Sunday, August 1, 2010

Munich, Germany. July 27 - July 30

In 2006, I had a layover in Munich while on my way to Barcelona. I didn't get a chance to visit Munich then, so I told myself that I'd like to come here one day. Then, in 2008, I found another reason to visit Munich: van Gogh's Sunflowers paintings. After seeing the Sunflowers paintings in Philadelphia, London, and Amsterdam, I found out there's a total of 5 van Gogh Sunflowers paintings in public display in museums around the world, and Munich houses one of them. Therefore, I decided to come to Munich this year as part of my Europe vacation.

I arrived from Prague in the evening. After settling in the hotel, I went out to the City Center to get some dinner. It was 9:15pm and the sky was just starting to get dark. Here's the beautiful City Hall.

Dinner was traditional Bavarian sausages with potato mash.

The next morning, I went to Neue Pinakothek to see van Gogh's Sunflowers painting. This is my 4th one! Woo hoo! This one has a blue background like the one in Philadelphia. The other 3 have yellow backgrounds. My mission will complete after I see the 5th painting in Tokyo, whenever that might be...

Then I went to Alte Pinakothek right next door. This is a massive museum with an amazing collection. Here's Leonardo da Vinci's "Virgin and Child."

Next, I went across the street to Pinakothek der Moderne. They have a good collection of modern arts including Andy Warhol.

Salvador Dali.

And of course, Picasso.

A beautiful sculpture inside the museum.

After admiring all the artworks, I went out to Schloss Nymphemburg, the summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria. This is a massive compound modeled after Versailles.

How about if I guard this place? :D

The stunning Great Hall. It's so beautiful and made me feel like I wanted to be the queen living here!

There were people working on restoring paintings at the palace. This woman said they started working on this painting 6 weeks ago, and it'll take them the rest of the year to finish this.

A portrait of the (in)famous Lola Montez, the dancer who had a special "friendship" with King Ludwig II, aka the "Fairytale King" or the "Mad" King.

Sculptures in the park.

Venturing out to the rest of the colossal park. Sneaked in a shot of the gorgeous bathing pavilion inside Badenburg on my phone.

I'd like to have a backyard like this for my house!

Or this front yard!

The King's horse carriages. They are BIG and oh so beautiful! The rear wheel is taller than I am!

Later that night, one of our clients who attended our conference in London, Helmut, invited me to a private dinner party hosted by a PR/marketing firm called PACT ( The invite said that it's a BBQ but turned out to be a sit-down dinner party. There were only about 40 people invited to attend. I was the only non-German in attendance. I met the CEO and founders of the company, and got a chance to talk to people who live and work and play in Munich. I found out that Germans all speak good English, since it's a required course in school. I had no problem talking with them and they were able to switch between German and English with ease. The CEO gave a speech (in German, of course), and I did my smile and nod and clap thing. LOL! I didn't want to stand out too much as a tourist crashing this private party, so I didn't take pictures. However, here's the menu. I learned that a celebrity German chef prepared the BBQ for us (there was a grill out on the patio), and that a Sky TV sportscaster was there also. The food was delicious, and I sampled German beer and different types of wine recommended by the special wine/beer person for the party. I had a lovely time at the party.

Here are official photos from the PACT BBQ: Now I can say that I'm featured on a German website. :)

Guess where I was sitting? ;)

The next day, I joined a day tour going out to the Bavarian Alps in south Germany bordering Austria to see Ludwig II's castles. I got to ride on the autobahn, so I was happy about that. Our double decker bus was rolling at a pretty high speed passing smaller cars, and definitely driving at a much higher speed than buses here in the States. The countryside was so luscious and serene. It was soul cleansing watching the peaks rising in the sky with the beautiful scenery while listening to my favorite songs on my iPhone. I was as happy as I could be and had a big smile on my face the whole time! :)

First, we stopped by Schloss Linderhof, the only castle that Ludwig II finished. It was not very big, but one of the most beautiful inside. I sneaked in a shot of the King's bedroom. Those are real gold panels, by the way.

Here's the stunning Hall of Mirrors.

The Neptune fountain directly outside of the King's bedroom window. This is what Ludwig II saw everyday when he woke up.

The front of the castle. So beautiful.

Here's looking at Linderhof.

Then, the tour took us to a little German town called Oberammergau. This village has a "Passion Play" that goes on once every 10 years. We were lucky that this is going on this year, but didn't have time to see it as it starts every night and lasts for 8 hours! Oberammergau is also famous for its woodcarvings.

Paintings on the house is very common here in Oberammergau.

