Winter break: Munich

The sheer number of Christmas markets in Munich was staggering.

There was the uber-commercial market at Marienplatz, stretching oddly all down the main shopping street, with real live Christmas carolers every evening. There was the crazy Decemberfest at Tollwood, in the same tents used for Oktoberfest, with a food tent, shopping tent, culture tent and drinking tent. The drinking tent had concerts each evening, too, with a power-folk group and a salsa band playing during my two nights in Munich.

Then there was a lovely, woodsy market in the vast Englischer Garten, and a medieval market by Odeonsplatz selling swords. And, hell, there were small markets in just about every “platz” all over the city!

In between markets, I made the effort to see some sights as well. The Schloss Nymphenburg palace was enormous, its grounds covered in snow pushing past the horizon. And I wish I had more time to fully explore The Deutsches Museum, the largest museum of technology and science in the world. I had to selectively nerd out before getting thrown out at closing, which meant an afternoon of robots, cameras, telecommunication tools, biotechnologies and good old-fashioned computers.

But my favorite moments in Munich were surely my snack breaks, where I hid for hours from the wintry mix falling from the sky. Cafe Münchner Freiheit was a beautiful find in Schwabings, where locals filed in and out all afternoon for holiday cookies and other pastries to nibble on, and old ladies lingered with newspapers and cakes.

I happily copied the old ladies, though deciding which treat to take was excruciating. I opted for a slice of creamy walnut cake and took my time breathing it in.

Other highlights were thanks to the butchers. I wandered into one small shop at the Viktualienmarkt — a heavenly and huge open-air market in the city center, selling meats, produce, wines, nuts and basically everything edible — and bumped elbows with graying Bavarian men. We were all eating leberkäse, which translates to “liver cheese” and doesn’t contain liver or cheese. Instead, it’s similar to bologna, but thicker and juicier, consisting of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions. I got mine hot, slathered with mustard, on a semmel, for under 2 euro.

And my last day in Munich, I woke up at 7 a.m. in order to run to the butcher down the street and pick up the first weißwurst of the morning. It’s not that my host needed the first white sausages, rather, I insisted on trying the quintessential Bavarian breakfast before leaving and he agreed to make them for me, before heading off to work at 8. It was worth it, though. Those wurst, a mix of veal and bacon, were absolute lush. Simply prepared in hot water and served with grainy, sweet mustard, I can think of no better way to start a day. Except later in the morning, and with a weissbier.

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