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Trip Report St. Petersburg and Munich trip

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We wanted to visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but also to see some other place, since we were paying so much for airfare. Continental, our primary airline, had a flight to Munich, connecting to a Lufthansa flight to St. Petersburg; they we also having a sale, and I had a couple of sizeable coupons. I typically buy tickets for both of us using my account. I like doing this because you can’t make a mistake and get on different flights. Alas, when they have to give a refund, they give each of us a coupon for half the value, and you can only use your coupon on your account, so you are forced into buying two tickets separately, and hoping they are on the same flights, and that your seats are what you want. It’s an aggravation they should do something about.

Anyway, when I tried to buy tickets to Munich and on to St. Petersburg, the web site couldn’t find a connection (I suspect because we weren’t making the whole return on the same day, but staying two weeks in Munich). Now I know from reading a lot that this is allowed, but somehow their web site doesn’t handle it, so I called an agent. Alas, when the agent found the routing, the sale price disappeared. Rather than spend a lot more, I bought the round trip to Munich, which was to arrive at 0730, and a separate round trip on Lufthansa, leaving at 1150. I was sure this was enough connection time, and in any event the Lufthansa ticket was refundable and adjustable.

After making all our arrangements for St. Petersburg, including a pricey visa and some healthy reservations, I started to worry just a little about the connection from Cleveland to Newark to Munich, as it was fairly close, and there was only one flight a day to Munich. My concern peaked when, a week before departure, I got my new Continental timetable and my flights were not on it. They did have a connection from my CLE-EWR flight to a Lufthansa flight, but It was much later and I would have missed our connection in Munich. I went to the continental web site and searched for a ticket, and they were still selling the one I had, even though it was not on their schedule. I called and expressed my concern, and a very good agent agreed that the connection time was very short, and offered to switch us to an earlier CLE-EWR flight at no cost, so our problem was solved, although they were unable to get us adjacent seats at that late date. Fortunately the man seated next to my wife agreed to switch with me, so we were able to keep each other in line.

Our flight over went well, although Continental would only check our bags to Munich, as that was what was on our ticket. No one seemed to know what I would have to do at Munich, but I figured I had four hours to do something. When I asked the concierge at EWR, what to do she didn’t know, but would arrange to have a Concierge meet us in Munich and show us what to do. Alas, when we arrived in Munich, I found no Continental people, only Lufthansa, and they didn’t seem to know what to do. I pressed on by myself and picked up our luggage and passed through customs and immigration, who also didn’t seem to know what I should do. I approached the Lufthansa ticket desk, got our tickets, and rechecked our luggage, then we went through screening again and still had a couple of hours to kill before boarding our flight.

Incidentally, I liked the Lufthansa business club (they also have first class clubs) better than Continental’s Presidents clubs because they had a better choice of snacks. Their bar is self-serve and has a more limited inventory of alcohols, which Continental’s have bartenders and a broader range of alcohols. So a drinker might prefer the Continental product, but we don’t drink much so the food scored higher with us.

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    When we got to St. Petersburg a driver from the hotel was waiting (I had requested this and paid for it as did many other passengers). Apparently public transportation from this airport is not as practical as at a lot of others.

    We are staying at the Casa Leto, a very small hotel that is exceptionally convenient to many tourist sites. The outside of the building is almost decrepit, but once you get up the broad stairs to the hotel itself, things are much for the better. The rooms are old-style but have modern conveniences, and a lot of space. The staff is very good, even before your arrival as they help you with your visa and can arrange airport pickup and delivery. They even offer assistance with tickets and other arrangements. The breakfast is good, in continental style; they even offered to scramble some eggs, but I stuck with the more traditional meal. Like many European hotels, there is no air conditioning nor screens (they did have an air cooler in the breakfast/lounge area. As the weather has been uncommonly warm since we arrived, and because I am so sweet, the mosquitos feasted on me the first night. It got so irritating I walked to an all night pharmacy, but the druggist did not speak English, nor I Russian, and my rather creative gestures turned out to be useless, but amusing. After breakfast I asked the concierge for help, and she wrote me a note to hand to the pharmacist, and said a nearer pharmacy would be open at nine. It turned out I didn’t need the note, as when we entered the store they had a prominent display of Off and a post bite product. In reflection, I can only recall one warning in a guidebook about mosquitos (for Alaska, but the mosquitos never attacked). On the other hand, I was nearly eaten alive in Florence, (and was not attacked in Venice where I expected to be) and in St. Petersburg (built on a swamp; I should have known better). I am thinking now that a small container of bug repellant will go on my packing list for all but Winter trips.

    We arrived at the hotel at about four, tired, but afraid to lay down less we miss dinner, so we went on a local walk. Let me admit that I have no talent with languages, but I have always spent some time in perfecting (!) some polite phrases in the local language. I spent more time than usual on Russian, but my mind was set against me learning anything. It’s a challenge to find your away around when the streets are rarely marked, and when they are marked they are in a language and alphabet you haven’t begun to master. I think speaking English is less common among Russians than among a lot of other nationalities, but we were still able to get help when we really needed it. In any event, we learned our local terrain (more of it than we planned, sometimes) and have since been able to find whatever we were looking for. Isaac’s Cathedral was dazzling and apparently many people come to St. Petersburg at this time to marry, as there were formally dressed couples and parties everywhere. They even had a street parade with a Marching band, followed by couples dressed for marriage and accompanied by family and friends.

    For dinner we tried a place near the hotel that had Heineken all over their awning, but in fact was called Christopher Columbus. They have a nice nautical decor, and the service was good. We both had salads (my wife a salad entree) and I had beef Stroganoff. My wife had wanted a beer (remember the Heineken awning) but they said they didn’t have beer. Finally they found her a Guinness draft, and I had a glass of wine. The food was quite good, but extremely heavy (the salad had potatoes in it) so we were not able to finish any dish. The bill was 1320 Rubles. At the time of our visit, the ruble cost a bit over 3 cents US. I usually paid in rubles, so I use that figure here, but until you do the transposition, prices are a bit shocking, when in fact they were fairly moderate.

