Tomorrow: I go to India

Tomorrow: I go to India.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been more excited for a holiday in my life, but at the same time, would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little (very) nervous.

With all my previous travel destinations, I have been able to get a fairly good idea of what I can expect from a country before arriving, but with India; I have absolutely no idea. Luckily I will be going with a few close friends so I won’t be alone in the madness.

I have a number of friends at work who are from India, all of whom have offered up their pearls of wisdom and top tips, which I am obviously more than grateful for; helping to steady the nerves and also create a list so long, we definitely won’t be looking for things to do.

However, a number of horror stories have also been thrown into the mix, which haven’t helped with the nerves and are NOT on my list of things to do; I’m not sure I want to be kidnapped or forced to marry at gunpoint just yet.

Fortunately, one of my best friends is Indian and will be our unofficial “tour guide” of India; there is one downside to this however.

He follows what me and our mutual friends have affectionally named “Indian Schedule”; for the most part he is absolutely useless when it comes to having any concept of time, space or other people’s schedules, but we still love him.

The “Indian schedule” could make or break both us and this trip, but maybe it will be useful in India, who knows?

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München Food

Disclaimer: Sausages feature heavily in this post.

Munich is famous for its hearty food and good beer, yet in my previous posts I have only mentioned one restaurant, but more for its history than its menu.

When I first started travelling, I used to feel a little self-conscious about eating alone; as if everyone was staring at me thinking “loser”, or feeling sorry for me as I had no one to eat with, which I guess is kind of true.

After a while though I got used to it, and a bonus in German beer halls is that after a few drinks, you’re always more than likely to start talking to the people around you.

Being in Munich for almost five days, I had to chance to visit a variety of different places and experience some great food, drink and atmospheres. I won’t be able to talk about every place I visited as there were far too many, but will pick out the places that to me were the most memorable.

Ratskeller am Marienplatz

Ratskeller was the first restaurant I ate at in Munich, conveniently located in Munich’s main square (Marienplatz).

Ratskeller isn’t just famous for its great food but also its quirky setting; located in the basement of the city’s new town hall (Neues Rathaus).

The 19th century murals, imposing stone columns and stained glass, created the perfect atmosphere to accompany my meal.

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I decided my first meal had to be as German as possible, so ordered the Grillwürstl Schmankerl. This turned out to be what was essentially a plate filled with a range of Bavarian speciality sausages, mashed potato and sauerkraut, all I can say is; I wasn’t disappointed.

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Ratskeller was a highlight for me and is a must for any food fan visiting Munich.

It was so good, I even went back…

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Hofbräuhaus am Platzl

If you’re only going to visit one beer hall in Munich, then make it this one.

Even though it’s essentially just a beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus is one of Munich’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s easy to see why.

When I first entered Hofbräuhaus, it came across as a little bit commercialised, but I soon found that wasn’t the case (apart from the gift shop obviously). Thankfully, the hall has kept all of it traditional features, from the Oompah band and communal benches, to the giant pretzels (which are amazing).

I’m not usually a fan of dark beers, but Hofbräuhaus’ home brewed Dunkelbier was one of the best beers I sampled in Munich; in fact all of their home brews were so good I ended up having way too many of each most days.

Müncher Stubn

This was one of the few places that did feel a little less traditional than all the other places I visited but that didn’t take anything away from the food. As in Ratskeller, I again opted for the German sausage plate (surprise!).

I wasn’t feeling too great before ordering if I’m honest, as it had been quite a long day of too much sun and possibly (definitely) too much alcohol. The food here though didn’t let me down and I definitely recommend a visit!

I have to be honest though, the food here didn’t live up to what I experienced at Ratskeller, but definitely makes the list as one of the best meals I had in Munich!

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Schneider Bräuhaus

I visited Schneider Bräuhaus just before leaving Munich on the back of a recommendation from a local tour guide; they claimed this place was where the best wheat beer in Munich could be found.

Schneider Bräuhaus was definitely traditional German dining at its best with no pretence. The restaurant is full of dark wood tables and benches long enough to fit about 10 people.

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Over the previous four days, having eaten sausage with almost every meal , I decided to opt for something different, so went with the roast pork and potato dumplings instead.

The tour guide’s recommendation couldn’t have been more accurate, this place really did serve great wheat beer, and not forgetting the food too!

In my opinion, this place and Ratskeller were definitely my favourite food spots in Munich.

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Dachau Concentration Camp in Photos

There isn’t too much I can say about Dachau so this will be my first “photo post”; it’s a place that really does need to be seen first hand to experience its full impact, the photos in this post will describe Dachau better than I ever could.

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Having visited Auschwitz Birkenau last year, I thought I knew what to expect when visiting Dachau, however none of the impact of this place was lost on me. There is still an overwhelmingly depressive atmosphere about this place, similar to what I experienced at Auschwitz.

Upon entering Dachau, I was greeted by the infamous Nazi concentration camp phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work makes you free). 

