Our Trip to Germany & Austria (including Munich, Dachau, Füssen, & Salzburg)

My first international trip was in 1995 to Germany and Austria. I was five.

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This is me in front of a well at Hohenschwangau Castle in Germany.

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This is Ryan and me on the unicorns next to the Musical Steps at Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg

Last week, I returned with Andrew for our short winter getaway.

Thanks to great staff rates, we were able to stay at The Charles Hotel in Munich, an upscale luxury hotel only 3 minutes away from the München Hauptbahnhof (Munich’s Main Train Station). Room was pretty spacious, but my favorite part of the hotel was our bathroom. The floors heated up! Apparently, this is a thing in Germany and it’s awesome. My dream home will include heated tile floors in my bathroom.

They also had a very nice pool and sauna, with the nicest Balinese staff member.

On our first day, we took a walk around Munich’s city center.

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We strolled through Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s historic farmer’s market.

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Andrew was really intrigued by this wasabi cheese.

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Does anybody know what this is?

We stopped by Münchner Suppenküche, a self-service soup stall serving traditional German soups. I read about Münchner Suppenküche on travel blogs and wasn’t disappointed. It was perfect and very satisfying for our chilly day in Munich.

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We got their Goulash Soup (a beef stew with potatoes and tomatoes)

Across the street from Viktualienmarkt is Café Frischhut, a little bakery famous for their schmalznudel and krapfen, two local specialties. We got both. A schmalznudel is basically a thin funnel cake. The krapfen is Munich’s jam-filled fluffy donut.

Every bakery sold fresh pretzels so we had to get one too. Pretzels are a staple in Germany. They became a sign of good luck because of their 3 holes that represent the Holy Trinity. Traditionally, Germans eat pretzels on Good Friday because they’re considered to be the “official food of lent.” While they were good, I prefer soft pretzels. When I used to visit Andrew in Philly, we used to go to a pretzel factory where a pretzel would cost 25¢. I could go for one of those right now. I guess it makes sense because Pennsylvania had a large German immigrant population (Pennsylvania Dutch).

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This was my first of five pretzels I ate during the trip.

We also walked through Marienplatz, Munich’s main square since the 12th century. It’s home to the Glockenspiel and Munich’s Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus).
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Andrew & The Wild Boar

The basement of the Rathaus is occupied by a restaurant called Ratskeller. We decided to have dinner there. The restaurant dates from the 19th century. The Town Hall and the restaurant were damaged by bombs during WWII, but the restaurant was restored and renovated and they still serve great regional dishes. We tried their käsespätzle, Germany’s version of mac and cheese.  It’s made with egg noodles and topped with fried onions. I was really excited about this because I normally like mac and cheese, but this dish was underwhelming. There wasn’t much flavor. We also ordered their sauerbraten served with red cabbage and potato dumplings, another German specialty. I could describe it more, but it’s basically a pot roast. We had an enjoyable meal, but I wasn’t expecting anything really different.

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Kasepatzle is on the bottom left. Sauerbraten is on the top right.

Of course I had I had to stop by my beloved Mandarin.

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#stillafan

On our second day, we went to Dachau Concentration Camp and Neuschwanstein Castle. Most travel guides discourage travelers from doing both trips in one day, but did it. We didn’t go into the castle and we rushed our Dachau visit, but doing both is definitely doable in the summer (when there’s more daylight). We got the Bayern ticket (€31 for 2 people) for unlimited train travel in Bavaria.

Dachau is a town about 10 miles north of Munich so it’s very easy to get to. From Munich Hauptbahnhof, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the Dachau Concentration Camp. Their local S2 train took us to Dachau. Then, we followed the signs to take a bus to the camp. The concentration camp is now memorial and is free to enter. When you enter, you walk through the same gate that the prisoners walked through.

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The phrase Arbeit Macht Frei means “Work Will Set You Free.”