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    Since I didn’t plan enough time here, we were in high speed mode the next day. After breakfast, we visited the pharmacy, then set off for the Church of the Savior on Spilled blood. In the process we walked down Nevsky Prospekt and saw the sights. We turned off Nevsky Prospekt a few blocks too early, and had to navigate some strange roads, but finally found the church (I’m glad they put steeples on churches). It was very crowded and we got there a few hours before opening, so we visited the street market. Most vendors had pretty much the same items. They had a lot of the famous nesting dolls, many with contemporary figures. One was an Obama doll. We thought of getting one for my son and daughter in law, who are still Obama fans, but when I looked to see what was inside the doll, it was empty. I’ll say no more about that.

    We went back to take a few more pictures of the Church, and it was getting more and more crowded, with very long lines. I decided that since it didn’t open until ll, and the lines were long, we would not go inside, but just go next door (unless you are on the wrong side of a long canal) to the Russian Museum that opened at 10, and that was high on our list. This is an excellent art museum (and more; we only looked at the art) but is complicated by being in many buildings. Not realizing this, we went in the wrong building, bought our tickets (good for all buildings, I was relieved to find) and scoured that first building but couldn’t find the paintings I really wanted to see. We went to the help desk, and they were very helpful, but knew nothing about the wanderers school of painters, so they called headquarters, then gave me the phone so I could explain what I wanted to see. They knew, and had me give the phone back to the lady at the desk so they could explain in Russian and she could draw a route on our map. So we found our way to the main building and saw a lot of nice art, including the wanderers. We ate lunch at the museum cafeteria. My wife had a slice of pizza and I had a salmon sandwichette. My wife had a canned iced tea, and I had a Russian beer. The food was good, but the Russian beer could have used a few more hops. I paid in cash and I think it was about 300 Rubles.

    We went back into the art display and spent a few more hours there, then decided to resume speed mode and left, walking to the Rostral Columns, which was a very popular destination. More wedding celebrations.

    We then returned across the river to take a boat ride. I had misunderstood the directions posted for the audio boat tour, so we wasted some time parading along the river looking for it before realizing it was on a side canal on the side of the Hermitage away from the river. Once we got to the right place, it was easy to find. The ride was an hour long, pleasant, and informative. The fee was 500 Rubles each, which I think was well worth it and very competitive; many of the concessionaires we had tried to talk to kept describing their routes, but didn’t seem to understand when you asked how much it cost.

    After again admiring the outside of the Hermitage again, and the costumed characters soliciting pictures at your expense, and the horse drawn carriages for let in the parking lot, we limped back to our hotel, glad that it was so close. We took a short nap, and by then it was past eight, so we needed a close restaurant. Olive, a Greek restaurant, is right across the street from our hotel, so we limped over. It has some small rooms, and a main room that can accommodate entertainment. That was where we sat. They brought menus and a wine list, but removed the wine list when I tried to order a bottle (I just know my doctor had a hand in this), and explained, I think, that they now only offer house wines. I ended up with a glass of nice white wine, but I would have liked about 5 dc. My wife drank bottled water. We shared an appetizer of four types of Greek olives, and they were excellent. My wife had batter fried cod, while I had char-sheared shrimp. The cod was excellent, the shrimp were just a bit overdone, but still good. We finished with baklava, and for me some homemade almond ice cream with two sauces. The deserts were very good. The tab was 2235 Rubles.

    Partway through our meal, a small Greek band materialized. There was a family celebrating a birthday, and after the band started, an elderly lady started dancing, and kept dancing. Soon her family joined in, then some other people. It was a pleasant evening, even though I kept thinking the elderly lady would have a heart attack. But it took the edge off some of the deficiencies in service, primarily delays in bringing the foods and check.

    We went back to our hotel and right to bed, even though this is the season of very long days. The OFF worked.

    We slept in a bit, since this is day 1 of 2 at the Hermitage, and they don’t open until 10:30. I had bought my admissions on line; you pay and get a voucher with no date on it, so you have the flexibility to choose your date after you arrive. We were there at 10:00. They open the outside gate then, but apparently the ticket office doesn’t open until 10:30. Once you get through the outside gate, everyone rushes to get in line for the ticket office. If you bought online, you go to the exit to the left of the ticket line gate, and get in your own shorter line with your voucher and picture ID to wait for 10:30. Once they finally let you in, you are in line to exchange your voucher for tickets; apparently, if they think the line is too long, they open other windows and invite those at the end of the line to step over to the start of a new line. In any event, it goes smoothly and soon you are inside where you can check you cases or backpacks, flash your ticket across the access point, and set off to see what you want.

    I hadn’t done enough planing, thinking that since we will be there for two days, we will be able to see all we want. Unfortunately, I saw a computer screen where you could select your language, list your objectives, and have a route printed out. I leapt at this, as I really wanted to see their Michelangelo. I thought I could plot another route after seeing it. But it was a long and convoluted route and we took many wrong paths, but finally found the statue. Unfortunately there was not another computer screen, so we were on our own. Now, we got lost in some pretty nice places, but it was very tiring trying to get along without repeating yourself. After a few hours, we were dragging, so found our way to an in-house cafeteria (I think there may be more). We had pastries, and my wife had a coke and I had water. The tab was about 350 Rubles. The food and rest restored us, so we headed back to the galleries. On the way was one of their gift shops, with some nice goods of varied prices. We have taken to getting our mementos at art museums, as they usually have good quality and items that are good reminders of where you have been.

    We wandered about the galleries for a few hours, and finally a guide asked what we were seeking. My wife wanted to see some more Monet, and the guide explained that a lot of their impressionist works were currently on tour, but gave us good instructions on getting to the area of the third floor where what they had was on display. Alas, we got distracted a few times by works in areas we were only passing through, and my feet reminded me that we still have tomorrow, so we found out way to an exit and left. Since the exit was also the entrance, I looked around and found a museum plan in English (another good souvenir) and will study it tonight to plan our final attack.

