#ARTventures in Munich

Café Frischhut
Schmalznudl is a delicious donut-like pastry that you must try before you die, according to a Foursquare reviewer.

With a day starting off with that yummy goodness, how could it be bad? (No, don’t worry, it doesn’t turn bad.)

Café Frischhut
Perfectly limited menu at Café Frischhut.
Freshly made schmalznudl at Café Frischhut
Freshly made schmalznudl!

For our final full day in the relaxing city of Munich, we spent it exploring more of the city’s cultural offerings at the Pinakothek der Moderne museum and Museum Brandhorst next door. We went on a lucky day—the insurance company Allianz sponsored today, giving free access to visitors. Such a wonderful museum, full of architecture, design, and even the first Apple computers! Such a pleasant surprise to see also old mobile telephones, an electric violin and cello, and Picasso paintings. One of the first exhibits we visited, the security guard with a heavy German accent and broken English was inquisitive about our backgrounds (Japan? China?) and told us what we were looking at (city density in Shanghai, Dubai, etc.). He was great, helping to set the fun mood of a well-designed museum full of great art.

After such a great experience at Pinakothek, we headed to Museum Brandhorst expecting something similar. Unfortunately, not only did Allianz not sponsor this museum’s tickets for the day (7 euros/ticket), but the staff immediately came off as not as friendly. Guard at the door told me I couldn’t take pictures. Another guard downstairs at the “Dark Pop” exhibit kept eyeing me down, ready to yell at me if I even took out my phone from under the jacket draped over my hand and arm. The only redeeming part of this museum was Andy Warhol. Although I couldn’t get pics of those works, I managed to sneak in a few photos. Not nearly as exciting as Pinakothek :/

Of course, all was well because we treated ourselves finally to the cakes we had seen from day one in Munich at Café Rischart. #drool

After making one final stop at the English Garden tomorrow, we’ll head to another beautiful city—Barcelona! So excited!

It’s a (Wo)man’s World

Save for the very country club-like brunch, today comprised activities traditionally of interest to men—gawking at cars at the BMW Museum and BMW Welt and then drinking to our hearts desire (which wasn’t much) at a Bavarian beer and food tour.

Are we Germans yet?

We had a blast at the BMW Museum and the BMW Welt next door.

And then…the beer tour. The tour started off well. While checking in, the tour guide asked about my supreme fisheye lens, and I demoed for him what it did (“helps you take more legit photos”). I saved the photos for humorous effect.

Before the tour started, we each got a half-liter bottle of beer, learning that it wasn’t “ice cold” like the Americans were used to (yes, one American actually asked why, complaining that it wasn’t as cold as expected) because cheap American beers contain a ton of preservatives and other chemicals that make warmer beers taste bad. When brands like BudLight make their beers ice cold, the cold on your tastebuds masks all these unpleasant tastes. The crowd…as expected from the photos online—mostly middle-aged adults who love beer.

Selfie before Bavarian Beer & Food Tour begins
Selfie before Bavarian Beer & Food Tour begins.

And although the tour guide Keith was fantastic (great personality, attitude, knowledge), some of the 27 members in our tour group (all American save for three Canadians and two Australians) acted rather rudely. Does our averse reaction perhaps hint to our sheltered backgrounds? It’s a thought we certainly contemplated over brunch the next morning, but consider what we witnessed.

CHARACTERS
1 — Filipino Woman
Dressed in tight, gold pants and matching gold velcro sneakers, married to Older (Presumably Rich) White Male. Both from Boston.

First sign of rudeness: Cut in front of my friend while rushing to get a seat on the tram. Got up to ask tour guide a question. Returned to stand next to seated husband. Lady got on tram and “took her seat.” She said this aloud, looking at this woman. Then told husband to get up so she could sit. She sat for about two seconds before getting up again.

Second sign: Overheard conversation with a registered nurse about her tattoos: “You know, a friend of mine got fired for having tattoos. She had to remove hers. Are you sure you’re okay with them?” Why try to worry someone who clearly knows the risks?

