Monday, September 14, 2009

From Mahtomedi to Milan & Münich

I have a friend from home who had a wedding in England and then decided to travel throughout Europe for the days following the wedding. I was fortunate enough to meet up with him for the past two weekends in Milan, Zürich and finally Münich--a long way from Mahtomedi!

The two weekends were not only different from one another in location but also in experience. Here are Milan & Münich: a comparison.

I arrived in Milan after an uneventful train ride a little bit after midnight. The train station was architecturally beautiful and not even the homeless and/or scraggly travelers (sometimes it is hard to tell them apart) who were asleep on the benches could take away from the beauty of the train station. I immediately liked Milan, despite 1) hearing how gross it was 2) my mother potentially being on a Milan's Most Wanted List for skirting her driving tickets and 3) the faint smell of urine that wafted throughout the train station. I made my way to our hotel/hostel and for once I wasn't anxious about not finding it--I think it had something to do with the reassuring fact that if I couldn't find it I could, at least, sleep at the train station. Luckily I found our lodging, perhaps not the greatest looking building but it definitely had character! and my friend Jack. (Yes, I know the irony. I think when you are named after a famous couple you are destined--or is it doomed?--to make friends with people who complete the pair. Even if your sibling already completes the nursery rhyme...) Jack & I decided to explore a bit and since we were weren't quite in the city center it was hard to find a bar that a) was still open and b) that didn't resemble a brothel. Needless to say it wasn't a very wild evening!

Saturday started out with breakfast looking over the Duomo which was one of the more stunning cathedrals I've ever seen. After breakfast we explored the city (sans map--which is hard for a map-control freak like me!) found a great street market (where I got a jacket for 3 Euro--water bottles in Zürich are more than 3 CHF! And sadly I'm not even exaggerating) and had a wonderful pizza lunch at a restaurant. I am continuously amazed at the prices of things outside of Switzerland (a pizza for 5 Euro?! Welcome to heaven) After lunch we headed back towards out hotel where I decided to do what Milan is known best for... shop! I went to stores that I could actually afford (as pretty as the Prada store is I'd rather try things on than just window shop) and had a great afternoon of shopping. That evening we finished our massive pizzas from lunch, drank wine that came from a box (Heaberg Italy style--And old habits die hard, sorry mom) and introduced Jack to an old friend I know & love: Nutella. How he can have spent a lot of time in Europe before and not have had Nutella is comprable to living in Minnesota and never having eaten fried food: it just doesn't happen! After we went for dessert (Nutella is not dessert, it is its own food group) and drinks that overlook the Duomo again and had a great evening.

Sunday morning we woke up early and headed back to Zürich. As Jack was my first visitor (of many, I hope!) I was a little nervous to ensure that he had a good time and loved Zürich as much as I do. We explored and toured around and I rattled off any and all the historic information that I had learned in the last months and he didn't seem too bored so I think it was a success! He left Monday morning for Vienna (lucky!) and we had plans to meet back up Friday in Münich.

My arrival in Münich was even easier than Milan--the train station wasn't nearly as beautiful as the one in Milan but it didn't have the same aroma so it was still pleasant. I found the hotel in minutes, and remembered the way to the Oktoberfest grounds that I had been to two years ago with my Denison friends! Walking around in the hour before Jack arrived showed me that although I had "been to Münich" in 2007 for Oktoberfest I hadn't really been to Münich. I had been in a secluded corner missing out on all the gorgeous architecture that was the city center. After Jack arrived (at our hotel which was incredibly clean and nice--very different from our Italian one!) I devised a game plan (this time with a map) and we headed out to the heart of Münich. After a bit of touring we stopped for our first, of many, beers, followed by an enormous pretzel and even bigger beers! After we headed back to put on warmer clothes (is it fall already?) and attempted to go to the Oktoberfest grounds for more beer--unfortunately they were closed in preparation for Oktoberfest which starts next weekend--but we ended up having kebabs (another favorite food group of mine) and having a couple drinks at our hotel.

Saturday we got breakfast and explored a bit, then headed out to the Olympic Stadium. Jack & I are both big Olympics fans so this was really fun to see, although it was hard to envision the stadium jam-packed with people in all its former glory. After more pretzels and beer (a trend for the weekend) we headed back to the city center for an evening sampling all the Weiß beer (me) and the Lagers (Jack) from a few of the restaurants which was, of course, really enjoyable. We went out to dinner, where I ordered in German, which sounds more ompressive than it is because what I ordered for Jack was literally four hot dogs (right up Howie's alley) and I got a salad but in place of the lettuce there was basically meat... Guess I should practice my German a bit more! After we saw some fantastic street performers, classical, pop/rock, and one guy that we were convinced was the artist Colin Hay (I swear it was, aside from his appearance that is).

Jack had an early flight back to London and then home Sunday so I had the day to spend in Münich. I explored the churches, climbing up all the stairs--my dad would have been proud!--which then necessitated one last Weiß beer next to the Rathaus. I had a great weekend but was always glad to be headed back to Zürich!


  1. I do plan to head to Zurich eventually.
    I want to get all the day trips around here done with first while the summer foliage is still about.
    I love where I am living. Geneva and Lausanne are about 30 minutes if I want to head into a large city. Otherwise my little town is perfect. We live a bit up the Jura mountains and I have an amazing view of Lake Geneva and the Alps from here.
    If you ever make out this way let me know! I would love to show you around!

    There are lots of expats, but not too many Americans.

    I haven't heard of that one before- I'll have to check it out. I've been using a bit. Here in the area there is an Au Pair club that just started so I hope to meet people there.
    I went to college at UW-River Falls in Wisconsin and lived there for a few years. I lived in Woodbury,MN for a little while and I was last living in Eden Prairie, MN with my boyfriend. Where about were you from?

    I'm off to Oktoberfest next weekend. Any advice? I am hoping to go to the gardens all day on Saturday and then spend Sunday around the city- since I can't drink before I drive us home!
    PS- If you like Nutella you HAVE to have some Nutella gelato! Most amazing stuff on earth. For some reason I can only seem to find it in France.

  2. jilly, I cant believe you went to any type of olympic activity/building ANYTHING without me. im so jealous it sounds amazing

  3. Hi Jill,I'm a writer for the White Bear Press in MN. Your blog popped up on my Google alerts. Are you from Mahtomedi? If so, could I write an article about your adventures in Switzerland. If you're willing, please give me a call at 651-407-1233 or email at

  4. Jill, Never heard of Nutella until I read about it on your blog. Bought some yesterday, your right it's great. JC