    On the way back to the hotel we stopped for coffee, but there were not a lot of people in the outdoor cafe’s; apparently afternoon coffee is not as popular as at other places.

    For dinner, we needed something nearby, so we abandoned our list of good restaurants and went to restaurant Amici, just a couple of doors down the street. It was clean but not fancy and not crowded. I had a berry juice and we shared a large bottle of water, We had salads that featured seafood. My wife’s had salmon, which she likes, uncooked, which she didn’t. Mine had shrimp, scallops, and bacon and was good, but too big. My wife had spaghetti Bolongese and I had linguini with shrimp and scallops; both were good, but more than we could eat. A bread bowl of foccacio with garlic was extra, but good. I added a Russian beer, and this one was quite good, but I don’t have the name. The tab was 1535 Rubles. We then took a constitutional down to St. Isaac’s, which had a lot of people in the park, and we passed another wedding on our way back to the hotel,

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    We talked to the concierge and they plan on our leaving at 03:00 Monday morning for our 05:50 flight, so I am going to settle our tab Sunday. Incidentally, you can get a 5% discount by paying cash. Since I pay a 1% fee for either a credit card or ATM transaction, the 5% is quite a savings. Of course, ATM transactions hit immediately while credit card transactions let you play the carry, but with interest rates so low, the carry doesn’t have much value these days. Once they give me the total, I’ll walk three blocks to the ATM to get the money and pocket my savings. To clarify how ATMs work, there is a maximum limit on a transaction imposed by the ATM; there is also a daily limit on your card. My card came with a $400 daily limit, so I had the bank increase that (when you rent apartments or go for the cash discount from a hotel, the $400 limit is not practical. We have a joint account and each of us has a card. so the original card limit was $400 each, or $800. I took my wife with me to the ATM, in case the bank hadj revoked our higher limit since our last trip. This particular ATM had a transaction limit of 9000 rubles; I needed 34,000. I withdrew 9000 rubles, held my breath, and started a new transaction for another 9000 rubles; it worked, as did two more subsequent transactions. So other than the inconvenience of doing multiple transactions, it is pretty easy to get a lot of money from an ATM if you have your bank increase the limit on your cards.

    We went back to the hotel and settled our bill, as we are leaving at 03:00 tomorrow. I also had the lady at the desk write thank you in Russian on an envelope to leave for the chambermaid (I’ve learned how to say it, but the spelling is beyond me).

    We arrived at the Hermitage at 10:30 and just walked in, as we already had our ticket (use the same exit on the left to enter). Armed with the guide sheet we had picked up yesterday, we knew just where we wanted to go, which was the elevator to the third floor and the French Impressionists. I still needed a little guidance as the elevator we had planned to use is apparently restricted; the elevator they pointed us to was right next to some Restrooms; heaven for the elderly tourist. The galleries were fairly uncrowded that early, and while we had been advised that some pictures were on tour, there was no evidence that any were missing (their inventory is so large that only a fraction of it can be displayed at any one time. All of the particular works I had put on my list from viewing their web site were there. Photography without flash is allowed in the bulk of the museum. We visited and revisited some more galleries, and got lost far less than on our first day, thanks to the guide sheet.

    About 13:30 we were tired and hungry. I realized that this is our last day, and we hadn’t yet had blinis. The museum cafeteria didn’t appear to have them, I knew there was a Tepehok on the way back to our hotel (a fast-food place that is said to make good blinis), so we said farewell to the Museum and left. As we were leaving, I noticed that the admissions lines were longer than they had been at opening, and the galleries were getting more crowded.

    The Hermitage has a wonderful collection, well worth at least two days. My only criticism would be that it was apparently built as a palace, not a museum, so it takes some effort to find your way about.

    At Tepehok my wife had a blini filled with strawberry jam, while I had one filled with red caviar. Both we filling and quite good, although I still haven’t developed a taste for caviar. With two half liters of mineral water, the bill was 354 rubles.

    We are resting at the hotel now, in anticipation of packing and getting up very early tomorrow.

    We went to Olive again as it was convenient and the food was good. We got there about 18:30 and it was almost empty. A new band appeared, accompanied by dancers, but not many diners appeared (we were early for the normal dinner hour, I suspect). We had the delicious Greek olive assortment for a starter, and two items from the warm snacks area of the menu, which were quite good and as large as a normal entree. The wine list had reappeared and we had a bottle of nice red wine with Crite on the label, and some mineral water. With two delicious deserts, the tab was 1690 Rubles, a very reasonable price, I think, for the quality of the food. The service was better, but there was again a very long time between when you ask for the check and it’s arrival, almost as though management is auditing it before approving it.

    We got back to the hotel and tried to plan, since our ride to the airport would be at 03:00 there was a question of whether I would be able to awaken with so little sleep. We packed and my wife tried reading but dozed off. I played with the Russian television. I wasn’t really clear on the time differentials between England, South Africa, and St. Petersburg, but I knew there was a formula 1 race I would like to see, and of course the final of the football world cup. Luckily, I was able to find the preliminaries of the F1 broadcast, and see the whole race. When it ended, the football final was just starting, so I got to see that also. By the time it ended it was almost 02:00, so I did a little work on my trip report and was ready, if not alert, when the driver came. He was a pretty good driver and pointed out the sites that would be of interest to a tourist on the way to the airport, but which we would not have gotten to without more time and a car. The Lufthansa flight went well, leaving on time and arriving on time. We were in business class and I’m sure I had picked adjacent seats, but the counter agent said we didn’t have adjacent seats and offered to reseat us. We ended up in the third (back) row (they can configure these flights to have more or fewer seats in business class just by moving a bulkhead, as the seats are the same size. We were also the only people in business class, so we got lots of attention, and they invited us to sit in any seats we wanted, so we sampled. My wife liked the bulkhead seats as there is no one to recline into your face. They had a tray in the arm for the aisle seat, and trays mounted on the bulkhead for the window seat (and the middle seat, which is kept empty with a tray mounted on it. There is, however, no convenient place for your carryon, as the overheads at the front are filled with safety equipment. I prefer the convenience of having a space for your carryon under the seat in front of you, where you can get to it when you need a pill or a battery.