Third sign: To husband: “I broke my phone!” Husband told her to stop playing with it. Her immediate response: “Shut up.” During dinner, my friend continued to turn to me, telling me how rude this woman was treating the husband—even during dinner in front of strangers!

What put us over the edge: “Where are you from?” Dorchester, my friend answered. “Oh! That area… I’m, like, scared to drive through there…” She stopped talking to us. My friend felt extremely insulted. Waiting outside the Hofbraukeller restaurant, she pointed to my friend while talking to her husband, telling him she was from Dorchester. Shocked at this observation, my friend gave the woman a look of WTF, which somehow prompted the couple to walk over, asking my friend about her post-grad plans (full-time at PWC). The moment of redemption, in my opinion. Go, Kelly!

2 — 20-Year-Old Beer Addict
In addition to describing each beer with connoisseur-like detail, she openly talked about stealing one of the beer glasses. She also was one of the first to finish the entire half-liter of beer we got before the tour even started.

3 — Ignorant GoPro Couple
The GoPro couple was cute at first. Until I overheard the woman (the registered nurse from above) laughing at my friend’s “Asian blush.” First, it’s Asian glow, and second, of all people, you as a nurse should know better. Then it got unbelievably worse when one of the intoxicated tourists got up to try doing a move that tested whether you were drunk or not. After he couldn’t do it, the man mocked him, yelling, “HA! HE’S DYSLEXIC! HA HA! DYSLEXIC!!” What the actual fuck? Then when the nurse found out that my friend was studying for the CPA, she gave some sound advice: “Just study for three days, like, all day, before the test. I’m sure you’ll pass.” No comment.

And well, there were those Peanut Gallery Americans who kept shouting things randomly throughout the tour. Man, this group. But that Rude Filipino Woman offended my friend to the point of disbelief. You know that’s bad.

But to avoid ending this post so negatively, check out photos of the moments we did enjoy, from huge beer “samples” to white sausages. Really, it was a solid tour. Just the people made it slightly unbearable.

Munich State of Mind

Coming from a jam-packed time in London where we hardly had time to rest, we arrived in Munich expecting a much calmer four nights (yeah, poor planning comparing the knowledge we had of each city—could have spent much longer in London).

So we spent the first morning in Munich sipping coffee and enjoying breakfast at Bar Centrale, a highly rated Italian café on Foursquare—a must-have app for traveling and finding your way around (remember that GPS works without WiFi) to the top places in any city.

Even if you miss a few Swarm check-ins here and there (I know I have, either the delay or the missing check-ins have produced a psychologically painful withdrawal from attempting 100-percent accuracy in the U.S. regarding my whereabouts), Foursquare is Yelp, Google Maps, and TripAdvisor all in one. Just make sure you save the places you would like to go to so you can access the map and compare where you are when you’re out to whatever destination.

We then made our way to the Deutsches Museum, conveniently located mere minutes from our Airbnb. The museum is technologically focused, so we saw everything from electrical power to sundials on the observatory (where I made the wonderful realization of moving my supreme fisheye lens to the front and taking awesome selfies without—gasp—a selfie stick!). The museum is heaven for anyone interested in engineering, technology, or even musical instruments! I was so pleased to see a “Musik” hall full of instruments.

After the Deutsches Museum, we really had NO other plans for the day. But with the weather still decent and with it being so early and all, we explored, wandered, discovered.

I am so happy about the Airbnb we chose, simply because of its centrality. From the Deutsches Museum, we walked and found Viktualienmarkt, an outdoor food market. But given that it was Whit Monday, or Pentecost, we walked through an empty market, save for the bustling restaurant in the middle taking advantage of the holiday’s closures.

Feeling hungry, we saw a cool rooftop café next to the market and decided to check it out. Wow. What a place. The cakes looked out of this world. But we decided to return to try those later, as we ordered “real food” instead. While my friend got smoked salmon flatbread, I ordered what looked like German specialty, kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes) with apple sauce, made using the original Oktoberfest recipe.

After chilling here for a while, enjoying the views, we walked to the breathtaking New Town Hall we caught a glimpse of while walking to the café. Just amazing. All of this just minutes away from our place, by the way.