On our way to the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein, the fairytale castle that Walt Disney modeled after for all of his Disney Kingdom castles. Here's a look at the Bavarian Alps. Austria is on the other side.

Neuschwanstein is close to Ludwig parents' castle, Hohenschwangau, which is at the base of Neuschwanstein.

Going to Neuschwanstein involves a 30 minute trek uphill. You can also ride in horse carriages if you'd like. I put on my headphones and made it in about 20 minutes. Great exercise!

Castle in the sky!

Here it is!

I'm about to go into the REAL Disneyland! :D

View from Neuschwanstein. No wonder Ludwig II wanted to build this massive castle here!

I sneaked in a shot of the gorgeous ceiling and chandelier in the incredible Throne Room.

The beautiful interior of the castle.

I would have loved to go on that bridge and look at Neuschwanstein from that perspective, but we didn't have time. :(

One last look at the castle.

On our way back to Munich, we were stopped by a herd of cows in the middle of the road. :D

After getting back to Munich, another client of ours who also was at the conference in London, Human, took me out to dinner. We decided to go to the most famous tourist beer hall, Hofbrauhaus. This is the oldest beer hall in Munich. I joked to Human that I'm dragging him to tourist places. Haha! Here's my dinner: beer (of course), with pork sucklings and potato dumplings. Human told me they don't consider beer to be alcohol; it's like water and soda to them.

After dinner with Human, Helmut met us at the beer hall and took me to a jazz place. I'm very glad I got to see where Germans go on their times off. The music playing this night was a Brazilian-French fusion type of jazz.

The next day, Helmut took time out between conference calls and meetings and met me at the Viktualienmarkt for some German late breakfast. A late breakfast here means sausages and pretzels and beers between 10am-12noon. I couldn't believe I was drinking beer at 11:30am!

Helmut took me to this restaurant called Bratwurstherzl am Viktualienmarkt (right at the market) where again, I was the only non-German around. Here comes our breakfast, with sweet mustard.

Helmut taught me how to eat the sausages. You actually peel off the skin. This white sausage is very tender and soft with wonderful flavor. I'm not big on pretzels, but this combination with the delicious sweet mustard, made an excellent brunch for me. It's not too heavy, and not too light.

After lunch and parting from Helmut, I went on exploring more of Munich since this was my last day here. I went to Odeonsplatz, this is where Hitler made his march in 1923.

Right next to Odeonsplatz is the Residenz, the official residence of the rulers of Bavaria from 1385 to 1918, including the Wittelsbach family (which I saw the stunning 31 carat Wittelsbach-Graff blue diamond on display in Washington, DC this May). I visited the Treasury and roamed around the massive Residenz rooms. Here's the famous St. George Slaying the Dragon statue dressed in precious stones.

They also had crowns and scepters.

The beautiful Antiquarium.

After touring the Residenz, Helmut arranged to have one of his friends, Urban, meeting me at the Old Peter church (the oldest church in Munich). Urban took me up to the bell tower to take in the panoramic view of Munich.

Looking at the City Hall. There was some festivities going on in the plaza, but we had no idea what.

We decided to go over to the plaza to find out what's going on because there was a stage set up and a marching band playing music. We walked past the crowd when I noticed a group of people all wearing this jacket that said "U.S.A." on their back. I stopped and asked what was going on, and they told me this was the opening ceremony for ISSF - International Shooting Sport Federation. This is the largest shooting sport competition in the world associated with the Olympics, and this was the actual USA team that I ran into. How cool was that?! I asked to take a photo with the athletes, and the administrative person I spoke with said, "Hey guys!" and everyone surrounded me to take a picture with me. I wished them luck and said, "GO USA!"

Here's the festivity.

That night, I flew to London. My flight back home was the next morning out of Heathrow. While preparing for my return trip, I found out there's a hotel in Heathrow Terminal 4 called Yotel that you can book by hourly rate or overnight for passengers having long layovers (Heathrow is about an hour away from city center), or having to transfer out of Gatwick (which I flew out of in 2008 going to Amsterdam). This was a great idea so people wouldn't have to sleep on the airport benches or on the floor. Yotel offers efficient sleeping pods. It's a very tiny space but very well utilized. It has a monsoon shower head, a very comfortable bed, a flat screen (I fell asleep with music selected from the jukebox), and even a desk! You can also order food and drinks to be delivered to your room. I love that part of the mirror in the shower area was heated from behind, so it always stayed clear through the steam. Great design!

This was my first time in Germany, and I found that people were very friendly and welcoming. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay learning the culture and history of this country, and seeing all the beautiful buildings and wonderful scenery. I would definitely love to come back!

See complete photo album of my Munich trip here:

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