The taxif fare from the Franze Josef Strauss International Airport to Munich city centre cost nearly 60 euros. Munich is definitely more expensive than Bonn, but it also has a lot more going for it. Being in the Bavarian region with its fertile lands and glorious history of flamboyant kings and dreamers gives it a more fairytale like quality. There is beauty and space and culture. Too many museums and galleries for a short 2.5 day trip. The standard of living is the highest in Germany and it tops the list of cities most Germans want to live in. The English speaking community even call it Toytown.
As husband had only the half day to sightsee we decided on spending time in the smaller Lenbachhaus instead of vast imposing Glyptothek diagonally opposite. We had just enough time to see their proudest collection which showcases the Blue Rider art group. Blue Rider? Us phillistines have of course never heard of Blue Rider, the museum guides could hardly contain their amazement. If you haven't seen it, you should. It was unforgettable, and also very famish-making. In the plane we were served what appeared to be pita sandwiches, but it was like they squished mystery meat-mayo paste between two disks and then cut the sandwich into four pieces. Each passenger gets a pathetic one quarter piece along with a small canned drink. Air France economy class food.
It was raining outside the Italian villa building when we finished so we decided to rest in the airy courtyard cafe and eat the last panini in the display counter plus a slice of apple tart. Service was quietly efficient and courteous, food was not bad either.
We made our way to the old city centre of Marienplatz and explored all the requisite churches and important buildings. For dinner we went to Haxnbauer which the hotel concierge had enthusiastically recommended. We should have heeded the X sign instead.
The restaurant is large like a barn and decorated inoffensively with wooden chairs, granny-type paintings and woodbeams everywhere. The door manager was bossy, the waiters rushed but occasionally smiled and even made deadpan jokes. Every table was occupied by out-of-town visitors. Yep,we have indeed walked into a good old fashioned tourist trap. But I reckon not as bad as the rowdy Hofbrauhaus a few streets away, that one even has an oompah band.....
The Knodel (dumpling) was cute, the small one that is, but not the big one. The soup tasted like packet Knorr's. I ordered a pancake soup because I saw a group of Japanese tourists do so and very much regretted the decision, the strips of pancakes were adequate but again, the soup base was pure salt and artificial flavourings.
Their signature dish is trotters, pork or veal, grilled on rotating spits. Husband had to have some. The meat was strangely lacking in meaty flavours with suitably crisp skin but the dominating taste was also of salt. Better for the beer orders perhaps. The sauerkraut was very good though, served hot, it wasn't just sour, but mellow sour, with discernible other tastes of mustards, spices and meats, hinting at long gentle cooking and complex fermentations. I could happily make a meal of it, it was certainly more interesting than my order of Wiener Scnitzel which was made with more of the flavourless meat.
But they must have a reason for staying so long in business. Our neighbours were happy.
For breakfast, I tried another local specialty. Weisswurst, or white sausages. Forgettable. (Update: This plate was composed by me, from the hotel restaurant buffet spread, hence the beans and potatoes. The sausage was served in a separate section, and they provided sweet mustard which is pictured here at the 2 pm part of the plate.)
Then it was off to a day of hopping on and off the tourist bus. It was the kind of day where the sun and clouds hid behind a big grey canvas and the unceasing soft rain made everything gloomy.
By 2.30 pm I was again, starved. I got off the bus at trendy university neighbourhood of Schwabbing and vaccillated between shopping and looking for lunch. One of the boutique owners was standing outside his shop and we started talking. I asked him to recommend a place to eat. He suggested pasta or sushi, Germans usually eat German food in winter he said. Otherwise it is too hot and heavy. Still, I haven't come all the way to Germany to eat sushi, so I continued and finally settled randomly on a bar with a bulldog on the signboard graphic.
A quick google shows that Alter Simpl is famous but I didn't know it at that time. At night it is probably quite true that it is crowded and smoky but well, at 2.30 pm on a wet weekday afternoon it was not. There were only two other tables in the front room that were occupied, and the waitress was very helpful.
The menu listed standard items like pasta, salads, sausages (even curry wurst), steaks etc. I was very hungry and wanted some spatzle, so I ordered the only dish listed that comes with it as an accompaniment. It turned out to be grilled pork chops in a creamy sauce with mushrooms and salad. Their idea of salad is kind of abbreviated though. Still, it was very yummy. The pork pieces were nicely charred outside and still pink and juicy inside, the rich cream sauce coating delicious and well seasoned, i.e. not just a tonne of salt. I ate up all the meat and even managed about a third of the spatzle before remembering I wanted to eat dessert too.
For desserts, the waitress heartily endorsed their Kaiserschmarrn, which she informed me was pancakes with raisins served with apple sauce. (Ivan ate the same thing in Singapore recently, curiously enough). She didn't say a big pile of pancakes but that was what I got. A mountain of pancakes. Light, fluffy cakes with nice chew, some with almost crisp edges, dusted with icing sugar. Very good, even without the apple sauce. She noticed I could only eat a few slices and unhesitatingly offered to pack the rest for me to take away. I really like the down-to- earth attitude of the people here.
Outside, it was still raining. I decided it was not wise to visit the English Garden, and did some more shopping before taking the bus back to Marienplatz. The bus dropped us off next to the Victualien Market, lots of food shopping there. I saw people walking out of a butcher shop munching what looked like a spam sandwich. Next door to the butcher shop I saw people queuing for, again, the spamwich lookalike so I duly took a place. The young man at the counter explained that it is called Leberkassemel, and the spammy thingy is Leberkase, and sliced from a rectangular loaf of processed meats. I ordered one with mustard and it was quite excellent. Not spamlike in taste, it was more like moist porky sausagemeats but with homogenous texture instead of meaty chunks. Not bad, I managed to eat half before being overcome with guilt and faint quesiness that is associated with eating so much pink meat.
The walk home took another hour or so. Husband had dinner appointment at a fancy restaurant. Instead of venturing out again into the miserable weather for my dinner, I did the next best thing which was to buy a big bag of black cherries and a jar of blood orange juice to eat in peace in the hotel room. No more pork,. I certainly had enough that the next time I think of Munich, it would be of the regret that I didn't get up close to the Trojan horse statue outside Glyptothek, and also of the vast amounts of pork consumed.