Monday, August 31st
Monday, August 31 -- our second day in Germany -- was to be filled with two major activities. The first was to be a visit to Germany's biggest southern city, Munich. The second was a dinner at a fine dining restaurant, courtesy of Asmir and Miriam. The dinner was to be for Miriam's family and Jenn and I, in celebration of their recent engagement.
Before heading to Munich, we went back into Ulm to pick up the rental car that the four of us would be using during the 'away' portion of our trip (away in the sense of away from Miriam's hometown). Once we had our nice shiny (and quite new) Audi A4 Turbodiesel wagon back at Miriam's house, we were ready for Munich. We had decided, for purposes of cutting down on driving and doing something interesting and different, to take the train into Munich. It was fast, cheap (Miriam managed to get a 4-person return pass for 25 Euros total), and convenient, since it dropped us off in downtown Munich right in the heart of where we wanted to be.
Miriam's mom drove us into nearby Gunzburg, where we caught the first of our two trains to get to Munich.
Our train ride through the German countryside was quite pleasant. We got to relax and see the scenery go by, and we had a nice 4-seats-facing-each-other arrangement. The train was fairly speedy between stops, reaching over 140 km/hr, and as a result we made it to Munich in roughly the same time it would have taken in the car (well, perhaps a bit slower, but not much). The Munich train station is a modern euro-style station with a million parallel tracks, big huge advertising signs and lots of hustle and bustle.
We headed out from the train station into another beautiful sunny day, heading for Munich's old center quarter. Soon we were at the Karlsplatz, one of the entrances into the old city, and beyond that, down a wide, clean, and whitewashed pedestrian-only boulevard called Neuhauser Strasse (new house street, I presume?). Modern shops lined the street.
Presently we approached the Marienplatz, one of the star attractions of old Munich. Central to the square is the 'New Town Hall', or Neues Rathaus. It's actually of fairly recent construction, being only about 140 years old. It's quite an ornate building, with it's star attraction being a very fancy cuckoo-like carillon clock. With colorful, lifesized figures dancing and animating around, it's an amusing thing to watch. We were lucky - the carillon runs only three times a day: 11pm, 12 noon, and 5pm. We happened by just before noon, and caught the whole show. I especially liked the jousting knights, where one of the knights gets knocked back in his saddle by his opponent.
Nueus Rathaus Glockenspiel
After the Marienplatz, we continued down the street, eventually arriving at the Viktualienmarkt, a open-air marketplace containing all sorts of wonderful German food, mostly of the sausage-y or weiner-y type of variety, and with lots of good mustard to boot. We just had to stop for a quick lunch here, and that we did!
We continued on, eventually entering the sprawling English Gardens -- one of the largest urban public gardens in the world. We wandered around the peaceful park for an hour or so, including watching surfers ride some standing waves on an artificial waterway, before arriving at the Beergarden. We stopped for a hefty glass of beer, something that everyone must do when visiting a place such as Munich!
Surfing in the Englischer Garten
Time was getting on, and we had to be back in Niederstotzingen in time for our dinner out, so we started to make our way back, choosing a slightly alternate route (which included Munich's subway system) to get back to the train station. There was quite a bit that we didn't get to see: many interesting towers, museums, and churches, and we'll have to come back and explore more thoroughly in the future.