Someday I would like to visit Munich when I am NOT jet-lagged and cold.
On my way back to Thailand, I flew from Wichita to Denver, and from Denver to Munich, Germany, where I had a 13 hour layover. I visited Dachau Concentration Camp and several different churches in Marienplatz area in the city center of Munich.
I told some friends that I would write about my time in Germany and give some details on it, in case anyone else wants to try to do a layover like this. I struggled with knowing what to write and what to omit since I don’t like to post something with thousands of details, and yet when I was preparing for my trip, I found posts like that extremely helpful. So, if you don’t enjoy the details, skip them and enjoy the pictures instead. (Apology: I only had my phone camera which is the budget phone type and does not give very good quality photos either, so just take it as is 🙂 ).
Since I was vaccinated in Thailand and my Thai vaccination certificate was originally not accepted by Lufthansa when I sent it my documents for a pre-boarding check online, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get into the country because of Covid restrictions. When I checked in in Wichita, I was asked for both my vaccination papers and my negative Covid test. In Denver, I was only asked for my certificate, and in Munich when I went through immigrations, the officer did not ask me for either one. So, if you ask me if you need to be vaccinated to enter Germany, I think the answer is yes, but it also probably depends on the officer who stamps your passport.
I had 2 hours of sleep on the flight from Denver to Munich, so I was rather tired the entire time I was there. Ok, rather is too soft a word. It was more like exhausted. When I landed in Germany, upon boarding, I just followed the signs to the baggage claim instead of the signs marked transfer. Just before the baggage claim, I went through immigration. There I gave my passport to the officer. She asked me a few questions and gave me my stamp in my passport. From there, I headed to the bathroom and repacked my bags. I got all the stuff out of my backpack that I needed for my time outside of the airport and then put my backpack into my carry on, taking only my purse with me.
I made a few mistakes, like leaving the airport before stowing my bags that I didn’t want with me. In Switzerland, the place to leave the baggage was just on the other side of the airport, and I was thinking this would be the same thing. Instead, it was inside the airport. For anyone doing the same thing, as soon as you leave customs and the “point of no return” look for signs saying, “Service Center.” Follow those signs and you will find the service center where the guy takes your baggage and gives you a slip and reminds you not to lose it. You will pay when you return to pick it up. The service center closed at 9 PM, so do NOT come back after that hour if you have a flight leaving in the night and need your luggage. It might be a good idea to ask for sure what the closing time is since it might be different from mine.
Next you want to get your ticket. You can actually get this inside the airport, but I got mine in the subway station. I had written out some instructions on what kind of ticket I needed, and was very glad I did so, even though a few more details would have been appreciated. Watch for electronic machines where you get your own ticket. On the screen, tap the flag that stands for English (I assume, if you are reading this blog, you speak English) and then tap the square that says MVV. This will open up the options of the different kinds of ticket that you will need. Choose the Munich Zone M5 ticket, which is also called the Airport City Day pass. Also be sure to get a day ticket, also known as Tageskarten instead of an Einzelfahrtkarten, which is a single journey ticket. If you get the day ticket, you can ride any bus and S-Bahn trams/subways for one full day until 6 AM the next day. (This does not include the regular railroad). If you are traveling by yourself, get a single day ticket. If you are traveling with a group, you can get a group ticket.
The subway entrance is located across from the airport exit. Follow the signs for the S-Bahn, or sometimes it might just be an S logo in a circle. Once you are inside the subway, you will want to get the S1 train or the S8 train to go to Hauptbahnhof (also known as Munich Central Station). Make sure you are taking the train in the right direction. One tip that I found helpful was searching on google maps how to get from the airport to the Munich Central Station via tram. Google maps will show all different stops that you will make. This gave me a bit of assurance that I was going the right way.
I took the S8 subway/tram from the airport to Munich Central station, and then from there took the S2 train (in the direction of Petershausen) to Dachau station. There are also other ways to go there, but this seemed the simplest so I chose that. I did get mixed up in the Munich Central Station and got on the S2 train that was actually going back the way I came, so I had to do it all over again. If you go from Munich Central station to Dachau make sure the sign says Petershausen or Dachau. Or you can ask someone. I felt like in general the trains and the monitors with times and directions were much better marked than the Metro in NYC. I rode the S2 train to Dachau. There I got off the train and, following everyone else, walked under the tunnel and went to the sign that said, Bus 726, which was very clearly marked. To get to the concentration camp, you can also walk along the Path of Remembrance, which marks the same path that many of the prisoners took when walking from the station to the camp. On another less jet-lagged day, I would have preferred taking this path instead of the bus, but knowing that I needed to conserve my energy, I took the bus. The bus stops there at the station for at least 5 minutes and then headed to the camp.
At the camp, I wanted to get an audio guide since I had read that it was worth it, but since I didn’t have any Euros for a deposit, I was not allowed to do so.
Visiting the camp was surreal, but again, I would have gotten more out of it had I not been so tired and cold. In my state of exhaustion I felt very numb and emotionless.