Dachau Concentration Camp was the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany. It was established in 1933 on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory. Prisoners were used as slave labor to manufacture weapons for Germany’s war efforts and to built more buildings on the camp. Some of the prisoners were used in medical experiments. It was supposed to house political prisoners, but Jews, artists, intellectuals, handicapped, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Gypsies were also sent there. It became a model for all Nazi concentration camps. There are 32,000 documented deaths in Dachau, but it’s estimated to much more than that. In 1945, the US Army liberated the camp that was holding 30,000 people. Even after the war, the camp was still used until 1960 (It was a holding facility for SS soldiers awaiting trial, a place for ethnic Germans waiting to be resettled, and a US army base). They turned the old administration building into a museum so you can learn more about the concentration camp and the prisoners. They recreated the bunkers so you can see the cramped living quarters. I’ve learned about these things in school, but seeing it is really emotional. The barbed-wire fence, ditch, wall, and guard towers are still there.

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Andrew is standing in the area where the prisoners would have to line up and stand for hours.

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The actual barrack buildings have been removed, but you can still see the outlines of the 32 buildings that were there.

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This was the crematorium that was used to get rid of the dead bodies.

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There is also a gas chamber (“shower”) that you can walk through (I’ve read that there is no evidence that it was actually used to kill human beings, but the signs said that it was). It’s chilling

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This is the road the prisoners had to walk everyday for line-up.

We headed back to Munich Hauptbahnhauf and got döner kebabs at Royal Kebabhaus, next to the train station. If you’re unfamiliar with döner kebabs, it refers to the Turkish meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie in a sandwich. They were introduced by Germany’s emerging Turkish population and have become one of the most popular fast food dishes in the country.

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They also have a vegetarian option.

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This was good.

From Munich Hauptbahnhauf, we got on the train to Füssen so we could see the Neuschwanstein Castle. The train ride to Füssen is about 2 hours. From Füssen, we took a bus to Hohenschwangau and walked up towards the castle. We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, but we followed a Chinese tour group up the hill and we knew were on the right path.

Chelsea’s European Travel Tip: If unsure where you are going and do not understand the language, follow the Chinese tour groups. They’ll always bring you back to the main attraction. 😂

The Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It’s most famous for inspiring Walt Disney’s designs for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland. It was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century. The castle was not used for strategical or defensive reasons and even though it looks medieval, it’s not. There were flushing toilets and a heating system for the castle. The hike up the hill is quoted to take 40 minutes, although Andrew and I probably did it in much less time. If you’re able to get to the view from Marienbrücke, it’s definitely worth it. Marienbrücke is technically closed in the winter for obvious reasons, but Andrew and I followed a path we weren’t supposed to take (going up and down an icy path) and we got to the bridge. The views were stunning. Everything about the view was like a fairytale.

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The view was worth the hike up and down the icy trail.

We got back to Munich late, but thankfully we found a restaurant next to the train station, kitty-corner from our hotel called Kashgar Uyghur Restaurant. From the outside, it looks like a normal kebab shop, but we saw pictures of dumplings and noodles on the windows. Uyghur food generally refers to Chinese halal food. More specifically, it’s food from Xinjiang Province in China where there is a large population of Uyghurs, an ethnic minority in China that is predominantly Muslim.

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Yummy hand-pulled noodles can be found in Munich. Edinburgh, please step up your game.

We ordered Dapanji, a chicken stew cooked with spicy peppers and potatoes served over hand-pulled noodles. It was spicy, but so good. We got dumplings. They were frozen (I assume they made them though), but the skin and meat was very good. In classic Andrew-style, we also had to get their döner box, fries with kebab and sauce on top. I’m not usually a fan of these things, but this was freaking good. For me, this was the best meal we had in Germany.

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So good.

On our third day, we took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. I read online that you could get the Bayern Ticket (€31 for 2 people) to get to Salzburg, which is true, but just make sure you buy the right ticket and get on the right train. We got on a more “direct” train and our Bayern ticket was not valid and we had to pay again for the right tickets. 😢 Salzburg is about 1.5-2 hours away from Munich.

