Munich, Dresden and Berlin - trip report

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Jun 21st, 2018, 08:30 AM
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Munich, Dresden and Berlin - trip report

Last month I took my longest solo trip to visit Munich, Dresden and Berlin. This was my third visit to Germany, and I continue to be amazed at how much there is to see and do. I got around almost effortlessly by train, but I did fly from Munich to Dresden. Here is what I did:

Nymphenburg Palace

I arrived in Munich ridiculously early – at about 6:30 am on May Day, which is a holiday in Germany. I knew there was no chance a hotel room would be available for me so early, and that most museums and stores would be closed. I ascertained before arrival that Nymphenburg Palace would be open (and have a place to stash to my luggage), so that is where I went.

I started in the palace which had some beautiful rooms, especially the grand hall with its ceiling frescoes. (It was 3 floors high). I then walked through the gardens and the woods. Throughout the woods are several small mini-palaces. Inside each was amazing – not at all what one might expect for a somewhere in the middle of the woods. Amalienburg was the Royal hunting lodge, but nothing about the inside said “lodge”. There was a Hall of Mirrors, and many of the rooms had elaborate rococo silver scrollwork decorations. The kitchen was covered in tiles that looked they came from Delft and Portugal. The Badenburg building contained a bath house with a tiled bath and pool. The Magedelene House was a fake ruin with a prayer room. It was grotto-like and decorated with shells.

I bought a ticket good for the entire complex and I was losing steam, but figured I should see the Porcelain and Carriage Museums. The Carriage museum had an amazing collection of ornate carriages – some painted, some decorated with gold, and all very regal. For the winter, there was an equally impressive collection of sleighs.

Munich Residenz

Wow. I walked around here with my jaw open a lot of the time. Upon entering is a very elaborate grotto room, covered in shells, Next, you enter the Antiquarium (the Hall of Antiquities) which is a HUGE and long. It has a collection of statues and marble busts from antiquity. The curving ceiling is covered with groteseques in the Renaissance style. Walking through the Residenz, I stopped taking pictures after a while because I was walking through room after impressive room, in many different styles (Baroque and Rococo were well represented). There is an amazing room of relics, stored in elaborate gold and silver cases covered with jewels. The collection claims to have a decorated cranium of John and Baptist and the head of Pope Eleuterus. There were hands and other body fragments of other saints, which were believed to possess powers of the divine.

Marienplatz

I loved wandering around this area. I stopped by my first morning to see the moving figures on the glockenspiel clock. I love all the gargoyles on the clock tower building.
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Jun 21st, 2018, 10:15 AM
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Thanks for posting, Philly. Looking forward to your Berlin adventure. I'll be in Berlin in September.
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Jun 21st, 2018, 10:39 AM
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Asam church

This church is small, but packs a huge Baroque punch. It’s long and narrow and every surface is covered with paint, gold, statues, etc. It’s crazy Baroque excess (which I love).

St. Peter’s church

I wandered into Munich’s oldest church to see the jeweled skeleton of Saint Munditia. The patron saint of spinsters is now covered with gold and jewels. She holds a glass container of dried blood, which is a relic of her martyrdom.

Bavarian National Museum

This is a great museum – it has all kinds of decorative arts. The Germans back in the day sure knew how to carve and paint wood. The religious sculptures looked amazingly life-like, and it’s remarkable how the wood has been preserved in such fine condition for so long. In another area are wooden rooms with painted walls and filled with painted and carved furniture. The museum has paintings, armour, clocks, and a large collection of nativity scenes. There was an amazing dessert porcelain service – figures and garden statuary. I would have loved to see the nativity collection, but it apparently is open only during the Christmas season.

Viktualienmarket

I wandered through this food market several times during my stay. It’s a lively area, and I had some good food.
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Jun 21st, 2018, 10:46 AM
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Alte Pinakothek

The Old Gallery art museum here in Munich is a great art museum. I had visited before – now half of it is closed for renovation. There is still a lot of great stuff on display.

Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism

Totally depressing museum on the history of the Nazi regime and Munich’s role in the rise of National Socialism. I didn’t know Munich played such a prominent role – the museum is built on the former site of the headquarters of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

I thought it would be more of a museum, but there are no artifacts, just informational displays with lots of text and photographs. I really like Munich, and was sad to learn it had played such an important role. Reading the information, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with how familiar it sounded with what is going on today here in the US. I vowed this was going to be the only Nazi museum I was going to visit on this trip. We have visited Dachau and several of the Nazi/WW2 museums in Berlin on prior trips. I have read a lot about this scary time of history, and I needed a break. (I am writing this as Trump is separating kids from their parents).

Lenbachhaus

The best part of visiting the Munich Documentation Center was discovering I so close to the Lenbachhaus and getting to visit this home and art gallery. The Lenbachhaus is the Florentine-style villa of Fran von Lenbach. The art gallery features many works by The Blue Rider expressionist painters and other Munich artists. (My research painting for my Art Goes to School group this summer is an August Macke painting from this museum).

I liked the art, even some of the contemporary stuff. Goat Carousel featured two goats on rotating discs. In the middle was a TV that broadcast people coming in and out of the room it was in. Another “artwork” was something that looked like hair on the floor, and a guard had to be positioned nearby so people didn’t step on it.

The villa rooms were my favorite. They had some of the interior decorations and were beautiful rooms.

Spatenhaus and friends from home

I had the great fortune of being in Munich at the same time as a good friend of mine from my gym – Len and his wife. It’s a long story, but we both had trips to Germany planned, about a month apart. Then, I needed to reschedule mine, and then they had to reschedule theirs. And, as luck would have it, we would overlap in Munich!

We planned to meet for dinner one evening, and we had a really nice meal at Spatenhaus, which was recommended to me by a Fodorite on FB. The next evening, I was out of a walk around the Marienplatz area, and I turned the corner into the main square – and who did I see again but Len and his wife! Our first meeting was planned, but the second time we ran into each other by chance. I went up to tell them I was lost and asked if they could help me. (Len said I was beyond help). I had already eaten dinner, but they hadn’t, so I joined them for a glass of wine while they ate dinner at Ratskeller. This was a 19th century cellar restaurant on Marienplatz – nice atmosphere inside. It was really fun to see them and compare notes on Munich.
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 02:36 AM
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Am heading to Munich in September, Residenz is on my list.
After a few visits, I still haven’t been there.
(Just finishing off a trip to the Australian outback, am seriously missing seeing ‘green’)
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 10:55 AM
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I'm so glad I found this PhillyFan. Very good trip report so far, and I think I need to go back to Munich. I would love to see the Nymphenberg Palace. I'm not sure how you are going to avoid the Nazi part of Berlin, but I'm anxious to hear your perspectives. And I already know you loved Dresden.
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by barbrn View Post
I'm not sure how you are going to avoid the Nazi part of Berlin
It's amazingly easy, you just explore the other parts.
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Jun 24th, 2018, 09:02 AM
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Hi all. Adelaidean and treesa, I think you will really love Germany. barbrn, this was my third visit to Munich - there really is LOT to see there!

Continuing on to Dresden:

I flew to Dresden from Munich. My flight was an hour delayed and I got into town around 3:30pm. I checked into my hotel and immediately went out to wander around the Zwinger complex. I have wanted to see the Green Vaults for a very long time, so I decided to visit the Historic Green Vault that afternoon.

Historic Green Vault

Wow. Wow. Wow. This place, which I read is the largest collection of treasures in Europe, deserves a lot more travel press than it gets. What an amazing collection – it had the largest green diamond (that totally sparkled), almost every item had jewels on it. It was like the artists said: I think I’m finished, but let me add some more gems to this. There is an Amber Cabinet, a White Silver room, and an Ivory room. Augustus the Strong designed the cabinet so that the rooms are more dramatic as you proceed through. The Hall of Treasures is pretty spectacular. It is completely mirrored, and if you stand in a certain spot, the mirrors make it appear as if they are receding (and receding and receding…) The items in this room feature colored gems, ostrich eggs and rock crystal. The Historic Green Vault is a unique museum in that the items are displayed as they were back in the day – the rooms were mostly preserved and survived the bombing of Dresden.

Market Square

To get to the Royal Palace and Zwinger from my hotel, I walked through a market set up in the large square. There were all different kinds of food (I got my only chimney cake of my trip here) along with some souvenir stands. The tops of many of the market stalls were festively decorated – they were lined with flowers and some had figures a top like bears (or maybe they were possums lol) wearing hats.

