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Friday, September 23, 2016

Holzkirchen, Munich, and Amsterdam - September 2016

The Bavarian Oberland: Holzkirchen, Großhartpenning, Bad Tölz and Sachsenkam

I left Atlanta on Thursday, September 15th, landing at Stuttgart, Germany. My friends Jonathan and Scott were also on that flight, so we took the train together into Munich, where we temporarily went our separate ways while I continued on to Holzkirchen, a 30 minute train ride on the S3 from Munich.

I met friends Ed and Loren at the Holzkirchen station and returned with them to the Klosterbräustüberl Reutberg in Sachsenkam, a beautiful monastery with great food and an nice biergarten. We joined Liz, Mitch, and Martyne and sat outside on the lovely afternoon. I ordered my first beer of the season along with some delicious sausages and sauerkraut.

Enjoying the view
After checking into my hotel in nearby Großhartpenning (the lovely Hotel Und Landgasthof Altwirt), we decided to check out the Blombergbahn for some summer toboggan action. After riding up a ski lift, you ride the curves down 4000 feet, trying hard not to leave the track. For 15 euros, we got three trips down the longest summer toboggan ride in Germany. Lots of fun! 

That night, we decided to have dinner outdoors back at Hotel Und Landgasthof Altwirt. I got the Wiener Schnitzel, which was absolutely delicious.
Yummy Wiener Schnitzel

The view at dinner
The next morning, we were going to go hiking, but as it was raining, we decided to go into Munich where we caught the kick-off parade for Oktoberfest. While we were waiting for Lisa and Mark to arrive from the US, we decided to go to Paulaner am Nockherberg, a beer garden where monks began brewing in 1634.
At Paulaner am Nockherberg
We left there to go to the Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) to meet Lisa and Mark then dined at the Augustiner Keller, down in the cellar. Jonathan and Scott joined us for lunch. Traditionally, that has been one of my favorite beer gardens, but this time we sat inside because of the rain.

Returning to Sachsenkam that evening, we dined at Klosterbräustüberl Reutberg where I ordered pork medallions covered in mushroom gravy with spaetzle. 

Munich for Oktoberfest

The next morning, we checked out of our respective hotels and returned to Munich for the Oktoberfest celebration. I took the train in, others drove in, but we had all decided to meet at the Königlicher Hirschgarten for lunch after checking into our hotels. Boasting the largest beer garden in Munich, the Königlicher Hirschgarten is adjacent to a big park and recreation area. There are deer and goats that roam just by the beer garden. We ate inside (yummy pumpkin soup-- Kürbissuppe) before moving outside for a bit (but still covered by umbrellas because of the rain.) 

Deer at the Hirschgarten 
After lunch, we headed to the Wiesn (the local name for the fairgrounds where Oktoberfest is held.) This was my 11th time coming to Oktoberfest. I rode some rides and visited several tents before going to Hacker-Festzelt, where we have our annual reservations. 

Inside Hacker-Festzelt -- "Bavarian Heaven" 

"Wiesn Hendl"
Tuesday morning I left Munich for Amsterdam. I had been through the airport, but really had only visited the city itself once before, on a long layover on the way to Barcelona.  We rented an apartment on Fokke Simonszstraat 23. The location was great, and the exercise up the steep stairs each day was an added plus.

Steep Steps in our apartment

After arriving and getting settled, we walked around the neighborhood, visiting the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam's floating flower market.

For dinner, we ate at an amazing Indonesian restaurant -- Kantjil & de Tijger. They featured "Rijsttafel" or "rice table" -- lots of sharable dishes. It made for an amazing and fun dining experience.

The next morning after a yummy crepe at Bakery Bastards, we took a 15 minute train to Haarlem to rent bikes and see the sights.

We rented bikes at the Haarlem train station. Two of our six bikes had issues. Tip - don't rent bikes at the station. In all fairness, after my bike malfunctioned they did send someone with a replacement, and we had lunch in the meantime at a cute, eclectic little restaurant on a lake called Het Veerkwartier.

At the station

Lunch at Het Veerkwartier after my bike broke down :-( 
Het Veerkwartier 

On the bike ride we also saw Fort benoorden Spaarndam, part of the Stelling van Amsterdam, or the defense line of Amsterdam, built between 1880 and 1914. This defense line is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fort benoorden Spaarndam 

Biking back into town, we stopped by Jopenkerk, an old church that has been converted to a brewery and restaurant.

Inside the "Beer Church"

That night we had dinner at Cafe de Reiger, one of the oldest cafes in the Jordaan neighborhood. The atmosphere was charming, and the food was delicious.

Me in front of the Rijksmuseum after dinner 
The next morning, we had a big full-English breakfast at a charming, home-like restaurant called Le Mortier Lunchroom (address: Vijzelgracht 49). Afterwards, we went to the Rijksmuseum where I spent the most of my time with the old Dutch Masters -- Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. It was really a wonderful museum. One of the most surprising and enjoyable exhibits in the museum were the dollhouses. There are three in the collection -- not toys, but hobbies of 17th and 18th century women that tell the story of life in Amsterdam at that time. 

The Rijksmuseum
Inside the dollhouse of Petronella Oortman
After we left the Rijksmuseum we had lunch at The Seafood Bar. This was an amazing treat and the perfect lunch meal. I got the Plateau -- two kinds of smoked salmon, a crab salad, dutch shrimps, and smoked eel. 

The Plateau
After lunch, we took a small boat canal tour through the amazing canals of Amsterdam. The main canals were dug in the 17th century and are also a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are over 60 miles of canals and 1500 bridges, and spending the afternoon of a gorgeous day on its waters was incredible. Scenes from the afternoon: 

That night, we sat along the canal, watching swans and boats go by as the sun went down.

That night, I enjoyed my final dinner in Amsterdam at Assaggi, a nice little Italian place in Jordaan neighborhood.

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