Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Munich in the summer - Oktoberfest, Starnberg See and a random day in Munich

I haven't travelled much in Germany, only to Blackforest, Frankfurt and Cologne for a day. But somehow I end up going to Munich so much more, I have been there at least 20 times! Sometimes for work, sometimes vacation and sometimes even weddings. In fact I think half of all my European trips have been to Munich. Between this and last year, I made 3 (more) trips and not on work, so I got to see at least some of the sights this time. Am writing down about my experiences on these trips...

Oktoberfest again

In Sep 2016, I was in Munich for a weekend during Oktoberfest. This time at least the weather was better - sunny and warm, so I got to see the city too. We landed from London in the morning and took the public transport to our hotel. First we took a metro train, then we had to get off at a random stop in between and take a bus from the middle of nowhere to our hotel. I have always taken a cab or driven in Munich, so this was a different experience altogether. We saw some of the suburban houses and they all seemed very warm and convenient to live in.

We were staying at the Westinn, and after checking in, we wore our dirndls and were off to the greatest fairs of our times 😜. The fair grounds were about 20-30 mins walking from the hotel, so we decided to walk there. As expected, there were huge crowds and queues at the grounds. The recent attacks in Germany had just occurred and there was massive security all around. The police was not allowing anyone to carry big bags, even women’s purses were being asked to be deposited outside! So I just hid my purse inside my big coat and walked in.

Our tent in Oktoberfest
We first walked around a bit in the fair, around all the rides and shops. It was so sunny and hot that day that it felt lovely. Very different from the Munich that I know otherwise. And then we went into our tents where our table mates were already there. This was a trip with work colleagues where they had already booked a table in the tents for both the days. Once inside, we spent most of the day in the Armbrustschützen-Festhalle tent. The first half we had seats and the second we moved into the neighbouring tent (maybe it was Schützen-Festzelt but I am not sure), where we found some places due to friendly waitresses.

The whole day was so much fun, enjoying with friends, chatting, dancing to the German music and generally having fun. I would say though, that the food was still the same as my last visit - quite average. This time I tried the chicken and salad which was definitely better than the cheese and macaroni I had tried earlier. The salted schnitzels were worth snacking on too.

A place for tea
The ambience in the tents
The ambience in the tents
The ambience in the tents
The ambience in the tents
The ambience in the tents

In between, we also walked through to some of the other tents and saw all the different music, ambience and decor. It was quite interesting to see how each of the tent had a different ambience and feel to it. The artworks and colour schemes were different, the music was different, the age group and type of people were different and so on. I can imagine people coming here regularly and having a different experience based on the tent they are in. Anyways, after a long day at the fair, we called it a night quite early and walked back to our hotel.

View on Munich roads
The whole ambience of Munich changes during this weekend. There were so many people on the roads, dressed up and walking around having fun. It felt like a whole big party! Like the view on the right where people were partying on a huge cycle.

Monument in English Garden
The second day we thought we would explore Munich a bit and walked from our hotels to the tents. On the way we explored the town - it being a sunny and warm day helped too. We walked past huge buildings and gardens that I had not yet seen in my 20 visits to Munich before!

View of English Garden
And then I finally went to the English Garden. I had heard about it for ages but never managed to visit it. It was a huge garden with lot of stuff to do and different landscaping at different places. There were green grass parks, streams, woods, cafes, small monuments atop hills, rock landscapes and so on. It was a nice walk around and we just walked under the trees for long.

A picturesque stream in the Garden
There was a Chinese Garden where we had lunch and it reiterated the fact that getting good vegetarian food in Germany is still a faraway dream 😏.

Surfing in the English Garden
At the end of our walk, we came to a stream which has waves at one location and this is used to practice surfing. Imagine being able to practice surfing in the middle of the city, without any sea in sight! I had heard about this place years ago but only now got to see it. It was fun to see people go one after another on this short stretch of water and practise their skills.

Then we walked by the Marienplatz area which was full of tourists and very lively. Anyways we went back to the tents for some more time. It was very quiet on a Sunday. And we stayed there only a few hours and got out to explore the rest of the fair. There were loads of rides like any other fair and we did a few rides in the evening. By then everyone left to go back to London. I didn’t realise how much tired I was till I came back and crashed completely. It was a nice weekend and I was happy to have finally got to see Munich in the summer.

