A Travellerspoint blog


Munich and Austria

Walking in a winter wonderland...

snow -4 °C
View Munich, Salzburg, Fussen on StephenJen's travel map.

We arrived in Munich on a wintery, but dry, Thursday morning. As was the case in Berlin, we found the metro was not as easy to understand as elsewhere in Europe. After struggling with the ticket machine for a while we conceded defeat and made our purchase at the ticket desk in the airport. We boarded the S Bahn service to Hauptbahnhof, which is the main central station in Munich We found our way to our hotel, not far at all from Hauptbahnhof Station (the main one in Munich which we came into - about 35 minutes from the airport). We checked in without any drama and were pleasantly surprised with our hotel, which is always nice!

Thursday was spent meandering around the city, spending most of our time around Marienplatz, the central pedestrian square in the middle of the city which is surrounded by several brilliant buildings, like the Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus) and the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus).

Mariensaul Column in front of Neues Rathaus



Friday we travelled by train about 20km North-West of Munich to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. Dachau was the first concentration camp established by the Nazi Party and was considered the prototype for subsequent camps. Dachau was a work camp where Jews, Jehova's witnesses, sympathisers and criminals were forced to labour in support of the war effort. Whilst Dachau did have a Gas Chamber, it was never used. Instead, prisoners who did not die from disease, exhaustion, suicide or malnutrition were sent to "extermination camps" such as Auschwitz. In April, 1945, 32000 prisoners were liberated by American & British Forces.

Arbecht Macht Frei - Work Shall Set You Free: The Gate to Dachau through which all of the prisoners entered.


The Path to the Dachau Crematorium

It was a freezing cold day at Dachau and, with very few people visiting, there was an eerie quiet throughout the grounds. As we looked around, we could not even begin to imagine how anyone could have survived. The appalling conditions, workload, overcrowding, disease, torment and torture that went on there, seemed all the more devastating as the rain and freezing wind swept across the compound.

On Saturday we jumped on a train for the two hour trip to Salzburg, Austria. We were able to get return tickets for both of us for only € 28. These are called Bayern Tickets and allow unlimited travel on any regional transport for up to FIVE people between 9am - 03am the following day. Fantastic! Traveling by train allowed us to observe the change in terrain from within the warmth of our carriage. The built up areas of Munich were replaced by farmland and heavily treed areas. A thick blanket of snow covered the landscape as we drew closer to Austria.

When we arrived in Salzburg it became apparent that we were not dressed warmly enough. We immediately headed to buy some additional thermals and warmer coats. We had checked the forecast and it was supposed to be a low of -3 and despite having almost every layer we owned on, it was simply not enough!

Streets of Salzburg

Statue in Salzburg

Snowy view - Salzburg

Jen in Salzburg

Couple walking down to the Salzburg Christmas Markets

One of the highlights of Salzburg was the Christkindlemarkt (Christmas Market). As it got darker (and colder), it looked just like a classic fairytale Christmas. There were fairy lights everywhere, the snow was falling, music played and people wandered from stall to stall buying their Christmas gifts. The stalls had rows and rows of lovely hand made Christmas ornaments and decorations. We joined the multitude of people huddled around drinking Gluewein (hot mulled wine) and eating giant pretzels and tasty bratwurst! After a perfect day, we reluctantly returned to Munich on the evening train.



Christmas Markets in Salzburg

Sunday we had breakfast at our hotel and then wandered around the City Centre. We had lunch at Bistro Am Marienplatz. Whilst the hot chocolate and crepes were perfect, the grumpy waiter diminished the visit somewhat! After lunch we paid the tiny entrance fee of €1.20 and climbed the stairs of St Peters Church for some great views across the city. On such a clear day we had views as far as the alps.

View from St Peters Church Tower

After St Peters, we walked up through Residenz and had a look around the Englischer Garten, one of the worlds biggest public parks. As dusk approached, the temperature dropped significantly so we hightailed it back to the hotel.

After a short Nanna-Nap, Jen peeked through the curtains and announced excitedly, "Its Snowing.... Its REALLY snowing! Really, Really Snowing". It was, it was bucketing down with snow. We quickly threw on our standard seven layers of clothing, grabbed our cameras and headed out to shoot midnight snow. It was fascinating to see the sights, bathed in sunshine earlier in the day, now covered in a three inch blanket of snow. It re-enforced one thing we already knew...Boy do we love snow!

