Munich, Day 1

This past weekend I finally was able to visit Munich, which has been highly recommended to me by several people.   It’s known for everything that is quintessentially German: Oktoberfest, pretzels, bratwursts, and BMW.

Mainly, though, its known for beer, so, obviously you know this FRAT STAR was going to visit the SHIT out of Munich and get FUCKED UP on some DOPE GERMAN BEER.

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Foreshadowing

Also, I fucked this trip up in a number of ways, and learned several lessons which I will graciously share with you throughout the post.

First off, Lesson One – get your shit together before you leave, and leave early.  Instead of doing this, I stayed up late the night before, waited to pack until the last minute, and ended up leaving 4 hours later than I originally intended, leaving me with a kind of lingering sense of needing to make up for lost time, that never quite left for the entire trip.

On the plus side, I was lucky enough to score a straight-up Pussy Wagon as my rental vehicle: a two-door SmartCar-sized white Fiat with a pink convertible rooftop:

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Line up, ladies (because I can only fit one other grown adult)

When I got to Munich, I found a big typical chain hostel downtown filled with a diverse multitude of foreigners from all over (aka 90% American college students), the kind that has daily free walking tours, a downstairs bar, and small packs of early-20s iPhone-wielding American girls looking no doubt for a perfect picture to show Facebook how much they love traveling (I’m right there with you, girls).

Getting to the hostel, checking in, finding parking, and getting my bearings took a solid hour, most of which I spent considering my second lesson learned: like, plan ahead, dipshit, you could have figured all this out beforehand.

Alright so I finally got a map and bounced out of the hostel to check out the sights.  Munich was founded by a bunch of monks like a thousand years ago and all the coolest, oldest buildings are all in the Old Town, and are all within walking distance because when they were built, nobody had cars!  Cathedrals I guess were like Starbucks in fuedal Germany, and they just kept building them literally right across the street from one another.  So I got there and just started knocking shit out left and right.

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Western gate to the Old Town – Karlstor.  Named for Karl, who, built it? Or something? Maybe I should have taken that walking tour

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Neues Rathaus, the place with the world-famous Glockenspiel (the little figures that go around at noon each day)

I passed by the Brunnenburbl Fountain, featuring a naked boy, a spitting satyr, and the earliest known dab:

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After walking around for a while, I got really hungry.  Luckily, as I walked down the main pedestrian thoroughfare, Neuheuser Strasse (I’ve had to google every single one of these names so far), there were plenty of food stands.  Perfect – nothing like some nice street food to hit the spot!  I’m sure I can rustle up a juicy authentic Munich bratwurst at one of these bad boys.  What’s that sign say?  Spargel?   Wonder what that is.  Let’s check it out:

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What the…

This guy is just selling a bunch of vegetables? Spargel is like, weird-looking white asparagus?  Alright, weird, but, probably just this one stand.  Let’s find another one.

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Oh no

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Dear God

 

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Fucking Super Spargel???

As it turns out, it was the height of white asparagus season, and it was apparently all the rage in Munich.  Everywhere you looked they were selling Spargel.  It was advertised at food stands, restaurants, everywhere.  I had thought Munich was known for bratwursts and pretzels, and all I could find was a bunch of vegetable stands with crowds of Germans clamoring for these pallid alien-legs.

Finally, at Marienplatz, (didn’t have to google that one, suckas!) I found a stand that sold pretzels.  The pretzel I got tasted pretty much just like any other pretzel (I must not have found the secret local ancient pretzel bakery – should have researched it more), but it was a truly excellent tool for kitsching up photos of Munich landmarks in the most Instagram-appropriate fashion:

 

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#Pretzels

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#Munich

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#ShrinkingPretzel 

I went over to St. Peter’s church, the oldest parish church in Munich and the building that started the entire city, which has a high tower you can climb to the top of for some sweet panoramic views of the city.  I climbed up a ton of super narrow stairs,

DSC_0225past several wheezing old tourists who couldn’t hang, to get to the balcony, which did indeed offer some sick views of Munich, including this well-lit, perfectly framed picture I took of Frauenkirche, probably the most famous church in the city.

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Boom – wow, great shot Steve.  Truly you have a great eye for photography.

