A Quick Jaunt Through Munich
In 2007, Munich was voted by Monocle Magazine to be the World's Most Livable City. Once you are there, it becomes very evident that they may be on to something. Munich is a fascinating mix of history, culture and commerce and a great place to explore. If you have only a weekend to spend in Germany, there's no time to waste: hop a plane, hit the Autobahn and, as they say, Güte Reise!
Munich was founded in 1158 by Henry the Lion who came down from Saxony to get involved in the trading of salt, which was being mined near Salzburg (90 min. from Munich by car or train). The city's name in German is München, which comes from the expression "Bei den Mönchen" or "near the monks," because Monks had already been living here for 108 years before Henry came along.
Munich is also nicknamed the "City with Heart" which makes sense because you fall in love with it the longer you stay. It's located at the foot of the Alps and is the capital of Bavaria, the largest and most picturesque of Germany's 16 provinces. Munich's population is about 1.3 million, making it Germany's third largest metropolis behind Berlin and Hamburg. By the way, Germany itself is about half the size of Texas and has a population of about 82 million.
BUSINESS CLASS SECRET
We opted to enjoy Air Berlin's award winning Business Class service to Munich. Although the flight made a connection in Düsseldorf, we were pleasantly surprised to have such a 1st Class experience at a fraction of the cost. Through a series of acquisitions, including the Austrian airline Niki, the Swiss airline Belari, and the Düsseldorf-based airline LTU, Air Berlin has grown from a low cost regional carrier to become the second largest German and fifth largest European air carrier.
The luxurious leather seats were extremely comfortable, offered generous legroom - and declined to a very decadent 162°. The airline offered a well-rounded menu, with a terrific wine selection from a well-known wine merchant based on the German island of Sylt. I found the cabin crew very professional, polite and friendly. Every request was taken with a smile and answered in less than two minutes.
Quick, what are the three most important things about real estate? Location, location, location! We stayed at the 72 room Louis Hotel which is a perfect reflection of the Bavarian capital in which it stands: chic, poised, and in the heart of Munich, directly next to the Viktualienmarkt. The first Design Hotel™ to grace the streets of Munich, the Louis is an ideal starting point for any visitor looking for conveniently located accommodations - a short stroll from all the main sights of the city including the Marienplatz with its famous Glöckenspiel, the Hofbräuhaus, and the famed Maximilianstrasse, definitely a neo-Gothic avenue extraordinaire
We checked in early with no fuss and was escorted to our Courtyard Superior room - a serene, white-walled space with oak floors, neutral colors and a plush queen-size bed. In modern, minimalist fashion, the television was concealed inside a tall, upholstered cabinet, and a sliding, pull-out wardrobe was hidden in a wall. The view from the window was incredible. Once could see virtually the entire Viktualienmarkt (and even read the face of the famous Alter Peter). A nice touch were the fresh cut flowers throughout the room.
Our bathroom was split into two rooms, the smaller one containing just the toilet and the larger containing the shower and bathtub, sink and counter. Both rooms had smooth limestone floors and gleaming white subway tile, and the spacious main bathroom area included luxurious extras like heated mirrors and fluffy robes. Unfortunately, an American generally likes a stand up shower rather than a slick bathtub with a handheld sprayer, but as the Stones tell us: "you can't always get what you want."
This is a modern hotel. The rooms are equipped with iPod docks, DVD players and flat-screen TVs. Wi-Fi access is free which today qualifies as a necessity rather than "a nice thing to have." On the ground floor, the trendy Japanese-fusion restaurant Emiko is popular with Munich hipsters, while at the hotel's bar, a well-dressed crowd sips Asian-inspired cocktails. On the top floor, there is a small fitness room, sauna and rooftop patio.
TAKE A RIDE
Why not go for a bike ride or bike tour and explore Munich from the seat of a bicycle? The Englischer Garten and the whole of Munich is lined with bike trails. The city is arguably the most bike friendly city in the world. For our guided tour we chose Mike's Bike Tours. Established by an amiable American expat Michael Lasher in 1995, MBT's has been offering private and group tours of the city for over 15 years. Our "Deluxe" Munich sightseeing tour lasted seven hours, and included everything from a visit to the Königsplatz, the Nymphenburg Palace, to the Olympic Park as well as the famous and vast Englischer Garten. The entire 10-mile experience will cost you 49€ for an adult, 29€ for students, and 24€ for a kids between 8-18. If you're lucky you will also see the surfer dudes riding big waves in the middle of the park. Sound outlandish? Ask about it next time you're in Munich.
CULTURE AND SIGHTSEEING
O.k., so you're in another country. Before you hit the bars, see a little bit of the surrounding area. We went to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Füssen (outside of Munich). Commissioned by the "mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the place is know as the fairy tail castle for a reason. If you're into castles, visit Ludwig's ornate Schloss Linderhof as well. Munich has some of the world's most interesting museums, including the massive Deutsches Museum-well worth a look. Enough culture, what about the boy bars?
Munich is the "conservative" part of Germany (mostly because it is in the historically Catholic part of the country). Nevertheless, we discovered some fun places to visit and get to know some of the local men. We liked the NY Club for dancing and the Edelheiss for beers and men in leather. If you're looking for a good looking crowd try Bau or the Morizz. All the bars are pretty friendly and the Germans tend to pay attention to Americans, but watch out for your wallet! Of course, if it's October, make sure you check out the famous Oktoberfest. Need we say more? Auf Wiedersehen!