Munich: Markets and Museums

We’ve been in Munich a little less than 24 hours now and we love the place already. After about 22 hours in transit we arrived at our hotel at about 10 pm last night and following a restless, jetlagged sleep we headed out this morning to explore the city.

We’re staying at the Novotel Munich Centre and so far we’re very impressed with it. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the town centre, the staff are friendly and it has a lot of nice touches like a kids’ play area and an indoor pool. My only minor complaint is that the room is a bit small and it has an of an odd bathroom layout which seems to waste a bit of space and make the room seem even smaller, but it’s very clean and the great public areas make up for the slightly cramped quarters. The morning breakfast buffet was absolutely amazing and I’d recommend this hotel to anyone headed to Munich.

We headed out to the town centre at about 9am this morning after stuffing ourselves silly on the wonderful variety of fresh, tasty foods laid out for us in the breakfast room at our hotel. (Did I mention this hotel has a great breakfast?) We got to the Marionplatz, the main pedestrian area in front of the city hall, at about 9:30, just as the stalls were beginning to open up for the day. I really didn’t know what to expect from a German Christmas market, but the stalls were arranged in about three double rows in the town square plus a few others scattered down the side streets and seemed to consist of about half ornament and Christmas decoration stalls, one quarter food vendors and one quarter others, such as vendors selling woolens, jewellery, handmade soaps and other items that you typically see at artisan markets.

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I was able to very quickly ascertain that it was going to be very hard to decide what to spend my money on with all the lovely, original ornaments out there in the market. It was also a bit challenging to convince the kids to hold back and not spend their allowance on the first shiny thing they see. We’re trying to convince them to hold back and look at everything before making their purchase on our last visit to the market, but it can be a bit of a tough sell for kids who see all the pretty, glittering things and want to have something now!

The weather has been quite a bit warmer than usual in Germany this winter and the kids were quite disappointed when I told them that there might not be any snow on this trip. Today’s weather was a lot like typical December at home in BC; quite mild and overcast. It even began to rain lightly at about after we’d been at the market for about an hour so we decided to have a mid morning break and make a quick stop at a Munich institution called the Haufbrauhaus which was just on the edge of the central pedestrian zone. It’s a huge beer hall which serves traditional Bavarian food and drink in a fun, festive setting. We ended up being there just before it started humming with the lunch time crowd so the atmosphere was fairly quiet but we decided that we definitely had to come back again when the crowds were lively and the oom-pah-pah music was playing!

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After some refreshments and a quick rest we made our way back towards out hotel and made a stop at the Deutches Museum, which sits on an island in the river just to the west of the downtown core. This museum had been one of my favourite stops on my very first visit to Germany in 1995. I remember spending half a day exploring the amazing collection of educational exhibits, staying from noon until closing time and still wishing I had more time there. I had been really looking forward to taking the kids to see this marvel of scientific discovery on this trip.

Well, sometimes a place that looms large in your imagination lives up to the hype and sometimes it just….doesn’t. Not that it was bad or anything; we spent three hours there and had a great time. But to be honest, the museum that had seemed so cutting edge and amazing 20 years ago was definitely showing it’s age. There’s also the fact that the kind of education exhibits that appeal to a 20 year old college student don’t tend to hold the same appeal to a five and a seven year old. A lot of the exhibits were clearly aimed at older kids and teens and it was a bit of a struggle to keep my kids engaged.

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Another downside was that the museum divided up it’s collection a few years ago and moved it’s extensive automobile and aviation collections to new homes to become their own stand alone exhibits. Even though I’m not a car or airplane buff, those exhibits were some of my favourites from my first visit to the museum and not having them there made a big difference. One of my favourite things ended up being the nautical exhibit, which had boats and other seagoing crafts of all kinds that you could peer into and examine, since these were the only vehicles left at the main museum now.

But still, we enjoyed our visit and had a good time. It looked like they were doing some major renovation work on the museum, so maybe by the time we come back they will have had the chance to upgrade some of the more faded exhibits and add some more modern material.

And then to end the day we returned to our hotel, only a five minute walk from the Deutches Museum, went for a swim in the hotel pool, had a light supper in the friendly, and trendy, hotel restaurant and tucked the exhausted kids into bed for the night. And now it’s eight pm and I’m trying to figure out how long I should wait before heading to bed myself. Two nights with less than four hours of sleep can do that to a person.

And tomorrow? More markets, more museums and a pair of well rested children. At least, I hope that’s what the morning brings!

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