A Perfect Day

I travelled into Munich on Saturday afternoon.  Compared to last weekend’s total bust of an Ingolstadt day trip,  this weekend’s trip resulted an absolutely perfect day.  It helps that I had a specific goal in mind.  I had acquired a ticket to see Dinosaurier: Im Reich Der Giganten.  I gave myself a little bit of padding time before and after the show, and that extra time is where the day became really successful.

It also helps that Munich is a vibrant and amazing city, with a lot of really cool stuff going on.  There’s so much cool stuff in Munich that even after repeated trips to the city, I’m still ticking things off my “Ooh, I’ve gotta see that sometime!” list.

I went a little bit early today with the intent of finally getting to see the Ruhmeshalle.  I had already seen Walhalla and the Befreiungshalle  (“Hall of Liberation”).  This is a sort of companion piece to the both of them, since they were all originally commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria.  I did make it to the Ruhmeshalle, but I could’t go inside because it was closed up- probably because most of the stairs were still iced over.  At least I got to see it, along with the statue of Bavaria in front.  I’ll have to go back there some other time, when it’s a little bit less icy.


Because I took a detour to an area of Munich I hadn’t seen on my way to the Ruhmeshalle, I got to see several other interesting things.  First of all, there’s this wacky staircase at the KPMG Building:


Secondly, I got to see a random giant snail.  I have no idea whatsoever what this snail’s deal is, but I assume he’s related to the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum, a part of the Deutsches Museum near Theresienwiese.  It’s a giant glass building filled with trains and planes and automobiles.  And at least one helicopter.    I really need to go back there sometime- I love things that go zoom.  Anyway, here’s the snail.  Doesn’t he look happy?


After my detour into giant snail and unpossible staircase-land, I went on to the dinosaurs that were my reason for going to Munich.  If you go to the Dinosaurier Live site, you can see some cool promotional video of the show.  My seats were way up in “sherpa guides and oxygen tanks” territory, but I still took a few pictures.  Click for bigger. (And a quick side note- remember the brontosaurus?  I miss that big guy.)

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I debated whether or not to include video clips, but the way they animate the dinosaurs is really quite amazing, so here’s two short clips.

By the time I came out of the Olympiahalle, the overcast day had given way to sunny and gorgeous, because springtime is banging at the door here.  My walk back to the U-Bahn took me right past the Olympiaturm, another place on my “I want to go there” list.   Since the skies had cleared up, and I had an hour to the next train back to Regensburg, I decided to hop in for a look-see.   There’s a restaurant up at the top of the Olympiaturm, and I’d like to eat there some time in the future.  I love restaurants in tall places.  (I’ve been to restaurants in the Skylon in Niagara Falls, the CN Tower in Toronto, and a few other super-tall places.  My love of dining in the sky knows no bounds.)  This is the Olympiaturm.


Since the weather had cleared,the views from the top were amazing.  It still wasn’t clear enough for me to see the Zugspitze, but I’m ok with waiting until May to see that for myself.  In this picture, you can see the BMW complex.  You can also see the shadow of the Olympiaturm, which cracks me up.


At the foot of the Olympiaturm, there is a pond.  And in that pond, the forces of Springtime were amassing.  And eating pretzels from all the passersby.  Ever seen a mallard duck trying to chew up a piece of pretzel?  It’s high comedy.   Aside from that, it was really quite lovely, though.  A perfect end to a pretty amazing day.


To top it all off, when my train left Munich, we passed an open field where four small deer were playing in the snow.  Seriously- a perfect day.

Tell me about the last time you had a perfect day.


Bavaria Filmstadt

Last weekend, while I was about 85% recovered from the touch of cold-flu-whatever, I had my first guest visit from the US, my friend Lorrie. We’re both fans of movies and television, so we decided to visit Bavaria Filmstadt, a working film and television studio on the outskirts of Munich. I had only just learned of the film studio’s existence, but I’ve seen a lot of their work. I suspect most of you have seen stuff from Bavaria Filmstadt too.

This studio has been active for decades, and many well known titles were filmed here. Here is just a few that filmed here:

To get to the studio from the Hauptbahnhof, we first took a U-Bahn for part of the way, and a Tram for the last part of the trip. The tram deposits you within walking distance (about half a kilometer) from the main gate. The studio is clearly marked. This first sign pointed us in the right direction, and a series of smaller signs told us when we got 400 meters away from the main gate, 300 meters away, and so forth.


