A Travellerspoint blog

Munchin' in München (Munich)

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"Of one thing there is no doubt: if Paris makes demands of the heart, then Munich makes demands of the stomach" - Rachael Johnson

Foodie moment

At our walking tour guide's recommendation we decided to have dinner at the Augustiner am Platzl restaurant in the city centre. All of the beer houses only serve one brand of beer (this one serving Augustiner beer), and each names their resturant after the beer they serve. This means you have to be careful you find the right restaurant (and give the correct full name if meeting someone there!) or you could end up at any of dozens of 'Augustiner' restaurants around the city. Being a few days before the start of Oktoberfest the place was packed and we had almost given up on the idea of finding a table before I spotted one hidden in a corner and dived on it. The quality of the food was fantastic (as always meat and potato heavy) and the servings huge. We had the Pork Knuckle cooked 2 ways (roasted and pickled) and 1/4 Roast Duck (If that is the size of a quarter duck then I'm scared of the size of German ducks!). Washed down with a couple of half litre glasses of beer we literally rolled out of the place after, Food coma!

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Cultural moment

When you think of Germany, its unfortunately impossible to not think of the World Wars. However, the city of Munich shows very few traces of that terrible time. There are little to no memorials to do with the wars, and those that are around are very hard to find and even recognise that they are memorials. There are still traces of Nazi history if you know what your are looking for. Some people criticise them for ignoring the truth and hiding their history, but they say that large recognisable monuments can become touristy features for the wrong reasons and anyone serious about remembering their history will find the ones that are there. For example, our guide had to point out one piece known as the Golden Path, which is a small path of golden bricks in Viscardigasse street. You wouldn't know it if you were standing on it, but it represents the alternative route that some citizens walked to avoid having to heil a monitored Nazi swastika sign that was on the main corner up ahead. Eventually Viscardigasse street was guarded by a Gestapo guard, and notes would be taken about citizens who walked down it. If you were caught not saluting the Swastika as you passed or intentionally avoiding passing it, you would be punished. This could include being sent to a concentration camp, so taking the street represented by the Golden Path was a incredibly risky choice for those who wanted to maintain a sense of honour and humanity.

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Another sombre place, that not everyone would recognise, is the Odeonsplatz. Here on the steps between the 2 lions is where Hitler gave his most recognisable speeches to the masses. It is exactly the same today as it was then, minus all of the Nazi propaganda and symbolism. It was a very strange feeling standing in the same place where Hitler spread his hatred by giving his frightening screaming speeches.

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Wow moment

The city centre of Munich is a really nice place to walk around. There are traffic free roads for pedestrians and the main squares (Marienplatz being the largest) are joined together by wide streets packed with shops and restaurants. During our walking tour we got to investigate much of the city. The majority of the city has been rebuilt, due to it being all but flattened by Allied bombings during WWII. Much of this has been done by referencing old photographs taken by the Nazi's (which they took as an alternative to showing any weakness to their public by sandbagging buildings or moving artworks to safe places!). Due to the effort put into rebuilding Munich as it was, it still has an old world feel to it. However, you can still see signs of economic crisis after the war in the way that some of the buildings have been rebuilt, examples being that their bricks and columns have been painted on! Our guide brought to our attention that Germany has only recently in the last few years paid off its debts for WWI, let alone WWII. Lucky for them they have big companies such as BMW which helped bring them out of economic ruin, and actually make Bavaria one of the wealthiest regions in the world.

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What we learnt today

In the centre of Marinplatz stands the impressive Old town Hall and in its clock tower is the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. We arrived in the square just before noon, and noticing the hoards of tourists standing looking up with cameras at the ready, I instantly followed suit. What followed was only beaten in tediousness by the Astronomical clock in Prague and perhaps the light show in Hong Kong. The music in the Rathaus-Glockenspiel started to play..... nothing happened or moved until about 5 minutes of music has occurred. Finally the characters in the Glockenspiel started to move, some turned slowly (apparently dancing?), some moved joltily from one side to the other (apparently joisting?).. this happened for a another 5 minutes or so. At this point I admit, the magic was not working for me, and my back was killing from bending back to film it, so we gave up and left. Apparently we missed the big finale where some sort of bird comes out and makes a noise... hmmm, I think we'll live with the disapointment missing that!!