20171017_113032“Arbeit Macht Frei”

DSCF1556DSCF1549Outer Perimeter Fence

DSCF1555DSCF1548Guard Towers

DSCF1557Former Cell Block Foundations 

DSCF1573Dachau Memorial

The most disturbing stop on the tour for me was the crematorium, one of the few remaining original structures since the Americans removed most others. The crematorium really does enforce the historical importance of this site and the atrocities that took place here.

DSCF1559DSCF1566DSCF1563“Shower (Bath)” 

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If in Munich then Dachau should certainly be on your list of places to visit; it might not be the largest or most famous Nazi concentration camp, but is arguably the most important, being the blueprint and inspiration for all future camps.

Entering Dachau was free of charge with all areas being open to the public, journey time from Munich Central Station was around 30 minutes by train. 

I highly recommend booking on to the Dachau Memorial Tour, found at the following link: 

https://www.getyourguide.co.uk/munich-l26/dachau-memorial-tour-t521/

Eating at Hitler’s Favourite Restaurant

Before heading to Munich I knew of the city’s ties to the Nazi Party and that it was the birthplace of the National Socialist movement in Germany; a place heavily steeped in both Nazi and World War Two history.

As I have always been fascinated by any of the history surrounding World War 2, I booked myself onto a “Third Reich” city tour. If you’ve read my previous blog post you will know my opinion on tour groups, which these days tend to consist of people quizzing me on “Brexit” as soon as they find out I’m British.

I suppose this is slightly better than the usual “Have you met the queen?” type question and at least shows some level of intelligence and awareness of events around the world.

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First of all, this is one of the best tours I have been on and is one I would definitely recommend. The tour guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic and took us to a number of “not so obvious” sites that don’t feature in the guidebooks. The tour takes you all the way through Hitler’s early life, his rise to power and the demise of Nazi Germany.

I thought one of the most interesting stops on the tour was being able to see the location of Hitler’s first ever speech, in the now famous Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. It’s crazy to know that this typical looking German beer hall is connected to such a pivotal event in world history.

Hofbrauhaus

Today though, the beer hall is a lively place that’s popular with both locals and tourists; somewhere I definitely advise visiting to enjoy their amazing beers. Not learning my lesson from my first night in Munich I ended up drinking a little too much here after the tour was over and paying for my mistake the next day.

However, the highlight of the tour for me was lunch, though this did mean having to eat with the rest of the group (something I’d promised myself I would never do). It’s always a little awkward eating around people you barely know.

The reason I decided to go against my instincts this time was the tour guide offered to take us to one of Hitler’s favourite lunch spots.

Schelling-Salon.

Schelling-Salon

Schelling-Salon

Since opening in 1872, the restaurant has been run by one family, the same family that once barred Hitler, who would eat here every day before his appointment to Chancellor, due to amassing a tab they knew he would never pay.

Before arriving at the restaurant I presumed this would be used as a marketing technique to attract tourists, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I don’t often admit when I’m wrong but I will this time.

All I can say is the restaurant couldn’t have been more unassuming, serving traditional German food and cold beer at fantastic prices; a 3 course lunch with a beer came to around €11.

Schelling-Salon

Schelling-Salon

This really is one of Munich’s hidden gems, not just for anyone with an interest in the history of World War Two, but anyone with an interest in good food too.

If you find yourself in Munich then Schelling-Salon should definitely be on your list.

Neuschwanstein: Worth the effort?

Visiting Neuschwanstein, built by the “Mad King” Ludwig, had been something I’d wanted to do for a while. Getting the chance to visit here was one of the main reasons I chose to visit Munich. Initially at this point I was going to start talking about how this was the castle that inspired Disneys Cinderella castle, but honestly, I don’t really care about that aspect.

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Neuschwanstein is about two hours outside of Munich, so I booked myself onto a full day organised tour for around £36 (€42/$52). I love doing tours when I visit a city but you always run the risk of being stuck with people you wouldn’t want to spend a few minutes with, let alone several hours. You know the types: fawning over each other’s travel tips and experiences, making shallow small talk, constantly trying to best you with better and more exciting stories. Plus you’re guaranteed to get that one person asking questions constantly to try and look intelligent (usually achieving the opposite effect).

Thankfully though this particular group didn’t turn out to be as bad as I first anticipated, and for the most part people kept themselves to themselves, but one day was definitely more than enough.

Usually, you would take the train to get to the castle, but due to rail strikes our group was required to switch to a coach for half of the journey. The views were really something though, so it more than made up for the extra time.

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We were dropped off at the station in Hohenschwangau Village, which is situated below the castle. From there it is roughly a 40 minute walk up the winding footpath through the surrounding forest, giving amazing views of the castle, Alps and Lake Alpsee.

Once the group eventually made it to the top (which was a miracle in itself considering the shocking lack of fitness of some group members) it became evident just how stunning and picturesque the castle really was.

