We’d managed to get an hour or so out of Vienna yesterday before stopping for the day. It doesn’t sound like much, but having an hour less to drive today makes it much easier. We had planned to meet our German friends in Rosenheim, just outside of Munich. This means that we have to drive to the other side of the country, and then a little further into Germany. You’d think after more than seven months of doing this, it wouldn’t be odd to think we’re driving across a country in a day, but I’m still so used to Australia, where you’re still likely driving in the same state for at least a day.
I know the start of this isn’t really about Munich, but it felt a waste to put it into its own post – and Vienna was already pretty full.
We purchased our toll vignette again, which meant that we’d have an easy day of cruising on the motorway. There was a slight tailwind, which meant cruising at 90kph was an absolute pleasure. It actually got me a little cocky, overtaking some trucks (which are limited to 90), only to suddenly come to an incline and have them angrily blast back past us when our speed dipped back below 90. Patience is key.
While I had no plans for sightseeing today, it was still disappointing that the weather was going to rob us of any scenery. We spent the day stuck in low cloud and fog, with no real visibility of our surroundings. We could see the road, and the towns that were beside it, but none of the spectacular mountains and valleys that fill this country. Our first pass through Austria back in May we were amazed that there wasn’t a single view in any direction that didn’t have mountains in view. Since we entered from Hungary this fourth time, I haven’t seen any mountains.
The kilometres slowly ticked by. Since we started listening to audiobooks (the newest Murakami book, The Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage) we’ve found that highway driving just passes by without too much effort. We should have gotten that exhaust leak fixed sooner than Slovakia, and spent more time listening to audiobooks earlier in the trip.
I didn’t want to waste the entire day on the road, as there really was much to see between Vienna and Salzburg. With the weather not rewarding an expedition into the mountains we thought that a stop in a small town would be a decent consolation prize.
There was a nice empty car park by the lake, and on the edge of town. It was completely empty, but I could just imagine it during the summer months. We had a quick stroll in to see what the fuss was about, passing along a beautiful road lined with trees. We could see the town’s church in the distance, with towers standing proudly above the trees and the rest of the town.
The town was pretty enough, but there was nothing exceptional about it. It’s come to this point now for us that pretty isn’t enough – we’re tired, and ready to return to London. It was a ghost town, too. Many of the shops seemed to be oriented towards tourism, and since we didn’t see another tourist, it makes sense that they are currently closed.
The cathedral in town however, was still open. It was dark, but there was a timer switch for the lights. So, I dropped a couple of coins into the box and turned on the lights. It was quite a surprising interior for me. The exterior was painted in rich yellow, but I hadn’t expected the interior to be painted with bright pinks. I also hadn’t expected such rich carvings. The timber was exceptionally dark, and the gold was exceptionally vibrant, making a truly luxurious contrast.
I was honestly hoping to find a small cart selling wieners, but there was no cheap/street food on offer. I was going to have to make myself something for lunch once we returned to the van.
We walked back town the tree lined street towards the lake. The clouds were lifting ever so slightly in one spot, and I got the smallest peek at one of the shy jagged peaks. It was laced with snow, reminding us once again that it’s time to finish this trip and get somewhere warmer. It might have been grey and colourless, and the mountains might have been hiding, but I could still see the beauty of this area.
Having the peace, quiet and solitude was also part of the appeal today. But, eventually the laws of thermodynamics took control, and we needed to keep moving and return to our little home on wheels.
I made a pig of myself with some enormous apfelstrudel from a supermarket. I regret nothing, but realise that it wasn’t the wisest choice for a lunch behind the wheel. Or any lunch, really. Now that I had some food in my stomach (and blood sugar levels were soaring), we hit the road for the final stretch of the day’s driving.
We were quite lucky that our German friends had the day off work/study today, and were at home and waiting for us. We organised to have a gyoza (Japanese dumpling) night, which is something that we did with them when we first met in Cairns in 2013, when we were both touring around Australia. Amazingly there was a good Asian grocery store only a short walk from their apartment, and it had all of the ingredients that we required.
Needless to say, they were incredible, and I overate. I also was so excited to be eating gyoza again that I forgot to take any photos of them… After we’d consumed all of the pork meat that we’d prepared for stuffing, we made a small batch of desert gyoza with dark chocolate, banana and marshmallows – and fried in butter! Yes, they were incredible.