Royal Palace and Zwinger Palace

This was a large, beautiful complex with many different museums:

New Green Vault

This was another treasure cabinet of many rooms. I liked this one even better than the Old Green Vault; its collection is larger and more varied. The items were so remarkable – all amazing craftsmanship and some quite whimsical and fun. I want to be a museum guard in this place so I could spend all day looking at all the very detailed items. It seemed the more you examined an item, the more incredible details (and jewels!) you noticed. There was a huge diorama of the Indian Mogul emperor with dozens of figures. The website calls it “the greatest work of European jewellery art”. Among the many other items in here is an elaborate coffee service (which was never used – it would have been impractical to try to drink coffee from gold and jewel encrusted cups), whimsical figures made out of misshapen pearls, highly detailed cabinets and clocks, carved ivory, gold work, – all with so much creativity and artistic craftsmanship in each item.

Old Masters Picture Gallery

The art museum is undergoing renovation and much of it was closed off. There is still much to see – including an early Vermeer, a Van Eyck and the famous Raphael with the two cherubs that is seen on countless reproductions. I was sad to know that the Vermeer “Girl Reading at Window” is undergoing a yearlong restoration and it was not on view.

Porcelain Collection

Wow. Meissen porcelain was developed in Dresden. The museum showcases porcelain from Asia, the early Dresden creations, and many items of Meissen. There was a large porcelain menagerie, a lot of colorful birds, and other remarkable items.

Armory with Turkish Chamber

I went through here pretty quickly; the huge Ottoman tent was impressive.

Renaissance Collection

This collection of historic items had many period costumes. I liked the elaborate tables. One was beautiful and had several different cabinets and drawers for card and board games, a sewing kit, toiletry and writing appliances and scientific instruments. (Everything in one place!) There were other such tables concealing different items.

In addition to all the museums, I liked wandering around the entire complex with its Baroque buildings, statues, fountains in the courtyard and architectural details.
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Jun 24th, 2018, 11:02 AM
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Enjoying your trip report! Glad you liked Dresden. However, I pray every day the Green Vault doesn't get more press. There are plenty of tour groups already in the city ... (I know, it's a business and so ...)

The Green Diamond is in the New Green Vault, btw.
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Jun 24th, 2018, 02:26 PM
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I'm waiting for the Berlin portion mainly because I am there this whole week,
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Jun 24th, 2018, 03:27 PM
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We were in Dresden 8 years ago and the Green Vault was busy then,- can I add for others reading this, that Meissen is a gorgeous town, well worth a visit, with a fascinating porcelain museum (sounds dull, I know, but really interesting).
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Jun 25th, 2018, 02:44 PM
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More exploring Dresden:

Bruhl Terrace

I was in Dresden on some very nice days, and it was nice walking here along the Elbe River.

Frauenenkirche

This church is absolutely huge – it dominates the square it is on. It was destroyed in WW2 bombing, and rebuilt starting in 1994.

And on to:

BERLIN

Berlin was an easy train ride from Dresden. My trip to this point has been quite easy - I encountered some minor travel snafus in Berlin. I had been to Berlin once before (a brief stop on a cruise itinerary) and I already knew it was a more modern city that would lack the charm of Dresden and Munich. By the time I left, Berlin had grown on me.

​​​​​​
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Jun 25th, 2018, 02:55 PM
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Day trip: Potsdam/San Souci Palace

I had been very much looking forward to visiting the palace of San Souci and exploring the extensive park grounds. Before I left, I had trouble figuring out the transportation directions – there are several train/bus combinations and few sites seemed to agree on the best route. (I have an opinion on that now!) I bought my train tickets for each day in Berlin from a friendly ticket seller at the Berlin Hbf. He gave me good advice (how to get to Berlin Tegel airport, etc) except for how to get here. I told him I wanted to go the San Souci palace and he told me the closest train station was San Souci, which required me taking a local train that left every hour from Berlin Hbf, so that’s the itinerary I planned.

I took a train to get to me San Souci 50 minutes before my timed San Souci palace admission. The train was 10 minutes late. Then it stopped in Potsdam and an announcement was made in German. Everyone got off, so I did, too. Confused, I asked a young woman how to get to San Souci station, and she directed me to the local train across the track. I got on the train seconds before the door closed.

