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Munich

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on November 7, 2006

Marienplatz

I didn’t expect to like Munich as much as I did. We chose it as a destination simply for Oktoberfest. So I really didn’t read about Munich at all as far as food or city attractions. Munich was quite clean, and had the sign of all the truly great cities of the world: thousands of bicycles everywhere. Virtually all the main drags we walked along had a sidewalk and a bikeway that were totally separate from the street. I’ve read that traffic experts differ on whether a separated path is safer or not, but I thought it was nice. Further, Munich has an abundance of public transport, including a subway system, trams and buses. Traffic never *seemed* bad, from a pedestrian’s perspective.

Another pleasant surprise was how nice people were there. The first example occurred minutes after we arrived. The main train station was titanic, which means that each exit takes you to a different street corner. I had a printout of our a hotel’s address and a small map of the area. Our hotel appeared pretty close to the train station so I figured it would be easy to find. After a little eeny, meeny, miny, mo, we picked an exit and got out on the street. I made a futile attempt to ascertain the street name and intersection, and then decided to head, uh, that way. We walk along a bit and stop again to figure out where we are on the map. At this point, a man about our age walks up and asks if we need a hand. I show him our map and he tries to figure it out, then says, “I’ve got a bigger map in my car, let’s go check that out and figure out where you need to go.” Great! I’m guessing his car must be close, but no, it’s probably 150 yards away. He whips out the map, apparently he’s German but is visiting Munich also, and we figure out we needed to in the opposite direction that we started. Thank you, dear citizen! I have no idea what the guy was doing before he helped us, but was damn impressed that he walked way over and spent 10 minutes helping out two completely foreign strangers. Awesome!

Our tour guide

But hold on, I’ve got an example that blows that one away. It was either later that same day, or sometime on the next, but we went exploring the Marienplatz area, which is essentially the city center of Munich. Tons of shops, some car-free walking streets, just a fantastic place. (Why don’t have more of these in the states? We have like one per coast, while I think every city I’ve been to in Europe has many. No wonder we’re fatter, we’re too lazy even to walk.) So we’re walking along, and we stop on a street corner to figure out where we are. Moments later, a lady of about 60 years rolls up on her bike and asks if we need help. “Ah, we’re just trying to figure out where we are,” we tell her. She ends up giving us a 3-hour+ private tour of Munich’s city center. She showed us some hidden courtyards in the Residenz, snuck us past the huge line into a side entrance to Hofbräuhaus, down to Maximilianstrasse, and finally led us to a restaurant in the bowels of a building right on Marienplatz. Rick Steves couldn’t have planned it better himself. Oktoberfest, well, that’s another story.

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