Marienplatz under Midnight Snow



Monday we headed for the Augustiner Brau, a brewery and beer hall in town. We sat at a huge wooden table and ate hot lentil stew with bratwurst and each tried a massive glass of the house beer, Edelstoff Hell. It was great to eat a lovely hot meal on such a cold day, and in such a different environment. Apron clad waitresses lugged beer to the tables and hunting trophies adorned the walls. We felt less guilty eating the lentils than the Bratwurst given the surroundings! We chose the Augustiner Beer Hall over the more raucous, and tourist filled, HofBrauhaus, but we could still imagine how busy the city and its beer halls would be during Oktoberfest.

On Tuesday we again took a day trip by train, this time bound for Fussen. Fussen is a beautiful town located in the Bavarian Alps, just 5 kilometers from the Austrian Border. The famous castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau are located near the town. Neuschwanstein has appeared in several movies, and was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park and for the Cinderella Castles at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. We climbed aboard an overloaded horse-drawn cart and made the climb to Zur-Neuen-Burg for our customary Bavarian lunch of Bratwurst, Bread and Mustard. Adequately refuelled, we climbed the final stretch to the castle just in time for a fresh snowfall.

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Horse and cart up to the castle



View from the Castle

We jumped back on the Cart and, with dusk approaching, travelled to the second of the castles which overlook the town, Hohenschwangau. We gave the horses a congratulatory pat for a job well done, and quickly took some photographs of this, the older of the two castles, and of the town below before catching our train back to Munich.


Stephen and Jen at the Bavarian Alps

View from Hohenschwangau


The last few days of our holiday were spent simply relaxing. We slept when sleepy, ate when hungry, and enjoyed a walk around the town when bored. On Thursday afternoon we headed for the airport and before we knew it, we were back in rainy old London again. Ah well... gotta earn some more money for the next trip!

Posted by StephenJen 17:57 Archived in Germany Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Wurst holiday ever!

Bier, brats and bus rides in Berlin

11 °C

Guten Tag!
Last friday we braved the infamous Easyjet experience and headed, by cab, for a 5am check-in at Luton airport. Destination... Schonefeld airport in Berlin.

We had heard all manner of horror stories about Easyjet. Our housemates had been in Spanish meltdown after their flight was delayed for hours on the return leg of a holiday. We had left ourselves plenty of time and arrived early. Happily we had no problems and the flight boarded and left on time. At 10.30am, local time, we were in Berlin.
We stayed at a hotel in a place called Schoneweide. It is a town about 20 mins by train from the heart of Berlin and the station was only 2 blocks from the hotel.

Shoneweide railway station

The nice surprise was that our room overlooked the Spree river. The room was nice and the mattress didn’t drive springs into our backs… which made a nice change from home.

The Spree from our room

We arrived on a day of about 11 degrees with some light rain at times. It was a lot colder than London and, as we had not done our homework well enough, we had neglected to bring our winter coats. To remedy the situation, to Jens eternal pleasure, we went shopping for warm jackets. We found a shopping centre only a block away and we were able to find some very affordable coats. Whilst there we also sampled our first German currywurst. It is a somewhat traditional street food essentially bratwurst, knackwurst, bockwurst or some other variety of wurst which is then cut up and served on a small cardboard tray, smothered in tomato sauce and sprinkled with plenty of curry powder. Mmmmm… somethingwurst. The culinary tone for the trip had been set.


Everything had been great - the trip over, the hotel room, the food. Ideal!… well it would have been if there was no train strike or rail maintainence scheduled from Friday evening until Monday afternoon. There were, however, plenty of buses and a tram network to compensate. So after about 4 hours of waiting, studying timetables, hopping on the wrong tram, dragging ourselves from tram stop to bus stop, taking one of the trains still in service in the opposite direction we wanted… twice! we found ourselves, almost inadvertently, heading for the heart of Berlin. Easy!

