I never had Germany in my sights as a travel destination. For whatever reason, my misconceptions of it were that the people were very cold, the cities dull with gray weather, and there was nothing exciting to do there except for touring a few museums while awkwardly avoiding discussions of either of the World Wars. From my list of countries that I wanted to travel to, Germany was nowhere to be found.
On our latest Contiki Tour, I figured we'd stay a night, leave, and then on to the more "fun" countries. Well, let's just say I was in for a surprise during this trip because Germany ended up being one of my Favorite Stops during our tour!
Our hotel in Munich was awesome, even though with a Contiki tour they are not super-fancy hotels, this one was quite nice. Complete with amazing pastries at check-in including my favorite chocolate croissants. After checking-in, we made our way downtown where we began a wicked Bike Tour. Our tour guy was this hilarious British guy with long hair that new how to make things fun and was a hippie to the fullest. I wouldn't be surprised if his diet consisted of beer and weed and I say that in a nice way.
Riding through the historic allies and city streets of Munich was exhilarating. We rode down narrow cobblestone allies, trying to keep up with one another, while also trying to avoid crashing at the same time! I'm pretty sure we pissed off some Germans and other tourists who were on foot but hey, what can you do?
After riding around the central square, cathedral and other buildings where Hitler and Napolean frequented, we made our way to the Munich's central park and it was quite a site to behold! Even though it was the middle of the day on a weekday, the park was filled with people relaxing on the grass, thousands of them, just having picnics and talking. Even more surprising were the number of naked men hanging out with their friends in the park! Some were sun-bathing on their own, while others were totally naked having a pic-nick with their clothed friends. #Awkard For the ladies in our tour I don't think they had this in mind when they were thinking German bratwursts! So as it would turn out, it is a cultural norm for men to be naked like that in the park.
After riding deep into the park we got to this massive beer garden known as the English Garden which could seat over 7,000 people. While called the English Garden, it had a huge Chinese monumental structure in the middle. Imagine that! I don't even like beer normally but it tasted delicious. I heard that preservatives are banned in most of Europe including Germany so perhaps it is this ultra fresh beer that tasted so much better. We ordered some traditional German Food including the big pretzels, bratwurst, and a creamy potato mix. Beyond loving the city, German food was quickly becoming my favorite. How can you go wrong with potatoes, sausages, and pretzels? You can't.
One of my favorite stops on the Bike tour was a stream running through the park. Much to my amazement, there were 10 to 15 Germans in bodysuits and surfboards waiting their turn to surf. Yes, surf. AND they were pretty damned good at it too! You should have seen these guys and girls - they were going flips and going pretty hardcore on the waves. Their intensity was crazy considering it was just a little stream but they were each going at it like they were involved in some sort of competition the way they were cutting that wave. Apparently a designer from BMW installed some sort of structure under the water to create the high intensity wave so people could surf. Go figure.
The ride back was awesome. We quickly learned that in Munich, pedestrians don't have the right of way all of the time so if you're crossing at a cross walk and you don't have the walk signal anymore, you'd better run! The bike tour was informative, amazingly fun, and refreshing even. If you are ever in a new country, I highly recommend bike tours. I've done a few now and there is just something exhilarating about being in a new city, and seeing it while riding a bike. You feel much more connected and engaged. It's times like these where you realize how traveling awakens your spirit and the only regret you might have is not having done it before.
Enjoy life. Travel more.
PS: If you're ever in Munich, the company we used for the bike tour as part of our Contiki trip was Mike's Bike Tours. Here's a link to their website in case you're interested: https://www.mikesbiketours.com/munich/
Enjoy life. Travel more.