Salzburg has beautiful Baroque architecture and is a very nice city to walk around in. It’s most famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and as the setting for the musical and film The Sound of Music.

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For lunch, Yelp brought us to Gasthaus Wilder Mann, a traditional Austrian restaurant. It’s been a restaurant since 1884 and the decor is reminiscent of a cozy, traditional, Austrian hunting lodge in the Alps. It’s a type of restaurant where you’ll share a table with other diners. Food was tasty, but service was “meh.” The owner (I think) is this big, old man who gave us attitude and didn’t smile. We went there to get wiener schnitzel, the national dish of Austria. A wiener schnitzel is a veal that has been pounded really thin that is breaded and pan fried. It’s like Japanese tonkatsu, but much thinner.  The buttered potatoes and cranberries were a nice touch to the schnitzel. I wanted to get schnitzel with noodle, like in The Sound of Music, but apparently that’s not a thing.

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This was our wiener schnitzel with super buttery potatoes.

After lunch, we did a DIY walking tour of Salzburg.

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This is Mozart’s house where he was born. It’s a museum now.

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The Mirabell Gardens where Sound of Music was filmed looks very different in the winter.

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As a musical theatre kid, this is the spot I had to take a picture. In the film, the Von Trapps dance around this fountain. Unfortunately, it was frozen over.

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These are the Musical Steps where the Von Trapps sang Do Re Mi in Sound of Music. Apparentlyl, I took pictures here before.

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When Mozart’s family needed more space, they moved into this house. Today, it’s a museum.

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We walked up the stairs of Kapuzinerberg Hill for great views. The building at the top was turned into a monastery.

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We walked across the Mozart Bridge, another spot that was featured in Sound of Music.

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Salzburg has many courtyards. This is Mozartplatz, with a statue of Mozart in the center of it.

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The Horse Pond in Kapitelplatz was completely frozen over. Hohensalzburg Castle is above.

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We made it to Saint Peter’s Cemetary. Mozart’s sister Maria Anna is buried here. It’s also the cemetery where the Von Trapps hid from the Nazis in The Sound of Music (although it might have actually been filmed in Hollywood).

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For this cemetery, relatives of the dead have to pay rent for the plot and take care of it. If a family doesn’t pay rent, the church tosses the body out.

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One of the last spots we walked pass was the Horse Bath. In the Middle Ages, this is where they washed their horses. A scene from My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music was also filmed here.

During my research into Salzburg, I came upon few bloggers who posted pictures of this dessert called Salzburger Nockerl. It’s a sweet soufflé. It’s so photogenic, with its peaks representing the snow-capped mountains in Salzburg. We made a stop into S’Nockerl in the Elefant Hotel and ordered one. It was huge. We couldn’t finish it. For me, it was too sweet, but the sour cranberries on the bottom helped balance the sweetness.

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I wasn’t a huge fan.

For dinner, we got bratwursts in bread with cabbage. I’ve never been a huge fan of hot dogs, but I was pleasantly surprised by my bratwurst. The sweet mustard also made it taste really good. Andrew also got currywurst, a German fast food dish of sliced sausages and curry ketchup over fries. I wasn’t a fan of this.

On our last day in Munich, we had to head over to Munich’s most visited attraction, Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. It’s a beer hall built in 1589 as an extension of a brewery. This particular beer hall was also used by the Nazis for functions and assemblies. Hitler held meetings there. The main hall was closed for renovations, but we are able to walk through it.

We went there for breakfast, where we had a typical Bavarian breakfast. This includes a pretzel, weisswurst (white sausages), and beer. Weisswursts were nothing special. They tasted just like boiled sausages. Traditionally though, weisswursts are eaten as a snack between breakfast and lunch. Since there are no preservatives, they turn white-gray and are not supposed to be served after noon. I don’t know what beer we got, but Andrew really liked it.

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This is breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed back to the airport to begin our journey back to Edinburgh. We had a great trip. I still can’t believe we have this opportunity to see and experience so many different cities and cultures. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be back in another 23 years.

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