MÜNCHEN, Deutschland—I was so excited for Café Frischhut – “Die Schmalznudel” and their giant pastries. After fussing for several moments, we eventually took a table on a small terrace at the back of the bakery. That’s probably the one thing I couldn’t get used to on this trip: finding my own seat at a restaurant without feeling incredibly rude and presumptuous. (Traveler’s tip: In most German restaurants, you are expected to find your own seat. If you wait to be seated by a waiter, you’ll be left standing around for a long time.) It wasn’t so much a matter of indecision as it was the acute uncertainty over where we were allowed to sit. I mean, there has to be a limit to the timeworn phrase “The customer is always right.” I kept thinking, This is such a great place to sit, so why isn’t anyone else sitting here?
Our hotel in Munich was a wonderfully kooky Cocoon. Check-in was at the bar, which hosted a couple of hanging bubble chairs. It was a grown-up kid’s playground.
We hopped on a tiny elevator to our 2nd-floor room, which had its own fun surprises—cute signs for room service, a curtained-off charging station by the window, a toilet and shower with a shared sliding door….
I’ll explain. The Cocoon takes a rather amusing approach to environmentalism. First, the hotel offers boarders an incentive to be “green” when inside the room: you get paid to forgo room service! It’s 5€ per day of non-service, and you can redeem your cash vouchers at the Cocoon’s bar in the main lobby. Free drinks for helping to save the planet! Yay! (lol) We just needed to make sure we flipped the sign to “Cocooning” before going out. Of course, the strangest feature in the room was the shower/toilet situation. If one of us wanted to take a shower, we had to slide the door over from the toilet side and past the sink area to the shower side. The same concept held whenever one of us needed to use the toilet. (Because the environment?) I can only guess that somehow this system helps save water since there’s no way for one person to use the shower and the other, the toilet at the same time (and still retain a sense of human dignity).
So after we settled on a shower schedule, I immediately claimed the charging station as my nap nook. It came complete with USB ports, a reading light, and a small, swivel table. Everything you could need (except maybe a fridge?). It was awesome.
Munich has been a market town since the 12th century, when the city was a major stop along medieval Germany’s Old Salt Route. I was pretty set on visiting at least one European farmer’s market, so after devouring our delicious Schmalznudels, we headed straight for Viktualienmarkt. And it was everything.
The symbol of the market is the towering maypole, boldly sporting Bavaria’s colors (blue and white). In accordance with tradition, rival communities try to steal each other’s maypole before the decorations are replaced on May Day. So locals must stand guard night and day—or give up barrels of beer to have their stolen maypole returned. (During the Middle Ages, beer was considered liquid food and highly prized. Also, Germany.) The decorations along the pole’s sides explain which merchants are doing business in Viktualienmarkt for the day.