A day in Munich at the Bayern Munich stadium

I was in Munich for a day in Nov 2016 and got to visit the Bayern Munich stadium (also known as Allianz arena) for the first time, after having seen it every time to and from the airport. I learnt a lot about the stadium which was a first for me for any football stadium. And I was intrigued by how much details and pride goes into all of it. It was an interesting trip and I learnt a lot of trivia about the stadium, most of which I don’t even remember.

Allianz stadium
The Allianz arena was built relatively recently and with a huge capacity of 75 thousand spectators. The previous Bayern Munich stadium was never sold out, so they had forecasted a lower capacity for the stadium. However, now even with 75 thousand, it was always fully sold out and they have to sell standing tickets for some of the games to accomodate more fans. The stadium has two huge monitors, of 100 metre square size. They are bigger than most of the two bedroom flats in London 😜.

Solarium in the stadium
One of the most interesting part of this trip was to see how they made the grass grow. Given the shape of the stadium, there is limited light that comes inside the stadium So there were solariums used all the time to give artificial light to the grass so that it grows. Another interesting fact was that the Bayern Munich boss was currently in jai, but he used to get out during the day, visit the stadium sometimes but went back to sleep in the prison every time. It felt so much like people in India would do!

There are many types of seats in the stadium - sponsor booths, business seats, cheaper seats for people in wheelchair and so on. We tried out the seats in the 'well' of the grouns where the players sit during the match. And realised that the seats were heated! I think its a good thing for Munich winters. And the acoustics inside the stadium are great. You can hear small sounds from the ground, all the way back in the seats on top.

We also went to the locker rooms and apparently the entire gear of the players is decided and cannot be chosen. It has to be what the team management picks up, except the shoes which the players can choose themselves. We went into one of the kicking practice room to try some of our football kicks too

Apparently, the same stadium is used for games by two teams - the Bayern Munich and TSV - and TSV pays rental for its game at the stadium. There is a full well oiled machinery to ensure the whole decor of the stadium is changed every time there is a game by the other team. So all the posters, pictures and logos are replaced regularly based on who is playing.

While going back to the airport, it was so foggy and cold all the way. Not at all like the summer visit earlier in the year. I also noticed that Munich airport was already changing. There was more checking and security at the airport, both while coming in and while leaving. I spent much more longer at the immigration than ever before, sign of changing times?

A wedding near Starnberg See

I visited Munich again in the summer of 2017 to attend one of my colleagues’s wedding. The venue was near Munich, in a resort called La Villa, near the village of Pocking. The venue overlooked a huge lake called Starnberg See and is one of the most picturesque locations I have been to.

The venue was about 200 kms away from the airport, all the way across Munich. So I took the train there, first S8 to the middle of Munich and then changed at Pasing for another train, S6 going to Feldafing. During the trip, I realised how efficient the whole Munich local train system was (I hadn't used it much before and so was pleasantly surprised). I also again realised how much our life has been made easy with smartphones and Google. You can easily land up in a new place and take the public transport to go from one place to another.

The second train very quickly reached the Starnberg area which was a suburb of Munich but very close to nature with a huge lake and view of the Alps across the lake. The train ran through green woods, small villages and people walking their dogs on the side. It was so green everywhere, it felt like spring was already here. Also luckily, it was supposed to be a rainy day but all I saw was sunshine everywhere which made it look even more beautiful.

View of Starnberg lake
The first view of the Starnberg See lake was at the town of Starnberg and it was majestic. Crystal blue waters lined with green trees; wooden houses dotting the edges and snow covered white peaks at a distance, all under the sky blue skies laced with dark clouds. What a view that was, and then the train ran next to this view all the way till Feldafing, giving short glimpses time and again of the lake and its surroundings.

I was staying at a small boutique hotel called Kaiserin Elisabeth, in the village of Feldafing. Once I got down from the train, I walked to the hotel from the station. And the views of the lake and beyond were breathtaking. Blue waters with the snow covered mountains behind, and a clouded sky providing texture to the painting... There were also lots of alpine houses overlooking the lake. And right in front of my hotel and between the lake, there was a golf course. It was such an impressive walk, and I was already loving the weekend 😊.