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Posted by travellinglise 06:45 Archived in Germany Tagged munich Comments (0)

Pilsen - A Hidden Foodie Haven

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"I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food" - Erma Bombeck

Foodie moment

Although the town of Pilsen did not match with our expectations, the food there blew them out of the water. The brewery company Plzensky Prazdroj own three restaurants in the town of Pilsen. After being recommended one and having a great meal at another we decided to dedicate our anniversary celebrations to trying all three!

Na Spilce Restaurant is situated at the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery. The restaurant is held in the former fermentation cellar and is the largest pub in Bohemia, seating 550 people. Mark had been eyeing off the Goulash served in bread loaf in a few places, so he ordered that here. This was the only meal we had in this chain of restaurants which was a little disappointing. I ordered the recommended dish from the front of the menu, which was to become a tradition for me in each of the restaurants, and was a sure winner every time. I had Pork cubes roasted with onion and dark beer, křimice cabbage and red cabbage, potato and Bohemian dumplings with onion. The dumplings were the best I had tasted in our whole trip and when the whole meal came to $11 AU total we couldn't complain!!

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Na Parkánu Bar was a recommendation from Trip Advisor and we decided to go here for our 2 yr Anniversary meal. After not being able to reserve a table booking (there was a football match between the local side and Manchester city on so everything was full) we decided to just turn up whilst the match was on (and hence the supporters were at the game) and see if they would slot us in. Sure enough the place was pretty quiet and we were told as long as we left by 10.30 pm when the match ended and the tables were all reserved for post match drinking, we could use a table. We ordered The Brewers Platter (Stewed smoked pork loin end, roast sausage, roast pork, white sausage, mustard, horseradish and spicy cabbage) and a 500g Roasted pork belly on the bone with mustard, pickle, horseradish and spicy cabbage. Typical traditional Czech fare, still sticking with lots of cabbage and pork, but the best cabbage and pork we had had!! We rolled out with very full tummies as the Man City supporters rolled in to celebrate their win.

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Finding no reason to not complete the trifecta we sought out the final restaurant in the chain for lunch the next day. U Salzmannů Restaurant is in the centre of the town of Pilsen and touts itself as the oldest restaurant in Pilsen. Once again the food served up was exceptional and the delicious dark Czech beer made for a great farewell to Pilsen, our unexpected foodie haven! This time we had Honey-glazed pork ribs roasted with onion served with garlic and spicy sauce and Pork tenderloin strips with heavy cream sauce with beer, cheese and spring onion. I could have eaten a tub of the garlic sauce on its own!! These were probably our favourite dishes of our time in Pilsen. Yummy!!!!! (I want it now!)

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Cultural moment

As mentioned earlier there was a Champions league match between Pilsen and Manchester City on whilst we were in town. This meant this otherwise sleepy small town was suddenly full to the brim with loud, excitable Mancunians chanting, drinking and shouting. On the other side though we saw (and heard) very few Pilsen supporters around town before the match. A few small groups walking to the ground and some groups in the pub quietly watching the game while we ate dinner. I'm sure there were plenty of Pilsen supporters at the game but they were either massively outnumbered or significant quieter than their counterparts from England!! I could hazard a guess at which of those scenarios is most likely....

Wow moment

The number one thing to do in Pilsen, and the place that originally put it on the map, is to visit the Pilsner Urquell Brewery. Its is a huge beer factory that has been operating since 1839. Its so large in size that while on the tour we had to catch a bus to get around the brewery grounds. We started our tour in the new part of the factory where the beer is bottled and put into cans and bottles via giant automated machines.

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We then travelled to another part which was the older building (a new multi million euro building is being used now) where they made the beer. In here we got to see the giant copper vats in which the beer is fermented. There was also an interactive museum where we learnt about the processes involved in making the beer.

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Finally we headed into the underground tunnels, which stretched for miles and miles under the brewery and town. Here we were able to see all of the beer fermenting in the traditional wooden barrels, and even got to try some open barrel fermented beer especially brewed for tour groups only. The whole experience was a blast, and learning and seeing the entire beer process was really interesting.

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What we learnt today

Whilst dining at Na Splice we found our new favourite beer. It wasn't the famous Pilsner Urquell lager (which we weren't actually a huge fan of) but instead it was the Velkopopovický Kozel dark beer. It opened my eyes to the 'dark' side of beer and I haven't looked back since!

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Posted by travellinglise 08:35 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged pilsen plsen pilsner_urquell_brewery Comments (0)

Czech It Out, It's The Castle!