I realized where we were then—Marienplatz! Among the top rated attractions in Munich. So we walked down the wide streets full of shopping until we found a small, lovely park with chairs. We sat. Chilled some more. Looking at my Foursquare map, I saw that there was a much bigger park down the street—Hofgarten. Upon entering, we knew we had found our running spot for Thursday, the only decently warm day forecasted during our stay (it’s deceivingly chilly here).

Ah. This is the life.

Travel

So my travel category has been growing and growing, making it more difficult for both you and me to catch up on my travels. After procrastinating for so long, I’m finally working on making it easier for you followers of my post-grad Europe and Morocco trip and other trips to read chronologically.

Please enjoy!  :)

EUROPE & MOROCCO
1 — The Layover: Iceland in 14 Hours
2 — London Calling
3 — Saturday in London
4 — Why It Pays to Avoid Low-Cost Airlines
5 — Munich State of Mind
6 — It’s a (Wo)man’s World
7 — #ARTventures in Munich
8 — Check back for more soon!

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Why It Pays to Avoid Low-Cost Airlines

If it weren’t for London Luton Airport (let me declare now in case it doesn’t become clear in this post: AVOID AT ALL COSTS), Sunday would have been quite pleasant. After all, my friend and I each enjoyed our chai lattes and chocolate croissants from Caffe Nero while sitting on the steps at Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery. After enjoying the warm sun, we headed into the National Gallery to admire the art before exploring more of London’s streets.

For our last meal in London, we had burgers at Burger & Lobster, where the only two items on the food menu are, well, burger and lobster. Two observations: 1) Nearly every patron was Asian. As I walked to the toilets observing the rest of the restaurant, my suspicion was confirmed—not only were there only two non-Asian populated tables in the bustling place, but they all also ordered lobster. Was this place advertised in Asian media? 2) I immediately regretted not getting lobster after placing my order. Even though I was not in the mood for lobster, I figured I might as well have tried to get my money’s worth. When the burger came, it certainly looked nice and juicy, but I must admit the best burger I’ve ever had remains at Boston Burger Company. If you can’t stop eating a burger despite how full you are because of how good it is, that’s when you know. Unfortunately, we were both satisfied with leaving this one unfinished.

As we slowly made our way back to the Airbnb to prepare for departure, the unpleasantness started creeping into our day. Our host had apparently texted my friend about the noon checkout time (it was almost 2 p.m.), but she didn’t get it until we returned. OK. Our mistake. We left quickly, earlier than planned to get to the airport but, as we realized, maybe for the better as we weren’t exactly sure how to get to the airport, especially with my ridiculously overweight luggage. Public transportation would have been much cheaper but we ended up conceding, taking a black cab to London Luton Airport. The ride seemed like it took an hour. It probably would have cost a fraction of the 110 pounds we ended up paying (the meter said 150, but glad I asked fare estimate beforehand so he only increased his estimate by 10).

Black cabbing it to London Luton Airport
Black cabbing it to London Luton Airport.

And here is where the hell begins. (Warning: Language.)

I had no idea that Luton is a budget airport, meaning the airlines you’ve either never heard of or only knew of through ridiculous marketing schemes advertising unbelievably low airfare inhabit this nasty infestation/wild jungle that they call an airport.

Upon arriving, you immediately notice the obnoxious orange building with the letters e-a-s-y-J-e-t, each underlined, bolded, plastered on each section of the roofs.

easyJet at London Luton Airport
Obnoxious, much?

Only once you enter and push through all the packed food stalls will you see what you’re really there for—the check-in desks. Take your pick of blinding neon colors representing cheap airlines: pink and purple for W!ZZ Air? (I CAN’T STOP CRINGING). Orange for easyJet?