View from my hotel room
The hotel was small and average but its location was amazing. Also apparently the German queen had once stayed there and hence the name. I initially got a lake view room on the second floor where you could see both the lake and the Alps beyond. But it wasn’t ready in the morning, so I got a room with a different view, which wasn't too bad either. Surprisingly, they did not ask for any ID for the room, just gave me the key. Thats something I haven’t experienced for a long time. The hotel felt a bit rusty and old. But it had nice rooms and very comfortable eating and sitting places. I wish I had got some time to spend in and around the hotel too.

Starnberg See
Very quickly, we got ready for the wedding and left for La Villa. I wore a sari and was surprised by the number of Germans in the hotel who knew what a sari was and complimented it on 😊. As expected, there were no Ubers here and I had to call a cab. The drive along the lake to the wedding venue was lovely, and I spotted lot of luxurious holiday homes on the water. And the wedding was of course spectacular.

Wedding venue
It was at a wedding venue called La Villa in the village of Pocking, located right on the lake. It had a nice villa, a beautiful boathouse on the water, an outdoor place for the wedding ceremony and an indoor area - the Orangerie - for dinner.

Wedding venue
The wedding ceremony next to the lake was very romantic and the fact it did not rain at all was very lucky! The wind, the sun and the clouds were playing games all through the ceremony. And the background was charming, with green in all shades, the crystal blue of the lake, the snow covered mountains beyond and people sailing in the middle 😊.

Wedding setting
The evening dinner was heavenly especially when at night, the full moon came out which was reflecting on the lake. There were also fireworks from a boat on the lake which was very enchanting. The wedding was very enjoyable but don’t think we need the details for this travel blog:). All in all, it was a day spent at a beautiful location, and being part of a special day for a friend.

Golf course next to the lake and Alps
I spent the next day exploring the area around the lake. I walked from La Villa all the way till the village I was staying in, Feldafing. The whole path was next to the lake and full of people down there enjoying a nice day out in the sun. Some were fishing, some boating, some diving, some sailing in the lake and some just picnicking on the shore. It didn’t feel touristy at all, I think it was a place where locals came from Munich just to spend their weekends and not many tourists would know about this place.

View on the walk
The walk was beautiful too, walking through tree covered pathways with majestic views across the lake. It was all full of striking green everywhere - bright fluorescent green for the new leaves, dark green for the old and dark red for some! There were a couple of villages I passed through as well as a local palace. The whole walk was about 5 kms along the lake and very peaceful.

View on the walk
While on the trail, I realised I did not have enough cash on me, and decided to go and find an ATM. I asked a few people on the way but they did not know English well. So I just thought of walking to the next village station looking for cash but that turned out to be the wrong call. There were so few ATMs around that it ended up being a very long route just to get some money 😏.

Pier on the lake
I took a turn to go to the station in Possenhofen village but there was no ATM at the station, the nearest ATM was a further 15 mins ahead. So I stopped for lunch in the Museum Kaiserin Elisabeth cafe at the station. And then it started raining a bit. Anyways I walked in the rain through the random village to get the to ATM and this village did not feel picturesque at all. So all of Europe is not a picture perfect postcard it turns out 😜. But thankfully I got to the ATM and some cash to pay for the taxi to the station. But my adventure wasn't finished yet. While walking back to the wedding venue, I got stuck in pouring rain, and a very bad rainfall at that! Anyways I took shelter under some trees but finally had to walk back in the rain to the venue.

View of the lake at Starnberg
I took a cab from there to the Starnberg train station, to then take a train to Munich and the airport. The view at Starnberg station was so captivating that I decided to let the next train go and just spend time there next to the lake. Right next to the station was the lake and the place for ferry launches. It was looking so enchanting, especially right after the rains when the sunlight was coming out and the dark clouds added a lot of colour to the picture perfect view. I just sat there enjoying the beauty and calm of the place for some time. It was a view I could have stayed with for some time.

Anyways thanks to a great train system, I was still in time to make it to the Munich airport on time. On the train, I was in hearing distance of some American ladies who had travelled to Germany and were raving about how pretty the place was. It made for some interesting observations to listen to.

And again it turns out that the Munich airport is constantly undergoing change. The checkin time is now 45 mins before the flight rather than 20 mins that was the norm earlier. I was so worried I would miss my flight but somehow made it in time. And I was back in London soon.

The weekend was so short but felt so very refreshing, it was wonderful. And it was also one of those trips which make me feel that I should once stay in mainland Europe for a couple of years. Being so close to the Alps, skiing and trekking would definitely be a different experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment