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I’ve had a weird relationship with Munich.

The first time I was there, it was awesome. It was Oktoberfest and all boobs and booze. For a young, immature bachelor, probably no city in the world is better in September. I was staying in Salzburg though, so I didn’t get to fully take advantage of my time there (read: pass out behind a dumpster, which at the time I was backpacking around Europe and homeless, on a sabbatical from life, that option was always on the table).

The second time I was there, I was kind of just passing through. I stopped at one hostel, partied it up at some weird and empty Turkish night club with my hostel-mates. I was on my way from Strasbourg to Prague, and wanted to see a little more of the city, but it was cold, rainy, and foggy, and there wasn’t much to see in all that. I remember a park, and some vague outlines of a square and a church, but the fog was so thick that it could have been a church and it could just have been a bus terminal.


night streets

Neither time had I really seen Munich, and for a while that was my entire impression of the city. Big beer festival, Turkish night clubs, and foggy churches. To put it blunt, I didn’t really care much for it.

A different impression

Fast forward 10 years. Now that I’ve been living in Prague for some time, I’ve had to go to the city for one reason or another. A cousin was visiting one time and my parents were flying in and out the next. With all these visits, I’ve been able to slowly gather a different impression of the Bavarian metropolis.

When my cousin came in, we got the full old town experience.

We stayed at a hotel just in front of one of the old town gates. We had told him to meet us at the Hofbrauhaus, which apparently he had been at three times in a row and was glad for a fourth.

The Hoffbrauhaus

If it’s your first time to be in Munich, you have to go. We go every time now. The HB Haus is a famous den, having its roots in the 16th century as a party house for the nobility, opened by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V.

Hofbrauhaus Munich

there's always live music at the Hofbrauhaus

When Wilhelm first took the throne, he had a problem. Bavarian beer sucked. The stuff was as thick as mud and tasted of the town where Luther was declared a heretic. Wilhelm had to save his country and do something. So he passed a law that no Bavarian beer would be crap swill. And this was the start of fine German engineering.

Wilhelm’s beer rocketed to popularity. He opened the Hoffbrauhaus so that he could share his delight with the nobility.

Wilhelm’s son, Maximilian I, had another serious problem. He didn’t care for the brown beer his father had improved the standards of. So he focused his efforts on producing fine wheat beer, and banned everybody else from making wheat beer, making an instant money making monopoly, but not doing much for the local beer scene outside of Hofbrauhaus.

Hofbrauhaus Munich

the beautifully painted ceiling in the historic pub

Everybody’s favorite King of Bavaria, Ludwig I of Oktoberfest fame (though not mine, I prefer Ludwig II), had the hall remodeled and opened it to the common folk, and it’s been the same ever since, now being one of the most famous landmarks in history. Mozart wrote a poetic ode to the hall and got inspiration for an opera, Lenin visited it regularly when he lived around the corner, the Communists had their government’s parliament there, and Hitler staged his attempted revolution against the Commies, the Beer Hall Putsch, there which landed him in a stint in Landsberg writing his memoirs.

Yes, you read that right. Hitler started a fight against Communists in a beer hall. Interestingly, not much of that history is on display at the pub. Not sure why...

Feldhernnhall Munich

the Feldhernnhall, where the Beer Hall Putsch was stopped

At the Hoffbrauhaus, they only serve Bavarian food the Bavarian way. That means if you’re looking for some puny-American style-gluten-free-hold-the-breading-and-can-you-swap-the-potato-salad-for-carb-free-French-fries schnitzel, then you’re going to be out of luck. The place is always packed, so you might have to squeeze in and join some other folk during your meal. And know your food ahead of time. You can buy time and patience if you just order a beer first (there is one size, and that’s huge). Figure out what you want—follow what’s on the menu—tell the waiter. Now sit back, drink that beer, enjoy the live polka music and occasional groups of Bavarians dancing on tables.

If you’ve been to Munich before and are looking for something perhaps a bit quieter, but still Bavarian, then hit up an Augustiner pub. They’ve got several locations, but the original Augustiner Keller, which is where I visited on my second visit, is over next to the train station, and also not far is the first privatized location, the zum Augustiner. The food is perhaps better, and the beer is definitely better, it’s slightly less touristic, but it’s also not where Hitler staged his attempted overthrow of Communist Bavaria. If it’s summertime though, check out their epic beergardens for an afternoon gulp. The local Augustinians first started brewing their beer there in 1328, so they've a beer tradition nearly half as old as Jesus!


This last time we were in Munich, I decided we had to do something in the city outside of drinking beer. So I discovered the Alte Pinakothek, which is the first public art gallery in Europe, also founded by King Ludwig I. That guy loved the people. It’s in a museum district right near the train station, situated next to the Egyptian Museum and the Glyptothek, combined owning a nearly as impressive collection of stolen artifacts as the British Museum.

Glyptothek Munich

the Glyptothek

The Alte Pinakothek is much smaller than some of the more famous museums in Europe, like the Louvre, Hermitage, or Rijksmuseum. It, however, has a pretty amazing collection, packed full of Rembrandts and Rubens. I myself didn’t know how stylistically varied Rubens was, and after seeing this collection, I'm now following him on Instagram.

Alte Pinakothek

the Alte Pinakothek

The old town

There are some pretty awesome scenes in the old town, though much of it was left to bombs and flames in World War II.

A great way to tour the day would be to start with the Alte Pinakothek, and then walk over to the Japanese Teahouse, which was a gift by the tea school in Kyoto to recognize the Munich Olympics. It’s in the Englischer Garden, which is also a great spot for a walk.

Then pass the surfing wave on the Eisbach canal and continue to the Odeonsplatz. The Odeonsplatz was named for the beautiful concert hall called the Odeon, built by, you've got that right, Ludwig I. That dude literally built Munich. The residence of the royalty of Bavaria (which was not built by Ludwig, but he did live there) was also on the Odeonsplatz. Though both were thoroughly ravished during the War, the residence at least has been rebuilt and is now open for touring.

Odeonsplatz Munich

Hanging out at the Odeonsplatz

Continue on down towards the Marienplatz down the Theatinerstrasse. You'll see an epic monument to the Bavarian army, the Feldherrnhalle, also built by old Ludwig. This was where Hitler and his fellow beer brawlers had their last stand in a shoot out with the police.


Some great Munich tour and transit deals to get your started:

Munich Rathaus

the back side of the Rathaus, from the Feldherrnhall

Continue on to the Rathaus. The Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall built in 1874, is the most iconic building in the city, and looks quite mistakably like a church. But don’t be fooled by its massive gothic clocktower. From here, it’s easy to get to either the Hoffbrauhaus or the Augustiner and train station. But for the sake of the tour, I’d continue up the route towards the train station.

Munich Rathaus

the Rathaus (not a cathedral)

Where to stay

After staying in Munich at different places several times, I’ll have to say the best spot is the Hotel Muller. Not only were the rooms cheap yet gigantic, their in-room minibar was free. Which meant, by the time we left, it was also empty. But no worries, it’s restocked daily. The hotel is located just outside the Sedlinger Tor, making it almost a spitting distance to old town, though a bit more of a jaunt to the rail station.

Sendlinger Tor Munich

The Sendlinger Tor

Have you been to Munich? What was your favorite part? I'm looking for more things to do there next time I'm in town!

#Munich #touristicsites #restaurants #hotels

Saint Facetious Christmas Crawl

I know what you’re going to say.

Another Christmas post.

Dangit Saint, it’s the New Year already. Get with it.

But Christmas really isn’t over. The 12 days of Christmas go from Christmas to Epiphany, which is when the Three Wise Men get lost in Italy and bring presents to Spanish kids. Or something like that.

So with that knowledge, I bring to you a golden ring of a blog to bring to your reading and viewing pleasure.

Over December, I went on another epic adventure with my wife and parents. This time, we went on a Christmas Market crawl throughout Germany. We started in Munich, traveled up the Western side along the Rhine, then to Amsterdam, and across Saxony all the way to Dresden, then back down to my home in Prague.

So now I’ll share with you our stops and some quick thoughts on each town. Keep this handy next time you’re thinking of a Teutonic visit to top off your charts.


We stayed in Augsburg. It’s a 45-minute train ride from Munich, and with the Bayern Pass, a family of four can make an all day train bound adventure for only 40 euros. Nearly all the regions of Germany have these daily deals and I can’t stress using them enough.

Augsburg, Germany

The Augsburg market underneath the "Rathaus", or city hall

I hadn’t been to Augsburg before. I only knew it from Church history. This was the town where there was a final peace agreement between the Lutherans and the Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. It was important for the Holy Roman Empire to finally make peace with the pesky Protestants as the Ottomans were knocking at their door, on the road to invading Europe. Peace was to be held so that Turks could be quelled. This was perhaps my favorite Christmas market in Bavaria. It was at the same time huge and cozy, with tons of different hot wines to choose from. It seems every year that we go to a German market, there’s always a larger and larger variety of mulled wine, or Gluhwein. No complaints here. Munich

Munich is the biggest city of Bavaria, and you’d expect it to have a huge Christmas market. We were hoping to make the Krampus parade that day, but as my parents were worn out from their flight from the US, we had to put off our Munchen visit for later that day. As we exited the metro and came up before the towering Rathaus, trumpets were blaring out a fine Baroque hymn as the snow was falling from the sky. It really marked a beautiful moment.

Marienplatz, Munich

The Christmas market with the Rathaus tower

We only visited the small one outside the Rathaus, though apparently there was a larger one around the corner at the Wittelsbacherplatz. Then, also we didn't realize there’s a huge winter festival at the Theresienwiese fairgrounds, the Tollwood Festival. Which I can only guess is a kind of winter Oktoberfest, complete with roller coasters and music concerts. We didn’t make it though, as we only had that evening, which had to be completed with an obligatory visit to the Hoffbrau Haus.


Christmas lights line the main shopping street

Landsberg am Lech

This one was a bit of an unplanned gem. I really wanted to see the town of Oberammergau in the foothills of the Alps, and chose this village to break up our route. Was it a pleasant surprise! When we parked, we found ourselves on an old medieval road heading up to the top of the hill, which lead us to a tower, city gates, and a wall. Exploring more around, we found a Jesuit university which is now an agricultural university, where a kind of nature trail winds down the hill and takes you right into the old town center.

Landsberg, Germany

the main tower gate at the old town market

Their Christmas market was closed though, as it was too early in the day, so no mulled wine for us.

It’s also got a claim to fame. On the hill peak opposite the university, there’s a castle with a prison. We parked underneath it, which is where I guess the prison cells might have been. Hitler stayed there after his Beer Hall Putsch, and in cell number 7 he wrote Mein Kampf. It was one of the main touristic sites of Germany during the Third Reich.


This town is a crown jewel of the Alpine foothills. It’s filled with brightly painted chalets, with each chalet presenting a scene from the Passion. The tradition there is that every ten years, they stage a massive passion play that starts in town and ends in a nearby cave. It’s a really beautiful village at any time of year, but they don’t really spruce it up that much for the holiday season (which is weird, considering the clear religiosity of the town.

Oberammergau, Germany

one of the many painted buildings in town


The next day, we hit the road for the Rhine. First we needed a breakfast stop, so we found a parking spot in Ulm (not really a town made for parking). Ulm is the birthplace of Albert Einstein and was long a major economic center of Germany and was a Free Imperial City during the days of the Empire.


Christmas trees lead to the market

Ulm really spruces up for Christmas time, featuring a massive Christmas market, complete with a nativity scene composed of real animals. This isn’t a rare thing, but it was certainly the biggest living scene we came across.


I hope they give those sheep enough wine to handle this

Ulm itself is a really beautiful mix of medieval and modern, with most of the old town composed of half-timbered houses huddled together until they eventual merge into a modern city.

Rudesheim am Rhein

Germany is full of fairy tale villages, preserving perfectly the medieval architecture of a millennium. Along the Rhine is a region full of these villages, one after the other of wineries and quaint pubs. In the summer time, there are dozens of ferries that go up and down the river, along with a light rail system and extensive bicycling and hiking trails. Add this all up with the dozen or so castles, and it’s a real relaxation station.


one of the many pubs of Rudesheim

As we drove to the Rhine, I was doing a last-minute check on Christmas markets on the Rhine village region. I found that there were only two permanent ones on the Rhine, at Rudesheim and Koblenz. Rudesheim even beat Augsburg on the awesome Christmas market list, especially as the town itself is pretty scenic and medieval.


If I were to stay on the Rhine during the summer, Bacharach is definitely the town to choose. There’s not one trace of modernity about it, except for electricity and indoor toilets. In the winter it’s pretty dead, with only a few pubs remaining open, and no Christmas market in site.

Bacharach, Germany

the empty winter streets and a nativity scene


Rhens is where Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks. I was hoping it would be as romantic as Bacharach, and indeed the main street behind the city gate and wall is beautiful in its way. But, at least in winter time, it’s quiet and empty, but not empty in the same eerily beautiful way that Bacharach was.


All the towns of the Rhine seemed to be holding their Christmas markets in Koblenz. The town full of them. One after the other, more and more tucked away in all the small streets and squares of the village.

Koblenz, Germany

every little corner was full of the gluhwein action


I decided we’d stay in Leiden, as I would never have seen it otherwise, and was I glad we did. It’s a really beautiful Dutch town, with at least three huge windmills towering over it. There might have been more, but we didn’t explore the whole town.

Leiden, Netherlands

one of Leiden's scenic windmills

Leiden houses one of the oldest universities of the world, is home of thirteen Nobel Prize winners, and is regularly ranked as one of Europe’s top schools. The painters Rembrandt and Jan van Steen are both from Leiden as well.

Leiden, Netherlands

that market is on a barge

At Christmas, Leiden hosts a floating market on one of their canals. It doesn’t quite have the same kitschy charm of the German markets, as it seems to have more of a flea market vibe than a Christmas market, but it is neat nevertheless in that it’s floating on the canal!


We had a quick pit stop in Aachen to take a glimpse at Charlemagne's resting place, at the 9th century Cathedral of Aachen. Plus a bonus Christmas market.

Aachen Cathedral

the almost Byzantine temple


The town speaks for itself. Though it does hang up some lights, it seems the Christmas season is kind of just the same, cold rainy season as the others.


bicycle, bicycle

Den Haag

We visited the de facto capital of the Netherlands in order to see the M.C. Escher museum. That’s when we found in the square just in front of it, a bonus Christmas market. That’s where we tried to figure out why Amsterdam was the actual capital, as it lacks all capital functions of a state.

Den Haag

The Dutch Queen's personal market celebration


This was one of those stops that I had assigned for a pit stop. We were headed to Wernigerode when we decided to grab an extra market in this Lower Saxony town. Osnabruck clearly suffered a lot of damage in World War II, as much of it is modern, but its sprinkled with centuries old buildings as well, which gives it a rather weird, half-American, half-European feel.


This Christmas market had the widest variety of food


I previously thought that Rothenburg was the most beautiful fairy tale town in Germany. But that claim has been challenged by Wernigerode. Especially at Christmas time, as it sports a bigger mix of Christmas markets, and lots more restaurants. The town is full of half-timbered beauties, and on the hill overhead a castle looms keeping watch of all the festivities.




Our final stop to Prague was in Dresden. This is the mother of all Christmas towns, as the city resurrects from the ashes and comes to its peak every December. Big square after big square, along with every cozy square and street, is crammed with market action, selling wines and wood trinkets, and beer, along with tons of rides for the kids, everywhere you look.

My favorite part of the market was the Rathaus, where they held a medieval market. They built all sorts of little medieval houses, sold wine in clay cups, and all the vendors dressed in period dress.





I hope everyone's holiday season was great and that you're starting your new year right. If you've enjoyed this blog, be sure to subscribe.

#Christmas #Munich #festivals #Amsterdam #Rhine #fairytalevillages #Dresden

We’ll continue on the Royal Road that we started the last blog. The Royal Road was the Baroque era coronation route of Bohemian Kings and Queens, starting at what once was the old palace and ending at the main seat of Bohemian power, the Castle.

Now arriving at the Charles’ Bridge, if you’re not tired of the tourists yet, then good. The crowd only grows, but soon there will be a relief, don’t fear!

There’s some guys there in sailor costumes trying to sell boat rides for Prague Venice. It's actually a pretty decent deal at 340 crowns: you get some beer, hot wine, an intimate tour on one of the cute small boats that goes up the canals, and a ticket to the Charles Bridge Museum. Actually quite worth the hour and about 14 euro you’ll spend. It’s not a sail boat or big naval vessel, so don’t be fooled by their funny Village People outfits.

chatting with fam while waiting for tourists

Past the sailor boys, you go up on the bridge. The statues look quite medieval, but most of them are copies. The real ones are hidden away in the what-seems-to-be-permanently-under-renovation National Museum. The copies were made and placed there in the 19th century, so they’re actually kind of historic themselves.

