Restaurant Review: 捞王 Hotpot

Last post, I mentioned how we went to hotpot for dinner. Well, that hot pot place was DELICIOUS, so I decided to write it a review:

捞王

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捞王(lao wang) is a relatively upstart hotpot chain that has taken Shanghai by storm. There are over 20 locations in Shanghai and none of them have less than 4 stars on 大众点评 (China’s version of Yelp). They are famous for their broth as well as their clay pot rice. We went to the Laya Plaza location

Atmosphere

The restaurant is in a corner right between two other restaurants, so we didn’t even notice it until a family friend took us. As expected from a great restaurant, there was pretty epic queueing. Of course, the fact that it was a holiday didn’t really help the situation. We were lucky; there was only one group of 8+ before our turn. Nevertheless, we had to wait for almost 1.5 hrs. For the 1-5 table, the waiting list went from 44 to 79. The interior was rather Chinese chic: clean and modern, but with traditional elements

It was also quite loud, which is expected for hot pot. It ‘s a great place, but it’s location is at a bit of a disadvantage.

Food

捞王 is a hotpot restaurant, so most of the food is just platters and platters of raw meats and veggies. (we ordered WAY too much meat)

That's 1/3 of our order
That’s 1/3 of our order

The meat was very fresh and the house made tofu was to die for. There was also a huge selection of mushrooms. Unfortunately, they ran out of house grown ones

The items were great, but it is more famous for two things: The hot pot broth and clay pot rice

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The hot pot broth is essentially just spiced pork bone broth simmered for 24 hrs. After, they throw in mushrooms, more herbs, pork intestines, and chicken. It’s soooo rich and delicious. It also comes in varying degrees of spiciness. We ordered the original.

Clay pot rice is a staple up north. Apparently 捞王 does it just as good, or better. Basically, it’s rice steamed with sausage and cured meat, then mixed with oil and soy sauce. To be honest, I didn’t like it. The cured meat and sausage were strangely sweet and the rice was extremely greasy.

Sauce Bar

Most Chinese people find plain hotpot too bland, so almost every decent hotpot restaurant has a sauce bar. This restaurant is no different.

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(Believe it or not, there are people who use chili sauce with their extra spicy hotpot)

I personally don’t like dipping sauces, but it’s cool.

Service

The service was generally great. The waitresses were attentive and very helpful. They taught us how to properly cook the stuff and when to eat what item. Best of all, when we told them it was my dad’s birthday, they played happy birthday on the speaker.

My only complaint is that there aren’t enough servers for the huge demand, so some of our requests were pretty much ignored. Good effort though

Overall impressions

I was very impressed by the restaurant and would love to try some of the other locations!

 

 

 

 

Happy Moon Festival

Hi!!!!! I’ve delayed posting this week because yesterday (today for the states) is Mid-Autumn Festival!!!!!

I am not going to say much because I did a post last year, but it was awesome. We spent the day with my aunt and had dinner at this delicious hot pot place. Unfortunately, due to the passing typhoon, there was no moon. We also ate moon cakes and celebrated my dad’s birthday!!!!

So, Happy Mid- Autumn Festival. Watch the moon and eat moon cakes!!!

Restaurant Review: Crayfish Restaurant

Hi!!! Another week has passed. Time really goes by quickly doesn’t it. Onto the post:

Crayfish Restaurant:

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First, a bit of background. A few weeks ago, I was walking near Thumb Plaza, when I made an amazing discovery. A new restaurant had opened. Even better, the restaurant’s advertised crayfish. I am a HUGE seafood junkie; I HAD to try it out. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the time…. until yesterday.

Atmosphere:

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The atmosphere was definitely a shocker. I knew this was not a typical crayfish restaurant the moment I walked in. First, the interior decor was elegant chic, almost fancy. In China, at least, good crayfish is almost exclusive to hole in the wall night stalls. More alarmingly, it was quiet. However, the lack of people did allow us to score  seats on the outside balcony. Best feeling ever.

Food:

I must say, the menu was underwhelming, initially. There was relatively little variety and the items were pretty expensive. However, what they lacked in variety, they made up in flavor.