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Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws –Franz Kafka

Foodie moment

Since we spent most of the day today on the other side of the river at the castle, we were in unknown territory when it came to choosing a place to eat. Lucky for us we had the Trip Advisor app on my phone, so by using that we managed to find a nice restaurant of whose name I can't remember sorry. We had the chance to finally order some of the well known garlic soup, which was great! I then had the meat plate which has sausages. pork and dumplings (who would have guessed!) and Lisa had something a bit different with a pork stir fry Asian style. We also had once again our old friend Shopska Salad!

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Cultural moment

As you're probably aware by now, Prague does meat, lots of meat, really really well. Its impossible to escape the smells of roasting pork from where ever you are in the city as there are spit roasts cooking everywhere. I was in a constant state of hunger just wanting to sink my teeth into a big juicy leg of pork or ham. We couldn't work out how any of the locals could keep their relatively skinny physiques, either they have different genes than us, or they just don't eat the food that the tourists eat. I'm pretty sure I put on a couple of kilograms in just the 3 days we were there.

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Wow moment

Today we went to Prague Castle, the most dominant feature on the city's horizon, which sits on a hill overlooking the old town and river. We hiked up the quite steep road to get the the front gate upon which we were then presented with the best views of Prague so far. The castle itself is more of a walled city, with many large medieval buildings throughout. The most impressive being the St. Vitus Cathedral which is incredibly tall, its spires soaring over the tops of all the other buildings. As surprising as it may sound, we didn't go into any of the buildings or take any tours. We couldn't justify the prices and it was really busy with uncountable amounts of tour groups stampeding around. We did get to see the change of the guard however, closer than I probably should have been, being only a meter or two from the soldiers. We also walked around the Royal Gardens and moat and even got to witness a robotic lawn mower!

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What we learnt today

The Lennon Wall in Prague is a wall that graffiti artists from all over the world have used as a supposed memorial to the Beatles artist John Lennon and all things love and peace. We went out of our way to find the wall, which is hidden in a side alley, and were pretty disappointed with what we actually saw. I'm sure in its day the wall actually had some meaningful pieces of art, but today its pretty much just a messy wall where people come to tag their name or anything else unrelated to John Lennon. You have to actually look hard to find anything Lennon related at all. They should probably think about changing the name to the Fred Wall as his name stands out the most!

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We also learnt the the Charles Bridge is a whole lot better when you are looking at it, not from it. It's lost a lot of its romanticism with all of the comic sketch artists and beggars working in teams lining the sides. Luckily it is made of stone because there were 1000's of tourists (I know we are tourists too) walking along it. The view was amazing however and if you were keen enough to get up for sunrise, its meant to be spectacular.

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Posted by travellinglise 08:29 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague charles_bridge prague_castle lennon_wall Comments (0)

Have No Fear, It's Czech Beer... You're In The Clear!

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"In Prague, pork is king ... Welcome to Porkopolis, the land that vegetables forgot" - Anthony Bourdain

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Foodie moment

After a confident recommendation from our helpful walking tour guide, we headed off to Prazska street where both the Beer Museum and LocaL Restaurant resides. LocaL Restaurant is a bigger than average restaurant that serves traditional cuisine. Yeah, more meat and taters! We had the beef cheek goulash with potato dumplings and the duck with apple cabbage and onion mash potatoes. Unfortunately, although the beef goulash was really nice, it was extremely on the skimpy side, with only no more than 4 pieces of meat. It was more like gravy soup with a garnish of beef chunks. Bummer! The duck however was substantially satisfying.

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Cultural moment

After our lunch we crossed the street to check out the Beer Museum, which is in actual fact nothing like a museum and everything like a normal bar. What's special about it however is that it has 30 local beers available on tap! Now we're talking! The lovely waitress suggested we try the samplers, available in 5 or 10 glasses. We started off with a 5'er, but before we left Prague and after 2 visits to the Beer Museum, we had tasted over half the beers on offer. The tasting glasses are not a typical small size either, 150ml, enough for more than just a taste. On our second visit to the bar, it was later at night, and it was very very busy, the locals must know a good place when they find one. My favourite was the BERNARD ČERNÁ LAVINA, a dark chocolate beer and Lisa's was the blueberry beer ČERNÁ HORA MODRÁ LUNA.

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Wow moment

Once again, its hard to pin point a single wow moment for Prague when the entire city (the old part anyway) is a wow moment in itself. We got to see a lot more of it today on our free walking tour and got an awesome overview from the lookout point at the metronome monument. It really is a spectacular city.