If you look over the right side, really really carefully, you can find a face etched into the water wall. That guy marks when it will flood. If it comes up to his nose, don’t go to old town, because the streets will soon be underwater. He was put there and used as a prediction device to tell when the Vltava was getting too high.

View from Charles Bridge

Further down, you’ll find the statue of Saint John Nepomuk. He was a famous guy who got into a bit of a spat with the King. He was the confessor priest to the Queen, and as the King suspected the Queen was cheating on him—don’t they all think that—he demanded that Nepomuk tell him the sins that the Queen had confessed. Nepomuk refused and was thrown off the bridge—throwing people off of stuff is just about a favorite Czech pastime. That of course, might not be the actual story, which might have had something more to do with some shady land deals the Church wouldn’t let the King in on down in the countryside.

The exact spot where he was thrown off is marked by a little icon on the right-hand side of the bridge. The next statue is a dedication to the saint, and if you rub it, you get a blessing of Holy Strength, which is a +5 Stamina for the next three hours. You'll need it to get to the Castle.

St. Nepomuk and the Castle

Finally off the bridge you’re onto one of my favorite streets. There’s not much to do on it outside of getting ice cream, having piranhas eat the dead skin off your feet, or go to McDonald’s, but it really is a nice street to walk down. The street you pass on the left leads to the Order of Malta Church, they're kind of like a modern day mafia group, and then onward to the Lennon Wall (which they own).

the Lennon Wall is great for selfies

The street ends behind the enchanting and captivating Saint Nicholas Church.

If there’s one church you go inside on your visit, this is the one. Seriously.

Inside the Baroque era Saint Nicholas is the most incredible illusionist murals that you’ll ever see. When you’re standing in the middle of the church and look up at the ceiling, it’s painted so that it seems to keep going up and up and up. But when you walk up to the galleries, you can see the skewed perspective of it all.

the backside of St. Nicholas

Rumor has it, that when the Viennese painter, Johann Lucas Kracker, agreed to paint the ceiling, he did so on the condition that no one would watch him do it. But a certain friar kept spying on him, so he painted the friar’s image into the ceiling. When he later brought his accusation before the Jesuits, he was able to show them which friar it was that was spying on his work.

Last I was there it cost 60 crowns to go in and wonder around while there was no mass going on. If you pretend to be a Czech Catholic, then you can get in for free during mass, but they won't be too happy about you walking around. And it's really noticeable, since there are about 3 Czech Catholics in the country.

The belltower, which you can also climb for a fee, has the perfect view of the US Embassy. This was not lost on the Czech government during the Communist times, and they would regularly place their spies in the tower to keep a watch over the Imperialist Capitalist pigs.

Behind the church is a plague column. You see these things all over Europe, and they’re made as a dedication to the lives lost to one plague or another. Plague was always a big thing throughout history, and was the number one killer of Europeans until the two World Wars, when Europeans became the number one killer of Europeans. Now it’s heart disease.

looking up Nerodova

Past the plague column, we’re on Nerudova. Notice how the crowds seemed to have lessened? No worries though, because the beauty of the city certainly hasn’t. Keep going up this street and you’ll see all these beautiful and overpriced little cafes. Why not have a beer there? The most price-normal place is the first café on the right, almost directly on the square with the plague column. Further up they get more and more expensive, but the street-served mulled wines in the area in winter are always a fair price.

looking down Nerodova

It’s quite a steep haul, and then you get to go up an even steeper ramp to the Castle. If you don’t turn off Nerudova, you’ll end up at Strahov Monastery, a really breathtaking monastic area complete with a medieval library, and three restaurants serving local brews. Actually, those are all great places for lunch, and then you can stroll downhill for the Castle. Likewise, you can also stroll across the hill to Petrin and get a really remarkable view of the city from the top of Prague's very own miniature Eiffel Tower!

almost to the Castle!

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#history #Prague #traveltips #touristicsites

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