Thursday, May 21, 2009

And home again...+ Day 1: Munich

We're back! Ok, so we've actually been back for a few days now, but you know how it is when you get back from a trip - the unpacking, the laundry, the needy furchild, the zombie woman dragging herself back to work approximately thirteen hours after landing back at her home airport, general tired and sad demeanor that you're no longer on vacation with friends. First and foremost, I had a blast spending some much-needed time with my dear friends Diana and Trinity on this trip - they are excellent travel companions, wonderful people, and just all-around awesome. I also got to know Diana's brother Steven and his girlfriend Megan better, which was fantastic - they live in an adorable little town of Freising, Germany, and it was so great to share the good times...and make use of all their helpful hints and directional skills.

And just as a warning...these posts could be a touch on the lengthy side. Enter at your own risk. I'm using this forum as a bit of a journal for myself, so there's probably going to be a little bit more detail in here than is necessary. Deal with it, peeps. Moreover (I've been using that word at work a lot lately - the lawyers are getting to me), if you want to take full-on photo journey, I have two albums up on Picasa, and Diana and Trinity have their pictures up as well.

Let's kick off this European adventure by starting in...Philadelphia! Hey, it's a hub for US Airways, and while the airport doesn't really count as spending any quality time in a city, it did serve as reunion central for the Erin-Vaughn Family cross-country meet-up. I made it in a little earlier than Diana and Trinity and staked out three seats for us at our departure gate, and when those two rounded the corner (with Chick-fil-a in hand!! I promise I was more excited about the people, though), I jumped up and smiled like a crazy person. It was just so great to see them after being here in DC for three and a half months. Trinity drugged himself up on iced tea (I swear his body is made up of at least 28% iced tea) and we found a home to wait out our mechanical delay (fix the plane, please! It's taking us across the freakin' ocean!) in some cool rocking chairs that you can chill in, watch airport craziness, and eat Twizzlers. Oh, plus Terminal A is home to a Liberty Bell made out of Legos, which you have to admit is just cool.

With a good dose of America in our tummies (oh, Chick-fil-a, I do adore you) and that delay out of the way, we finally boarded our plane for the looooong ride across the ocean. I was pretty disappointed in our movie distraction in the form of Yes Man, so after knocking back some not-totally-disgusting airplane pasta, I attempted to settle in and sleep. Unfortunately, the Dirk Nowitzki-sized German behind me made it a little difficult to lay the seat back with any degree of comfort, and I'm not the best plane-sleeper anyway, so I arrived in Munich a little groggy...but ready to power through and make the most of the day.

All the luggage showed up! Three cheers! We took the S-Bahn into the city and walked/wheeled our way to our hotel, where we were somewhat brusquely greeted by our very German proprietress. After ditching our bags, Steven and Megan came and met us at the hotel (family reunion, yay!). After hearing our cries for food, we promptly made our way towards the Marienplatz (main square in Munich) and the Augustiner, where we knocked back beer #1 and some delicious pretzels, potato salad, and weisswurst, a white Bavarian sausage. Oh yum. I mean, we were more than ready to start this beer and food adventure. Refreshed by our provisions, it was time to hit up some art museums. Trinity opted to check out the modern offerings at Pinakothek der Moderne while the rest of us opted for a more Impressionest bend at Neue Pinakothek, where we spotted, among other things, the first of many examples of bright orange German hair as well as a Manet picture of Monet painting a picture.

After getting our fill of art for the afternoon (the museums are cheap on Sunday! Only one euro!), we made our way back past Steven's university over to the Marienplatz to take in some churches, people-watching, and glockenspieling. We stopped at Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church), Michaelskirche (St. Michael's Church, which suffered some pretty severe damage from bombing in World War II), and Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady). Honestly, at this point, all of the churches/synagogues/random places of worship have fused themselves together, which is why I'm glad I have the photo directory to work off of. I really do enjoy stopping in to visit these remarkably old places of worship - they offer a quiet, cool place of respite and remind us of a time when the church was so central to the lives of so many. Bell Avenue Baptist Church, with its maroon carpeting and simple pews, is just not quite as awe-inspiring. One of the more interesting tidbits we came across (thanks, Rick Steves!) was the Devil's footprint at Frauenkirche. Legend has it the Devil himself stood at that very spot regarding a church with no windows...even though it does have windows. However, you can't see any hint of them from that spot. Let's just say that most of our feet slid into that footprint quite easily. On, and in between churches there's nothing quite like a quick stop at the fishing and hunting museum. Or rather...the exterior of the fishing and hunting museum where you can strike some amusing poses with the animal statues out front.

One thing that surprised me about the architecture of Munich was the presence of domes where you might expect to see spires. Russian influence? More cost effective? Was that what it looked like before it was all bombed to hell, or were the domes a post-WWII addition? I could go Google the answer and elucidate here, but this is getting long enough as is.

The city does have its fair share of spires, though, and the New Town Hall shows them off in all of its Gothic glory. After taking a spin through the churches, we took a seat in the Marienplatz to wait for the hour to change so we could check out the glockenspiel. This baby has 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures playing out the marriage story of Duke Wilhem V, complete with jousting and the always-victorious Bavarian knight, along with some revelers delighting in the end of the plague. The architectural detail of the town hall and older buildings around the Marienplatz is just gorgeous. I could sit there for hours with eis (ice cream!!) in hand and watch the world go by.

After all that churching and walking about, what better way to relax than with massive, massive beers and ridiculous hunks of pork? Off to Hofbräuhaus we go, the oldest, most tourist-attracting beer hall in all of Munich! This place is absolutely massive and has quite a history to it - Hitler used to get the crazies all riled up here. Incredibly sturdy cabinets holding row after row of massive glassware, a joyful polka band, waitresses with biceps the size of my head...and beers the size of my head. We enjoyed a tasty mas of beer - the default size at Hofbräuhaus is the mas, a liter, while most places offer the half-liter as the default...just one more reason to love Hofbräuhaus, even if the beer is slightly room temperature-ish at the end of a mas. Mmmm, large amounts of pork and potato dumplings and cabbage...and then we ordered four of the five desserts on the menu. Sharing, of course!! I think Steven was quite impressed with our desire for desserts...and I think Megan found soulmates in her fellow dessert-lovers.

At this point Trinity's tired started to set it (and mine did, too, of course - I was just a little less vocal about it) - we should have kept him on his feet a little longer before sitting him down in front of massive beers! Fortunately we could just take a winding path back to our hotel, pausing along the way for window-shopping, dog-petting, photo-taking, food admiration, and more love of animal statues, distracting all of us from sleep and adjusting to the six/seven hour time difference. I know we were all exhausted, but I'm so glad we managed to stay up as long as we did - you have to zap the jet lag! Oh, and I'm still amazed at how quickly Diana can fall asleep. And how she can stay asleep through all kinds of noises. Noises like boisterous across-the-street partying Germans and trash bins clanging their way down the adorably cobblestoned street in the wee hours of the morning. Day one was loooong....but it was also fantastic.


Sarah said...

Hooray!! I've been waiting patiently for an update on your trip! And in case you're wondering, I'll be there in exactly 3 weeks!!!!

Erin said...

And here come the trip updates, slowly but surely! One day at a time! =)

I CAN'T WAIT to see you, Sarin!!

Diana said...

Can we go back now, please?!?

Erin said...

Ummm....yes. I'll hop on the next flight. That's a good way to spend Memorial Day weekend, right?