    The food and service was good.

    In retrospect, we had a very good time in St. Petersburg. It was unseasonably warm, and we didn’t have enough time to see all that we wanted to, but I hadn’t done sufficient research, and you are limited to however many days you put on your visa application. If I can go again, I will stay at least a full week and see more palaces, and some of the war memorials, and revisit the art museums.

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    Inprocessing at the Munich airport went well, and the ticket machines are configured to show you how to get an Airport to City ticket (this is actually a system-wide partner [two people] ticket for 18.80 Euro), so you can use it to get to your residence and for any further transporting you do that day. I though of visiting Dachau that day, but we were tired, and we thought it might be a dreary start for a visit. A like ticket can be bought for your departure day, but the machines are not as clear on how to buy it (a four zone system wide partner day pass, in German; I think I’ll ask for help on that one.) We did buy two pairs of ISAR cards, a weekly pass good on the undergrounds, trams, and busses, for a week beginning Sunday midnight. We were living within ring 2, so our passes covering all of downtown and the near suburbs were 12.20 Euro each, per week. These saved quite a bit as we used multiple public transportations every day. Incidentally, individual tickets (including the airport to town we bought the first day) have to be validated in a machine before use. The pass does not have to be validated and, while I carried them faithfully, no one ever asked to check them. We also made use of the Bayern ticket, good on trains in certain areas during certain hours (weekdays after 09:00 until 03:00 the next day; unlimited on weekends and holidays). They have to be bought the day before or the day of your trip, and cost 28 Euro from the machine; a few Euro more from the ticket window, and are good for up to 5 people in second class; I priced the regular tickets for two for one of our trips at 140 Euro, so the Bayern ticket is a real money saver. I was never able to work one of the machines to buy the ticket, but there is a service center in the Hauptbanhoff where they will show you how to work the machine but the helpers worked them for me each time (I guess its easier to do it than to explain how to do it).

    Despite having a lot of luggage and having to negotiate endless escalators taking S1 and U1, we arrived at our apartment at about 9, which was before checkin. We were going to leave our luggage and explore, but the landlady insisted we wait, as they had almost cleaned our apartment.
    We enjoyed a sit in the garden and soon our room was ready. It is a very nice apartment with everything one could want except a washing machine, and the landlady does laundry for a small fee. We left to explore the neighborhood and find some local restaurants the landlady had recommended. We bought our ISAR cards at a kiosk near the metro stop. The local Italian restaurant which was recommended was, I think, closed for vacation (I can’t read German) but we found other restaurants, four bakeries, and a small grocery store within easy walking distance. We bought breakfast provisions at the grocery and a bakery, then took a nap. We ate at a Greek restaurant nearby, Restaurant Poseiden, that was very pleasant, with either indoor or outdoor tables. The food was good. An appetizer of olives, entrees of Suflaki and Spaghetti, two bottles of mineral water and a glass of nice rose wine left us too full for desert. The bill was 30 Euro.

    Tuesday. We slept in, then had a nice breakfast of hard boiled eggs, yoghurt, fruit, and orange juice, with some toast. The apartment came with an egg cooker, and neither of us had ever seen such a device, but you put in a small amount of water (a beaker tells how much water, depending on how hard you want your eggs), then put the eggs in a rack and plug it in. It didn’t say how you tell the eggs are done, so we watched eagerly for some sign or an explosion, and it beeped and shut off at just the right time.

    Marienplatz is very popular with tourists, and a good place to start your walks to the other sites. I knew the glockenspiel displayed at 11 and at 12, so we wanted to get there before 11. Our apartment was near Wettersteinplatz, south of the city and across the river. I planned to take the underground to the central station, Hauptbanhoff, then catch another underground to Marienplatz, but our hostess suggested getting off at Sendlinger Tor and catching another underground from there, or walking from there. This was excellent advise and we made use of it many times. The walk along Sendlinger to Marienplatz is not far, and full of interesting sights. We got to Marienplatz early and stopped in the tourist office for a city map, then took some pictures. It was a warm sunny day and as I looked around I noted some sidewalk tables with umbrellas across the plaza from the Glockenspiel, and decided it would be nice to sit in the shade and watch the show while everyone else stood in the sun. We grabbed a nice table and ordered coffee. It was much larger than one typically gets, and the cost was just a couple of Euro. We sat enjoying our coffee, then the show, with an excellent view. The plaza was quite crowded. We then walked down Sendlinger and found Asamkirche, easily recognized by the carvings on the front. I think it is a practicing church, but there was no service going on at the time and there were quite a few tourists. It is very elaborate, and it takes some concentration to look at a single feature at a time, but it is certainly worth visiting.

    We next set out to find Dahlmayr’s, a gourmet delicatessen. We bought some tea, chocolate, jelly, and wine. The service was impeccable and well informed, especially as I was not familiar with the wines. They have a restaurant upstairs, divided into a coffeeshop and a restaurant; we opted for the restaurant. We had a bottle of water and a glass of wine, lobster bisque for me (delicious) and griessflameri and a parfait for my wife. The ambience and service were excellent. The tab was 33.70 Euro, which I thought quite reasonable considering the quality of the lunch.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices throughout the store, considering the elegant ambience and the quality of the foods.

    We then walked around a bit and found ourselves at the Viktualienmarkt, a busy area of food venders. We picked up more wine, some fruit, and some olives and pickles. There didn’t appear to be much of a variety of pickles; the only one we found looked like a dill pickle, but was actually a gherkin. I ate it anyway.

    We’d done a lot of walking, so we headed back to our apartment for some iced tea and conversation in the garden. That evening we ate at another local restaurant, Wienerwald, outdoors like a biergarten. We had two half liters of beer, a schweinebraten, and a Tessiner Roesti for 19.5 Euro. The food was filling, but I was disappointed in the beer. I think they have so many brands of beer here that you have to know which is which to get one that matches your preferences. I like a very hoppy beer, and the only ones I have found I liked have been labeled pils, which I had thought was a Czech beer.

