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Munich Trip Report--A Joyous Celebration of Kitsch and Schmaltz

Munich Trip Report--A Joyous Celebration of Kitsch and Schmaltz

Nov 7th, 2005, 03:44 PM
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Munich Trip Report--A Joyous Celebration of Kitsch and Schmaltz

Okay, okay, I admit to exaggerating right from the title. Our Oct. 2-11 trip to Munich was not so much joyous as it was quietly satisfying, and Munich, of course, is not a kitschy little village, but quite a cosmopolitan place (though indeed both kitschiness and schmaltziness can be found there in abundance).

Since our trip was enhanced by much of the valuable information we received from generous travelers on this forum, I want to write a trip report that may provide information for others who seek it. I'll also describe some of the beauty we saw, some of the wonder we felt, and, yes, some of the humiliation I experienced in this land so far from our home.

TRIP PLANNING

Even for unambitious trips like this one, I tend to do a good deal of planning at home. I do almost all the planning for attractions to see, and go to many of them alone, since my husband is in meetings much of the time. When he's free, he wisely adopts a "Yes, dear," attitude, and goes along with what I want (though he refuses to pronounce it correctly: "Nyeth, dear.").


Guidebooks

DK Eyewitness Guide to Munich & the Bavarian Alps--The Munich guide is consistent with others in the Dorling Kindersley series, a favorite of mine. It is so helpful to get to see pictures of attractions beforehand; many of the recommendations are good, too.

Fodor's Citypack--Munich's Best--Short, useful descriptions of top attractions in a highly portable format. The large map was a bit too unwieldy for constant use, but for times when we needed street-to-street specificity, it was good to have.


Websites

www.muenchen.de/home/60093/Homepage.html (official Munich tourism site, English language version)--Helpful city information, with some ideas for sightseeing.

www.germany-info.org (website of German Embassy in D.C.)--Helped us figure out passport requirements. etc. For instance, it turned out DH's passport had enough time left on it--3 months past date of departure from Germany--but only barely. Had we stayed 10 more days, there would have been a problem.


Language Tapes

Random House Living Language--German--A box with 2 cassette tapes, a dictionary, and a book of German lessons. This worked as well as could be expected in helping to bring my pitiful, rusty German up to muster, and it was one of the rare sets available in cassette format.


Fodors.com tips that we applied

Taking an ATM card (perhaps the most useful tip)--We've always carried enough American currency for a trip, and exchanged it for Euros as needed, because the only alternative we had thought of was to use unwieldy traveler's checks. But since reading post after post here, we got an ATM card to use for travel and, after this trip, we're convinced: Getting Euros by ATM is the way we'll go from now on! DH carried dollars as a backup, but the card worked well, and we got a good rate (though we didn't get any receipt from the ATM, or info at the time on the rate we were getting).

Here's what we did: We set up a new checking/ATM account with funds dedicated to travel (reasoning that this protected our "real" account from possible theft). Now, go ahead and call me a Luddite, but I had never used an ATM, even in the US, before this trip. So I tried out the card before we left, and we had no problems. I did call the bank to tell them our departure and arrival dates.

We got a good exchange rate and paid 1% for use of the ATM, but since exchange kiosks build an extra percentage into their exchange rate, we got a better deal as well as a faster, more convenient procedure.

I'm running on and on about our ATM card, but, really, I just feel vindicated! DH was dubious about it, to say the least, and only reluctantly tried it--after the first time I used it and got Euros easily, I was all, "Neener, neener, neener!"

Packing lightly--For the first time, I packed no more than was really needed, and wore everything I packed, and it was great. It was so much easier to get around with only a 24" bagand a wheeled backpack. My clothing was even more compact than my husband's: He had a 26" bag and carry-on. (Actually, I believe that on this site, "packing light" is defined as two people taking enough clothes for a 30-day trip in a single 22" suitcase!) Obviously, part of the trick to packing lightly was taking fewer clothes, but it also helped to pack more tightly, which I did by using packing "cubes"--ours were Eagle Creek brand, and they worked well.


Taking melatonin to sleep on plane/counter jet lag--About a week before leaving, I started taking 5 mg/night, and I found it helped with my sleep at home! It would almost certainly have helped on the flight, had annoying circumstances (described later) not intervened, and it induced sleep at the hotel (though it rarely needed inducing). My experience, though, was that it did nothing to lighten my jet lag, which, as usual, was considerable.


