September 30, 2008

Munich, Swagat

Swagat is where my love for Indian food started. I once dated that guy who brought me there and it was love at first bite. I had never tasted authentic Indian food before and had only known those fusion curries that were served in several trendy places. The date didn’t go any further but Swagat became a regular fixture in my life. Swagat is owned and run by Indians and usually has several Indian customers enjoying the spicy dishes; so that should already be a good sign. Whenever I’m back in Munich, I try to have lunch there, as their lunch menu is approximately half the price off of their regular menu. Last Thursday I brought along D and 2 of our Manila friends, who were passing by Munich during their Europe tour. We sat down in the shade of Swagat’s little terrace and went crazy on the many yummy dishes presented in the menu. After two weeks of mainly European cuisine, it was time for some spices and moreover plenty of rice! We ended up ordering our usual chicken tikka masala, as well as lamb curry, chicken vindaloo (watch out! Extremely hot!), vegetable samosas, nan bread, paneer pakora and a huge plate of basmati rice. I can’t really say more than: it was simply delicious. And to top it all off, we spend around 35€ for the four of us including all of the above and drinks. If you happen to be in Munich and are craving for more than pork knuckles and beer, this is the place to go to for lunch.

Swagat Restaurant
Prinzregentenplatz 13
Tel: +49 89 47084844
Subway station: Prinzregentenplatz

September 29, 2008

Munich, Mike's Bike Tour Neuschwanstein

More often than not, the city you call home is the city you know the least. Whenever I ask D about Manila landmarks and their history he seems clueless. I feel the same way about Munich and surroundings. I know the basics of course, but most times I take the beautiful architecture and the history that lies behind it for granted. Last Tuesday, we decided to join Mike’s Bike day tour to Neuschwanstein. We could have just taken the train and join the castle tour on our own, but I figured a guided tour would be more informative. I heard about Mike’s Bike Tours in Munich, as they’re known for their entertaining and interesting city tour. The Neuschwanstein tour started at 8am at the Munich main train station where we met with the group that we would be with the whole day. We were put into the train by a guy from Mike’s Tours and were instructed to ride all the way to Fussen, where Brad, our guide for the day, would wait for us. After a two-hour ride we arrived in the little Bavarian town, which was home to the Mad King Ludwig II. At the bottom of the mountain on which stood the castle we had time to get a quick bite before we’d walk up the Marienbridge on which we’d have a view on the castle, the Swan lake and its surroundings. While we munched our currywurst (sausage with curry sauce and French fries!), Brad gave us some trivia about Ludwig II., his life, his grand visions, his controversial sexual orientation and his mysterious death. Rumor has it, Ludwig and Richard Wagner were more than just friends and that the castle was dedicated to latter. Also, they are several theories on how the Mad King died. He was found dead in a lake next to his psychiatrist.

After such juicy background facts it was time to Lucky me, the regular hike path was closed down due to landslides and we had to hike up what turned out to be an extremely strenuous way up the mountain. Close to a heart attack, I finally got to the bridge to enjoy the beautiful view completely out of breath (mental note: Get in better shape when back in Manila). D, who of course wasn’t the least bit tired from the climb, kept away from the hanging bridge because of acute fear of heights. A short walk away was the castle, where we joined the official tour of Neuschwanstein. The official guide was not quite as entertaining as Brad and the tour was quickly over, as most of the castle hadn’t even been completed by the time Ludwig died. So I’m not sure if I would recommend it. I found it more impressive to look at from the outside. Anyway, our tour wasn’t done yet. We went on with a 45-minute hike back down. It was a sunny day, not too hot, not too cool and perfect to walk around mountains and fields. We got to an Alpine slide, some sort of summer bobsleigh and got to ride it. Not quite sure how, but D managed to throw himself out of the sleigh and injure himself. We then got unto bikes for a ride to the Swan lake.

It was just wonderful. Sun, green fields, castle in the background – what more can you ask for on a day trip. At 6pm Brad said goodbye and left us in the train back to Munich. All in all, I was a bit skeptical since the tour was quite pricey (30€ each, plus 8€ for the castle tour). But it turned out to be a great day and we had so much fun. I would recommend it to anyone who’s in Munich and plans on visiting Neuschwanstein, as you get to experience more than just the boring tourist tour.

Mike's Bike Tour

September 11, 2008

Munich, Nero Pizza & Lounge

The exciting thing about traveling is to discover new things. Even back in what I used to call home, I come across new gems each time. Last Sunday a friend of mine brought us to Nero Pizza & Lounge. Perfectly located in a quite street within the city center, it is convenient enough to walk to without attracting the often irritating tourist crowd. Upon entering you find yourself in a room with high ceilings, big light balls and a beautiful lighted wall of green glass. Long wooden tables and benches invite to some socializing, but you may also choose one of the cozy tables for a romantic dinner. As the name of the place implies, there is also a lounge area for some cocktails and chillaxing in the mezzanine overlooking the restaurant. But pizza would have to be the lead actor in this play. An extensive menu of beautiful sounding names such as Umbrichella, Sfilacci and Strachetti lead to mouth-watering expectations. And you won’t be disappointed. The pizzas are baked in a special oven; making them perfectly thin and crisp. Nero claims to use mainly original Italian products such as buffalo mozzarella from Campania, flour from Umbria and truffles straight from Norcia.