    We walked back to our apartment and chatted with some guests and the owners in the very pleasant garden.

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    Wednesday. Today we set out to the Alte Pinakothek. We got to the recommended underground stop (although we often had difficulty making connections in the multi-floor stations; a matter of familiarity no doubt) and spotted a sign telling us which exit escalator to take, but our instructions were to take a tram from the station, and I looked in vain for any helpful signs, and when I noted there were no rails in the road, I knew that tram wasn’t coming. We started walking down the most likely road, and soon came to the museums (there are three museums clustered here. We were a bit early despite this, so we sat on a bench in the shade, then took in some statuary they had in the large field in front of the museum. Speaking of this field, and others, nudity is not uncommon in the parks. I have nothing against nudity; I was born that way. But I take a lot of pictures on our trips, and I don’t like to take a picture of a park that shows nudity; its either that I don’t want to intrude on their privacy, or that I tend to drool on my viewfinder, but there were a number of places where I wanted to take a picture, but couldn’t because of the nudity.

    When the museum opened, we went in and took advantage of our senior discount. This is a superb museum, well organized and well displayed. The quality of their collection is well known and shown in the guidebooks, so I won’t repeat it. We were lost in contemplation when we realized it was already lunch time. They have a nice restaurant and we had a very good light lunch (pastries, if the truth must be known) and a good rest. I’ve lost the receipt, but my impression is that the cost was very reasonable. After lunch, we were back into the galleries and spent the rest of the day there, and it was a day well spent. The guidebook I had read said there were no explanatory notes, but the pictures do have the artist’s name and the name of the work, and I would buy a guide only if you want more information.

    Let me veer off to the subject of coins. Get some coins as soon as you enter the country. The art museums have lockers, as they don’t want you carrying large purses, backpacks, etc., and all the lockers we used required a 2 Euro coin; you put it in the slot, close the locker, and remove the key. When you insert the key to reopen the locker, your 2 Euro coin is returned, if you remember to look for it. Many places also have tended checkrooms at no fee, but I believe it is traditional to leave a coin. Many restrooms are free, but we did find a few that require a coin for admission. So each individual would be well advised to carry a small stash of coins, including at least one 2 Euro coin.

    We found our way back to Marienplatz and looked around some more. Rather than returning to our apartment, we set off for an early dinner and found Barista in an indoor mall. We were the first ones there, but they accommodated us. This has a more modern decor than many places in Munich, and the waiter was very helpful with our order. We had a large bottle of water, two orders of Saltimbocca, and a bottle of Uitkyk, a nice red South African wine, for 73.5 Euro. This was my first exposure to South African wine, but we saw a lot of this type in Munich, and it was quite good.

    Thursday. Now that we knew how to get to the art museums, we set off with confidence and got to the Neue Pinakothek a bit before opening and sat in the shade observing their statuary. Only then did I realize I had committed the ultimate tourist blunder; I had forgotten my camera. Since the admissions are very reasonable, we decided to go in and return another day to take some pictures. This museum houses a substantial collection of works from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, many by German artists who were not known to us, not that we are experts. The works are well presented, and I was struck again to find that some of these lesser known artists are as skilled as some of the big names. We had a nice little lunch in the outdoor café watching the ducks. Two nice pastries, a small bottle of water, and 2 dc of nice wine cost 14.60 euro; watching the ducks was free. This is a smaller museum than the Alte Pinakothek, and we knew we would be returning, so we left in the early afternoon for some general sightseeing. Soon, a bit tired, we decided to return to our apartment, get a little rest, then get dinner. As I sat in the garden our hosts and some fellow guests joined me, and we talked about what to see. As they were traveling with their daughters, our agendas were very different, although we both planned to see King Ludwig’s famed castles. They had seen the Olympic park and found it very interesting, and also the zoo and aquarium, which were fairly close to our lodgings. The zoo is apparently quite impressive, as I have heard a number of people praise it.

    For dinner we went to Augustiner for some Bavarian food. It is an attractive beer hall and wasn’t crowded. They have sidewalk, courtyard, and inside seating, and an ambience that makes it obvious you are in Bavaria. We had two half liters of water, two half liters of good beer, a sausage plate and a house specialty plate, and one piece of nice torte, all for 33.65 Euro. The food was quite good, but heavy.

    Since they are just down the street Marienplatz, we walked around for a bit enjoying the very good street musicians and the atmosphere, then caught the underground at Marienplatz.

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    Friday. We wanted to see Mittenwald, supposedly the most beautiful of Bavarian mountain villages, so we were at Hauptbanhoff just before nine to wrestle with the ticket machine over our first Bayern ticket. I needed help, but we finally got our ticket and walked to the train, which at this station can be quite a walk. We were a little early and got seats; later the train filled up quite a bit, but no one had to stand. It was a hot day and the ventilation was not good, so it was not a real pleasant trip. We switched to a bus for the last leg, and that was even more crowded, so we had to stand. Mittenwald is larger than we expected, but very scenic, and we visited a lot of shops and a couple of churches, and took a lot of pictures. Violins were very much in evidence, as this has been a center of violin makers for many years. All the walking and the weather had drained us, so we looked for lunch.

    We picked Haller, a pleasant little place with outdoor shaded seating. We had two chicken sandwiches, a small water, a small beer, and a small white wine, for 19.80 Euro. It was a nice light lunch. Refreshed, we walked around and window shopped, then enjoyed a small park, then returned to Munich. We had originally planned to go up the Zugspitze as part of this daytrip, but were a little tired so we skipped that. It would have been a nice way to cool off.

    That evening we ate at Hackerhaus on Sendlinger, another atmospheric beer hall. A bottle of water, two half liters of good beer, a large salad, and a nice jaegerschnitzel cost 37.60. We were tired by then, but there is an active nightlife on Sendlinger, so we walked around and enjoyed it.

    Saturday. Today we set off to see Dachau. It appeared to be very popular, as all the public transportation was overcrowded. As we approached it, I was struck by the almost cult-like atmosphere, particularly among the young people who work there as tour guides.