At the main gate, you have to select your experience- there’s a tour, a “4D adventure,” and the Bullyversum. The Bullyversum is a separate section related to the films of Michael “Bully” Herbig, a comedic actor from the region who has become famous for his parody movies. I actually have the sci-fi one, “Traumschiff Surprise: Periode 1” on DVD. Here’s the trailer for that, just to give you a sense of what the movie is like:

We elected to do the tour and the 4d movie, but not Bullyversum, since a) the tour was in German and Lorrie speaks only English, b) she had never seen any Bully movies, and c) neither one of us was particularly interested in that part of the park. As it was, the tour and the 4d movie would take up about two hours of daylight, leaving us with little time to see anything else in Munich.

Once we paid our admission and tour fees, we had a short wait for the tour to begin. This gave us a chance to pop into the studio’s McDonald’s for a quick beverage- tromping around in the snow is thirsty work.


We also went into the studio’s gift shop, which was McDonald’s adjacent. There were three things I nearly purchased. The first was a plush Falkor from The Neverending Story. He was so soft!

The second thing I nearly purchased was an Auryn, also from The Neverending Story. After all the trouble they went to to find the Auryn in the movie, it turns out there’s an entire box of them for sale in Munich!


The third thing I nearly purchased in the gift shop was a uniform shirt from Traumschiff Surprise. They were surprisingly high quality, and there’s something fun about a dayglow color like that.


After a few minutes wandering around the gift shop, the group started to gather for the tour. We moved outside to be with that group, and to look around at some of the scenery in the waiting area. There was a large model of the submarine from Das Boot, as well as a section of the spacecraft from Enemy Mine.

Enemy Mine

Additionally, there were some replicas of things used in The Neverending Story. Seen here are the Rockbiter and the Racing Snail:

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Before much longer, it was time for the tour to begin. Parts of the tour went into hangar style buildings, but a great deal of it involved being outside in the snow. In hindsight, this was not an ideal winter activity.

The golden carriage below is from a current theatrical release, Ludwig II, which is about King Ludwig the second of Bavaria, the man responsible for many impressive buildings and monuments all over Germany.


One part of the tour allowed someone to re-enact a scene from a popular German television show.

Bavaria Filmstadt Tour

One of the big set-pieces of the tour was the Das Boot section. There were numerous models of the submarine in various sizes, including a life-sized tower.

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In addition, you can walk through the interior of the sub. This was originally done in three side-by-side sections on a gimbal so that motion could be simulated realistically. It has now been layed out in one single track that you walk through. You can see engineering, sleeping quarters, and the conn with a periscope. This is not for the claustrophobic.


After Das Boot, the tour went outside again to show us the viking ship from the “Vicky The Viking” movie, Wickie und die starken Männer. (Literal translation: Vicky and the Strong Men.)

Wickie's Boat

Vicky The Viking is based on a popular cartoon. Here’s some video to show you the differences:

Finally, we got to the section that I was most interested in- The Neverending Story. They had a lot of behind the scenes imagery, like a shot of the Swamps Of Sadness set and this giant poster photograph showing puppeteers working on the Falkor model with the Rockbiter standing by:


Also present were the original matte painting of the Ivory Tower, and the models used for the Southern Oracle.

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My favorite part, naturally, was the giant bluescreen Falkor. Obviously, this was put in place for the children on the tour:


…but really, I’m just a big kid, and I couldn’t resist a shot. Plus, as a bonus, you can see in the monitor behind my hand what it looked like with the bluescreen composite.


The 4d movie, when we got to it after the tour, was a full experience ride with 3D glasses that lasted about five minutes. It was entertaining, but not as cool as the life-sized Falkor model.

Are any of the movies or shows produced at Bavaria Filmstadt in your favorites?

Ain’t No Party Like A Tollwood Party

I rang in the new year with Hanley and Esther at the awesome 2012 Tollwood Silvester Party.  Hanley wrote about it in her own blog, so if you read both of us, this will seem like a bit of a repeat.

The Tollwood Winter Festival takes place at Theresienwiese,  a 420,000 square meter (4,500,000 sq ft) space in the city of Munich.  This is the same space that holds the world famous Oktoberfest each year.    Tollwood is also a summer festival with a tremendous amount of live music-  the 2013 Sommerfestival lineup so far includes ZZ Top and the Pet Shop Boys.  I’ll probably wind up there at some point.

The Winterfestival wraps up with a giant Silvester party on December 31st.  There are four giant tents with bands and DJs.  There’s another tent that is nothing but various types of food.   The various tents are on the outer edges of a vast open space where people can congregate to view fireworks.  We’ll get to that.   This is the view in from the front gate.


