Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

Really, it’s not good.  Snow has been falling the last couple of days and although it hasn’t amounted to hardly anything (it’s pretty much all gone), it makes a tour guide’s life hell.  It’s just cold and wet…that’s no fun.

Wednesday I had a Neuschwanstein tour…it mostly drizzled and you couldn’t see anything.  The tour group were all happy at the end of the tour, but it really is hard to make someone actually HAPPY when you can’t show them anything.  The good part is for those moments that you CAN see the building from further than 20 feet away, there is no longer any scaffolding covering it! 

I keep having Spanish people on my tours…yet they say they have 25% unemployment.  Rather odd.

Supposedly they have a special glühbier this year at the Christmas market…gonna have to try it soon.  Tomorrow we’re going to Die Toten Hosen…it’s been years since I’ve seen them…

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Christmas time in Munich

As with every year the tour numbers have taken a nose dive for a few weeks, but now that the Christmas markets are up and running I expect my next few tours to be busy.  Along with the Christmas markets, we should have REALLY horrible weather later this week.  I’ll be down at Neuschwanstein tomorrow and it should be raining with a high of 40F.  The problem with this is that will probably be the forecast for every day until March…possibly April.  I hope I’m wrong.

I’ve gotten a few e-mails over the last few months wanting very specific/odd private tours.  I usually don’t do them if they’re hard to get to by public transportation because, well, although I have a driver’s license…I don’t have a commercial driver’s license.  Also, I really do want to feel like I’m actually doing you a service when I give a tour, not just bringing you places.  I know, most of my colleagues would just tell me to take the tour and pocket the money and who cares….well, the problem is that I do.  Glühwein sounds good about now…

Fridays mean nothing to a tour guide

It’s black friday, but I don’t have time to shop. At the moment I’m on a train out toward where I used to live. This is a test to see how this app for my phone works with wordpress…so far so good.
Speaking of where I used to live, Seefeld, there’s a massive 14th century castle there that may be well worth a visit on your way to Andechs monastery…well, that is if you like Egyptian stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving, I’ll be at KFC if you need me

However, I won’t be at KFC very long.  My wife and I will be hurrying in order to get to a concert of a French band, Uncommonmenfrommars.  Technically, I believe 3 of the 4 members have American passports as well as French…so you could say I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with other Americans…er, so.

Anyways, Thanksgiving has always been a weird time of year to be an expat.  These days all the relatives chime in via Skype, but it’s certainly not the same experience.  I was serious when in the headline I wrote that we’re going to KFC…because, well, that’s as close as I’m going to get to a thanksgiving meal on a Thursday which is also a work day…and unlike Germans and most American expats, I don’t just move holidays.

I also just wanted to mention my friend’s blog, @ http://freshbreadripenedcheeseandabottleofwhine.wordpress.com/ …he’s an American expat as well, but not a tour guide.  He teaches English and American culture…and watches a heck of a lot of American football, which is what I get to avoid by being here instead of with my family in Minnesota. 

Happy Thanksgiving, hope everyone has a wonderful day…

Top 10 Christmas Markets near Munich

In about a week, Germany is going to be completely covered in middle aged tourists seeking the best of the Christmas markets.  I have been to a couple dozen throughout the region many, many times…and here are my top choices for Christmas markets within three hours of Munich:

 

  1. Augsburg  – This is my favorite Christmas market not because of the city itself being the most historically interesting city in Southern Germany, but because it is a beautiful Christmas market, has its own unique “Christmas show” at the Rathaus (daily I believe?), is one of the larger markets, and does not have the crushing crowds of Munich, Salzburg, and Nuremberg.
  2. Nuremberg – The largest and most famous of the bunch, it can be ridiculously busy in the evening.  Then again, to truly see it…you HAVE to be there in the evening…during the day just will not do.  So…good luck.
  3. Landshut – Landshut is a beautiful town closer to Munich’s airport than Munich itself.  The Christmas market there is on the main pedestrian only street which is lined with historic houses and a charming atmosphere that the big cities just cannot attain.
  4. Munich’s main market (at Marienplatz) – It’s busy, it’s not centralized, but it does have everything that all the others have…and the New Town Hall works really wonderfully for Christmas photo backgrounds…
  5. Würzburg – With it’s large market square, this medium sized city has  what makes for a much nicer market than most larger towns in the region.  (the problem with Würzburg is it’s location, see #7)
  6. Innsbruck – Innsbruck has several Christmas markets thoughout its historic old town.  Certainly not the largest nor most beautiful Christmas market; it is quite charming.
  7. Rothenburg – Cutey-small Christmas market in a beautifully well preserved walled city.  What more do you want?  (the problem is that it’s 3+ hours from Munich each way…so I’d recommend an overnight stay, possibly in nearby Würzburg)
  8. Munich’s Tollwood Festival (at the Oktoberfest grounds) – It’s more of a high-end hippie fest than a Christmas market, but it still has its charms…and much of it is in door, which is quite welcome if you’re touring Christmas markets!
  9. Regensburg – A smaller Christmas market in this ancient river town, in my opinion vastly over-rated.  Skip-able…
  10. Salzburg -  If you could delete 75% of the people, this would be a wonderful Christmas market…but be warned:  I refuse to do tours to Salzburg during the Christmas market for a reason.  The crushing crowds, even at noon, are too much for all but the most hardcore of angry people.