    It is very well presented and the parts they have maintained are well preserved. I had read that the famous gate had been stolen recently, but it was in place when we got there. The vast barrenness of the space where the barracks had been was touching. The exhibits were easy to see and understand, and the visitors were respectful and orderly.

    We ate at the restaurant of Hotel Fischer. For a fruit juice, 2 dc of nice Reisling, one bratwurst plate and one tomato/mozzarella salad, the tab was 18.90 Euro. The food was good.

    The ride home was crowded and warm. We recovered in the garden at our apartment. Our landlord had said that the Hofbrauhaus had improved its food in recent years and was now not a bad place to eat. We decided to experience it. In all honesty, on foot it is not easy to find, and it started to rain just before we found it. We went inside, but with the rain their courtyard was closed, as was upstairs, and there wasn’t a seat available. It was also warm and noisy, and the band wasn’t even playing. It resembled a keg party at a fraternity in Texas, with a lot of hooting and hollering. We opted to find a less boisterous place. Right across the plaza was Schuhbeck’s Orlando, which was busy but not noisy, and they had an open table. A large water, a half liter of beer, entrees of grosti and of zander, a piece of apple streudel, and a coffee and a tea was 58.10 Euro. The food was excellent and the service matched it. We ate outside (under large umbrellas), but the interior looked quite elegant. The walk home was wet, but we were fairly near an underground station, so that served us well.

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    Sunday. I had an elaborate plan for this day involving King Ludwig’s castles. I had picked a weekend, so we could use our Bayern tickets before 0900, as we wanted to see both castles, and also to ride the cable car and try the summer luge run at Tegelburg. I had bought a ticket package for both castles on-line, with a start of 10:50, having checked the train schedule and found that we could easily get there by then. They had picked 13.55 as the time for the tour of the second castle (Neuschwanstein). It was a very warm day, again, so the train ride was not pleasant, but we arrived on time. There were huge lines at the ticket center, but I poked around and found a door on the right end for prepurchased admissions, with a short line. The line was actually shorter, because some people without prepurchases tried to use it, but the guard at the front of the line turned them away. The agent said we could have an earlier tour of Neuschwanstein, so we agreed and left with our tickets. There was almost no line at the station where you catch, and pay for, the horse drawn carriages (note, there are separate stations for the two castles). The carriages are heavy, with only two horses, so it is a slow ride; you are often passed by walkers. We got to Hohenschwangau castle in plenty of time and walked around enjoying the courtyard and gardens; we skipped the snack bar. The tour started precisely on time and the guide was very good; he obviously enjoyed talking about the castle and history, and answered all our questions.

    We caught a carriage down to the station, noting that there were very long lines at the station to catch a carriage to Neuschwanstein, so we walked over and got in line. The line moved very slowly, and it became apparent that we would miss our appointment, so I left my wife in line and returned to the ticket office, and they rescheduled us for a later tour. I returned to my wife and the line had barely advanced. We were behind a fairly large tour group from, I think, Italy, and at one point their guide announced that, because of the slowness of the line, he would get their appointments adjusted, then return and walk up to the castle with those who felt capable of the hike. At times, people would try to cut the line or push ahead, and there were a lot of voices raised in many languages, but noone got hung. We finally got a wagon. They don’t take you all the way to the castle. There remains a good elevated walk for you to do on your own, but we did get there on time. The guide on this tour was less enthusiastic, but he might just have been worn down by all the tours he had already done. At the end, the guide puts you at the top of many stairs going down to the original kitchen and the museum store, but it wasn’t really clear how to exit from there, and we were getting tired of going up and down stairs. We finally got to the carriage station and down to where we had started, where there was still a very long line waiting to catch a carriage up. We had deferred lunch, so we went to the garden of Hotel Muller, right beside the carriage station, and had a very nice lunch in the shade, while we wickedly watched the people who were still in the long line for the carriage. My wife had a tuna sandwich and a beer; I had a superb ham sandwich (they used thin sliced cucumbers rather than lettuce) and a nice pinot grigio, for 23.40 euro. When we left the line for the carriages was still long.

    It was late in the day, and we were hot and tired, so we skipped Tegelberg and caught a train back to Munich.

    I enjoyed the tour of hohenschwangau, but was a bit disappointed with neuschwangau, mostly because on the tour we found no way to get a good outside view of the castle; the best views were actually from hohenschwangau. The cable car at Tegelberg is said to give excellent views of the castle, but it was too much for one day for us.

    If you visit this, and are fit, I would suggest skipping the carriages and walking up to the castles. Granted, it was crowded when we were there, but our landlord said it is always crowded, and the relatively small number of carriages they have is a real bottleneck. The bus from Fussen to the castles (they have a sign in the window so you’ll know you are on the right bus, continues past the castles to Tegelberg, I believe right to the cable car station, and I would try to fit that into my schedule.

    We were too tired to go out to eat when we got back, so we bought some pastries and dined on that, some yoghurt, and some fruit we had in the apartment.

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    Monday. We set off on a walking tour of part of the old town. We started with Frauenkirche, which we had passed often but never entered. We went in and checked the devil’s footprint. The tower was open, but we decided to save some energy and not climb it; it is said to be a good place to view the city.

    We then walked to the Residenz, rubbing a few lion paws for luck as we searched for the entrance. We finally found it and entered and checked my backpack. We started with the treasury, which had quite a few interesting objects, if you like fine metalwork and jewelry. We then set off on a bewildering tour of various rooms in the museum. They have arrows on the doors telling you which way to go next, but the arrows sometimes direct you to somewhere you have already been, and when we had seen quite a bit, and decided to leave, it was difficult to find our way out. I was apprehensive because at noontime, they apparently shuffle the arrows, so rooms that were open are closed, and rooms that were closed are open.

