Munich vs. Berlin

Munich

I visited Munich for the third time in mid-September with one of my new friends, Amy. We left right after class on Friday and arrived back in Prague around 1 a.m. on Monday thanks to a delayed FlixBus (the European-version of Megabus).

My other two visits were *surprise* in 2010 while studying abroad. The first time, I traveled by train from Lugano, to Milan to Verona to Bolzano. Hours later, family members drove up through Austria to Munich. We picked my mom and grandmom up from the airport and went to Dachau Concentration Camp. Visiting the camp was a traumatic and haunting experience…which continues to stay with me to this day.

My next visit was about a week later. A friend and I at the time were not big drinkers. I had never tried a beer before in my life and was staunchly against its consumption due to the environment I grew up in. As such, we considered our visit a “cultural experience.”

In reality, it wasn’t the best time. We had way more fun driving around Switzerland and Austria that weekend. Munich felt like more of a pit stop. It was the place where I tried my first sip of beer…and gave the rest of the stein away. It’d take a couple more years until I realized I was my own person, I could control my consumption, and I didn’t have to spiral into an abusive Miller High Life drunk.

I knew I’d have to give Munich another chance in the future…and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit. This time around brought Munich into a whole new light for me. I wasn’t rushing around. I didn’t hate the core of its big annual festival. I could wander, imbibe, and enjoy the sun. It was a much-needed pause from the hectic pace of the certification course.

While in Munich, we walked most of the time…logging over 20 miles at least. We visited the English Gardens, Oktoberfest on two different days, Hofbrauhaus, Marienplatz (many times), drove by the Olympic Stadium on the bus, and had some nice local meals. Our Airbnb was in a great location and comfortable.

While I wouldn’t personally want to live in Munich in the future, I can say I really enjoyed my stay and wouldn’t hesitate to return for future events or wanderings.

Berlin

Berlin is a bit of a different story. In fact, it feels like it’s in a whole different country. In some weird ways, its quirks reminded me of Philly. It’s gritty, cool, cold, international, and at contrast with itself. We stayed in a hostel right off of Alexanderplatz in historically East Berlin but our travels and walking tour took us across the city.

There’s communist influences galore but also expensive, shiny places. There’s a giant memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe right in the center of the city. Here, Germany recognizes its dark history and pays tribute to victims of tyranny and war. In this city, nothing is dusted under the rug. History is in plain view. And that’s a harrowing thing.

I visited Berlin after my certification course ended (yes, I’m a teacher now) but felt unsettled for most of the visit. I don’t feel like Berlin is the type of place where you can relax. It’s a place where you explore and dissect. The layers of history here are striking.

I was in Berlin from last Monday night to late Thursday. During the visit, we saw all the major landmarks via the walking tour, including the Brandenburg Gate, Berliner Dom (Cathedral), Museum Island, Berlin Wall Memorial, Topography of Terror, Pergamon Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Mall of Berlin. We also spent ample time warming up in coffee shops!

A highlight of the trip was the Festival of Lights. This trip was a spontaneous decision, so I had no idea we chose the one week out of the year when the city puts on an insanely gorgeous light display. I also enjoyed my time in a couple of cozy craft beer spots. We visited Vagabund in the Wedding neighborhood and met one of the owner-partners, a guy from Maryland. There’s two others — from Maryland and New York. He entertained me with several sour bottles, including a few Berliner Weisses (love!), a gose, and a kriek.

The other beer visit was brief but nice. We visited a Norwegian bar and I tried a blueberry saison out of Denmark! So cool. I could’ve spent hours there if on my own!

Both trips to Germany were unique and I’m glad to have seen two of the major cities. I think I’ll now try to get some travel in to other cities and countries while I’m still over here.

On the radar:

  • Brussels and Bruges (hopefully soon!)
  • Budapest (in November, when Steph and Hibba come to visit. Yay!!)
  • Bratislava (by December)
  • Dubrovnik
  • Brno
  • Cesky Krumlov
  • Zurich
  • Stockholm
  • Copenhagen
  • Amsterdam
  • Vienna and Hallstatt
  • Ljubljana
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