Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vegan on Vacation: Germany Part 1 - Munich...

From London we flew to Munich. The flight was super mellow, it was only about an hour and a half and I slept most of it, which was nice. We landed, got through customs, found the car rental place and unfortunately that was the end of things running smoothly. At least for most of the night. You see, we got the car and it was very nice and new and perfect but nobody could figure out how to operate it. The engine kept stalling, and the car would keep turning off - or so we thought, more on this in a minute. - Then the GPS my in-laws brought with us wouldn’t work, and the GPS that came with the car was in German (Of course!) And nobody could figure out how to switch it to English. The car manual was also in German (Of course!) Which seemed to surprise everyone except me. I stayed entirely out of this whole situation because I don’t drive at all, and I am not good with electronics so I’m of no use whatsoever. If it had been me, I would have left the car, walked back into the car rental place and used my rudimentary German to acquire some assistance. Logical plan, no? But instead what we did was drive away, and exit the parking garage. So now we’re driving aimlessly with the GPS talking in German, and no one knowing why the car keeps turning off. My brother-in-law said it was probably an energy saving device, but nobody listened. Eventually we found our way back into the airport parking garage, and eventually after some very frustrating driving around several of the levels we made it back to the car rental place. My father in-law found car rental worker to come help us. He programmed the GPS into English for us and was so nice, and friendly. When he left I asked my father-in-law if he’d asked the guy why the car kept shutting off, but he hadn’t. *Palm/forehead.* To make a long story short on that front my brother-in-law had indeed been correct, it’s an energy saving device, the car engine shuts off whenever the car comes to a stop such as in traffic, or when you’re waiting to make a turn. I quite liked it actually, but everyone else was just frustrated by it. So we left the airport, got to our hotel without incident, and while our hotel was really nice and super eco-friendly which I loved, it was not actually in Munich but outside of it. To get to Munich we either had to drive or take the train. Everyone opted for the train even though noone was really sure how to use the train. We got to the station, noone knew where to park, and by the time we were there the station was closed and so we had to get our tickets through the machine. The machine however didn’t appear to have an English option, which made things difficult, as noone can read German. My husband and I have a better handle on German then my parent-in-laws do, but my vocabulary doesn’t include any words having to do with trains and distances and so on, so I was pretty useless at the ticket machine. In the end we opted to drive into Munich. The first order of business was to get food because by this point it was already after 7pm and we were all starving. We decided to pick a place to all eat together and my husband came up with the idea of eating in the revolving restaurant in the Olympic Park in Munich. At the very least he thought we could eat a salad while getting a great panoramic view of Munich. Great! Getting there however was problematic because the guide book didn’t give a specific address for the restaurant. My husband suggested my father-in-law just type in the restaurant name, which he gave him, but for whatever reason my father-in-law didn’t listen to what my husband had said and typed in something completely different. What he’d typed in got us in the vicinity of the place we were trying to go, but not to it. So then we had to recalculate. Finally we got there and everyone was confused about parking so my husband and I had to go talk to a very nice lady who happened to be walking by. With a series of hand gestures, along with a few German words mixed with English ones we figured out the parking. Then it was off to eat, by now it was close to 8:30pm and getting dark - there goes the panoramic view! - Finally we get into the tower, and we discover the the restaurant is by reservation only, something our guide book neglected to mention. Ugh! By this point everyone was frustrated and starving. The plan became to drop my husband and I at a vegetarian restaurant while the rest of them would eat someplace else.

My husband and I chose Prinz Myshkin. However by the time we found it, it was so late that everyone decided to stay and eat there too. Prinz Myshkin is a really lovely place, with great atmosphere. I loved the decor, chic but comfortable, and it was very peaceful though that probably had a lot to do with the fact that, at that hour we were the only patrons. Several members of the staff spoke English, though a limited amount. Which was absolutely fine, and honestly more than I was expecting. My husband and I ordered quickly and without difficulty. The menu is mostly in English and everything that is vegan is clearly marked as such. We were so hungry we ordered two appetizers. One was a wasabi humus with veggies, and the other was a tropical sort of kebab that had pieces of seitan, pineapple, tomatoes and other veggies over a bed of arugula, in a dressing. Both were very good. For my main I had a curry. I was desperate for a plate of rice and vegetables and this curry had a coconut lemongrass sauce and had bananas in it. It was delicious. My husband had a stir-fry if I remember correctly. We gobbled up everything with relish. My family-in-law on the other hand seemed pretty unimpressed with their meal, which was unfortunate because my husband and I loved the restaurant. Thought the staff was super nice, and thought they put a great deal of effort into our food considering the late hour. I should also mention that I also ordered a drink, basically it was mulled wine, and after the day we’d had I needed a drink. Our waiter made fun of me and said it was a Christmas drink. With a smile I said if it was only for Christmas why was it on the menu then? And then I told him it was okay, I’d just pretend it was Christmas anyway. He was a really nice guy, and seemed very interested in the fact that my husband and I were vegan. When he sat down at our table to settle the bill we talked about veganism for several minutes. He told us he’d been vegetarian for 15 years and vegan for 2. I told him I’d been vegan for 2 years as well, and we talked a bit about why we’d decided to make the switch. He was so nice and he looked a lot like the Irish actor Chris O’Dowd. In the end I was just so thankful for the food, and so thankful that they’d been open and allowed us to sit down and eat despite it being so late, that I just wanted to hug everyone in the place! If you’re in Munich I highly suggest you check the place out, it’s really, really good, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Price wise it was on the moderate-high side, but it was worth it.