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Rice in crayfish broth- Guess what? The restaurant doesn’t serve rice. Of course, who needs boring white rice when you can have it cooked in a rich flavorful broth. This dish was DELICIOUS!!! The broth was uber- unami, without the MSG aftertaste; the rice was not too sticky and it was not greasy. Even my dad, who doesn’t like seafood, loved it.

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Spicy (Chinese style) marinated cuttlefish- My dad was struggling to look for something on the menu. He settled on spicy, marinated cuttlefish. Spicy? Marinated? Cuttlefish? Sounded good to me. It was great. The cuttlefish was unbelievably tender and absorbed all the flavor. If cuttlefish isn’t your thing, they have a rather wide variety of other marinated seafoods.

Kebabs- I was shocked by these. Normally, Chinese restaurants that serve good meat are a bit deficient in the seafood department and vice versa. Thus, when the waiter recommended the grilled lamb, I was shocked and a bit suspicious. We didn’t really have a choice on this one anyways; crayfish wasn’t going to cut it for a meal. Rather reluctantly, I ordered two grilled sauries and my dad got 4 lamb kebabs. The waiter was right; they were amazing. I will even go as far as to say that the saury tasted better than the ones from the Japanese restaurant downstairs.

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Crayfish- I saved the best for last. The restaurant’s name is Crayfish Restaurant. Thus, it was pretty obvious what we had to order. The decision wasn’t as simple as ticking off a box though. The restaurant had 8 different varieties, in 3 different sizes. In the end, we decided on the garlic flavor. Definitely worth the price. The crayfish was fresh and sweet, which matched perfectly with the savory richness of the sauce. Eating crayfish is a messy and hot affair, but don’t worry, the restaurant provides bibs and gloves.

Tip: Do NOT discard the head. There is a reason why it is disproportionally large. It’s the juicest, most succulent part.

Overall impressions:

Crayfish Restaurant is a great restaurant. Although it is a bit overpriced, the food makes it up a great deal. I will be returning soon.

That’s it for now. Have a great week!!!!

 

Recipe Post: Marinated Beef

Hi!!!! It’s been a while since I last posted a recipe, so I thought it would be nice to start doing that again. Right?

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As the title says, today’s recipe is for “marinated beef tendon”. Sounds strange? Not really. I’ve already thrown around the term “marinated meat” (卤肉in Chinese)in a few previous posts. It refers to meat that’s boiled with soysauce and spices. If that sounds vague, the recipe should explain pretty well. If the recipe still sounds strange, try it out. I promise it is good.

In this recipe, I’m using beef (actually yak) tendon, because that’s what I had. However, any tough, lean cut of meat will work. It also works with softer things like eggs and tofu. If you are really adventurous, you could try pork knuckle, liver, pig ear, feet and even gizzards. The possibilities are endless (Obviously the cooking times will vary). As a rule for meats though, the longer it is cooked, the more flavorful and tender. Onto the recipe:


Marinated Beef

Ingredients

  •  2-3 8 oz. cuts of lean beef or other meat
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • unground spices, at least 4 types
  • a splash of cooking wine
  • ginger- cut into large, thin slices
  • 1-1.5l water

Directions

  1.  Wash the meat if necessary, then make a few shallow cuts into the meat. This allows the flavor to enter
  2. Fill a pot 60-70% full and put the meat in. Parboil for 5-10 minutes. Once boiling, remove any foam that comes up, especially if it is grey.
  3. Discard the dirty water and refill the pot. Add the spices, soy sauce, cooking wine and ginger. Cover and allow to boil
  4. Once boiling, turn the heat down and allow to slowly cook for at least 1.5hrs. Ideally, cook for 3-5hrs.
  5. Remove from heat, slice and Enjoy!!!!

[\recipe]

Well, I hope you have a good weekend. See you next week!

Delicious Weekend!!!!