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Augsburg’s Christmas Market

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Munich’s main Christmas market (taken just a 1 min walk south of Marienplatz)

How to plan that perfect vacation in Europe

Everyone’s idea of the perfect trip is different.  I saw that a popular travel blogger recently told people that they can see the world for far cheaper than they imagined and he’ll tell you how:  stay at hostels in the middle of no where in 3rd world countries…and walk there.  (ok, fine, I added the walk there part)

My point is that travel is expensive and I don’t have a magical way of seeing everything for free.  I myself am ridiculously frugal, though, and if I am advising you on your travel plans you can be assured that I am taking that into account.  At the same time, you want to see everything since you will probably not be back.  I like to see EVERYTHING myself and am quite annoyed that every guidebook is incomplete…

Nearly all of my vacations in Europe are sight seeing at ancient monuments, churches, palaces, castles, and such.  Many of these are in major cities or able to be done as a day trip from a major city.  So what do I recommend?  Guide books? wikipedia? Google?  local tourist boards?

Well, I recommend reading everything.   I know, you don’t have time.  Well, you have found me and I have very likely been to the place you want to go.

So the best way, in my opinion, to plan your vacation to a major city in Europe?  Have an expert, like me, do the planning for you.

When I take a trip I read through a couple guide books on the place in question from cover to cover.  Then, I Google everything while checking out their wikipedia sites as well as their official websites.  In the end I come up with an excel spreadsheet with all of the basic information on the places, expected prices, opening times, days they are closed, if they are covered by some kind of pass, and oftentimes notes on when is the best time to be there.  For the ones I do for myself I don’t have to be as thorough as if I were doing it for someone else since I only need an outline really, not the full speech…if ya know what I’m saying.

Anyways, I plan to post a few old spreadsheets of mine on here at some point to help others out, but if anyone would like me to do one for you…I can be bought.  Especially if you’re planning months in advance, it should be no problem for me to make up a spreadsheet for you along with a few extended notes.  You can pay me via paypal if you want after the spreadsheet is received.  cost?  let me know in a comment or e-mail what you’d want to pay for this service…and I’ll at least consider any offer.

Thoughts anyone?

Maybe I’ll do one for Munich….

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One last thing: anyone know where this picture was taken?  Hint:  not in Munich.

Winter is here…ish.

It has already snowed this year, so I declare it winter.  By that I mean that I’ll be quite miserable until May…ish.

As I’ve said many times before, Munich doesn’t REALLY get winter.  However, it does get miserable…and that’s bad enough for me.  What I mean by miserable is that for the next several months highs will be in the 30’s or 40’s and lows will be in the 20’s or 30’s.  Lots of rain with the occasional snow…and very rarely a hint of sun.  This is not the sunny but freezing cold winter of Minnesota…this is worse.

Now on to happier things:  Munich’s Christmas market is coming soon.  The reason I say this is that the Christmas tree in front of the New Town Hall is already up!  In the states this would be blasphemous before Thanksgiving…but since there is no thanksgiving here, Christmas is thrust upon them even earlier than back home!

The Christmas markets are quite lovely to take a stroll through and they also mean one of my favorite German beverages are available everywhere:  Glühwein.  (mulled wine)  So we can happily get drunk on the streets and pretend that it’s sunny!

It also brings some of my favorite tourists, truth be told, in the type that remind me of my parents.  Backpackers are not my thing…

Anyways, I’ll be (once again) trying to update my blog more often…and who knows, maybe I’ll keep it up for quite some time now that Nileguide isn’t going any more.

More hot adult beverages for everyone, enjoy 🙂