Prinz Myshkin - Hackenstrasse 2, Munich.

Our second day in Munich went much smoother. We figured out the train and it was perfect. It was very cool to see a field of solar panels on the way into the city. You don’t see things like that here. I love how Germany is so about Green energy, it makes me very happy, I wish more countries would get behind it so vigorously. Anyway, we took the train the Marienplatz which is in the heart of the Altstadt, and did a lot of fun stuff. We checked out the Neues Rathaus, and the Glockenspiel which was very cool. Saw the Altes Rathaus, St. Peters which is the oldest church in Munich. We climbed to the top of the tower and were rewarded with some beautiful panoramic views of the city. We wandered around market squares and shopping districts - Odeonsplatz, Ludwigstrasse and Konigsplatz (Apologies my computer keyboard doesn’t have an umlaut symbol) Saw the Residenz (Royal Palace in English) which was absolutely stunningly beautiful inside. The outside was under construction unfortunately. In the Treasury they have an amazing assortment of the most fantastical pieces of jewelry, busts, crowns, swords you name it. In fact the collection is so impressive that I thought it was worlds better even then the Crown Jewels in London. They didn’t quite compare, especially to some of the more impressive pieces that date from 1000 years ago. Really great stuff. We also saw the Theatinerkirche, the Nationaltheater, Isartor (Isar Gate in English) which is the only tower left form the fortified wall that once encircled Munich. Very cool. We also checked out the Englisher Garten where we saw some very daring young Germans who were practicing their surfing on the river. I like a good surf but these guys were a bit crazy, the water gushing out from under the bridge was more akin to white water rapids then ocean waves, and there were a lot of jagged rocks around. Fun to watch though.

I know we saw and did more stuff though I can’t for the life of me remember it all. I do remember we ate in a great little tea house called Tushita. Though Munich - according to HappyCow - appears to have quite a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants we chose this one because it was the closest walk to where we were at the time. I am so glad we picked it though because it was absolutely perfect. It’s a very small little place, but so comfortable and cozy, and very welcoming. The stuff is super friendly and very helpful. Since it’s listed as being a tea house we weren’t sure what to expect food wise. When we first walked in and started looking over the menu board the woman behind the counter started to speak to us in German, I only caught maybe two words of what she said and was trying to figure out the rest when she asked “Sprechen Sie deutsch?” “Nicht gut” I replied and she asked “Englisch?” “Ja.” I said and she smiled and then switched into English. Her English was very good, though it was obvious that she felt about as confident speaking it as I do speaking German. She was super helpful though and so friendly and when she couldn’t quite remember the English translation for a German word we were usually able to help fill it in. They were only making one meal that day and it came in a small or large size. We each ordered the small size. I’m not clear exactly on what the dish was, it was some sort of rice bowl though. It had cooked rice, wilted arugula, raw carrot and cucumber, some cooked carrot and asparagus, some seeds, some Lettice a sweet sauce, and some sort of pureed beat mixture on top. It was So delicious, and we devoured it. My husband also got a green smoothie that had barley grass in it, and I got a fresh ginger lemonade, which was quite good. We also got dessert. I got a blueberry tart, that was made with tofu, and my husband got some sort of chocolate cherry cake. Both were delicious! Had it not been so hot out I would have really liked to get some tea, as it was a tea house and they had an amazing selection of tea on offer. But with the temperature being 30'C I just couldn’t bring myself to get tea. Though if you go, and you really, really should visit this place when next you are in Munich, get some tea and let me know how it is! Price wise I thought the food was a very good deal.

Tushita - Klenzestr 53, (Near Gartenerplatz) Munich 

Munich is a really fantastic city, and I absolutely fell in love with it for so many reasons. The city itself is beautiful, and though it’s a big city, to me it had kind of a quaint, and almost peaceful small-town sort of feel - despite the hoards of roving tourists. - I felt very comfortable and at home there, and I found it almost painful to leave. On my next trip to Germany I will definitely go back to Munich, and for a much longer stay I hope.

Now it seems as though this post has taken up quite a few more pages then I expected and so I’ll have to continue to tell you about our trip through Germany in parts. Stay tuned for part 2 which I hope will be up by Monday. Next we’re headed to the Alps!

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