Thursday, April 11, 2013

Christmas Time in Munich

Munich Rathaus
 In my continuing effort to backtrack and post about our activities for the last 14 December of 2011, we went to the Christmas Markets in Germany. In Bavaria, to be exact. A region that our German friend (from the north) once said in disdain, "Bavaria! They should just put a fence around it and call it EuroDisney 2." This turned out to be a true statement. Traveling around Bavaria makes you feel like you are living in some sort of fairy tale, and you're hoping it's the Disney version rather than the Grimm version. It's all houses with exposed timber framing, and little rivers, and cobblestone streets, and Nathan's favorite, beer halls.

Nathan especially loved the Modern Art Museum, can't you tell?
We picked Munich as our base city with the goal of visiting various Christmas markets around the region. Munich is home to fabulous museums, a palace or two, a huge garden that includes a surf spot, two of the most famous beer halls, and an utterly fantastic Rathaus. The German Christmas Markets are a feast for the eyes. Each booth is a little wooden hut, some with cutouts or carved signs, even windows. No cheapo folding table with a tent overhead here. Munich is somewhat unique in that it has two huge Christmas markets in different locations as well as about four other smaller ones with a specific focus, for example, the Renaissance themed market was a favorite of ours. There, the gluhvein was lit on fire in your cup! We spent our first day just visiting the main Christmas market and taking in Munich's fabulous trio of museums (the old, the new, the modern), one of which was featuring an exhibit on...Naples! Our first day on vacation and we're wandering through halls of photographs of Naples.

And a different expression altogether at Hofbrauhaus
That night, we hit up Hofbrauhaus am Pletzl, and to Nathan's great surprise, I loved it. I don't like beer or crowds, and Hofbrauhaus is full of both. But it's such a unique place with a wonderful, convivial atmosphere. Seating is at long tables where strangers are instantly drinking buddies, and an oompah band plays while dirndl clad servers dish out pretzels and beer. Every so often, the oompah band's repertoire circles back to Ein Prosit, at which point everyone in the hall raises their beer glass and swings it back and forth until the end, where the glasses are clinked very hard with everyone else around. Which in a lot of cases would just make me roll my eyes with the cheesiness of it, but there is something special about walking through the Christmas lights and stands to this 400+ year old brew hall and joining in with strangers to share a moment of joy.
Ceiling of Hofbrauhaus am Pletzl
Doesn't this look FUN! We generally avoided the markets when
they were this crowded and visited in the mornings or later evenings.
See how adorable the huts are. I wasn't exaggerating.
A little bit of smoked fish to go with your gluhvein?

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