Hi!! Sorry for posting so late; it’s almost time for this week’s post. Anyways, quick update: As it turns out, AP world is not as much work as I expected, and neither are my other classes. YAY!!! More time for food!!!! Also, XC season started. Other that that, the week was pretty normal, until Sunday that is. Here’s what’s up:

Business started at 10am. Literally. My mom and I headed out to attend the first meeting for the SAGE (Students for the Advancement of Global Entreupreunership) business competition (read more here). It was at this really cool meeting place near East Nanjing Rd called The Naked Hub

So, after 2 very fast and informative hours, it was  time for lunch. We headed towards the subway stop.  A subway stop is a strange place for lunch right? Not if the stop is adjacent to a 3 story food court. Especially not if that food court has one of China’s most famous Shanghainese dim sum places. Behold: Nan Xiang steamed bun shop

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Nan Xiang Steamed Bun has been dishing out delicious, handmade dim sum, and other delicacies for over a hundred years. In fact, Nan Xiang, a small town near Shanghai, actually invented the juice dumpling. My expectations were high.  It was just my mom and I so we couldn’t order much. The decision was hard, but we made some pretty good choices. Here were the best

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Marinated cucumber- Marinated cucumber is one of the first things I ask for at any decent looking restaurant. So, of course, I ordered it. It was well marinated but a bit too sweet for me. Apparently, that is authentic Shanghainese, so no comment on that.

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Pumpkin Sweet potato balls- Sounds strange right? Strange but delicious. Plus it’s insanely healthy. Just pumpkin, glutinous rice flour and sweet potato, all rolled together and steamed. No sugar, no additives, nothing.

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Shrimp and pork Dumplings- These little guys were a bit of a disappointment, but their taste got them on the list. They had great flavour and texture, but many were deflated😦 They were still delicious though, just not as good as I expected

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Shepard’s Purse Soup dumplings- of course I saved the best for last. These little morsels of deliciousness were plump and juicy. Basically, fresh shepard’s purse (荠菜)is mixed with cubes of gelatin broth and wrapped in a perfectly elastic skin and steamed for eating pleasure. ORDER THIS!!!!!!

Another highlight of the restaurant was talking to the ladies at the window making the dumplings. They were so nice and actually told me to come back.

…… A few hours later…….

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HOTPOT!!!!!!!

A family friend came to visit so we had to go out. We chose 捞王 in Lianyang Plaza. The restaurant is in a rather obscure corner, behind two other great restaurants, but its location didn’t stop it from being amazing. We ordered the classic mushroom and Chicken broth. PURE DELICIOUSNESS.

About those mushrooms…. the restaurant grows them in house, now that’s fresh.

(The lighting was terrible so sorry, no pics😦

The delicious broth was accompanied by a myriad of meats, veggies and such. The waiter actually had a hard time fitting all our stuff on the cart. We will definitely be going back

At around 8, and totally stuffed, we dragged ourselves and our food babies back to the house. The end of a delicious day. How was your weekend?

How to (properly) Boil Dumplings

Hi!!! Last week was a pretty eventful one. We didn’t go anywhere, but a website asked me to write for them. More importantly, SCHOOL STARTED. Yep, I’m officially a sophomore, ready to tackle AP world and Precalculus. What does that have to do with dumplings?

During the school year, we have a custom of eating dumplings for lunch on either Saturday or Sunday. This is not some traditional or superstitious thing; It’s convenient. They are (relatively) quick to make, quick to eat and cheap. However, they were never good. The dumplings themselves weren’t bad, but something was seriously wrong with our boiling method. They would end up broken and overcooked😦

The good news is that my mom finally discovered the “perfect” method! Before I get into the steps, here are some VERY important Tips:

  •  Use a soup ladle  not a spatula. Soup ladles are rounded, so they give a gentler push.
  • Use a wok, the high width to depth ration of woks makes it easier to move the dumplings. It also gives each one more room. If you don’t have a wok, use the pot (pans don’t work for obvious reasons) with the highest width to depth ratio.
  • Do NOT go out of the kitchen, or worse, look at technology. Boiling dumplings requires a lot of waiting, which gets boring. However, it’s not enough time to check emails or messages. More importantly, there is no exact timing. It all about observation.
  • When adding water, do it around the edges

Onto the steps:

  1. Boil the water. Nothing fancy. The important part here is to KEEP the dumplings FROZEN. Normally I’m all for fresh foods, but for dumplings, keeping them frozen is the key. Do NOT take them out until the water is at a rolling boil, then drop them in. Letting them thaw will allow the liquid water to soften the skin, which makes them break easily
  2. Push the dumplings IMMEDIATELY after they go in. The dumplings will sink like rocks. If they are not pushed, they will stick to the bottom and break. When pushing use the BACK of the appliance (See the 1st tip). The pushing with the front will put the dumplings in contact with the edge. More breakage.
  3. Wait for the dumplings to float. If they look like they are sticking, give them a slight nudge. Other than that, do NOT touch them.
  4. After step 3 is completed, all a little bit of cold water, just enough so that it stops boiling. By this point, the wrapping is pretty much cooked through, but the filling is raw. Adding water reduces the heat and allows for longer cooking
  5. Wait until the water is at a raging boil. Push if necessary, but otherwise don’t touch them. Then repeat step 4.
  6. Boil for an aditional 2-4 min (depending on the amount and size of the dumplings) then Enjoy!

I hope that guide will allow you to say “No more” to overcooked, soggy dumpling. See you next week!

Sorry about the lack of pictures, The steam kept fogging up my  camera.

Plachutta: World Famous Tafelspitz

Ok, maybe I was lying a bit when I said the previous post would be the last on Europe. This one is, but it’s a restaurant review, so it doesn’t really count.

A bit of background: The first night in Vienna, we were so focused on exploring that we didn’t realize we were hungry until we were starving. We hopped into the 1st restaurant we saw- a Russian owned Italian with bad food and worse service. As a compensation, my parents let ME choose the restaurant. Behold….

Plachutta

Plachutta was founded in 1987, by a man named Mario….. Plachutta. It specializes in tafelspitz- Viennese boiled beef- and has 3 locations around Vienna. We went to the original location at Wollzeile 38 and we were definitely not the only ones who heard of Plachutta. The restaurant was packed. It wasn’t just that day. Plachutta calls itself “The world famous Tafelspitz” and with good reason. Check out their celebrity wall: https://www.plachutta.at/en/plachutta_wollzeile/

Well, celebrities are great, but onto the food!!!!

Food

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As I said in my previous post, the tafelspitz is to DIE FOR. Although tafelspitz generally refers to veal flank, Plachutta had a large selection. We ordered one traditional and one with sheep head and ox tongue. Of course there are also various other appetizers/dishes on the menu, but the 2 tafelspitzes were enough. The order comes with grilled slices of house bread, root vegetables, marrow bone, apple horseradish sauce and potato rosti. Each  tafelspitz even comes in its own copper pot.

For those who want to enjoy their tafelspitz the “right way” or simply know where their meat is coming from, each seat comes with a little guide

20160808_184344_resized Don’t read German? no problem

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The broth was a bit salty (still rich and good though), but other than that, words cannot describe the tender juicy deliciousness of the meat. Unlike most boiled dishes, the flavor actually got INTO the meat, not just on the surface. Of course there is also the marrow bone. This is literally the first western restaurant I’ve been to that serves marrow as it is. The guide suggest to spread it on the bread like butter, but I sucked it up before I realized there was English on the back.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere combines the loud, welcoming air of a good Chinese restaurant with all the elegant decor of an upscale western restaurant. Essentially, it is the best of both worlds. Since it is on a street corner, I initially thought it was quite small (read: panicking about possible queueing), but appearances are deceptive:

 

There is enough room in there to sit at least 6-800 people. The kitchen was also pretty cool. Copper pots pretty much lined the entirety of the walls. The small tables and close proximity gives the place an intimate feel so it is definitely a great place for small- group dinner. Unfortunately, that also means there’s not that much space if you order a ton.

Service

Service was decent by normal standards but stellar considering the circumstances. The waiters were very organized and as  attentive as possible. The only issue we had was that we sat in the back, so it took some time for them to notice us when we wanted to order. The food also took less than 30 minutes to get on the table, which is surprising considering the nature of the dish.

Overall Impression

Definitely worth going, even if its just as a tourist stop. I know if I go back to Vienna, I’ll stop there 1st thing.