Our friends had to leave early for university this morning. Since we’d spent the night in their living room, this also meant that we were up early. We’d have wanted to wake up early anyway to spend some time and say good-bye, so it worked well.
There was a brief period this morning where we were treated with some amazing views of distant snowy mountains, but eventually the fog won, and we were once again drowned in a thick soup of cloud.
It turns out that this is actually our third visit to Munich, after a brief stop last year on a work ski trip to Austria, and then earlier on this trip when we visited Oktoberfest. However, this was going to be the first time that we actually visited the city properly.
I’m always quite amazed at how easy it is to find (free) places to park a motorhome in major German cities. There was a long road beside a fast-moving stream, lined with other motorhomes and other vehicles that didn’t seem to have moved in quite some time. From here it was only a short walk in a beautiful autumnal forest, and a short subway journey into town.
This time, rather than visiting the car museums, we opted to see the old town. Actually, we didn’t manage to see the car museums last time either, because we were too late arriving at the BMW museum and had to rush for our flight home.
We entered the old town, and walked through the colourful old streets. It was much like many we’d visited before, with the beautiful architecture from the second story up, and regular high street stores on the ground floor.
Looking for something a little more interesting, we went to the food market. Not only was there incredible fresh produce (you should have seen/tasted the mushrooms we bought), but there was plenty of incredible food being sold. You could even buy freshly roasted pork crackling by the 100g, which was dangerously delicious.
From the market we could see some amazing towers and spires, pointing sharply into the sky. Once we’d finished our shopping, and snacking, we went to go have a closer look. I was truly taken aback by the incredible gothic town hall. The only thing I could complain about were workers busily building the giant Christmas tree. Bah-humbug, it’s blocking the view I say.
To get a better view of the town, we climbed the 304 circular steps to the top of the tower in St. Stephens church. It was a paltry €3, and it was worth that much and more. I was honestly surprised that the Munich old town could be so pretty. I always thought of it as being an industrial city, and because of that, I’d assumed it was destroyed completely in WW2.
I guess I’m a sucker for gothic architecture. I just love the spikes, and spires, and pointing details. I found a lot of the Italian renaissance towns a little too feminine for my tastes.
We’d had an incredible lunch at Oktoberfest, and have always loved the meals we get from the German Club in Brisbane. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we sought out a big hearty Bavarian lunch. We went to the Augustiner Brewery beside the Frauenkirche. We quickly visited their beer tent at Oktoberfest, but didn’t stick around for food/drinks. The inside of the restaurant felt like something out of an old story book, with the low ceilings and rich timber decorating all surfaces.
There were dozens of options on the menu, and I have a feeling that any would have been deeply satisfying. But, we decided to ambitiously go for a meal plate. I had a feeling like the waiter was surprised that we ordered something so large – either he knew something about it that we didn’t, or he underestimated our ability to eat.
Turns out he knew something about the size of it that we didn’t. It was enormous. We had a pork knuckle, ½ a duck, pork belly, sausages, potato dumplings sauerkraut and some of the most incredible gravy we’d ever tasted. We also grabbed a mini (500mL) stein of their fresh draught lager, ‘hell’. I still vividly remember the discomfort that afternoon, and we stopped at half way, taking the rest of it ‘home’ as leftovers. Breathing was challenging, and walking was about the absolute limit of our ability. Thankfully we’d already climbed the tower, because I truly doubt our ability to have made it in our current states.
With meat sweats in full effect, we stumbled into the twin dome-towered Frauenkirche. It seemed to have some kind of TARDIS effect, because the size inside and out just didn’t seem to match. It was enormous, with columns that seemed to stretch out of sight without craning your neck up. It was quite plain and simple, but I loved it and its gothic arches and webbing.
We were at the point that we were too uncomfortable for further exploration, which was OK, as I think we’d seen all that I wanted to see in the old town. We took the metro out of the city, and walked through the beautiful wintery forest back to Gunter.
It was getting late in the afternoon (though, sun is setting now much later than it was in Budapest), and our attempts to leave Munich were slowed by peak hour traffic jams and road works, which are all too common here in Germany. We’re now headed a little north to discover some of smaller towns of Bavaria, as well as the Romantic Road!