It was worth it, though. Now in my mind, I can see the way the camp looked. It was also a fresh reminder of how quickly human society can disintegrate into brutality. I kept on wondering how I would have responded had I been living in Germany during that time. It’s easy to think that I would have done the right thing, but would I have had the perception and discernment needed, not to mention the courage?
I had originally planned to stay 2 hours, but I was tired and cold. I took the 726 bus back to Dachau station, and from there took the S2 train back to Munich in the direction of Markt Schwaben. Instead of getting off at Munich Hauptbahnhof, however, I went two stations past to Marienplatz.
At the station in Marienplatz, I tried to use the bathroom. I say tried because you needed to pay Euro in order to use it and I didn’t have any. There was a slot to insert a card, but it wouldn’t accept mine. I found this extraordinarily annoying. I mean, when you can’t even find a place to use the bathroom, what kind of day is that?
Climbing the stairs out of the underground Marienplatz station, I was stunned. Suddenly, I was thrust into a world that looked like a snapshot from the 1500s. A drizzle was falling, and sprawling architecture rose up on all sides of me.
Peterskirche, or St. Peter’s Church, was first on my list, so I went there. This church is known for its tower from where you have a beautiful view of the city and can see the Alps on a clear day. However, when I got to the church, a service was going and I couldn’t find the place where you could actually go up to the tower. (Only later did I discover online that there was another entrance I could have tried.) I sat in on the service a bit and had so much fun listening to the German and comparing it to the German I knew. I caught words like “Barmherzigkeit,” and “ess gibt kein elend….” Many of the words in the sermon were easier for me to catch than the street German I had heard earlier because I grew up reading the Bible in German and listening to it in church.
Part of the reason I didn’t try very hard to go up the tower in Peterskirch was because I wanted to climb the tower at Frauenkirche just as much or more, so I decided that I would do that instead. On my way to Frauenkirch, however, I stopped at a café for some food and coffee, and use a bathroom. The café was packed full, however, and it took me a long time to order and pay and stand in line for the bathroom. I was also reminded how different the German culture is from our culture. I tend to think that because the language is similar to mine, and because we are Caucasian, the culture must be similar. The people seemed much more self-assertive than what I was used to. Everything seemed to simply be 15 degrees different than what I expected. Even the bathrooms were odd, and I found myself getting a little grouchy about some of the differences, until I realized it and gave myself a talking to. After finally getting finished in the bathroom and figuring out how to get the door open again, I ordered some coffee in the café to eat with my cheese bread. The lady who got my coffee spoke only German to me. I could follow what she meant, but found answering harder. When I ordered, she asked me if that was all. I recognized that word, “alles,” and nodded and said, “Alles, ka.” (Ka is a polite word used at the end of a sentence when speaking Thai). After that I decided to simply speak Pennsylvania Dutch in return if they spoke German to me. It seemed every time that I tried to speak German, the Thai part of my brain went into high gear and spewed out words instead. After I got my coffee, I asked if she knew where I could buy an umbrella.
“Oh,” she said, “I have one right here!” So, she sold me an umbrella made of clear plastic that said, “I love Munich,” and I marched out proudly in the rain holding my coffee under my umbrella. I was very happy by now, since the coffee helped with my grumpiness, and I love rain, and what better way to explore Germany than from under an umbrella in the rain?
Next, I went to Frauenkirche, but because I had spent so much time buying my cheese bread and coffee and umbrella and trying to figure out how to get in and out of the bathroom, it was already after 4.30 which meant the towers of the church were closed. That made me quite sad. Frauenkirche was much less ornate than Peterskirche. Not too far from there, I also found another church called St. George’s Church. It wasn’t on my list of places to go, but I stepped in anyway. I found this one to be the most beautiful of the three churches I had visited.
I had originally hoped to visit Munich Residenz, which was a former royal palace located not far from Marienplatz, but I was getting running out of coffee and inspiration. As I walked along the street with my umbrella, listening to the church bells and the music from the street bands, it seemed perfect. I love rain and I love umbrellas and old cities with history. But I didn’t want to stay. All I wanted to do was go home and take a hot bath and curl up with a good book and open up my living room windows and watch the rain in Munich from there. Or sleep.
But I couldn’t go home. So, I went back to the airport. I took the S1 or the S8 back. I am not sure which, but it went without mishap. I slept on the way back and talked with the man on the seat opposite of me who was visiting from England.
I picked up my luggage, and went to my gate early.
*note: one piece of advice. For anyone planning to do a jaunt out of the airport on a Munich layover, or in any other foreign country, the best thing to do is to plan ahead. This may vary according to personality and travel experience, but when you only have a short time in a country, every minute counts and every minute that you waste trying to figure out how to get from one place to the other is one minute less of exploring. This article is by no means an exhaustive commentary on a Munich layover. For more information, google “what to do on a layover in Munich,” and you should have all sorts of articles at your fingertips. On both my Switzerland and Munich layover, I mapped out my route beforehand and how I would get from one place to another and was glad for every single bit of research I had done before entering the country.