    We then found our way to the Englischer Garten. We were a bit hungry and keeping our eyes open for a nice lunch, but there were no attractive options on our route. This is a large space, with a lot of people out enjoying themselves. Since it was hot, we walked along a path in the shade until we came to where some swimmers were surfing at a narrow place in the river. There was an exit there, which we took, and found ourselves on a street that had a lot of office buildings, but no restaurants. There was, however, a museum (the Haus der Kunst), and I reasoned that it must have a snack bar, so we walked around it and found one at the back, overlooking the garten. Their menu was a bit limited (perhaps we were late), but they did have some nice pastries, water, and wine. It was a very laid back terrace, with people eating and reading. I’ve forgotten the price, but it was very reasonable.

    It was quite a walk to the Viktualienmarkt, as we were in a new section of town, and veered off course often when something drew our attention, but we finally got there. As we walked, I was thinking of the delicious ham sandwich I had had, and how it took a metro ride to get from our apartment to the downtown restaurants, and how the Bavarian food was heavier than we are used to, and we rarely could eat it all, and asked my wife if she was interested in buying the ingredients of a picnic and eating in our apartment; she liked the idea, since there was no cooking involved. There is a row of butchers at the edge of the viktualienmarkt, all with tempting displays. I asked one if she could make us ham sandwiches, and she did, but when a butcher makes you a sandwich, it is just meat and bread; we augmented it with a few other purchases at other vendors, including fruit, pastry, wine, and a couple of varieties of olive mixes. We then went back to our apartment, had a rest in the garden, then had a delicious dinner of just what we wanted. It was so good, we resolved to do it a few more times.

    Tuesday. Since it was very warm in Munich, we decided to try Salzburg so we were off early to get a Bayern ticket. It turned out to be very warm in Salzburg, also, but we enjoyed seeing the sights, especially the gardens. At lunchtime, we were walking by a small hotel that had a nice outdoor/indoor restaurant called Restaurant Stieglbrau that looked nice, with some tables outside in the shade. We had a beer and a glass of nice white wine, two small salads from the salad bar, and two very good pastries. The tab was 22.70 Euro. The food was quite good. We then spent a few hours walking around and enjoying the scenery. There were quite a few people walking around, so this is apparently a popular destination. It was crowded and warm on the train back to Munich. We decided to stop at the neighborhood grocery and a bakery to replenish our supplies and have another picnic. The ham at the grocery was as good tasting as that at the Viktualienmarkt; the fruit was not as good.

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    Wednesday. We set off to revisit the Neue Pinakothek; this time I remembered my camera. I think often a second visit to a museum is better than the first, as you know your way around and have some familiarity with the works. It was a pleasant visit and a visitor would not want to miss this museum. We then walked to the Pinakothek Moderne, which is very near the other museums, but not well signed (there was construction going on, so perhaps the signs had been temporarily removed. This is a newer and very interesting building. The displays are not limited to what I think of as modern art; it also celebrates design. There were interesting displays of cars, motorcycles, furniture, dishes and appliances, and computers, just to name a few. If design interests you, plan to spend a day here. We had a light lunch of pastry, water, and wine in the pleasant café at a reasonable cost which I have forgotten.

    We left a bit early because I am a big fan of puppetry, and the Munchner Marionettentheater was reopening with a matinee. This small theater is at Blumenstrasse 32, near the underground station at Sendlinger Tor. It looked easy to find on the map but the streets were not well signed and not straight, and the theater itself looks like a small church, not facing the street, on a side of the street with no sidewalks. I asked for instructions at two stores, but no one seemed to know of it. Finally we blundered into the back of it, and they directed us to the front. The show was for kids, and there were plenty of them there. I think there were two or three parties going on with the parents passing out cake and drinks during the intermission; I tried passing for an 8 year old, but it didn’t work. The show was in German, but we enjoyed the puppetry and could follow the story. The children were very involved, yelling to the hero in warning when the villain was behind him. From the way the kids reacted to the show, I got the impression that they saw these shows fairly frequently. It cost more than the museums we visited, but was a very enjoyable afternoon. We celebrated with another picnic in our apartment; my wallet is getting fat.

    Thursday. We set off to see the Munchner Stadtmuseum, which was not as easy to find as it appeared. It is off a courtyard off Sendllinger, but not visible until you enter the courtyard. This museum has a display of Munich’s history, but we only saw the Octoberfest section. Our primary interest was up stairs where they have an impressive collection of old musical instruments, cribs, and puppets. There is a performance area in the musical instrument collection, but nothing was being played at the time of our visit. Still, it was interesting to see the development of the various instruments. The puppetry collection was wonderful, but the light was low because many of the puppets have fabric and would be degraded by bright light over the years.

    This museum was not crowded and I have the impression it is not well known, but we found it very interesting. We had a pleasant light lunch in the courtyard. A beer, a glass of white wine, an avocado salad and a fruhstuck cost 16.90 Euro.

    We then did a bit of shopping (we had broken a brandy snifter at the apartment and wanted to find a replacement) including another visit to Dallmayr’s for goodies to eat and to bring home. We also visited the Viktualienmarkt again, it is a pleasant place to walk around and you can always find something good to eat there.

    We returned to our apartment to sit in the garden a while, then walked to Wienerwald for dinner. We sat down and ordered outside, but it started raining so we moved inside. Two beers, barbequed wings, and a barbequed half chicken cost 17.15. The barbeque sauce was new to me; I think it may have had curry in it. But the food was good and filling, and the beer was good.

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    Friday. Deutches Museum. It had been raining and the temperatures had moderated. We got a late start, and found that all the instructions we had on getting there were muddled. What worked for us was to take U1 to Fraunhoferstrauss. We then looked for the stop for bus 131, which was right there, but closed due to construction. We walked along the river on Erhardt, thinking we would catch the bus at the next stop, but the next stop was right by the museum. It was not at all a long walk, and if I had it to do again I wouldn’t bother waiting for the bus. I never saw tram 18 which our instructions seemed to say we would take after the bus; I think it must be an alternative to the bus.

