also a whole room devoted to Richard Hambleton’s shadowan, an eery silhouette that haunted the streets of Manhattan in the 80s. To top it all off, entrance was only €5!
As we were leaving, the rain that had been promised all week finally arrived. It had rained a bit the previous evening but I was already tucked up in the hostel by that time but I was fully caught in it this time. Luckily I had the foresight to bring an umbrella with me to help me scurry back to the hostel. I ventured out again in the late afternoon once it had stopped raining. The sky still looked pretty menacing though and I did in fact get caught in an even bigger shower, nay thunderstorm. I was in the process of deciding what I wanted to eat for dinner and in the end I was forced into Five Guys as much for shelter as for sustenance.
When I eventually made it back, slightly damp, to Wombat’s I ran into one of my dormmates. When I first arrived I had been sharing my mixed six bed dorm with a group of five Irish guys who were there together and liked to snore and come in loudly at 5am. Safe to say nothing was particularly pushing me to make friends with them but after they left there was a much nicer group of individual travellers that came in. I spent what was my final evening having a drink with some of my dormmates, Mohammed from Afghanistan, Gael from Israel and Nic from the French speaking part of Canada, and playing a board game. It was really nice to hang out with them because while I had gotten chatting to a few people over the course of my stay it was mostly on a one to one basis. I struggled a bit during the first few days with feeling like I was out of practice with the social aspect of travelling. I think everyone’s social skills have suffered a bit since the start of the pandemic as we just haven’t had the opportunities to be amongst people we don’t know and to make new friends and I felt this at first. It was good to shake that feeling off and it turned out that Nic was even going to be in Vienna at the same time as me!
For my last full day in Munich I spent €21.45 on my admission to MUCA and my Five Guys dinner so still more or less on track!
Thursday 5 May
I was leaving to head to Innsbruck but not until mid-afternoon so I still got the morning in Munich. In a slightly backwards turn of events I was spending my last morning doing a free walking tour. Ideally I would have done it on the first day but the company that I wanted to go with, Sandeman’s New Europe, only had tours later on in the week. It would have been a perfect way to get to know the city centre a little but even though I had already seen a lot of the places we went to, I got to learn more about these places. The main spot that I hadn’t seen until then was the Hofbrauhaus, one of the most famous breweries in Munich. While the walking tour was technically free, donations are suggested at the end. You can pay what you want, depending on how much you enjoyed it and I thought it was great so I gave €10.
Before getting my train I went back to Viktualienmarkt to get some lunch. I wanted to try schnitzel while I was in Germany, which is pounded, breaded and then fried cutlet, usually of pork. It’s very popular and very common but I was a little disappointed. It was like a dry chicken nugget because it’s so much thinner. A portion of schnitzel with chips cost €7. It was a pretty heavy meal but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it would keep me going during my journey to Innsbruck!
I arrived into Innsbruck at around half 5 and was met by my friends. We got the tram out to my hostel (€1.70) and then went out for some drinks (€8). All things together, I spent €28.10 so starting to creep a little higher. For more details on my arrival to Innsbruck and Austria, you’ll just have to wait for the next post!
I said I would let you know what I didn’t do that I wish I had and that was Schloss Neuschwanstein. This is an iconic castle in the Bavarian hills, if you don’t know the castle I’m talking about have a quick Google search and you’ll recognise it. I really wanted to go but like I mentioned the weather forecast kept threatening rain in the afternoons which either didn’t happen or only in the evening. The castle is about 2 hours away from Munich which is fine if you know it’s going to be worth it. What I didn’t want to happen was that I went all that way and spent the day in the rain without getting any good views of or from the castle. I kind of wish I had just gone but I did my best with the information I have and I guess it just means that I have to go back!
Some final thoughts on Munich – I liked the city a lot although maybe my impression of it was slightly dampened by the weather (boom boom). My favourite thing I did was actually going to the old swimming pool which is maybe a lesson in choosing wisely – sometimes the most popular things aren’t for you but you can surely find something that is. Overall I think I could have done with one day less or even just to have left earlier in the last day. I felt like I had more than had my fill of Munich by the end. Saying that, I would still like to go back, maybe to experience Oktoberfest or even just to finally make it to Schloss Neuschwanstein.
A final break down of my spending –
Transport (train from Mulhouse to Munich) – €28.25
Accommodation (5 nights in a 6 bed mixed dorm room) – €142.65
Average daily spending – €20.16
Up next – Innsbruck, Austria!