Last week I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Germany as a partnership with Lufthansa Airlines. It was all very serendipitous. My two younger sisters had been planning a trip to Berlin for months and I was able to join them there after visiting Munich area. Germany was incredibly beautiful and fascinating. It also felt like an important time in history to visit that country given it’s 20th century history. Keep reading for a ton of photos and lots of thoughts about the trip…
Lufthansa approached me to partner for this trip as they’re promoting their new flights to Germany from San Jose. This is kind of a big deal. Many international flights, and especially Lufthansa flights all fly out of San Francisco, so to add San Jose makes it that much more accessible to the south bay cities. I flew in premium economy, which was a new experience for me. It’s a step above economy and below first or business class. Essentially for $100-$200 more a ticket you can have a way more comfortable experience, more service, free booze if you’re into that, fancier food, and more leg room. For a 12 hour flight to the other side of the world, it’s a great option to consider.
You can see how empty premium economy was too! Because most passengers end up in economy, I had almost a whole row to myself which is always great to not feel squished up next to a stranger. I always say that traveling without kids is a spa day and even more so in premium economy. The entertainment for all passengers was fantastic. Tons of new release movies, tv shows, documentaries right . My first taste of a solo trip was so relaxing. I really enjoyed the travel. Experiencing plane travel with kids really makes you appreciate the luxury of being on a flight without them!
After a layover in Frankfurt, which is the Lufthansa hub in Germany, I continued on a short flight to Munich which is in the very south, and close to the Austrian border. I arrived in the late afternoon, took the quick Lufthansa Express bus right to the central Munich train station, and then had the evening to explore.
I walked from my hotel to the historic center of town on my way to Hofbrauhaus which is the famous beer hall tourist spot that’s actually really cool. It was made infamous by it’s association with the organization of the Nazis in the early 1920s. The New Town Hall was stunning (above!) and Marienplatz was so busy and exciting at night.
At Hofbrauhaus I had the sausage plate with sauerkraut, and huge soft pretzel that I share with some nice Koreans sitting across from me (communal seating and dancing to the oompah band!). Classic Bavarian food and entertainment. It felt only slightly awkward to be eating alone, but everyone was so friendly!
The next morning was Sunday and because of jet lag, I woke up early…and to some beautiful snow falling! Most stores are closed on Sunday and so the city center that was bustling the night before was completely quiet, covered in this new blanket of snow. It really was magical. The streets were empty, and I found a breakfast spot right across from the beautiful Marienplatz New Town Hall to eat at (and a pretzel to-go!). I made it a habit of always having a soft pretzel handy in my bag.
New Town Hall in Marienplatz
It was cold but I was bundled up- no complaints! One tip a friend who lived in Berlin gave me for cold weather travel was the HeatTech UltraWarm leggings and undershirt from Uniqlo. Life savers!
State Chancellery building
The next day I signed up for a walking tour of the city center and some of the major spots. I had done a lot of research and watched a lot of documentaries before into some of the history, especially WWII, and the Cold War since Munich and Berlin were the major cities in those historic events. I especially loved seeing this Bavarian State Chancellery building above that was bombed during WWII (above). The center of the structure survived with battle wounds, but the wings had to be re-built. They decided to use glass in building the the wings, to symbolize their new commitment to a transparent and fair government as a reaction to the tyranny, secrecy, and murderous Nazi Germany.
Munich has been criticized before for not being as apologetic about it’s troubling past as the birth of the Nazi party. Despite 75% of the city bombed during WWII, many buildings built by the Nazis are still intact, although now they’re being used by banks, museums, and universities (like the museum above). There are also very few public memorials, our guide said there’s only one and not in a prominent part of town, to the millions of Jews other Europeans murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Munich was really lovely. I was impressed with how much has been re-built since WWII. They’ve done a good job restoring such a beautiful city.
I have a few options for day trips from Munich. I could take a 2 hr train ride to Salzberg, Austria, and live out my Sound of Music tour dreams. Or I could take a 2 hr train ride south to Neuschwanstein castle built by King Ludwig II, which was the one Disney used to model their Sleeping Beauty castle after. I decided to stay in Germany and went down to Fussen to tour the castle.