I arrived at the local station, steps away from the large San Souci Park. And 1.5 miles away from San Souci palace! (If you want to visit the Neue Palace at San Souci, that is close to the train station).

I race-walked/jogged to try to make my palace admission time, knowing it was highly unlikely I would make it. There were no signs in the park and I didn’t know where I was going. I came across the lovely Chinese Pavilion in the park and went inside where admissions to that building were being sold and explained how I really really wanted to see the palace and could they let me in at another time. She told me they were very strict at the palace and would not have allowed me in at any time but the time on my ticket. But she switched my ticket to a tour 2 hours later. (Thankfully, I was there on a not busy weekday or I would have just wasted a lot of travel time). So I was able to explore the grounds more leisurely and did get to see what I wanted to.

But here is what I did see in Potsdam:

Chinese Pavilion

This is a lovely building, inside and out, with an Asian theme and decorations. Lots of gold. Inside there were ceiling paintings and some porcelain.

San Souci park

The park area outside the San Souci palace was beautiful. There was a fountain and flowers galore. This is the more dramatic entrance to the palace. (If you take the bus (more on that later), you enter the palace from the back, so be sure to go around to the front). I walked up the stairs, and admired the statues on the palace building.

Picture Gallery

There is an art collection here – but many of the paintings were copies. Caravaggio’s St. Thomas is here but it was very difficult to see b/c light was shining on it in a way that made the painting almost impossible to see. There was a young man studying the painting and he was sitting on the floor to the left of the painting. He said it was the only vantage point he could find to be able to see it. I had the same problem in the art museum in Munich – many of the paintings were hung across from windows that didn’t have hardly anything blackening out the light. I would imagine it’s not great for the paintings to have light on it in such a manner, and it’s certainly not great to try to view them that way.

San Souci Palace

Yay, I was here! The summer home of Frederick the Great did not disappoint. It was not large in size, but quite grand and I enjoyed the audio tour.

Orangerie

I walked up to this building on a lovely walk through the park grounds. I missed the tour by minutes and decided not to wait until the next one.

It is not easy to visit the complex here. I only found one bathroom from the original train station to the palace, and nowhere to eat. Up to this time, all I had to eat while here was an ice cream sandwich from the gift shop. Wherever the restaurant was in the huge park complex, I didn’t have much energy to seek it out. I decided to head back to Berlin and eat at the Potsdam train station.

Coming home, I figured out the best way to get to San Souci Palace from Berlin – take the train to Potsdam Hbf and transfer to bus 695. The bus stops right behind San Souci Palace. It couldn’t be more easier, and that’s the way I took back to Berlin. It was easy until the train stopped outside of Berlin with another announcement in German and everyone getting off the train. I checked my DB Traveler app, which gave me another train option to take. I hopped on that train, and another announcement was made with everyone sighing in frustration. I asked someone what they said, and it was announced that there was a fire up ahead on the tracks so no trains could proceed until it was cleared.

I decided to take a cab back to Berlin. Walking from the station to try to figure out where I might find a cab, I started talking to a young woman. She told me she also was trying to get to Berlin Hbf and I asked her if she wanted to share a cab. She spoke German (yay) and we easily caught a cab. We had a really nice conversation. She was a schoolteacher on her way to spend time with her family at her grandparents home in northern Germany. She was getting very close to missing her train, but thankfully we didn’t hit a lot of traffic. Once we arrived at the train station, I told her to run and catch her train and that the cab ride was on me. And then I had the cab take me right to my hotel, ending a runaround side trip to Potsdam.
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Jun 25th, 2018, 05:01 PM
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I like the detail you include in your TR and look forward to more. Thanks!
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Jul 1st, 2018, 08:37 AM
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Museum Island

On Sunday afternoon, I wandered over to here. There was a nice craft/flea market set up along the way. It was a nice day and the area in front of the impressive Berlin Cathedral was lively with people.

Altes Museum

This museum is the antiquities collection of the Berlin State Museums, with statues (lots of them), vases, mosaics, and jewelry. There was a small room of ancient erotic art. I learned the Romans considered the phallus a symbol of fortune and fertility that protected against evil. Accordingly, some people wore them as amulets around their neck, and some charms were hung in houses. There were displays of these charms and amulets – it was quite a collection – including a walking penis with wings (with its own penis).