    There was a crowd of people outside the museum, but they just seemed to be standing around, so we went in the entrance off the courtyard and bought our tickets. There was no senior discount here, so we paid 8.5 Euro each, a very low charge considering the scope of the museum. There is too much to see here in one day, and the scope of exhibits is so wide I think most people would want to limit the ones they see. We sat down for a minute and went through the guide, checking the exhibits we wanted to see; there were quite a few, but his museum is often more concerned with the process of production, rather than the actual products. For example, when we went through the textiles area, there were many looms and other machines, but not many actual textiles. Still it was interesting, and they explained how the microfiber material that is sold to tourists because it is comfortable and easy to wash out, is made. The musical instrument section was very interesting, with many instruments displayed. We also enjoyed the aviation and maritime sections, and the metal making and tooling sections (my wife wanted to see a press like the one her father operated for many years, but we didn’t find one), During my college years, and earlier, I had worked as a machinist and a steelmaker, and I was able to show her how the part of steelmaking I did was done, and a lot of old machine tools very like those I had worked on.

    We had intended to eat in the café, but this museum draws a lot of kids and the cafes were oriented to that crowd, and pretty noisy, so we pushed on through our list of chosen galleries and left after 4 hours to find lunch.

    It is a very informative and entertaining museum, reminding me of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, or The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village by Detroit. Excellent visits for children or adults.

    We ate at Melcher’s on a side street near the museum. They didn’t have sandwiches, but two bowls of potato and carrot soup, a mineral water, and a small glass of white wine just hit the spot and cost only 13.5 Euro.

    Rain was threatening so we rushed home, stopping at a café that has good baked goods, and the grocery store. We’ll dine at home tonight, and its nice to get a bit of rest.

    Saturday The hot weather broke, but at the cost of rain. We had wanted to go back and see more of the Englisher Gardens and eat at a biergarten, but the weather never got dry enough to make that viable. We rested all morning, then went to a nearby café for a nice lunch; pastry with coffee for my wife and white wine for me. This was perhaps the best pastry we had in Munich.

    We walked around some other parts of our neighborhood, then headed back to our lodgings. As we neared them, we noticed a lot of police and a lot of people wearing team colors; there was to be a football game that afternoon. I may be wrong, but football fans strike me as very enthusiastic, and they were certainly noisy. As the biergartens were wet, we had decided to try a Greek restaurant for dinner, but decided after hearing the cheering and chanting all afternoon that we didn’t want to eat near the stadium. I dug out my books and maps and found Café am Beethoven was only a few underground stops away, although on routes we had not taken. It turned out to be very reachable, and is an old place that is a café during the day and a restaurant at night, with live music. They had no English menu, but the waitress rescued me. We had an appetizer of sauteed vegetables including peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and olives, with pieces of cheese we guessed were feta. It was quite good and more than large enough for two. My wife had turkey and fruits, including a fried banana, in a curry sauce. I had a traditional Bavarian dish of pork, dumpling, and a sweet kraut. We both like pork, but have been having it less often as the pork barons in the US have altered the pork to have less fat so they can market it as the other white meat. Frankly, the new US pork is too dry and often tastes like plastic. The Germans have apparently not joined this scheme, as the port we have had here is always tender and juicy and tastes good. We had a bottle of water and a bottle of Pinot Noir, quite good, and the whole meal was 68 Euro (I had splurged on a good whine). Too full for desert, we headed back to our lodgings; the football fans were still being exuberant. Since our flight was the next morning at 09:20. we had a taxi coming at 6:45, we packed and hit the hay.

    We awoke early to a nice day and emptied the refrigerator and finished packing. The lady who runs the house was up to bid us farewell, and the taxi she had arranged was right on time. It is quite a ride to the airport (60 Euro) and there are three terminals and apparently no Continental signs. The driver kindly turned off the meter while we tried to find Continental. I finally said just drop us at Lufthansa, as they are in the star alliance and would certainly help us. They did. The Continental checkin is downstairs from the Lufthansa checkin. Checking in went smoothly, but security was more thorough than at any airport we have transited. We went through the scanner, and everyone got a hand pat scanning. They even made me dig out my camera and turn it on to prove it was a camera. After a few minutes in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge (very nice) we headed for our gate early, only to hit another screening facility where we got to play the same game. I have special clothes (plastic suspenders, for example) to get through security, but they still got some beeps on me; they must have their sensors set very high. After getting through that we were half way to our gate when we were stopped again for a passport check and questioning on who had packed our carryons. My advice to people using this airport is don’t wait until your flight is called to head for the gate; you will need extra time.

    Our thanks to Fodors and all the posters who provided valuable information in planning this trip.

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    Great trip report! I have a question regarding the castles - if one just wants to ONLY see the outside of the Neuschwangan castle (not do the tour of the inside) would that be possible? I was thinking of getting on the carriage ride up to the famous bridge and take pictures and call it a day. Don't want to deal w/all the tour groups. Thoughts? We're planning to be in that area Sept 6-9.

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    Germanbound. Yes, I believe you could just walk or take the carriage up to Neuschwangan castle, as they didn't look at our tickets until we got in line in the courtyard. I was a bit disappointed with the outside views; as you are very close to a very tall structure, and the view is limited, much as the view you would get standing in a group of basketball players: all nares.

    There was a brief view as we rode the carriage up, but you would have to be walking to take much advantage of that.

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    Thanks for your reply. What would be your recommendation then to see the castle from a good vantage point? You had written about the lake around Fussen & a chair lift - would that be an option? Also, is Fussen a town that you would recommend for an overnight so we can see the castles and then drive to our last destination, Munich? I'm torn between staying there or Mittenwald. Sorry for all the questions! :(

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    With regard to your problems with the ticket machines, if you slect the key with the Union Flag against it, you get the instructions in English. It makes understanding the machines much easier.

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    I've read that the cable car at tegelberg gives a good view of the outside, but we didn't get there. There is also a vantage site listed on their web site that requires hiking and they recommend only the fit try that.

    We didn't see much of Fussen, just a rather run down train station where we transferred to the bus. There certainly could be attractive parts of the town that we just didn't see. Mittenwald was very pleasant. And I believe there are hotels right by the ticket center, but we didn't look at that much because we had a place in Munich.

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