I think I can trace my fascination with Germany back to 2 things: my mom’s side of the family is 100% German, and my first pen pal (remember pen pals–when people still wrote letters?), Vanessa, who was from the Black Forest area of Germany.  Vanessa and I started writing each other when we were about 10 years old and continued on through high school.  I remember thinking how cool she was and how different things seemed there.  While I was practicing softball, collecting stamps, and having sleepovers with my best friends (which were awesome), Vanessa was getting her nose pierced, going to the discotheque, and kissing boys.  Of course, plenty of my classmates were doing similar things in the United States, minus the discotheque, but nevertheless, Vanessa made Germany, and Europe, seem like an exotic place where anything was possible.

Every Christmas, Vanessa would send a beautiful Christmas card with a picture of a German Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) and it would always strike me as something truly different than anything we had in the U.S. and I always hoped I would have the opportunity to see one of these markets in person.  Luckily, in early December, Robin and I were able to take a trip to Germany and Austria and I finally got to experience Christmas in Europe.  Our first stop: Munich!

We were fortunate enough to stay in the Schwabing neighborhood (vielen dank, Günter!) which is a beautiful area within walking distance to the city center.  We walked past Ludwig-Maximilian Universität and into the old city, past the Theatine Church, and over to the Hotel Bayerischer Hof…

Where we stumbled across perhaps Munich’s most bizarre attraction: the Michael Jackson memorial.  It’s been maintained by local fans since his death and is decorated according to each season.  In December there were Christmas greetings and even a Christmas tree for Michael.  Strange, but certainly unique!

Then it was over to one of the main sites–Marienplatz, the home of the new city hall and the main Christmas market in Munich.  The market was just as I had imagined and was full of stands with handmade goods, ornaments, baked goods, sausages, and glühwein.  We wandered around for awhile…

And then spent too much time staring up at the glockenspiel waiting for it to chime without realizing that it only chimes and spins around one time a day.  Oh well, it was still pretty!

Since we already looked like tourists, we decided to go up into the tower of the city hall to see the view, which was pretty incredible.  We got the best view of the Frauenkirche (Women’s church), the old city hall, and the market below.

Our last stop of the day was the English Garden, Munich’s version of Central Park, only bigger.  We walked over to the Chinese Tower where there was another Christmas market which might have been my favorite of the entire trip.  We got there just as it was getting dark and the market was all lit up and a band was playing from the tower.  We grabbed sausages and a glühwein and walked around the booths until it was time to walk back to Schwabing.

After dinner that night, we passed one last Christmas market at the Residenz and had one last glühwein for the day.  We managed to see 3 Christmas markets in one day without even trying–they really are everywhere!

The next day was Robin’s birthday and we celebrated by watching his favorite soccer team, Bayern Munich, in person.  It was my first Bundesliga game and we got the true fan experience by standing in the end zone with the clubs and hardcore fans who cheer non-stop throughout the match.  At first, the standing and trying to watch the match through the flags flying in front of us was a little annoying, but I got into the spirit and had a great time–it helped that the team won 5-0 and Müller finally broke his goalless streak.  And I learned a lot of the cheers which are really quite catchy!


After Robin’s birthday dinner, we walked around Marienplatz one last time and took in the Christmas market and all of the decorations at night.  The 2 days in Munich flew by, but it was so nice to see the city, spend time with Robin’s family, and celebrate his birthday before heading out on our own to Tegernsee.