Literally the first Google Image result for Frauenkirche

Frauenkirce is one of the main landmarks of Munich, I guess because its huge, and some historical stuff.  Fun fact, almost the entire church was destroyed in WW2, but the towers, which you can see from almost anywhere in the city, were untouched.  Here’s some more pictures from the top of St. Peter’s:

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Some cafes down below with people eating, presumably, Spargel

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At the bottom there is Victualienmarkt, a perrenial farmer’s market with a beer garden (dope) in the middle of it

One thing they don’t tell you about the balcony around the top of St. Peter’s Church is that its like 2 feet wide and crowded as fuck.  It wraps around the tower, with a sign pointing clockwise to direct traffic.  But there’s two doors to get in and out of the tower, on opposite sides, so no clear start or end point.  What this means is that people are standing in a circle, all waiting for the people in front of them to move.  But since they’re in a circle, they are actually in front…of themselves.  So you literally stand there for like 10 minutes with the only movement being additional people coming out to further crowd the shit out of the balcony.

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Its like a Japanese metro up here

So I snapped what pics I could and got the hell out of there before I suffocated, bouncing jauntily back down the stairs to flaunt my youth as I passed the hollow, defeated stares of dozens of elderly wheez-bags teetering on the knife edge of heart failure, not saying a word to them about how shitty and crowded the prize that awaited them after the greatest physical effort which they had put forth in years.

After that it was early afternoon in the beer capital of Germany, so I went to get a brew at Hofbrauhaus, the most famous and most touristy beer house in Munich.

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I feel like you could quantify how touristy a place is by its proximity to a Hard Rock Cafe

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And don’t forget the Starbucks across the street

It may be touristy, but Hofbrauhaus is still a classic beer house experience that serves pretty good beer and pretty good food.  I got a large beer there which improved my spirits by a considerable margin.

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Here it is, remember, from earlier??

After draining my beer like Kobe and helping a group of old Chinese tourists take a photo, I went to Englischer Garden, which is like Central Park, except almost twice as big and with four enormous outdoor beer gardens, so, better.

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Chinesicher Turm (Chinese Tower), marks one of the main beer gardens

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There were hundreds of outdoor tables like these at each garden – most of them filled with people who knew how to party, unlike these beerless fucking nerds

I started to realize that Munich in the Summer must be the absolute best place ever.  There are outdoor beer gardens like this everywhere, and spending a weekend day leisurely walking around, stopping for a beer and pretzel/brat/Spargel here and there sounds like a perfect day.  I’m pretty sure that’s a huge part of why people love Munich.

After walking around some more, I got dinner at a random restaurant, and when I opened up the menu there was a special menu featuring, wouldn’t you know it, Spargel.

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This Spargel thing was clearly a huge deal, so I had to see what the fuss was about.  I ordered some schnitzel off the Spargelkarte and waited in eager anticipation for what was sure to be the best goddamn asparagus I had ever had.

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Ohh yeah just look at those babies

I bit into the Spargel and it tasted like…asparagus.  Regular asparagus, nothing special.  To be fair, the waitress did inform me, when I ordered, that they only had the green asparagus, and the way in which she said it seemed to indicate that this ought to be a disappointment to me, so, who knows, maybe the white Spargel is the amazing stuff.  The green was all I had, so I guess we’re all left to wonder, for the rest of our lives.  Sorry, readers.

After meandering back to the hostel and taking a nap, I checked out Fruhlingsfest (Spring Fest).  It seems like most major German cities have a Fruhlingsfest for about a month from late April-May, and its sort of a mini-Oktoberfest: a carnival with some beer tents set up.  People dress in Lederhosen and Dirdnls and get hammered in a big tent and stand on tables and sing and dance to a live band.  I wasn’t exactly prepared for this (Lesson 2, back for more), but I figured I might as well check it out.

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A bunch of carnival rides and games

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The real attraction

Inside the beer tent the atmosphere was super energetic, and close to the stage almost everyone was standing on tables and dressed in the traditional garb; it was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so.  Very cool to check out, though admittedly not a ton of fun for a lone (alpha) male.

After that I decided I would be adventurous and attempt to enjoy going to bars by myself, which led to lesson 3: don’t…do that.  It was not fun.  Great experience, of what its like to be a pariah, that I hope to never have again.  It was like I was an Indian who had committed a terrible sin in a past life and been reincarnated as an untouchable.  I mean I guess when I think about it, I’ve never been at a bar, in any situation, and thought “boy, sure wish a single dude would come up and talk to me and my friends – that would add a welcome spice to our night!”  One girl I courageously spoke to worked in HR, and I asked her if she had fired anyone recently, and she said, quote, “No, but if I could, I would fire you, Stephen.”  So that about sums it up.  At least she remembered my name.

The next day, though, some friends from work joined me, and we went out together, and that was in some ways much better, and in other ways, much, much worse (spoiler alert, we got LIT AF).  Next time, on Traveling With Steve.