D and I shared the Solare salad (8,50€) for appetizers. The arugula salad had tasty sundried tomatoes and plenty of buffalo mozzarella cheese and came with Nero’s homemade house dressing. We then halved a Strachetti pizza (11,80€) with slices of beef tenderloin, arugula, tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic and rosemary. It was simply delicious! Verdict: The menu is an eclectic mix of classics and innovative pizzas (think horse meat!), the drink list includes every cocktail you could wish for. The service was surprisingly attentive and friendly, which isn’t always the case in Germany. The setting is modern with dark woods to warm it up. The prices range within Munich standard. Overall, Nero is a restaurant that serves high quality Italian food in a stylish yet relaxed atmosphere.

Nero Pizza & Lounge
Rumfordstr. 34, Munich
Tel: +49 89 21019060
Subway Station: Isartor

September 7, 2008

Munich, Donisl Restaurant

When in Munich, do as the Bavarians do. The best way to experience a foreign culture is by immersing yourself in it. Since I have moved to Manila, I have learned about traditions and customs as well as how to eat different Filipino foods. So I figured, now that we are in Europe, D should learn about where I come the same way. Of course we still went around the touristy spots around town. With our day-pass in hand (Partnertageskarte XXL 11,80€ for up to 5 people all day long), we start off our journey at the S-Bahn (Subway) station Deisenhofen to ride into the city center. First stop Marienplatz, the central plaza of Munich with its impressive old townhouse and the long shopping mile, which counts no less than 3 H&Ms. After some walking around the area, appetite kicked in and we stopped to grab a bite at Donisl. Donisl is the oldest beer hall in Munich and has been serving traditional Bavarian food and beer since 1715. The location is convenient (side of Marienplatz), the setting is relaxed and comfortable, the food is yummy and cheap (most dishes at 7€).

We had Schweinshaxen (pork knuckle or crispy pata) and Krustenbraten (lechon) with Knödel (sticky potato dumplings) and potato salad. Come to think of it, it wasn’t too outlandish to Filipino cuisine… If we had had rice it wouldn’t have been the perfect Pinoy meal. Donisl is the perfect first stop for anyone new to Bavaria. The waitresses might not be the friendliest, but they speak English, service is fast and the food tastes good. If weather permits, sit outside and enjoy some people watching while sipping on your beer!

Weinstr. 1, Munich
Tel +49 89 220184
Subway station: Marienplatz

September 5, 2008

Business Class on an Economy budget

I need to share my excitement. We finally arrived in marvelous Munich and despite the grueling 18 hour journey; our trip was more pleasant than usual. Throughout the years of traveling on my own, I have learned how to improve comfort during often long and boring flights. First of all, I always make it a point to bring along the following in my generally oversized bag: an Ipod to keep me company, a book to keep me occupied, a Pashmina shawl to keep me warm, moisturizer to keep me looking fresh, chips to keep the movie watching more fun and chocolate to keep me happy. But despite all the little goodies that I never fail to pack, sitting in a cramped economy class seat for 15 hours simply isn’t enjoyable, no matter how excited you are to reach your destination. But of course, with all the money set aside for shopping, more trips and good food, my wallet can’t afford the oh-so-tempting business class. Luckily I have found my way around spending a fortune: get upgraded for free! There are 3 rules to follow if you want to stand a chance on a free upgrade. Number 1: Enroll in the mileage program of the airline you usually fly with and stick with that airline. Number 2: Dress to impress. Number 3: Always be friendly and smile. The more you earn miles with a specific airline, the more likely will you be prioritized upon upgrade. At the check-in counter, ask the agent if the flight is full. An overbooked flight increases the odds for an upgrade. Without being too pushy, inquire if you may avail of an upgrade. Smile when you ask. I usually also add the white lie of having much work to do during the flight (it’s called business class for a reason!). The check-in agent will then, with a bit of luck, put you on a list, which will inform the boarding personnel about your query. At the boarding gate, politely ask again and notify the person in charge that you’ve been told by the check-in to report to them. Now all you can do is wait and hope. Once the flight starts boarding, your name will hopefully be called and your ordinary economy boarding pass will transform into a ticket to luxury. Ignorance is bliss, but once you’ve experienced freshly squeezed orange juice, champagne à volonté, à la carte menu, fluffy blankets, branded toiletries, big screen TVs and oh-so-spacious seats it is impossible not to, at least, try and ask for a free upgrade.


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