Last weekend, I had the opportunity to join my husband in Europe. He was finishing up a week of business travel – and I was anxious to see him, spend time with him, and explore a new destination with him.
After looking at potential travel options for us, we decided on Prague - a city we’d never visited and has always held a bit of Bohemian mystique for us.
I was flying there from Chicago. My husband was flying there from Krakow, Poland. Based on available flights, it looked like it would work best for us to meet in Munich and then travel on to Prague together.
Munich was to be our travel crossroads – in more ways than one.
When a layover becomes an opportunity to explore
In booking my travel, we came across an interesting choice. We could have a five-hour layover in Munich or extend it to eight hours, allowing us to arrive in Prague around 7:30 pm - instead of earlier in the day.
Trains into Munich run about every 15 minutes and clock in at about a 40-minute ride. After doing the math, we weren’t sure how much time we’d actually have to see anything in Munich. So we decided to seize the opportunity to extend our time there so we could see a bit more of the Bavarian city.
My husband had never been to Munich. I’d been there once with my sister about 10 years ago. So, the decision was an easy one. We extended our layover by three hours, and set our sights on exploring Munich before heading to Prague.
But, as is often the case when traveling, you’ve got to expect the unexpected and be open to anything.
A travelers edict: Be open to anything
When my flight landed in Munich, I learned that my husband wouldn’t be able to join me until later that afternoon after his new flight landed there – four hours after mine.
So, it was just me and Munich for a few hours.
Even though our original plan had changed a bit, we knew we could still see a bit of Munich together, marking off one more city that we’ve been able to experience with each other.
It was about accepting the travel enigma and seizing the opportunity to make the most of a layover in Munich – even if I got a head start on my husband.
A taste of Munich – in just a few hours
I know I only scratched the surface when it comes to experiencing Munich – especially the week before Oktoberfest. But, that’s okay with me. It was better than nothing. And, way better than only having seen Munich from the confines of the airport.
In the few hours before my husband was able to join me, I explored the area around Marienplatz Square, which is often referred to as the heart of Munich. From there, I explored the many streets that radiate off of the square.
In one direction, I browsed through the Viktualienmarkt, an outdoor market teeming with stalls selling breads, produce, prepared foods and more. At its center was a maypole and a bustling beer garden.
In another direction, I followed the sounds of an oompa band to the original Hofbräushaus, which was packed with people sitting at long wooden tables, shouting “proust” with huge mugs of beer in their hands.
In yet another direction, I walked along Maximilianstraße, which was set up with tents for what seemed to be an early Oktoberfest celebration.
And, I did it all fueled up with a large pretzel (or brezel) – and a much-needed coffee.
When it was time to meet my husband back in Marienplatz Square, I plotted out a short tour for him to show off the highlights of the very center of the city – and to give him a taste of Munich.
Back on the S-Bahn train to the airport, we were energized with the sights and sounds of Munich and ready to head to Prague. Munich proved to be the perfect place to make the most of a layover – even if it proved to be a bit shorter one for my husband.
It’s amazing how productive you can be as a traveler when you're motivated to get out and explore - even with just a few hours to spare.
Our short layover allowed us to see the local culture, sample the local food, and feel the energy of the people in Munich - outside of the airport. And, it showed us why we need to plan a return trip to Munich very soon.
Have you ever chosen to extend your layover to get to see the city – and not just the airport? Where did you go? What was the shortest amount of time you’ve spent in a city? Do you view layovers as opportunities, too? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
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