Taking a train from airport to hotel--Another thing I'd never tried before. When we travel, we go straight from the luggage carousel to the taxi stand (or sometimes to a car rental kiosk), but this time we headed to the train platform right in the airport, and it was so convenient--we arrived at a station that was directly below our hotel lobby! Of course, it wouldn't be this easy in every city, but here it worked out great (having smallish luggage helped, of course).

On a related note, at the airport we bought a Munich Welcome Pass covering 3 days of train transport and also offering discounts on museum admissions, etc. In hindsight, at 43?, this may not actually have saved money for the two of us, but for a larger group, I think it would almost always be sound. And it was very convenient for us.


smalti is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 03:56 PM
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Dang it--Euro sign came out as ?

? ? ?
smalti is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 03:59 PM
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Great so far -- looking for more.
Budman is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 04:07 PM
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Great info - thanks so much. Looking forward to more. My first ever trip to Europe was to Munich in 1984. Delightful city.

Haven't been back - someday...
cobbie is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 04:12 PM
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Hey smalti - good start! I like the Eyewitness books too. All those pictures really help visualize for me.

Love the way you've organized your report. Very good!

BTW, what is schmaltz? (Sorry, we don't use that word down here in Texas..LOL!)
kopp is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 04:29 PM
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Schmaltz?
Its the stuff they use to make beer.
platzman is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 04:32 PM
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Oh, schmaltz and barley!!
Budman is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 04:36 PM
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A beer and a schmalz-bread and some schmalzy music. hmmm
logos999 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 05:42 AM
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Thanks for the kind replies.

kopp--While "schmaltz" (or "schmalz") has a literal meaning (chicken fat, I've been told!), I was using it in its slang sense, meaning excessive or even maudlin sentimentatlity. It's a word rather similar to "kitsch."

To some extent it's still true that the popular US perception of Bavaria is essentially a kitschy one: A zaftig, dirndl-clad waitress hoisting aloft a dozen or more foamy steins of beer, her blonde braids swinging round her; a fellow in lederhosen and embroidered shirt setting the time on his ornately carved cuckoo clock before sitting down to a steaming plate of bratwurst, while an oompah band plays drinking songs and everyone sings along. That sort of thing.

Later today I hope to post some recommendations based on our trip.
smalti is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 05:49 AM
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ira
 
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Hi sm,

Looking forward to more.

>... what is schmaltz? <

Kitsch is a cuckoo clock.

Schmaltz is an oompah band.

ira is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 06:03 AM
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Apt distinction, Ira.
smalti is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 08:24 AM
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> literal meaning (chicken fat
It's pig fat. Is frequently used for making delicious pastry. You'll love the taste once you've tried it.
logos999 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 08:43 AM
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hsv
 
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I know Schmalz as being goose-fat (apart from its meaning as another description of Kitsch), for what it's worth (makes my mouth water when thinking about it along with some good black bread and a cool Pilsener style beer...;-) )!
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Nov 8th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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of course:
Gänseschmalz and
Schweineschmalz.
Just that Scheineschmalz is cheaper and more frequently used.
I'm hungry now....
logos999 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 09:19 AM
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Eating schmaltz is popular for heavy drinkers (usually vodka) because the fat lines and protects the stomach. If you want to try it at home, just smear some bacon grease on toast.
Bird is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 09:30 AM
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From what I understand, a good Jewish cook uses Schmaltz ..

But my favorite use of the word is the Yiddish shmalz that means excessive sentimentality

Schmalty movie - tearjerker

Scarlett is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 09:41 AM
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Perfect timing. I am planning a trip that includes Munich, where did you stay? Thanks for the report!
BabsB is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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So I guess at last night's Wurstfest (our version of Oktoberfest), with braided hair and embroidered blouse, hubby in lederhosen, dancing the polka under the big tent to the music of the oompah bands, we were being schmaltzy?

Amazing what I learn on this board. Last week I tried my first limoncello; then there was the report that gave new meaning to the words "wink-wink"; today I'm filled with schmaltz. What's next?

All kidding aside, smalti, I'm really looking forward to your further adventures in Munich!

Happy travels, y'all!



kopp is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 12:54 PM
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Well, it's s(c)hmaltzy if you prefer Yiddish or schmalzig (shmalzy) if you prefer German No "t" in German opposed to Yiddish.
Anyway, have fun!
logos999 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 01:25 PM
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hsv
 
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logos,
if you are still following this thread:
I will be in Munich next week. Interested in a short German GTG on Tue ?

smalti,

great report - and no hi-jacking intended! I look forward to your sequels!
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