We arranged to have a shuttle pick us up at our house. It worked out well to get to the airport quickly and also not have to worry about parking at the airport.
Checking-in at the airport ended up being quite a hassle. Due to weather issues around the country, many people needed to have their flights rescheduled. We had to stand in line to get help checking in because neither Lufthansa nor United were recognizing our confirmation number. After several tries and attempts to get help from a customer service representative, we finally were checked-in for our flights.
Shortly before our scheduled take-off to Chicago, we learned that the incoming flight would be late. At that time it was only a 25 minute delay. After boarding the plane 40 minutes after scheduled take-off, we learned that the auxiliary engine used to provide heat to the plane was out. This called for immediate maintenance. We were told it would probably be a quick fix so we stayed on the plane only to be told we were going to have to de-plane and then be told to stay on the plane. Our flight ended up taking off 15 minutes after our scheduled arrival in Chicago. Thankfully, the wind was in our favor and we arrived with barely enough time to make our connection which was also delayed by 15 minutes.
Our flight from Chicago to Frankfurt went smoothly. There was plenty of in-flight entertainment through the in-seat video screen. Adam watched Hangover 3, which turned out to be exactly as he expected, and started Elysium. I read for a good portion of the flight and watched The Long Way Way Back, which ended up being what I expected but not what I was hoping for. However, given that this flight covered what would have been our afternoon to evening, we found it very difficult to get enough quality sleep.
We were exhausted when we arrived in Frankfurt yet we still had one more (short) leg of our journey to complete. We both slept from take-off to touchdown on the 35 minute flight to Munich.
Once in Munich, we gathered our luggage, got cash from the ATM, and found the S-bahn (lightrail train). A man flying out from Munich later that day offered us his multi-use ticket so we didn’t have to hassle with the ticket machines.
The train arrived in Munich shortly before 11. We had some minor difficulty orienting ourselves but eventually arrived at our hotel. Luckily, our room had already been cleaned so we were able to check-in early! After almost 19 hours of traveling with hundreds of other people, we were ready to shower and rest our eyes for a bit. We napped for an hour and then went to explore the city.
Our explorations brought us to the Marienplatz, Viktuallen Markt, and Christkindelmarkt (Christmas market). We were surprised by how busy the Christmas market was. We knew there would be a lot of people shopping, but we assumed it would be mostly strolling and shopping. It was actually quite difficult to stick together. While wandering the Viktuallen Markt, we happened upon a store called My Muesli. We brought breakfast muesli for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
We also learned how seriously Germans take their bike lanes (which are not always labeled) and street crossing signs. No one even thinks to jaywalk here.
We grabbed a snack of classically-flavored bratwurst on a bun. Yes, even I had a few bites. After our snack, we stopped at a store called Kaufhof. At first I thought it was most like Macy’s but they also had a medium-sized toy store, small office store, and decent grocery store inside. One of our favorite things to do while on vacation is to stop at a grocery store and look at different products. Today our favorite find was McDonald’s branded ketchup. It took us awhile to find a small portion of vanilla yogurt to go with our muesli but eventually we parsed through all of the terminology.
We grabbed dinner at a touristy Italian place and then had some gelato with shovel spoons.
We were back in our hotel room by 7, and certainly more than ready by this time to call it a day.
Oddly enough, despite having only 7 hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, both of us were wide awake at 2:30am. Thankfully, we were able to get back to sleep.
We spent a lazy morning in the hotel room doing some research on our upcoming activities and having our breakfast of yogurt and muesli. We finally left our hotel room around 11:30 to do some more exploring.
We visited the Christmas Market again and were more diligent about taking photos. We bought a few more souvenirs and stopped at a bookstore (another one of our traveling traditions). We wanted to also stop and see the Residenz and Englischer Gartens in the afternoon as well but we didn’t quite get there because stores were closing early. We had to stop at the grocery store in case restaurants were closed for the rest of today and tomorrow. Thankfully we were thinking ahead and did this because nearly everything was shut down by 3. The Christmas Market closed at 2, and we just barely were able to get our lunch of fried potatoes and bratwurst.
At the grocery store we learned that you unload your shopping basket prior to placing it on the conveyor belt and that you pick your bag on your own and place it on the conveyor belt. We ended up having to walk back to our hotel carrying our groceries in our arms because of this mistake.
After relaxing for a few minutes in the hotel, we went to a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church. We both found that we understood a significant portion of the service and enjoyed singing classic Christmas songs in a foreign language. It was also interesting to see which songs are the traditional songs that all Germans know by heart. The children all received carabiners as part of their children’s sermon encouraging them to keep Jesus and God close to their hearts. During the prayers it was quite funny to hear them repeatedly say “Herr Jesus” (or Mr. Jesus).