Fussen is this charming little town in southern Germany close to the border of Austria. It’s normally a huge tourist spot because of 2 castles 10 minutes away, but being the down season in mid-January, it was practically empty! Adorable pastel houses, charming squares and incredible views of the Alps just minutes away.
Snowballs! Fried pie dough dipped in all kind of toppings
View of Hohenschwangaucastle from the walk behind Neuschwanstein castle up to Mary’s bridge
At the bus stop on my way to the castle, I met a lovely woman from Australia who was on a her summer break from teaching grade school. We chatted and ended up spending the rest of the day together. We switched out our castle tour times so we could tour it together, walked and explored the snowy grounds all afternoon, and met up again that evening for dinner. We had great conversations about our countries. She’d never been to America, and I’d never been to Australia. One advantage of traveling alone is meeting wonderful people from all over the world and getting such a fresh perspective.
Couldn’t get enough of this gorgeous castle! The story behind it is a bit sad. King Ludwig II became king at age 18 and started work building this fairytale castle on a hill above his childhood home (Hohenschwangau castle). He used a set designer instead of an architect to construct it, which explains why Disney was so drawn to it’s. He only lived in the castle for about 150 days before he was deemed unfit to rule, and then was found dead shortly after in Munich. The castle almost immediately became open to the public for tours.
Not a bad view from where his throne should have been (it wasn’t finished being constructed before his death)
Beautiful entry doors of Neuschwanstein castle
Exploring the grounds behind the castle
Next I took a quick flight on Lufthansa up to Berlin to meet my sisters! We met at Berliner Dom Cathedral (above) and walked up to the very top for a gorgeous view of Berlin at sunset.
All three of us wore black the whole trip
Every morning we ate at the same cafe in Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood close to our airbnb. It was so cozy and the neighborhood there is gorgeous. Reminds me of Paris.
Trina in front of our favorite breakfast spot
Visited the Pergamon museum and saw the Gates of Babylon!
The next day we did a walking tour of the city’s central. It was sooooo cold. We bundled up for warmth like emperor penguins.
We stopped halfway at a cafe to warm our toes! The walking tour guide was excellent and even though we were freezing, it was so fascinating and we didn’t want to miss anything. He led us through a lot of really historic spots from WWII and the Cold War. Being there and hearing about all this history right in front of us was very powerful, especially in such a time of uncertainty in the US. It further engrained in me the importance of raising compassion children, the delicate balance of democracy, and the luxury of freedom we’ve had.
Since the Berlin Wall was constructed, it became the perfect place for people to express their opinions with graffiti art. Berlin has become a mecca for grafitti artists ever since. The Berlin wall came down just as quickly as it came up. Check out the story of how the Berlin wall came down- kind of by accident. It’s really fascinating!
The next day we went to East Side Gallery. A section of the intact Berlin wall where they’ve commissioned artists in over 100 pieces of art on the wall. It was really powerful, described as “an international memorial for freedom”.
Delicious donor kebab they sell everywhere there. I was surprised by how much Middle Eastern food was in Berlin.
The last night we went to Markthalle Neun for dinner. It’s an enclosed food street food faire that happens only on Thursday evenings. It was so fun to sample so much amazing food and play around in the photobooth. Sidenote: I’m terrible at photobooths.
Three stores I loved there: Flying Tiger Copenhagen (tons of well designed art/craft/home supplies for cheap!), & Other Stories (women’s clothing and makeup). On the last day we also found an awesome thrift store chain in Berlin called Humana. They had a ton of traditional German clothing so picked one up for Edie to match the doll I found in Fussen. She’s been wearing the outfit every day!
Such an incredible trip, huge thanks to Lufthansa Airlines for making it all happen (and my mom and Jared for holding down the fort while I was gone).
This post is sponsored by Lufthansa Airlines and their new direct flights to Germany from San Jose Airport.