 

 

 

 

Baden-Baden

Hello and welcome to Stephen’s European Travel Blog 2.0, now on a new site, and with more pictures!  After a 6-year hiatus from my study abroad in Copenhagen, which I may have mentioned briefly to one or two of you at some point, I’m back in Europe and ready to fuck shit up like its 2011.  Question is, IS EUROPE READY FOR ME!??

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I DON’T THINK SO MOTHERFUCKER!!!!

I’m currently living in Germany in a southeastern town called Baumholder, or as the Germans call it, “Where?”  I’m here until the end of June; mostly I do a bunch of office work before going back to my room to watch Netflix buffer for 80 minutes and make sure I’m up to date on the facebook posts of people I never talk to, but this past weekend I finally had the opportunity to go somewhere cool.

I decided to go to Baden-Baden, a spa town known for its thermal springs that was settled by the Romans.  It was originally called Baden, which means bath, but then a bunch of other German towns with baths also called themselves Baden (not cool guys), so in order to fix it the inhabitants were just like, fuck it, we’ll call it Baden-Baden.  We’ve got twice as much bath as those other singular Badens.  How you like us now?

That’s 100% true, I did not make that up.  Seriously, look it up.  Here’s a Google image of the town:

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Baden-Baden-Baden-Baden

I left early in the morning to start the 4-hour train ride to Baden-Baden.  Its only a 2-hour drive, but Baumholder is so out of the way that it takes twice as long to get anywhere by train.  It like barely makes the cutoff to be connected to the rail network.

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Baumholder’s garbage dump of a train station

I had three goals for my trip: get a bunch of dope location pictures with my new DSLR camera, check out the city and the Roman spa, and snag an irresistable new tinder pic to start racking up those right-swipes with the German Frauen.

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Check.

I got to Baden-Baden around 10 and started checking out the town.  Pretty much everything worth seeing is within a 15-minute walk, so I was able to grab some sweet around-the-town pics in fairly short order.

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Boom.

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Yes

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Nailed it.

I was a little disappointed about the weather, which was overcast, unlike the beautiful blue skies that Google had led me to believe covered Baden-Baden 365 days a year.

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Are you kidding me with this weak shit

Downtown Baden-Baden is a picteresque network of cobblestone pedestrian roads lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants; the town and its buildings are very old and it looks exactly how you would picture it.  There are a couple churches; there’s ruins of a castle overlooking the city; there’s a river running through it with bridges crossing every couple blocks.  It’s a charming, quaint town that feels straight out of a postcard or a novel.

And there’s one other thing I really started to notice as I walked around:

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Everyone here is old as fuck.

Everywhere I looked was another geriatric.  The average age was like 75.  I had a longer remaining lifespan than any like 8 people chosen at random added together.  I started abandoning my search for beautiful location shots in favor of documenting all the people clinging to the edge of life:

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I’m gonna eat this ice cream, what do I have left to lose anyway, fuck it

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Looking for a nice graveyard

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Are those my friends?  No, that’s right, all my friends are dead

I guess a quiet old spa town surrounded by natural beauty in which everything is within a non-fatiguing 10-minute walk sounds like a pretty attractive destination for retirees.  I’m sure that when I’m 80 years old and my whole body hurts, I could do worse than a city in which the main attraction is spending 3 hours wading around in a hot tub and then taking a nap.

I was joined around noon by my one fellow coworker who was also able to take the day off to come visit Germany’s hottest destination for over-60s, which was nice because I had someone to walk around with, as well as snap some excellent candid shots:

 

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Just having a look around

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Oh were you taking a picture?  I didn’t notice

Her name is V (for Vendetta); she didn’t want me to post any of the pictures she was in (idk why, they were so candid), but she definitely, 100% exists and was there.

After walking around and grabbing lunch at a cafe (where I made a great Snap story, hope you caught it), we eventually made it up Mt. Merkur, a mountain about a 15 minute bus ride from downtown that gives an excellent view of the town and surrounding countryside.  There’s a cable car up (obviously, otherwise 80% of the tourists would have a heart attack before they reached the summit), and at the top there’s a beer garden, an observation tower, a playground, and a bunch of people paragliding from a little grassy lawn.  It was really cool to watch them take off and float around in the sky, really looked like the most amazing experience.  The whole time I so badly wanted to see one of them to just eat it in the treetops.

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Crash crash crash crash

Here I came the closest in my quest for dope epic landscape pictures so far, though I don’t really know how to work my camera still, so I think I could have gotten better shots had I known what I was doing.  So, the quest continues.