Pergamon Museum

I knew going in that the Pergamon Altar is undergoing renovation, but the rest of the museum is very grand. The Ishtar Gate of Babylon is remarkable – and HUGE! The individual bricks making up the gate were beautifully colored and had raised relief to depict the animals. There is a reproduction of the entire complex, of which the Ishtar Gate is just a small portion. If that wasn’t grand enough, the next room contained the Roman Market Gate of Miletus. According to the informational placards, it is the largest reconstruction from antiquity in a museum.

There is some amazing Islamic art here, also an ornate room from Aleppo.

Brandenburg Gate

I wandered around here (very lively area) and through a portion of the nearby Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Checkpoint Charlie

Busy tourist area; Berlin’s smaller equivalent to Times Square.
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Jul 1st, 2018, 10:45 AM
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Thanks again, Philly. Postdam was on my radar but now I'm having second thoughts about the logistics. I think I'll just stick to Berlin. Did you get the museum pass? I'd like to visit the Reichstag again but it's not available on my dates.
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Jul 1st, 2018, 07:37 PM
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Treesa, San Souci is a really nice park and the palace is small but impressive. If you go and take the bus from the Potsdam Hbf, you will spare yourself a lot of the walking and confusion I had. The bus would drop you off in front of San Souci Palace, and you could easily walk to the Chinese Pavilion, Orangerie, and Picture Gallery all from there. The Neue Palace is much further away - it wasn't an option for me b/c it was closed on Tuesdays, the day I was there.

I avoid busses in places like Philadelphia b/c if there is actually a schedule, the traffic usually wrecks havoc on it and I have no idea how long of a wait it would be for the next one to arrive. But in Germany (well, at least in Munich and Berlin), the bus stops have signs indicating which busses stop there, and how long the wait is until the next one. These signs were so helpful - and I found them to be accurate.

I didn't buy the museum pass since I wasn't sure how many museums I would visit. I saw the Gemaldegalerie on my last visit and that is an excellent museum. There are a few more museums in Berlin I would still like to visit and that I didn't have the time to fit in on this trip.
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Jul 2nd, 2018, 06:39 AM
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Finishing up the Berlin part:

​​​​​​Hackescher Market

I had a late breakfast here one morning, and I liked wandering around this area. A bit further away, I found some narrower streets with some shops – a much quieter, calmer area.

East Side Gallery

This is a long series of murals and street art painting on the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. (Wikipedia calls it “possibly the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world”). I walked the entire thing – I really enjoyed the variety of all the art.

Best made plans: I wanted to visit the Hohenzollernplatz church, with its colorful windows. I visited its website for opening hours, and confirmed the times with the front desk at the Marriott where I stayed (I showed them the website which used abbreviations for the days of the week and I wanted to be certain I was interpreting the abbreviations correctly). I figured out the trains and got to the church to discover: it was closed. Sigh. This was my last evening and I had wanted to see this. Next time…

ACCOMMODATIONS

Since I was by myself, I chose "easy" hotel options, meaning chains I know and conveniently located. If you are looking for that criteria, I'd recommend every place I stayed:

Munich: Holiday Inn Munich City Center. Nice place, quiet rooms. It's connected by an underground walkway lined with stores (including a grocery store) to an S-station.

Dresden: Holiday Inn Express - Dresden. Easy walk from train station, and then an easy close walk to the Zwinger complex. Nice size rooms, quiet, clean. This included breakfast, too.

Berlin: Berlin Marriott. Really nice place - large clean rooms. A block from Potsdamer Platz train stations - a good location.
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Jul 3rd, 2018, 02:12 AM
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I was last in Berlin in 1986, and have a cousin nearby, but I find these large sprawling cities daunting, so haven’t returned. I think I’d have to plan it well to enjoy it.
So am saving posts for future reference should I finally re-visit. Thanks for yours.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 01:59 PM
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PhillyFan......I now am adding Germany to my bucket list. You make the sites come alive and sound so interesting. Just the mention of the Nazi museum along with what Trump is doing at our southern border brought tears to my eyes. I think I’ll skip that site.

Now the Green Vault, that’s one I’d like to see. Dresden definitely goes on my list.

Thanks for the extensive report. Fodors Is the place to get the most informative details from those who have been there.
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