Hmm... What to do during the cold winter months in Europe...
We heard that Germany had some amazing Christmas Markets markets, so we booked a direct flight to Munich based on the city's high Christmas Market ratings (according to google).
There are around 20 Christmas Markets in Munich and we probably only visited around 5. Our favourite one was the medieval market which had a fun theme - people were dressed up and there was a free show with sword fighting for entertainment.
Spoiler alert: The girl knight kills them all and saves the world (ok it was all in German, but that was our interpretation).
We enjoyed window shopping and tasting different foods like the local bratwurst and various fried dough snacks. Wherever there were long lineups, we lined up!
It was humid and cold, so we also learned how to warm ourselves up like the locals - by stopping to taste almost every variety of Glühwein (mulled wine) that we could find! The black cherry one (kirschglühwein) was the best! Each Glühwein stall has their own custom mugs - you pay for the wine plus a 1-2€ deposit for the mug and you can either keep the cute mug or return it to get your deposit back.
As usual, we did a free walking tour to learn about Munich’s history.
Our trip became extra worthwhile when our tour guide mentioned that there was going to be a "Krampus Run" at 15:00 that day. A “what” run….? Yeah, at the time, we had no idea what a Krampus Run was but we were told that it only happens twice a year and that we just happened to be here at the right time, so of course we had to go check it out!
In North America, when kids are good, they are rewarded with Santa bringing them presents for Christmas. If they are naughty, Santa gives them coal.
In Germany / parts of Europe, when kids are good, they are also rewarded with Saint Nicholas bringing them presents for Christmas. If they are naughty, the Krampus comes in the middle of the night to scare them, sweep them up into a giant bag, and take them away from their parents!!
Krampus are horned demons - seemingly the counterpart to Santa or Saint Nicholas. The Krampus Run consisted of around 300 people wearing very elaborate and scary demon costumes, parading through Munich’s main streets tricking, teasing, scaring, and beating up the spectators. Although all in good fun, some were a bit rough when hitting you in the leg with their sticks!
The costumes were seriously amazing though - all of the Krampus stank like animals because they were wearing real goat fur!
Not all of our adventures are as glamorous as our blog might have you believe!
We were supposed to have a very early flight Monday morning to get back in time for work, but little did we know that the Train Operators were scheduled to be on strike precisely on that Monday morning (of all the dates and times they could have picked...!!).
On Monday morning, we set off extra early to catch the first train of the day to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport. We noticed that the train station monitors had something written in German that we couldn't understand but figured it was just because the service hadn't started yet. We bought our tickets and stood on the platform for some time waiting for the train. There were other people waiting on the platform but no trains showed up and the monitors still didn't update with the train schedules. We eventually tried to ask around, but at that hour, there were very few employees working and none of them spoke English. We finally figured out that they were trying to tell us that the airport trains were not running from this station and that we needed to go to the central train station instead. We still didn't know that it was due to a strike - we thought google just had an inaccurate station schedule.
We contemplated using Uber instead, but after seeing it would be €107 for the ride, we decided to walk to the central station. We found someone there who spoke some English and told us about the strike. They pointed us toward the stop for the Airport Shuttle Bus that we would have to take instead. The lineup was HUGE. After waiting for 30 minutes, there was still no bus to be seen.
Time was starting to feel tight. We made several attempts at booking a taxi using a local taxi app and phone number but had no success with either. After much deliberation, we decided to bite the bullet and book an Uber despite the (now) €150 fare to get to the airport. The Uber booking attempts also failed - "no cars available for pickup".
We started to notice people jumping out of the line trying to claim and share the taxis that happened to be dropping other passengers off at the train station. It was dog fight as these taxis were few and far between.
The lady behind us commented that the Airport Shuttles didn't seem to be coming and asked if we wanted to split a taxi to the airport. We told her that all of our taxi/Uber booking attempts had been failing. She said she had a friend who could get us a taxi so we agreed. After some time, her friend called back and was also unsuccessful at getting through to book a taxi. The three of us decided to walk to a different road to flag down a taxi - still no luck.
We returned to the back of the line feeling stressed as our flight time continued to inch closer. After another 20 minutes of waiting in the unmoving line, a shuttle finally arrived. It loaded up passengers and the line barely moved. We finally made the decision to bail.
We went into the train station McDonalds for a coffee and used their internet to booked another flight out. On the plus side, there happens to be plenty of flights to London so we were able to book new flights for 4pm that afternoon at €192 for both of us. Since, earlier, we had gotten to the point where we were willing to pay €150 for the Uber, we reasoned that needing to pay for that new flight wasn't so bad. Plus, since the train strike ended at noon, we were able to make use of the €23 of train tickets that we had already purchased that morning. Lastly, thanks to our very flexible employer, we were able to make up the hours we missed during subsequent evenings/weekend.
As soon as the strike ended we went straight to the airport and discovered a full fledged Christmas market right at the Munich airport - with an actual skating rink!
It was a long day, but we happily made it back home and wrapped up the trip with a good early night's sleep.