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Photo credit: Me

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Also me

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Surprise candid

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Beer Garden

After Mt. Merkur, the only thing left to check out was the thing the city was named for: the spa.  There’s two main spas in Baden-Baden (that’s why there’s just the two Badens in the name): one modern one, and one more classic Roman one, which has been around for 140 years, called Friedrichsbad.  The spas are fully nude, and 4 days of the week they mix men and women, and the other 3 days they are separated.  Saturday is a seperated day, which was pretty lucky for me and Guy Fawkes because that would have taken the spa experience from pleasantly boundary-pushing to awkward as fuck.

Obviously you can’t take a camera around with you (maybe a Go Pro? I didn’t ask), so I will do my best to recreate the experience as vividly as possible using only the power of words.  Warning, there’s no pictures for, like, 7 paragraphs.  That’s pretty much all the pictures, actually, so you might want to just bail now.

The spa experience consists of 3.5 hours, walking through a series of 14 different stations.  The water is from natural springs, and supposedly has healing mineral properties, which I might believe if my mind was really old and not working super well anymore.  Its only like 30 Euro, so, really not a bad price for what I assume is one of the top spa experiences in the world.

Once you’re inside, you really feel like you’re in a different place.  It feels very much like you are insulated from the outside world; it’s almost dreamlike.  The staff is very professional (which is good, because nobody likes to deal with rude staff when their balls are hanging out), its all made of stone,  and every room has a glass domed ceiling.  The lighting is natural and you can’t really tell where its coming from.  Its very quiet.  It really feels like you are in an ancient Roman bathhouse.

It starts off with a couple saunas with these heated wooden lawn chair type things.  There’s no instructions and there was nobody else in there, so I was like, well, I guess I’ll just lay down on one of these hot-ass wooden lawn chairs.  After laying there for about 5 minutes, I started thinking, hang on, how many old naked dudes have laid on this thing before me today?  Just as I thought this, another guy came in and laid his little linen towel down first, and that’s when I understood – oh I see, I’m the idiot foreigner laying his bare ass on the common heated chair like a goddamn savage.  Sorry everyone.

After that comes the “soap and brush massage,” which is where you get to lay down and have some 40 year old dude brush your entire body and then lather you up with his bare fucking hands.  And it’s exactly as completely uncomfortable as it sounds. I walk in and the dude gestures to lay down on the little massage table and I say (hoping against hope) “face down?” and he’s like, no, face up.  So I lay on my back, my junk just chilling, while this guy gives me something that was 50% bath, 50% massage, and 100% weird as fuck.

While it was all uncomfortable, by far the most uncomfortable point was when he rubbed my stomach.  Who wants a stomach rub?  In any context?  When was the last time you thought to yourself, gosh, my stomach muscles are so tense, I could really use a soapy rub-down, from an older male stranger.  Luckily he carried on a conversation in German with his coworker the whole time, so it wasn’t like I was laying there in a deafening silence broken only my the slick sounds of his soapy, practiced hands and strangely heavy breathing.  Small blessings.  I kept thinkin, “I paid money for this.”  It lasted about 5-10 minutes, and needless to say I was quite relieved when it was over.

The whole point of this spa is “ultimate relaxation.”  This was station #3, and so far, I wasn’t really feeling it.

From there on, thankfully, there was a lot more saunas and pools of varying temperatures and a lot less man-on-man belly rubbing.  They raised your body temperature through progressively hotter saunas and then cooled you down through progressively cooler (spring-fed, healing mineral-infused) pools.  Little signs on the wall reminded you to stay quiet and suggested how long to spend at each station, though you were free to do whatever you wanted at your own pace.  Finally at the very end, after you dry off, the last station is just a room full of beds where you go take a nap.  That was my favorite station.  Apparently the staff on V’s side wrapped her up in blankets – what!?  I didn’t get that shit!  All I got was a double-dose of soapy tummy rubs!

Baths aren’t really normally my thing, so I was out after about 2 hours rather than the alloted 3, but, I did feel pretty relaxed at the end.  Even with the soap-and-brush personal space invasion, it was overall a good experience that I would recommend.  When in Rome, right?

That about finished it up for Baden-Baden; we got some dinner and checked out the (MASSIVE) night life of Baden-Baden (shit was POPPING OFF), which consisted mainly of one (DOPE AS FUCK) latin-themed bar playing more Sean Paul songs than I knew existed,

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Bad-a-bam-bam-bam

before passing out for 6 hours so we could catch a train back to Baumholder that got back at a semi-reasonable time.

And that’s it for post #1!  Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!  Here’s hoping I will get out of work at least one more time before I go, and this won’t be my first and only post!