June 25, 2012
Sitting at the Lufthansa gate in Munchen Airport waiting to board a flight to Rome. Here is the beginning of a 4-day trip report to Munich. Just a disclaimer though, the car driving and the beer drinking doesn't start until Part 2 onward so if you get bored, skip this part and wait for the next installment.
First, of all, I wouldn’t have picked to visit Munich without some other incentive to go. It didn’t seem that exotic or exciting. However, our son was performing in Munich as part of a European tour and we wanted to catch his performance. Now, in retrospect, I am really glad that we had the opportunity to visit this lovely city.
We had a ton of Marriott and Starwood points and we used the services of Pam Keystone to help us use them to obtain 1st class tickets. For a fee, she was able to use our points to obtain tickets on US Airways. We did have a layover in Philadelphia where we transferred into Envoy class for the transatlantic portion. Never having flown anything overseas other than economy, this was very nice. It will be hard to go back! First to board, plenty of room for our roll-aboards…and the individual pods which have seats that fully recline. Champagne before we took off and movies on demand on individual screens. My husband and I had to control ourselves and stop watching movies so that we could get some sleep.
Arrival in Munich a little early, zipped off the plane with our carry-on luggage, through passport control in a matter of minutes and on the S-Bahn pretty quickly. For those who like to have the little, but important, details worked out. I had researched a ton of information on transportation options from the airport to our hotel, the Munich Marriott. A taxi seems like overkill if you are travelling light. It is so expensive and you still have to face the same rush hour traffic. The Lufthansa bus is actually not a bad deal (17E round-trip), but we knew that we would be travelling around Munich for the rest of the day and knew it would be most cost efficient to just buy the MVV Partner Pass for all zones. This let us travel all over Munich through all 4 zones all day long for about the same price as just the 2 of us getting the Lufthansa shuttle to the hotel. I had downloaded a description of how to find the MVV ticket counter, but initially was confused for a few minutes as I thought we were already out in the main hall and couldn’t find the “covered courtyard”. There is very little in the way of official stations – just the passport control booth. It seems kind of weird since I am so used to the multiple intense security of the US airports. When we finally walked past the customs area – and we literally just walked through, no forms and no one asked any questions, we walked through some sliding doors into the main terminal. Immediately, there were the usual signs pointing the way to the S-Bahn. We stopped at the Information Desk, and a very nice young lady gave us the options which she assumed would mean that we should get the 3-Day Partner pass, but I was glad that I had already researched this. I told my husband that we just needed the 1-Day all zone Partner pass given our plans for the next few days. In the end it saved us about 10E. If you kind of have an idea (or even if you don’t) of what you want to see when, I highly recommend going onto the MVV site which has an English language choice. They have a great layout of the different types of tickets and also a wonderful trip planner which literally gives you step-by-step instructions of how to get from Point A to Point B with multiple options after you input the date/time that you want to go. I spent a lot of time on this site especially since we needed to get directly from the airport to the hotel and then to the BMW plant tour in 2 ½ hours and it worked perfectly.
Anyway, the public transportation system in Munich is great – clean, efficient, well laid out with many, many signs to help you on your way. My husband has a great app that he downloaded to his iphone which has the subway systems for all of the major metropolitan cities in the world. Essentially, he has the same map which is posted all over the subway system, but it made it even easier to follow along where we were going and how many stops we had left to go. Though we had to make a bit of a U-shaped route, it was very easy to get to the Marriott – it is just 1 ½ blocks away from the Nordfriedhof station – the same station that has a Lufthansa airport shuttle bus which we decided to take back to the airport when we left Munich. We were able to check into the hotel immediately, spend a few minutes freshening up and then zipped out to the U-Bahn to get to the BMW plant tour.
For BMW World, I had eventually called to make a reservation for the plant tour. When I first did the research, I wanted to try to do the Premium Tour which is hours and hours, but it didn’t take place on a day that would work for us. The Premium Tour includes the plant (factory), the Welt (fancy showroom) and the Museum. Even though reviews of the Welt and Museum tours were positive, my husband really wanted to see the plant tour. First, I tried emailing them with my request, but after a week went by without a response, I bit the bullet and called international. I think the cost of the call was a couple of dollars. The woman who came on the line, immediately spoke to me in German, but as soon as I told her that I only spoke English, she transferred immediately into English and was very nice in helping me to get the English tour reservation set up. You don’t have to pay in advance, but they give you a confirmation number and you have to pick up the tickets 30 min in advance or they will give them to whoever is waiting for a ticket.
One observations: Even though you can make a lot of reservations in advance, there are usually strict rules for picking them up in advance by a certain time – be it 30 or 60 min in advance. It does make for some stress as the Germans are VERY punctual and you feel as if you will lose your tickets if you don’t get there in time. You probably would, but I never tried to test it. On the other hand, the punctuality is great in that they don’t waste your time.
Once we arrived and paid for our tickets, my husband bought a sandwich for lunch which gave us some 1E coins so I could put my daypack in a locker downstairs. You get the coin back when you reopen the locker with your key. We looked around the Welt while we waited for our tour to start – it is a very “hipster” type of atmosphere and is a great advertisement for making you want to buy a BMW.
When I went up to the other Info Counter to find out where the plant tour actually started, she right away told me that there were no more tickets left (so I think that if you want to do the tour, either you have to get there early or reserve them in advance). Once I assured her that I already had the tickets and just wasn’t sure where to start, she directed me toward some brushed steel doors where the line rapidly grew with ticket holders. They limit it to about 30 people and right away they hand out earpieces that your guide then uses via her microphone to tell you about everything as you walk through the plant. This way you can hear everything. (Now I wonder why more tours aren’t done this way. There is nothing more irritating than being stuck with a guide that doesn’t speak loudly enough.)
This tour was GREAT! Granted if you are not that interested in how things are made, you might not enjoy it – but my husband and I thought the entire tour was fascinating. You get to see many of the elements of the actual production line – from pressing the metal frames, to the robotic welding of the frames together, to the “marriage” of the frame to the drive train, to applying the coats of paint, the seat assembly, and the post-assembly testing. Anyway, we really, really enjoyed it. Another observation – I don’t think that Europe has much in the way of care or assistance for those who are disabled. This tour required a significant amount of walking and stair climbing and I am not sure if there is any way for a disabled person to be able to go on this tour.
Well – that’s all for now. We still went on to visit Schloss Nymphenburg as well as the Hirschgarten (beer garden), but that will need to wait for the next installment.
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June 25, 2012