Now the only antidote for a frustrating start like that is a city which really grabs you from the outset. Berlin was just that. The city looks amazing. A beautiful marriage of old and new with some of the most modern architecture we have seen in our travels so far. The people are relaxed and polite, unlike the inhabitants of London. We were struck by the amount of space we had and we felt very safe. Berlin is an incredibly clean place, everything looks new. Mind you, when you consider the extent of the damage sustained during allied bombing in WW2, almost everything is relatively new.

We took the train to Alexanderplatz. It has a large central railway station and meets both tram and bus routes. There is an open town square with shops and restaurants in all directions. After a quick bratwurst from a street stall we headed to Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg gate. During the years of division by the wall this was actually inaccessible to both the East and West sides of Berlin as it lay within the grounds of the border. It was restored after the wall came down and today is an extremely impressive structure.

Brandenberg Gate

Dusk was closing as we walked along the autumn coloured, tree lined path from the gate towards the Reichstag. Huge German flags punctuate this massive building and the words ’Dem Deutschen Volke’ (The German People) stand boldly on the facade. Within the old building a huge glass dome has been built. Visitors are able to take the spiral climb around the inside of it and enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the Spree. However, the prospect of standing in the massive queue for hours prevented us from doing so.

The Reichstag

We ambled back to Alexanderplatz and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. I was hoping for a traditional German offering. In saying that, my idea of traditional fare is most probably nothing more than an Octoberfest driven characature based on broad stereotypes. Apron clad plaited bar wenches with a fist full of beir steines. Loud ‘all singing, all slapping’ men in Leiderhosen wearing small peaked hats with a feather on the side. Maybe some midgets to carry oversized trays laiden with huge somethingwursts and every kind of pig based product known to man. Not unreasonable is it? I realise that the midgets may just be a ploy to make the food look bigger, but I wouldn’t let that diminish my enthusiasm. The food was modern international so Jen had a pizza and I had parmesan encrusted pork medallions. We managed to get through the whole process speaking Deutsch, so we headed back to the hotel feeling satisfied that the day had ended far better than it had begun.

Saturday we headed to Alexanderplatz. We wanted to see Berlins tallest structure, the Fernsehturm.


We were surprised to see only a very small number of people in line to take the elevator to the observation deck. We jumped in the line. Once through the doors and inside we realised the line snaked along the large entrance and up two flights if stairs before reaching the lift lobby. We decided it would be worth the wait. We used this tower throughout the remainder of our trip to find our way back to the train station as it stands 368 meters tall and the steel sphere which houses the observation deck reflects the sunlight on a bright day, making it unmissable. Once up on the deck, we had a 360 degree view of Berlin. It was a perfect way to see the way the historic buildings bedded into the modern city and helped us make sense of our map too.

The view of the city

We walked to Marienkirche, which is a old brick church built in the 1200s. Outside is an amazing fountain, the Neptunbrunnen (Neptune fountain). We spent a lot of time studying the detail of the work and trying to get some photographs without people climbing all over it.

The Neptunbrunnen


By this time we were running dangerously low on pork product! (having used so much energy standing in line and taking photographs) Thankfully, there was a small market nearby so we were able to refuel with a currywurst.


MMMM... somethingwurst!

Next stop was the Lustgarten (Pleasure garden)


Standing adjacent to the garden is the 1905 Berliner Dom. The former church of the royal Hohenzollern family.

Berliner Dom



We wandered through the garden towards the river and discovered a boat tour about to embark, so we quickly climbed on board. It took us along the Spree which winds through the heart of Berlin.

Music academy and Fernsehturm from the boat

Kayaks on the Spree

Figures in a sculpture on the wall running alongside the river Spree

The balance of our time in Berlin was divided between ingesting wurst and checking out the tourist sights.


Checkpoint Charlie


The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe


Grosser Stern

Monday we headed to one of the places we had been most eager to see, the Eastside gallery. It is the longest remaining piece of the Berlin wall. It is home to graffiti which is deserving of the term 'Wall Art'. Some very famous images have been born on this stretch of concrete. It has, unfortunately, become littered with tags and pointless scribblings by tourists. However, it remains clear evidence of the division of the people of Berlin and cuts an imposing, somewhat depressing, line along the river.

East Side Gallery




All in all, we really liked Berlin. It is the antithesis of London - lots of personal space, very polite and relaxed people - it is a clean and affordable city. We look forward to visiting again in the future.


Posted by StephenJen 05:12 Archived in Germany Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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