At first, all seems okay. Long lines. That’s expected. Until I was hit by a 60-pound charge (10 per extra kilo) for my overweight luggage (that comes to around $90, by the way). Sure, I had options. Transfer to my carry on? It was already digging into my arms. Transfer to a new bag and check that in to pay 30 compared to 60? No bag to transfer into that I would be willing to check. Ask if it could be waived? Wasn’t thinking, and what the hell. Screw it. Might as well use up the rest of my pounds. But want to pay in cash? You’ll have to walk to some other place and then come back. Oh, fuck that. Card, it is.

Already in a bad mood, I go through security, where a malevolent male security guard (his face expressed so much hatred) quite literally yelled, “DO YOU HAVE ANY LIQUIDS?!”—clearly having looked into my open bag and saw the plastic bag of liquids. Okay. I had just forgot to take it out. Why the fuck did you have to yell at me? Oh, that’s right. You didn’t.

At this point, I was seriously irked. The atmosphere was already claustrophobic, only adding to my anxiety.

It got worse.

Similar to the airport in Iceland, there are these contraptions where you can press a button about your experience. The kid in front of me pressed the happiest smiley face button at least three times in a row. That’s part of how this place is so fucked up. They think they’re doing it all right, thanks to these kids who just want to press some fucking buttons. I didn’t bother.

Then you enter what I and any reasonable person would call: The Zoo.

I only wish I had taken a photo to give you a sense of how ridiculous this airport was, forcing EVERYONE to wait in this mess of a food court, only flashing your gate number when you needed to start boarding. But hey, Google a zoo of people and I’m sure you’ll find something similar. Imagine China but somehow worse. All gates had no waiting areas as a result, and I guess this is part of how they “cut costs.” Eliminate actual gate areas, forcing everyone into one too-small section of the airport where they can spend money on food, drinks, shopping; sit on the floor because there is no seating; or stand in front of monitors waiting for your flight to be called so that you can escape this jungle. If you dare, wait in line for the bathroom, which my brave friend compared to China.

And it wasn’t just me who felt imprisoned. You’ll overhear the more sane people say, “I fucking hate this place.” The less sane will push you, causing you to spill Prêt à Manger’s Calming Chamomile tea you got to help calm you from the hell you found yourself in and aggressively telling you to get out of the way while running to the gate because she, like the rest of us, was supposed to have her eyes glued to the monitor until boarding time.

You can probably imagine how angry I became. I wanted to scream. I wanted to get out. I didn’t even want to get on the airplane. After waiting 15 minutes past our scheduled boarding time, staring at the monitor, we walked through the long, winding hallways, passing by some of the smarter, perhaps more seasoned Luton Airport goers who had managed to find seating in these empty hallways (no one had dared walk past the monitors toward their gate unless they were told to), passing by some sitting on ledges, others on chairs, and one lying upside down on the ground with her legs split against the wall, reading or whatever the fuck she was doing as everyone on this fully booked flight rushed to the gate at the same time down these halls. At the gate, a line formed.

Mucia
Both of us mistook Murcia, an actual city in southeastern Spain, for the lovely slang ‘MURICA.

What came next only reinforced the unbelievable feeling of inhumanity this airport produces. The line led to a white-walled room (I remember it was white because the hallways were all painted—you guessed it—neon colors). One wall was glass, allowing us to see that the easyJet flight we were about to get on was actually just deplaning. Talk about a fast turnaround. But as we kept waiting to board, all standing in this room with nowhere to sit, an employee instructed us to move closer together to “allow for boarding from the back.” No one knew what the fuck moving closer together meant, because this room was big enough for all of us to stand with decent personal space among us. Instead, they decided to reinforce that we were like cattle, making us squish together for no apparent reason until the doors finally opened.

Somehow, we survived the flight, arriving in Munich and taking the train to the city center, where our clean Airbnb was located. First thing we saw on the train? Empty bottle of beer.

I couldn’t help but smile.

New city. New adventure.

Empty beer bottle on the Munich train
Empty beer bottle on the Munich train.

Just remember: The “savings” from these cheap airlines are never worth the emotional and physical hell you experience, especially at London Luton Airport. When it comes down to it, ask yourself if you would be willing to sacrifice your humanity for a couple bucks that you also end up having to pay in bag fees and sanity.

No exaggeration.