Friday, December 16, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

What a change over the past 48 hours.  I am so blessed.  And while blessings don’t normally include a good bourbon on the rocks, tonight they do.  Cheers to you, Bro.

For those of you who know me, you know I love Christmas.  And to say I love Christmas probably doesn’t fully capture my real feelings.  I mean, I LOVE Christmas.  The trees, the lights, the carols, the gift giving, the cards, Santa Claus, candlelight services – I love it all.  So, when I started thinking about spending my year half-way across the world in Tanzania, I immediately began wondering what on earth I would do for Christmas.  Yes.  I am in Tanzania to study the culture and people in the ‘interest of national security.”  Nevertheless, while learning how Tanzanians celebrate the holidays may have been interesting, I just couldn’t bear the thought of a hot, Christmas tree-less Christmas.  I began Googling “best Christmas cities in Europe” and up popped Munich with its plethora of Christmas markets. 

That was all it took.  Here I am:

Me on my balcony in Munich

 Ok, so now that you’ve seen me, let’s get to the good part:  Christmas in Munich!

My first 12 hours in Munich were nothing short of incredible.  The plane landed just after 6 am at Munich International Airport from Doha, Qatar.  On both of my 5+ hour flights I had an empty seat next to me and was fortunate enough to get a bit of rest.  Once I collected my bag (yes, that’s right – I only brought my backpack!), I hit up the ATM (which apparently is not called an ATM here) and found the DB machine where I was able to purchase a train pass.  I studied the map for a few minutes and figured if I could catch the train to the central station and then the 54 bus, I would make it to the Hilton without having to splurge for the taxi fare.  Now, I know, you may be thinking if I can afford the Hilton, I can afford a taxi.  I “Priceline’d” the 5-star Hilton for my first two nights in Munich and, boy, am I glad I did. 

After the train and bus, I arrived at the doorstep of the Hilton without a hitch.  The young woman at the front desk was kind enough to allow me to check in early – really early – and by 11 am I had taken a very hot shower, spent at least 30 minutes applying make-up and doing my hair, and got ready to head out to see the town.  I made a quick stop at the concierge to find out where I could buy a jacket, hat and gloves.  I had already purchased my transit day pass, so I was off again, taking the 54 bus to the U3 train.  (Little tip:  When taking public transit in a new city, sometimes it is best to just act like you know what you’re doing and follow the guy in front of you!)

I emerged from underground into a Christmas wonderland…literally.  Within steps of the underground was a gluhwein stall and steps after that was another one that specialized in bratwurst.  I walked from stall to stall with an unremitting smile on my face.  I clearly remember my first thoughts:  “This place is perfect for me!  Seriously?!?  I went from living on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean for the past three and a half months to vacationing here?  Nice.”  I knew right away that for the next 13 days I would be living in Christmas.  Just what I had hoped for.

After wandering for all of 10 minutes, I decided it was time for some bratwurst and sauerkraut.  For less than 5 euro I got a plate full of this:

First Meal in Germany
 After consuming more meat than I had in the whole of the past 3 months, I was re-energized and ready for a little shopping.  You can imagine I didn’t bring too many winter weather-appropriate clothes to Tanzania.  And yes, I’ll admit, I got a bit sucked in at the H&M sale, but I now have 4, in my opinion, fashionable, winter outfits.  Going to have to get someone to take a few pictures of me so I can prove I am, once again, dressed like a Westerner. 

After heading back to the hotel to change and drop off my purchases, I went back to Marienplatz to explore the rest of the Christkindlmarkt.  I wandered through the streets, taking in the sights.  The glockenspiel and Marienplatz did its song and dance at 4:30 pm.  Night falls early here and shortly after 5 pm, I took a stroll through the Krippelmarkt, where most of the stalls sell nativity scenes. 

Soon, I found myself at another gluhwein stall and found that the chill of the night air gave me the perfect excuse to buy my first mug.

For 4 euro and a 5 euro deposit, I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the gluhwein.  Truth is, I didn’t really like it that much!  However, I am happy to say I had a second mug tonight and it tasted much better.  Either after one mug, I had grown accustomed to the taste or everyone makes it a little differently.  Whichever it is, it is good enough for me!

This post is much longer than I had planned when I set out – and I feel like I haven’t even begun to tell you about my first 2 days back in the 1st world.  For now, I’ll give you the rest in pictures:

I will be doing a bit of travelling (or should I say, ‘more travelling’) this weekend.  First, Nuremburg, then Salzburg, Austria.  Be back in Munich on Monday.  Merry Christmas, everyone!   I miss you.


  1. Oh! Oh!! I SO wish we could be there with you! It is beautiful and FESTIVE!! (I'm still trying to call you...and not get connected to the little German lady :)

  2. Cheers right back at you sis! Everything there is so beautiful, wish we could be there in Munich with you to celebrate Christmas. I'm loving looking at all your pictures though!