This might be the only Munich city guide in existence that’s dated “October” and doesn’t include a visit to Oktoberfest.
I thought hard about it. We all did. However, the idea of drinking beer inside a tent like caged birds, then having to line up for outdoor toilets after drinking all that beer…did not sound very appealing.
Plus, I’m sure you’ll agree that I drank more than enough German beer (and wine!) while touring Rothenburg, Bamburg and Erlangen.
So, I spent three days in Munich with Fay eating everything but German food (we had our fair share of sausages and pork knuckles too), visiting museums and churches, and generally enjoying the crisp autumn weather.
The weather was too nice to be inside museums all day, however we definitely wanted to go to a few of the Pinakothek buildings. On Sundays, admission is only one euro.
We enjoyed the modern building the most. At Pinakothek der Moderne, there’s an entire wing dedicated to 20th and 21st century design including furniture, electronics, homewares, vehicles and even the history of chairs.
And this Murano glass exhibit on the top level of the rotunda was simply stunning.
For lunch, we did our research and found a Vietnamese restaurant near the museums. We sat outside in the sun as Munich Marathon competitors ran by. We slurped as they sweated.
I have to admit the pho was not amazing. The sprouts were on the bottom of the bowl. The meat was a little tough. Despite all that — and the 14.50 euro price — it still tasted like the best bloody bowl of pho ever. That’s what eating German food for days on end will do to your tastebuds, my friends.
Another night, we ate Thai food at a kind of upscale restaurant called Yum and spent almost 60 euros for two. One thing I’ll say about Asian food in Europe is this: it’s not underpriced. If you want flavor, you gotta pay for it, dammit.
A really cool thing to see is the surfers at the English Garden. Guys and girls of different abilities all surfing this narrow wave, one at a time. It was completely mesmerizing. I could have sat down with a beer and some nuts and watched them for hours.
But alas, there was shopping to be done. It looked like everyone in Munich was out shopping on the Saturday before stores closed for Sunday. Above is the Funf Hofe mall where we stopped inside the Rewes supermarket and I fell in love with this…
Automatic doors for the refrigerated sections! You wave your hand over the glass and two doors will open so you can grab what you’re looking for. So genius and energy-efficient.
In an attempt to eat dinner at a modern German restaurant instead of a traditional beer hall, we found this place: Spezlwirtschaft. The entrance is sketchy as hell, and the dining room looks like the servant’s quarters at Downton Abbey. That is to say, we felt like we were in Brooklyn.
The place was buzzing with young Munich-ers eating huge, gorgeous salads and drinking wine. (Seeing a salad in Germany is like experiencing a celebrity sighting.) An hour after I took the above photo, every table was full with young locals. After endless beer halls and quaint tourist towns, it was comforting to sit there with a glass of wine in my hand and groups of hipsters in my peripheral vision.
We came to Cafe Frischhut twice. It’s a Munich institution listed in pretty much every travel guide. The first time we came after browsing the stalls at Viktualienmarkt. The second time was for breakfast before my flight back to Taipei.
You see that piece of round, fried dough on the top-right corner? It tasted better than any youtiao or donut or cronut I’ve ever had. It’s not very photogenic, and neither is its weird, long-shaped cousin, but it’s ruined me for life. I’ll never be able to enjoy a youtiao again without wishing I was having a schmalznudeln instead. The combined feeling of happiness and sadness was very similar to my first bite of souffle pancake at Hoshino Coffee in Tokyo.
Across the street from Cafe Frischhut is this lil’ Italian store. Just kidding, it’s Eataly! I can’t explain what it is about this place. It just makes me feel happy. More happy than actually being in Italy.
After spending ages comparing packages, I picked a bag of mezze rigatoni (my favorite shape) and a small bottle of balsamic vinegar for my pantry back in Taipei. There’s nothing better than souvenirs from Eataly.
We sat down and ate pasta for lunch. Mine was the cacio e pepe up top. Fay had the truffle on the bottom.
[A public service announcement about restaurant service in Germany: it’s similar to Austria: so slow, but no one flags down the servers. Everyone simply sits idle and waits with infinite patience for whenever the server might decide to stop by. The young German couple next to us at Eataly sat still with no menus for almost 15 minutes before their presence was acknowledged. Then it took another 15 or so minutes before the server took their order. They looked hungry and concerned, but they weren’t visibly annoyed. Needless to say, do not wait until you’ve got the munchies to walk inside a restaurant. In fact, it’s probably best to eat first before going. Also, tap water is not free.]
Back to gushing about Eataly. I fall hard whenever I see European-style vegetable presentations like this. Those baskets. And look at how they write the numbers.
But this is what Eataly is all about. The cheese fridge. For dinner the last night, we bought a big bag of salad leaves, some tomatoes and two balls of burrata.
And had our own salad celebrity sighting back at the hotel. This was definitely the salad equivalent of spotting Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively together. The burrata broke apart like a poached egg. It was completely messy but so delicious. I’m feeling happy and sad remembering it :(
Not mentioned are all the beers consumed during my time in Munich — I mean, it was inevitable. The beer there is good. You don’t even need to find the beer halls. There are so many that they find you.
But I’m happy to report that visiting Munich can be so much more than just beer and German food. I had a great time without going to Oktoberfest, and I’d go back in a heartbeat for another freshly fried schmalznudeln.