We visited Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg on our 2010 tour of Europe but always meant to come back to Germany to see some of the south. On this visit (10-18 Aug 2012) we picked Munich (to tick the Bavaria box), Mainz (because we work in graphic design and print and wanted to see the birthplace of the printing press) and made time to see Bremen again (as we have a friend there).
We stayed in another Airbnb property in Munich, a lovely self contained studio apartment hosted by a well-travelled and kind photographer called Jörg. We didn’t do an awful lot of sightseeing as, perhaps unsurprisingly, we spent most of our time drinking and eating. However, it felt like the things we did do gave us a nice overview:
- One of Lenny’s Bike Tours is a great introduction to the history and sights of Munich, with a healthy beer garden break for lunch in the middle.
- Any cycling tour will take you through the English Garden, a verdant, sprawling park, but it’s lovely to linger in and worth revisiting for more cycling, strolling or some sunbathing (even nude in one particular section). You can swim in the river Isar which passes through the park but it’s icy cold with a very strong current.
- Climbing St Peter’s Church tower rewards you with a great view of Munich’s famous central square, Marienplatz.
- Friends highly recommended the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of technology and science but I’m afraid we just didn’t get around to it… perhaps because we were too busy exploring beer halls!
Speaking of beer halls:
- Augustiner: our favourite brauhaus for well-priced, hearty Bavarian food and a festive but cosy atmosphere.
- Weisses: good food and an excellent range of wheat beers, which I’m normally not too keen on but rather enjoyed in Munich.
- Hofbräuhaus: a little more expensive with a significant drop in food quality. It’s arguably still worth visiting for a drink though, or at least a wander through its seemingly endless rooms. Note that a litre of beer is served by default – you have to specifically request it if you’d “only” like a pint. ;)
- Chinese Tower beer garden: located inside the English Garden this is the second largest beer garden in Munich. We found the meals a little pricey for lunch: I’d recommend just grabbing one of the delicious giant pretzels with some butter to accompany your beer. (Or you can even bring your own food.)
- Finding a table in a Bavarian beer hall: you’ll most likely have to share so as soon as you spot some empty seats ask the others at the table if it’s okay to sit there.
- If you need a break from rowdy beer halls Goldmarie serves very nice food and it’s not too expensive but you may need to book.
The highlight of Mainz for us was visiting the Gutenberg Museum. Not only is it home to three Gutenberg Bibles and a working reconstruction of Gutenberg’s press but it’s filled with oodles of old and beautiful books, other printing presses and exhibitions on printing in Asia (which actually developed much earlier than it did in Europe), paper making, book binding, the media, teeny tiny books and even things that were made to look like books but are actually something else. Not everything is in English but I believe they offer guided tours in English and audio guides are also available. It’s probably not for everyone but we really enjoyed it and ended up spending a whole day there. (We were able to leave for lunch and return on the same ticket which was very convenient.)
Apart from that Mainz is quite nice to wander, particularly the altstadt (old town), but 2 nights was plenty of time for us to feel like we’d seen everything.
An unplanned bonus of travelling from Mainz to Bremen was that the train ride happened to follow quite a long section of the Rhine which rewarded us with some incredibly picturesque views of traditional little German towns and even some castles dotted all the way along the river.
Alex’s friend from uni, Nick, was our host and tour guide again on this our second visit to his hometown. Things to do in Bremen:
- Admire the main city square and wander the cobbled backstreets of the altstadt (old town).
- Go on a tour of the Becks Brewery – a working brewery and a much better experience than Heineken. Make sure you try Haake-Beck and Haake-Beck Kräusen while you’re there, unique beers only available in the Bremen area!
- Enjoy a beer along Schlachte Embankment, lined with beer gardens and “the” place to be seen in Bremen.
A note on German train travel
You can save a significant amount of money booking German train tickets in advance online. You can choose to receive a PDF ticket to print which can be handy if you’re on the road and don’t have a fixed address for receiving mailed tickets (although it can sometimes be tricky to get access to a printer). I recommend paying the €4 extra for a seat reservation as every German train I’ve ever been on has been almost if not completely full (but maybe that’s just my luck).