When I say tent here, I’m not talking about the little things you use to go camping, I’m talking about things that are larger than the building my apartment is in.  This is inside the tent for the first band we watched, the Stimulators.  You can see the roof of the tent sloping up behind the giant sphere- these things were huge.


We also saw a pretty nifty band called Jamaram in one of the other tents.  They’re a pretty large group.


I hadn’t heard of them before this outing, but a few of their songs were catchy enough to remain stuck in my head for several days afterward.  “Oh My Gosh,” for example-

We spent the last hour in a tent watching Rockomotion, a classic rock cover band.  Pretty much everything they played was recognizable.  They even did Hip To Be Square, and the last song they played right before midnight was The Time Warp.  If you search for Rockomotion on Youtube, you’ll see lots of clips of them doing well known songs.

The band stopped a few minutes before midnight to allow everyone time to get out of the tents and into the big central open area, and then there were fireworks.  Lots of fireworks.  The Theresienwiese is in the center of an access road called Bavariaring, and there were fireworks visible for 360 degrees-  all along the Bavariaring.  The fireworks went on for more than twenty-five minutes.  Some of it was official Tollwood fireworks, to be sure, but some of it was just the German people setting off their own fireworks.  This was my second New Year’s Eve in Germany, and I realize now that the Germans are kind of insane when it comes to fireworks.  They use a lot of them, they don’t much care where they’re pointed, and they don’t seem to worry about their own safety.

It sure makes for a hell of a show, though. Imagine twenty-five uninterrupted minutes of fireworks at the quantity and  frequency of what you can see in the video below. (The video is only three seconds long because I thought my phone was set to still pictures, not video.)  The Tollwood party was great fun, even if I did get the flu while I was there.  Where did the rest of you ring in the new year?

Christkindlmarkt Time

It’s that time of year again. For the month of December, right up until Christmas Eve, the Christkindlmarkt or Christmas Market is open in cities and towns all over Germany and Austria.

Also called Weihnachtsmarkt, the Chrstmas Market is typically held during the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas. Nearby Nuremberg has one of the most famous Christmas Markets in the world, although I haven’t been to that one. Perhaps next year. According to The Internets, the Nuremberg and Dresden markets draw about two million people each year; the Stuttgart market attracts more than three million visitors while the Dortmund market can claim to be one of the biggest Christmas markets in Germany with more than three and a half million visitors each year.

Yes, the Christkindlmarkt is a pretty big deal around these parts.

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There are three types of stalls in a typical Christmas Market:

The first type is for buying things. There are carved wooden nutcrackers, jewelry, and clothing to be found. I didn’t take many pictures of the crafts themselves, but I thought this candle was pretty.


The second type is food- candied and toasted almonds are a staple item. So is Lebkuchen, a soft form of gingerbread. Chocolate is everywhere.

My favorites tend to be the savory, rather than the sweet. The first item here is a simple Regensburger Bratwurst – it contains pickles, sweet mustard, and a dash of horseradish, served on a semmel, or bread roll. Sehr lecker! The second photo is a half-meter bratwurst. The third is a kind of swirly potato thing that has the consistency of a giant french fry and the flavor of BBQ potato chips.

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There are stalls for purchasing crafts, food stalls, and the ever-present Glühwein vendors. I’ve mentioned Glühwein on this blog before; it’s hot mulled wine that turns up during this time of year. There’s a regular red wine flavor, and there are often various fruit flavors mixed. I like Apfel (apple) and Blaubeere (blueberry) Glühwein.


Every Christmas Market has different mugs for their Glühwein. When you get your drink, you pay a Pfand for deposit. Some people collect the mugs instead of returning them to get their Pfand back. The mugs are generally very colorful, and they say a bit about where you got them, so they make excellent souvenirs.


This year, I had the chance to see the Christkindlmarkt in nearby Munich with fellow blogger Hanley. Truth be told, I like the Regensburg market better- the Munich Christkindlmarkt is spread out so that you have to walk for several blocks in each direction to see the entire thing. It’s also significantly more crowded, as cities tend to be.

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There’s one more thing- even if you’re just passing through a town and don’t plan on leaving the Bahnhof, you can usually get a taste of that town’s Christkindlmarkt tradition. In Regensburg, they set up a Glühwein stand right in front of the Hauptbahnhof each year. The Glühwein is a little bit rougher there, but it’s still Glühwein. Served in plastic cups. Yeah.