 

 

 

 

Europe Pt. 3 FOOD!!!!!

Almost done here- last post on Europe!!!

In my previous posts about Munich and Vienna, I’ve avoided talking about the food. Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have great food. With that said, Here’s the scoop:

Overview

German/Austrian food is very hearty and slightly salty. It features……….. potatoes and……….. meat. Basically the food is pretty much in line with the stereotype. We had lots of sausages, hams, roasts, schnitzels…. Beef, chicken and ox is pretty wide spread, but pork is king. Surprisingly pizza and kebabs are also abundant and so are Japanese restaurants (a majority are Chinese- owned). Now to what WE(I) ate:

Vienna:

Lots and lots of sausage. I think I had at least 3 meals that looked like this:

It also comes grilled, fried and bacon wrapped. At first, I was a bit underwhelmed by the appearance of the sausages as they looked exactly like American hot dogs. I was in for a surprise.The overall taste is similar;however, the meat is a lot finer and tasted more natural. The casing  also has pleasant pop when you bite into it. They are pretty salty so I suggest eating them with mustard.

I also tried some streetfood.In Vienna, there were wurstelstands (sausage stands) every few blocks. We stopped by one just to try it out.

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On the 3rd night, we stopped by the film festival to grab a quick dinner from one of the street stands. My dad and I had potato grösti (hash) with blood sausage, sauerkraut and horseradish. DELICIOUS!!!!!!

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Of course we couldn’t exactly live on street food. On the 2nd night we went to Plachutta Wollziele for tafelspitz

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Tafelspitz is essentially boiled veal and root vegetables in broth. It’s not limited to veal either; we had the traditional tafelspitz and a sheep head ox tongue one. At Plachutta, each tafelspitz also comes with two segments of marrow bone (in the soup), house bread, potato rosti and apple horseradish. It was nothing short of amazing. The meat was tender and well seasoned, the broth was rich and finally- a western restaurant that has marrow. My favorite was probably the sheep head meat

Munich

We were pretty busy being tourist here, so most meals were at random cafes. The food was still great though. Here are some of my favorites

Weisswurst

 Wiesswurst is sausage made of veal and pork back bacon seasoned with parsley, salt and maybe lemon.  It’s white because there are no nitrates to preserve the color. Essentially, it’s a more natural version of the classic sausage. I was told most foreigners have a hard time getting used to it, but I thought I tasted great. A bit too much parsley though. The casing is quite thick so some people like to remove it. It’s also commonly eaten with sauerkraut and sweet mustard (mustard, except made with sugar and applesauce); however, I prefer it with regular mustard.

Potato salad

I hate mayonnaise, so I generally stay away from salads not made of raw leafy greens ex egg salad, tuna salad, potato salad. Thus, when my dad ordered this German potato salad, I was pretty hesitant to try it. Luckily, I did (after confirming there was no mayonnaise). It was DELICIOUS. The potato salad was tangy, slightly sweet and also naturally creamy (no mayo or sour cream). There were also hints of mustard. Anyways, TRY IT

Leberkäse (Bavarian meatloaf)

This was the 1st thing I had when I arrived in Munich. I thought it was baked ham, but when I tasted it, it was juicier- as in literally dripping when I cut into it. The taste resembles that of sausage- except …. juicier. The best part, it’s pure meat, no breading, no flour- just meat (and maybe a bit of lard for extra juiciness.

Middle Eastern food

There is a pretty strong Turkish community in Munich so there is an abundance of middle eastern “restaurants”. Most are pretty hole in the wall, but delicious. There were at least 4-5 within a block from our hotel, but since my family doesn’t really like middle eastern cuisine, we only went once. I got chicken skewers (sorry no pics, we were extra hungry). They were charred amazingness. The guy pretty much just threw them onto the coals. I highly suggest trying the middle eastern food

Finally my favorite… Haxe (pork knuckle)

Here in China, there’s some pretty epic Chinese style marinated pork knuckle. Well, in Germany, it has met its match. Meet Schweinshaxe- crispy roasted pork knuckle:

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The knuckles also come pickled and boiled

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Both are HUGE (2-3lbs) and AMAZING. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Things I didn’t like:

Of course I didn’t like everything I tried. Here’s a list:

“Dumplings”- essentially crushed bread mixed with some type of filling and binder. The potato ones are better than the liver ones, just saying

Apple Horseradish sauce- It tastes like spicy apple sauce. Not a good combination

Beer- Okay, I didn’t actually drink beer. My mom got it while I was using the restroom and I thought it was ice tea (after all, the food stall was American). I had a sip and it tasted worse than tonic water. Of course, if you are at drinking age (16 in Germany) and like beer, by all means drink it. Germany has the best beer- according to my mom, and most of the world for that matter.

Schnitzel-  Another famous dish I didn’t like. It was nothing more than a breaded and fried cutlet and I dislike fried foods

Well, that’s it for Europe! Have you been to Vienna or Munich? How was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europe pt. 2 Munich

As promised, I’m back. Onto Munich:

Day 1

We flew to Munich on the 4th day. It took 40 minutes. Although arriving to the airport 2 hrs early for a 40min flight wasn’t much fun, the short flight meant we had pretty much the entire day. What did we do? We spent the afternoon in the Deutsches Museum.

 Doesn’t look too impressive?….

Yep, it’s the entire compound. Deutsches (German) Museum is actually kind of a misnomer because the museum was not about German history or culture but about German science. Then again, science is history and culture for Germany. It had displays ranging from historic aircraft to instruments to biotech and mining. The museum was was absolutely massive so we only got to go to 7-6 exhibits, but even that took almost 3 hrs. Note: during summer months, some of the exhibits are closed and there is pretty heavy construction around the building.

That night, we walked around the city center and dined with one of my dad’s former class mates (more on that later)

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This is the central plaza. We also went to the place where Hitler held his big Munich rally and the Church of St. Peter. We were going to climb the tower, but someone had a heart attack or something and they closed it for “emergency”. Sorry about the lack of photos, it started raining for a bit after the picture above.

IMG_8173 After walking wsa dinner at the Hofbrauhaus.

Day 2

About 1.5-2(depending on traffic) hours outside of Munich is the Nymphenburg Castle. This castle was built starting in 1869 by the last Bavarian king Ludwig II. A good portion of the design was never completed, but it was still beautiful:

20160803_131918_resized His kingly view of the village

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There are also many hiking trails in the back, but we didn’t have that kind of time. To be honest, the castle was nothing too special and there were thousands of tourist, leading to an epic queue to get in. Fortunately, my dad ordered tickets online. I suggest going to the castle to look at it, take a few pics, then spend the rest of the time hiking and enjoying the scenery.

There was a bit of a traffic jam on the way back so we didn’t get back until 7 that evening. Everyone was pretty pooped, so we didn’t do anything else.

Day 3

Last day in Europe! Of course we had to cram the most possible touring into the limited amount of time. The flight wasn’t until 10pm but we agreed to go to my dad’s classmate’s house for dinner at 5. Well, where to go:

First the BMW museum/ world

 BMW world

Essentially a huge car display of the BMW group. I didn’t lear much except that commercial motorcycles can go up to 280kmph, the i8 is WAY more awesome than I expected and that BMW owns Rolls-Royce and minicooper.

IMG_8300 BMW museum

The museum was much more informative. I never knew there was so much to learn about a single car brand. We were going to tour the factory across the street, but Germans get summer vacation. I highly recommend the museum and world to anyone, whether they are into cars or not.

As it so happens the BMW complex is literally across the street from Olympia park. The park was huge, but the actual staduim was closed and most of it was turned into an amusement park😦 It was still interesting to see the wonders of German engineering

IMG_8204 That was built in 1976!!!!!!

Since we didn’t spend much time in the park, we still had a couple of hours to spare. I am a HUGE WWII freak so naturally, we just had to go to Dachau. I wasn’t disappointed. The exhibits gave an entire overview of  the western front from an entirely different perspective. The only regret is that we didn’t have more time. Naturally, we didn’t take pictures inside. After that, it was dinner at the classmate’s house and to the airport.

Well, that’s it for Munich! I’ll be back with the food tomorrow!