Munich’s delightful contradictions


christmas_munich

When I think of Germany, I think of cars, I think of discipline, I think of science and technology, I think of…oh, all sorts of unromantic things that aren’t exactly the stuff of travel dreams. I found myself in Munich only because my companion wanted to visit at least one German city during our European trip, and Amsterdam-Munich-Rome via City Night Line sleeper trains appealed to the rail enthusiast in me. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the Munich stop but thought: why not?

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My first indication that Germany wasn’t going to be quite what I expected it to be was when the CNL night train arrived at Amsterdam Centraal 30 minutes late. A German train…on Filipino time. Imagine that!

But I should have known, really. I’d forgotten that this land of precision and efficiency is also the land of fairy tales, home to both Max Planck and the brothers Grimm, to discipline and drunken revelry. This contradictory German duality was especially evident in Munich.

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München, as it is locally known, is the richest city in Germany, with an exceptionally high standard of living, and is home to such giant companies as BMW, Siemens and Allianz. It is also home to the Frauenkirche, the seat of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, administered once upon a time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the man now known as Pope Benedict XVI. Bavaria, the German state of which Munich is the capital, is predominantly Roman Catholic, and on Sundays, religion trumps economics: most commercial establishments remain closed on the Lord’s Day.

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The path we took from Munich Central Station to the Marienplatz was at once magical and mercantile, imposing and homey. We went through a castle-like archway and walked along Neuhauser Strasse, Munich’s main shopping street. Large trees, their leaves winter brown, marked the middle of the road; at night, Christmas lights lent the place a fairy-tale glow. The architecture all around us was impressive and almost intimidating, but the warm yellow light and occasional steam coming from stalls selling chestnuts, fruits and various sorts of comfort food made the atmosphere remarkably cozy.

I loved it.

mun_4On the advice of a Dutch backpacker we met over breakfast at our hostel, we joined a half-day tour that started at the Marienplatz and explored places of interest around the city center. We craned our necks in fascination as the puppets of the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) glockenspiel performed the same play they have been performing for centuries. We stood at the Odeonsplatz and gazed thoughtfully down the square, imagining the Nazi soldiers who once stood there, arms outstretched in stiff salute. We popped by the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, a world-renowned beer hall, and discussed the different types of beer in the city, including which one was particularly favored by the former Pope. We entered various churches: the Frauenkirche, Theatinerkirche, Michaeliskirche – where we heard Mass later that day – and Peterskirche. The latter had a tower, the Alter Peter, which we climbed after the tour for a magnificent view of the city. And finally: the Viktualienmarkt, where we wolfed down heavenly German sausages chased by a pint of ice-cold beer.

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As always, there was still so much to see and simply no time to see them all. We found ourselves, too soon, back in Central Station, waiting for the night train to Rome. As I bought a buttery pretzel for the journey, I remembered how unenthusiastic I’d been at the prospect of visiting Munich. The regret I felt then at leaving so much of the city unexplored was perhaps only fittingly contradictory.

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© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. An earlier version of this post was published in this blog last April 2014.

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Skyscanner why u so cruel?

(Update 10/31: Skyscanner PH sent me a nice note explaining what happened. See comments below.)

Today, October 29, will go down in history as the day Skyscanner gave me a mini-heart attack.

I mean, who wouldn’t get a heart attack from these prices?

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Nepal for PHP 333? Australia for PHP 380? South Africa for PHP 456? Shut up and take my money.

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Germany for PHP 843? Belgium for PHP 1,408? I DIE.

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Italy for PHP 1,415?!?!?! *faint*

Sadly, the Thai Airways website didn’t seem to know what Skyscanner was talking about. I don’t  know if it was a bug in their system, or a bug in Thai Airways’, or if there was some magic way of getting those fares (“Accio unbelievable fares”?), but…I wasn’t able to. No matter how much I tried to “game” Thai Airways’ website.

Hope can be so cruel sometimes. I so wanted to use my Schengen visa again, before it expires.

Don’t laugh. I am seriously heartbroken.

Okay, maybe a little laugh.

*sigh*

*big sigh*

Oh, well.

 

Skyscanner why u so cruel?” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

The Schengen Visa: General Information

A Schengen visa allows you to travel to any country in the Schengen Area. In other words, once you obtain a visa from any of the Schengen countries, you can travel to all of the Schengen countries. (For avid travelers like myself, this is the drool-worthy equivalent of an Unli-Plan :-).) As of April 2014, these are the countries in the Schengen Area:

Take note, however, that you can’t just apply for a visa in any Schengen country. If you’re traveling to more than one country, the rule is: your visa application should be lodged at the embassy/consulate of the country that constitutes the MAIN destination of your trip in terms of:

  • Purpose – “Purpose” in this sense usually refers to business or some other official engagement. If you spend 3 days in France and 4 days in Germany, you need to apply for a visa at the German embassy, no matter how much you protest that the main purpose of your trip is to visit the Eiffel tower. If your purpose is just tourism, in general, what will matter is your length of stay.
  • Length of Stay – Apply at the country where you will be spending the most number of days.
    • It is the total number of days in a country that matter. If you spend only 3 days each in Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence, and stay a whopping 10 days in Barcelona, you will still have to apply at the Italian embassy, not the Spanish embassy.
    • If you are spending equal time in 2 countries — say, 4 days in Belgium and 4 days in the Netherlands — other factors will be taken into consideration, such as where your flight from the Philippines will actually land. When in doubt, ask.

Most Schengen countries have similar requirements — for example, travel insurance worth at least €30,000. Still, make sure that you check with the embassy where you will actually be filing your application, as there are important differences. France, for example, requires a cover letter; the Netherlands doesn’t.

For more tips, visit the individual visa pages in this website:

(Note that the United Kingdom — which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — is not part of the Schengen Area and therefore needs a separate visa.)

Good luck and happy travels!

The Schengen Visa: General Information” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

 


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