Our first few days in Germany have been wunderbar! After our connecting flight from London landed in Munich around 7pm we made our way to our home for the week, a small apartment in a residential neighborhood a few U-Bahn stops away from the center of Munich. We all got a good nights sleep and were ready to go explore the city early the next morning.
Our first stop was Marienplatz, the central square in Munich and home of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). The Neues Rathaus houses the Glockenspiel, a spectacle that makes thousands of tourists strain to lift their heads and their smartphones for a 15 minute show three times daily (sadly we missed this).
One thing we learned quickly is that Germans are serious about consuming in-season produce. During our visit the top sellers were Spargel (white asparagus), Strawberries, Cherries, and Radishes.
The kids wanted to try some cherries and they were not disappointed.
The Frauenkirche (ladies church) is the primary Munich landmark. Local laws prohibit the construction of any building taller than the towers of this church. As a result, Munich retains a bit of a small-town feel since towering skyscrapers are nowhere to be seen.
Picking out our next ride at BMW
OK, not really since we’re blowing our automobile budget on this trip! Regardless, we decided to visit BMW Welt and the neighboring BMW museum. BMW Welt is free and is basically a showroom for BMW and their associated brands (including Mini) while the museum charges a modest entrance fee and traces the history of the company from its origins as an airplane engine and motorcycle manufacturer to today.
BMW Welt also offers kids programs focused on science and engineering. Here the kids watch a robotic arm draw a sketch of an engine.
Checking out some BMWs from across the decades.
The kids loved seeing the BMW Isetta, which only had a 10hp engine but got 60MPG.
Oops… first goof of the trip
After a full day of sightseeing everyone was tired and hungry. Part of staying within our budget means cooking meals back at home, so I headed to the local grocery to pick up a few things for dinner.
For most Americans the first time grocery shopping in Germany is kind of weird. Many things you would expect to find in the refrigerated section often aren’t there, like milk and eggs. Almost everyone brings their own bags (if you don’t, you have to buy them), the checkers are seated, and shoppers have to bag their own groceries.
Having been to Germany before I was prepared for most of the weirdness. I selected a handful of items for dinner and breakfast and headed to the check out. After waiting for a couple of shoppers ahead of me to be checked out it was my turn. I said a nice ‘Hallo’ to the checker lady and tried to bag my items as fast as she scanned them.
We hadn’t been to an ATM yet and I only had a few euros from a previous trip to Europe so I planned to pay with a credit card. When it was time to pay I inserted my Visa into the chip reader. Error. I tried swiping the magnetic strip. Error. The checker lady and the people behind me were starting to get annoyed. I tried a Mastercard next. Chip reader – error. Swipe – error. I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the groceries… uh oh. The lady and the people in line were getting increasingly irritated with this ignorant American.
Not knowing what else to do, I shrugged my shoulders and said “Geldautomat?” The checker lady said something in German and motioned to indicate that there was one around the corner. I left my groceries and said I’d be back. Fortunately the ATM was indeed close by and I was able to withdraw some cash without any problems. I returned to the store, paid for the groceries with an “Es tut mir leid, danke shoen” (I’m sorry, thank you!) and headed back to our apartment.
After my embarrassing experience I did some googling and found out that many discount grocery stores in Germany do not accept American credit cards. We’re trying to put as much on plastic as possible to help us track expenses and minimize ATM fees, but from now on we’ll always try to have enough cash on hand to cover an expense in case our credit card is not accepted somewhere.
That’s all for now, check back soon for more on our time in Munich!