The weather was perfect and the blue sky backdrop really highlighted the castle’s white sandstone features. With all that said, it was a little frustrating, after trekking all that way, to find the castle entrance covered with scaffolding and semi naked German builders. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take away some of the initial impact.

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Builders and Scaffolding aside, the 19th Century castle was still everything I had hoped it would be, so when offered the chance to have a look inside, even I was grinning.

Verdict: Wasn’t worth it.

Ultimately, it’s the outside of the castle and its stunning surroundings that make the two hour journey to come here worth it. Inside is nice enough but there isn’t really much to see and most of it isn’t even finished. Paying however much extra to go inside felt like a waste of both my time and money.

Once we’d seen the inside, the guide mentioned that the best view of Neuschwanstein was from the Marien Bridge, they weren’t lying.

Unfortunately for us, she forgot to mention you have to queue just to get on it because most visitors don’t have the intelligence to actually move along the bridge and instead choose to congregate right at the start. It took us 15 minutes just to get on the thing!

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One solution to this problem though is to do as the Chinese Tourists do, simply ignore the queue completely and enter the bridge through the exit line. I’m sure no one will mind…

In conclusion, all I can say is…Neuschwanstein is definitely worth the effort…and so is queuing for the bridge… BUT… don’t go inside!

Might as well be me…

So now that I’ve written a few blog posts, I thought the next thing to do would be to ask for some feedback from friends who know me better than anyone.

The overwhelming response was it’s ok but “it doesn’t sound like you, it sounds a little false”. Having read my post about the Englischer Garten back I have one thing to say, they were right and it comes across as not very genuine; that’s not to say my opinions on the Garten weren’t true.

My friends would describe me as not the most “positive” or “optimistic” of people they have ever known; it’s not like I’m some joy sucking Dementor, its just I tend to not hold back on my opinions.

I thought that it would be hard to write about my travelling experiences in a more honest light without sounding massively ungrateful, but think it will give a more genuine and useful viewpoint.

He also mentioned that its side of travel and people travelling you don’t hear about, and is different to all the sugarcoated experiences most people spout on the internet about how “life affirming” or “spiritual” their experiences were.

Most people forget to mention the prick sat next to them on public transport.

Munich: Englischer Garten

I’m finally getting round to writing (starting properly) this blog after a few busy, productive months of rewatching every episode of Breaking Bad for about the fourth time and casual weekend alcohol binges. I also need to get this written before my next planned trip so I don’t bombard my blog with hundreds of posts in one day.

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So here goes nothing…

I arrived in Munich pretty late on a Friday so I couldn’t really get a feel for the city at first. Having my head in my phone trying to figure out how to get to my hostel didn’t help very much either and at the same time trying my hardest not to look like a lost tourist, pretty difficult with a 55L backpack.

My plan for Munich was five nights/days with a couple of day trips/tours mixed in as well as some unplanned exploring, which usually I find the best way to discover a city.

Day One – Englischer Garten.

Luckily I didn’t have anything pre-booked for my first day in Munich, as it started a little later than I would have liked due to consuming a little too much Augustiner Helles the first night in the Hostel bar. This resulted in a hangover of massive proportions, yet to be beaten to date.

After courageously overcoming it, the plan for my first day was to explore Munich and get a feel for the city in general. Because of the great weather, it meant I could do all of my exploring on foot, starting off with a walk through Munich’s centre to get a feel for the cities vibe.

I decided that because of the great weather, it would be the perfect day to check out the Englischer Garten, somewhere a friend had told me was a “must see”. I discovered, not only was the Englischer Garten a beautiful and vibrant park with so many hidden gems but also to be one of the best hangover cures known to man.

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I hadn’t planned to spend all of my day here but being such an amazing place with so much to see, I ended up spending most of my day exploring what the park had to offer, including the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) and Kleinhesseloher Lake.

Unfortunately I still hadn’t recovered from the previous nights drinking but the Chinesischer Turm is surrounded by what locals have told me, when the weather permits, is one of the best and liveliest Biergartens in Munich. If the locals say it’s good, you know its good, so if you’re ever in Munich, check it out!

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The main highlight for me though were the Eisbach Surfers, something I didn’t expect to find in the centre of Munich. Surfers of all ages take turns to ride the man-made wave to the amazement of both locals and tourists alike. I ended up stood watching from the bank a lot longer than I originally planned, which I think says it all, not only about the Eisbach surfers, but the Englischer Garten in general.

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If you’re ever in Munich then the Englischer Garten, like my friend said, is a 100% “must see”.

Hostel.

My Hostel was in the centre of Munich, about a 5 minute walk from the main train station called “Euro Youth Hostel”. This is definitely one of my all time favourite hostels to have stayed in; clean, friendly staff, great bar and cheap.

The bar for me was the defining feature of the hostel, it served Bavarian beer and pretzels…need I say any more? The happy hour discounts and great atmosphere with live music also helped a little.