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Another wow moment, for slightly different reasons, is the metronome monument hill and surrounding parklands. Once (from what I can imagine) a beautiful place, it now has become more like an abandoned concrete jungle, taken over by skateboarders and graffiti artists. Its a "Wow" in the fact that the council could let it get into this much disrepair. It's gotten to the point where the skaters have ripped up the concrete stairs to build their own ramps and jumps. Pretty cool in a dystopian kind of way.

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What we learnt today

Lots and lots learnt today on our free walking tour, however since I was too lazy to take notes, only one comes to mind. On the previously mentioned hill and parklands there used to be a statue, one of Stalin, which was built at the time of soviet rule. The story goes that in the process of its construction the citizens became so unhappy with its overbearing egocentric ugliness that the poor sculptor Otakar Švec actually committed suicide. It stood for 7 years to the embarrassment of the Czech government, until it was decided that it could stand no more. It was then that 800 kilograms of explosives were used to symbolically destroy the statue, upon which Stalin's head rolled all the way down the hill and into the river below to cheers from the watching crowds. In its spot was built a new monument, that of the giant metronome meant to represent time lost during communism, but even that seems to be reaching its end of days as the creaking rusting sounds it produces are like it's own mechanical death rattle and creepy to say the least.

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Posted by travellinglise 14:05 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague stalin beer_museum metronome Comments (0)

What's To Eat? Potatoes And Meat!

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"If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?" - John Cleese

Foodie moment

Welcome to the land of pork and potatoes! On first stepping out of the subway station in the main square of Prague, we were presented with a cacophony of traditional Czech foods. Little huts with touristy priced dishes filled the air with the salivating smells of spit roast pork, wiener sausages, sauerkraut and fried potatoes. I (Mark) was in food heaven! Straight after checking in at our hotel, we went right back to the food square and got a potato pancake! I'm not sure what exactly was in it (potato obviously!), but it was crunchy and delicious!

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For dinner we hopped into a little traditional restaurant called U Balbinu, which served a large assortment of Czech foods with locally made beers (you may notice the word 'beer' will appear quite a lot over the next few blogs). They had huge tanks of beer lining the walls (known creatively as Tank Beer) and a very warm atmosphere. We started with 2 beers, a wheat beer which was very nice and a dark beer, which was our first introduction to the deliciously chocolatey dark Czech beers which I will miss the most!

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For mains we had the tenderloin with sour cream (not sour cream actually, whipped cream more like!), cranberries and home made dumplings and the roasted neck of pork with cabbage, spinach and dumplings. We also got a shopska salad for old times sake. These first dishes on our long journey of meat, dumplings and cabbage were really really good (if not a bit strange with the cream on meat and all).

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Cultural moment

Absinthe, the green and highly alcoholic spirit, also known as the Green Fairy, is prevalent to say the least throughout Prague. Every corner store displays it in their front window in all sorts of bottles of different sizes. There are also Absinthe bars that specialise in serving only Absinthe cocktails, beers, ice creams and in the more traditional way which involves sugar cubes, ice cold spring water and fire! The history of Absinthe goes way back to Switzerland in the late 18th century where it rose to popularity among artists and writers because of its supposed creativity inspiring hallucinogenic properties. While it does contain trace amounts of thujone, the affects have been proven to be no different from any other spirit and over exaggerated. I may or may not have bought a bottle for myself.

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Wow moment

Its no secret that Prague is a beautiful city, with thousands of tourists trekking there each year. It has a very prestigious and chic feel while still maintaining its traditional beauty with all of the original Gothic architecture. This is multiplied at night when the sun goes down and the town is lit up. Everywhere you look is another amazing Gothic building flooded in light against the black sky. It really is breathtaking, from the fairytale cathedrals to the cruise boats on the Vltava river against the backdrop of the Charles bridge.

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What we learnt today

In Prague is an amazing clock known as the astronomical clock. It was built in 1410 by clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel. It is the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. The clock is made up of 3 parts, the dial which has the positions of the Sun and the Moon, "The Walk of the Apostles" mechanical puppet show and a calendar which has medallions representing the months. The puppet show happens every hour and has been described as one of the most overrated attractions in Europe, we kind of agree with that. However, the clock itself to just look at is really quite amazing. There is a legend that states that the clockmaker was intentionally blinded after he finished the clock so that he would never create another one as amazing. He then placed a curse on it so that it would stop working for 50 years, which apparently actually happened. The clock then mysteriously started working again once the curse had expired. True story, I swear!

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Posted by travellinglise 09:56 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague meat absinthe Comments (0)

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