Before we took off on our vacation, we were able to take in the newly remodeled Tom Bradley International Terminal. In addition to the influx of high-end shopping now available, the $1.9 billion facelift also received a wave of new trendy restaurants including 800 Degrees Pizza, Border Grill, Chaya Sushi, III Forks Steakhouse, ink.sack, James’ Beach, LAMILL Coffee, Larder at Tavern, Luckyfish, Marmalade Cafe’, Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar, Pinkberry, two Starbucks, two Coffee Bean & Tea Leafs, Umami Burger, Vanilla Bake Shop and Vino Volo. Not to mention, there is a Panda Express for those flying coach.
We settled on ink.sack by Michael Voltaggio and I ordered the spicy tuna albacore sandwich with sriracha mayo, pickles and tomato. Jen opted for the veggie banh mi with bbq tofu, pickled vegetables and a mushroom spread. Both were disappointing and not much better than the sandwich we received with the in-flight meal. Next time we’ll head for the Larder or Luckyfish. As we walked through the terminal, we stopped for some mini cupcakes from Vanilla Bake Shop. I’ve always liked the outpost in Santa Monica and these were more satisfying than our sandwiches at ink.sack.
Germans have always been well regarded in the engineering department. Mercedes, Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), Wustof knives, SAP software, BASF, Rösle and now we can add Lufthansa. Where United was comfortable with a basic idle headrest and pillow, Germans designed their headrest with adjustable height and the ability to contour the ends around your head for a good night’s sleep.
During Christmas time, hotels can get pricey. We decided on a reasonably priced Airbnb apartment that worked out well for us. It was centrally located with a five minute walk to Viktualienmarkt and Marienplatz, the host was very responsive to our emails, the apartment had a bathroom, bedroom, living room and a full kitchen, there was some street parking nearby, the are was safe and the other tenants appeared to be working middle class folks.
Airbnb Munich Apartment
Before we headed out, it was important to understand a little about this city that we would call home for the next four nights. Munich is Germany’s third largest city behind Berlin and Hamburg. It has the strongest economy of any German city and has the lowest unemployment rate. There are six major breweries in Munich: Augustiner Bräu, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr Bräu, Spaten-Franziskaner Bräu, and Paulaner Brauerei. The major streets of the old town of Munich were pedestrianized for the Olympics in 1972 and have stayed pedestrian only ever since. Not one frame of the movie “Munich” was filmed in Munich.
And then there is Ocktoberfest, the first single word that comes to mind with the mention of Munich. It all started October 12, 1810 when citizens of Munich were invited to attend the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Horse races marked the end of the festivities and a arrangement to repeat the races each year marked the beginning of the Ocktoberfest custom. Due to better weather conditions, the festivities were moved to September and ends the first Sunday in October, running 16 days and attended by six million people annually.
Munich Christmas Market
Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square) in the center of Munich, Germany
We landed in Munich on Thursday afternoon and hit the ground running to our first Christmas market. 1st of six that we had planned and what I feared would be a repetitive experience. We arrived for the opening ceremony, which was anti-climatic combination of a band playing Christmas songs, a speech by somebody with an apparent authority in the region that didn’t speak a lick of English and the lighting of the Christmas tree. Nonetheless, everybody was in the holiday spirit and we would recommend seeing one opening ceremony on your trip. The crowds were out and it shoulder to shoulder for most of the night. Our first stall was the busiest, a glass of Glühwein. A blend of red wine and holiday spices heated to non-perfection. Hot red wine just doesn’t work, however it did seem to provide a quick buzz. The rule of thumb is red wine should be served slightly above 60° F and I’m no Geologist, but this was clearly a few degrees above that. With glühwein in hand, we walked around taking in our first market. They stalls snake around a mile or so within Marienplatz with hundreds of vendors showcasing ornaments, beer steins, village pieces, sausages, candles, chocolate, nutcrackers and everything Christmas related. They had some of the better glass ornaments we saw on our trip.
(Opening Ceremony at Munich Christmas Market, Germany)
Sparkassen St 10
80331 Munich, Germany
The trip only truly starts once we’ve had a meal and our first was going to be at Haxnbauer, a brauhaus well known in Munich for it’s roasted pork knuckle and bad service. The knuckles are marinated 24 hours in a salt-herb mixture before they are cooked. Most of the restaurants had English menus so ordering was simple. The pork knuckles are priced by weight and range between $30 – $40. Their menu states “our waiters will be pleased to show you our selection of knuckles with prices”. We asked, but our waiter told us he was too busy to bring over the plate. He made a couple other rude comments to welcome us to the city.
This was also our first taste of mustard, beer and pretzels. The Löwenbräu Triumphator beer was one of the better we had on our trip and the mustard was great in most places. Even the mustard we purchased to bring home was satisfying back in the U.S. The pretzels, on the other hand, we mostly dry flavorless doughs. As for the knuckles, would I recommend it? Probably not, it was nothing near the succulent pork we had in Segovia, Spain. However it was on the better half of the regional cuisine that we had in Munich. Overall the Bavarian food was a disappointing aspect of the trip. Nice to try once or twice, but nothing we would search out in Los Angeles. Do note there was about a 30 minute wait had we not had a reservation. We got all our Brauhäuser reservations online, so we never waited more than a few minutes for a table.
When we paid the bill the waiter further mumbled “no tip huh”. We would have, but we were just too busy. We wanted to try some more Bavarian cuisine so it was off to Wirtshaus in der Au. We did ask to take a picture of him because he was one of the most memorable servers we have encountered, he obliged.
Wirtshaus in der Au
Lilien St 51
81669 Munich, Germany
The service at Wirsthaus in der Au was clearly better. It was less touristy, more of a local crowd, but the food wasn’t actually good. The knödel was the main dish that drew us in, but there is something about the breed of potatoes or the Bavarian preparation, that lends to an indescribable rubbery texture. It wasn’t just the case with these knödels, but all of them we tried throughout the trip. We were fortunate to try a nice preparation of Obatzda, a Bavarian cheese specialty that is a mixture of Camembert, butter, paprika and other spices.