Munich, Germany

October 6, 2011 - Munich, Germany

 

 

From our hotel windowToday was the last day of our amazing trip and we both woke up ready to commit to a good one!  We decided to spend one full day in Munich at the advice of our very good friends and neighbors, Wes and Brenda.  Neither Bill nor I are “city folks” although I can enjoy a big city as a visitor from time to time.  After our fiasco of the day before we realized that we really had only one option – to make this work!Cheese stand at the Viktualienmarkt

 

            Our hotel was so named Hotel am Viktualienmarkt because it is just a short block away from the Viktualienmarkt of Munich.  This is a large open air market with (of course) a beer garden to boot.  fruit stand at ViktualienmarktWe strolled around the market just enjoying the visual stimulation from all of the fresh flowers, fruit, and vegetable stands.  There were also cheese shops, bakeries, juiceries (I might have made that word up), little kiosks selling wares.  Between the smell of fresh bread, flowers, and lavender it was wonderful to just stand still, close my eyes and breathe in.  vegetables in ViktualienmarktThe one exception would be the section devoted to the fresh fish; not such a lovely scent.  There were also butcher shops with a full display of wares a bit different that what we are used to seeing in the states.  There were hanging sausages, slabs of dried meat, and whole pig heads in the windows; as well as lungs, kidneys, and livers.  I like to try traditional foods but I’m thinking “no” to the lungs and kidneys.gruesome butcher window display

 

            We moved a short distance up to Marienplatz were we’d attempted to relax a tad yesterday.  The Marienplatz is a large square situated in the center of the old town.  The train station from which we’d catch our train to the airport, was located right there.  Bill and I decided that a practice run for buying our tickets would be a good idea.  We went down the stairs onto the first level and figured everything out for the following morning.  I was convinced we could handle this (though still mildly concerned).looks like dessert to me!

 

Much of Munich was flattened by bombs during World War II but the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) survived pretty much intact.  The building was constructed between 1867 and 1906 and the construction is referred to as Neo-Gothic.  It’s very ornate.  Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) MunichI had read that the best views of the city could be reached by climbing the stairs of several church towers or by taking the elevator to the top of the New Town Hall.  Guess which one we did?  The view from the top of the New Town Hall wasn’t quite as high as that from St. Peter’s Church but it worked for us.  There was close to a 360 degree observation deck and all the various steeples though out town could be seen as could the tall observation tower built for the 1972 Olympic games.  I enjoyed looking down at all the little people in the Marienplatz who had no idea we were there above them.  Once again, the weather was spectacular.  Also from this view we could see the Old Town Hall that was completely rebuilt after WWII and is not nearly as eye-catching as the so-called New Town Hall that is actually older.cherub warrior and glockenspiel

 

In the town square is also a statue of Mary way up on a pedestal dressed a bit like a warrior and holding the Christ child.  Around the bottom are statues of four cherubs fighting the four major petulance of the time; war, hunger, disease and “wrong” faith.  According to my Rick Steves’ book the statue was moved here in 1638.  The wrong faith, represented by a serpent, was that of Martin Luther.  There was a branch of the Deutsch Bank right in the square so I did stop by to see if we could pay our annoying parking ticket.  No such luck.  Wrong bank.  I gave up trying to remember the directions the lady gave me to the correct bank after she told me they would also collect a hefty commission. 

 

BillWe left the bank just in time to catch the glockenspiel at noon.  The glockenspiel is on the front of the New Town Hall and along with a clarion of 43 bells plays a little tune whilst the figures turn around.  It is not exciting but it is unique.  Lots of people hang out just waiting for a chance to see and hear it in action.  We enjoyed it and then moved right along to find the Bier and Ocktoberfest museum.  My main interest in this museum was the building itself, said to have been built in 1347.  Now that’s old!  We arrived to find the museum closed for lunch so we then proceeded to the famous Hofbrauhaus; one of Munich’s most famous beer halls.Beer garden at Hofbrauhaus  Though we had no intention to begin “festivities” so early, we did want to get our bearings so that we could come back later tonight for any available reveling.  We didn’t exactly make a direct route to the place but eventually stumbled upon a back door that was just as good as any.  We entered the actual “garden” that was quite well filled due to the lovely weather.  Chestnut trees were in abundance.  In fact, we saw many chestnut trees in Germany but particularly along the streets in Munich.  The little prickly nut casings were well into the shelling stage and every once in a while when we were walking we’d hear a narrow miss of the shiny brown nuts as they fell around or beside us.

 

We did have a klein (small) beer here before we headed back to the Bier and Oktoberfest Museum.  This was a disappointment to both of us I think.  First of all, when we entered there were maybe 4 or five men standing in a barroom.  We had no idea where we were going and they were certainly not in a hurry to point us in any direction.  We stepped out; tried an adjoining door, and then stepped back in via the only door that opened.  One of the men then got up, took our money, and said what we heard as “go all the way up”.  So we did.  It was as I recall about 3 floors up to the pitched roof section of the building.  There was a short little film there to see about beer brewing and Oktoberfest that was interesting.  As we began to work our way back down, another one of the men pointed us in another direction and said, “very interesting, very interesting, you go this way.”  Interesting alright, it was the exit via what they call in the handout “Heaven’s Stairs”, a very narrow stairway with doors leading off.  I did open some doors up on the way down to do a quick run-through of the places we’d bypassed following what we thought were direction to go right up to the top.  In short, it was okay but I’m not sure I’d go very far out of my way to visit and would not return in the future.

 

street musician in MunichWe knew we had some more traipsing around to do so we took a short break back to the hotel to fix Bill up with some Aleve.  One of his knees had been giving out on him and causing him some pain.  “Better tourism through drugs,” I say.  Legal drugs of course!  We were having a very good time.

 

We decided we’d like to peek into some churches and also get to the Alte Pinakothek, an art gallery featuring great master painters from the 14th to the 19th century.  First we popped into St. Peter’s church right off the Viktualienmarkt.  This was the church from which we established most of our bearings when venturing out of our hotel, as well as the oldest church in town.  We stepped inside to the smell of incense and a view of the church’s interior.  This church had been heavily bombed during the war as well and had been rebuilt.  Many things were gilded in gold and it was quite lovely, and not as over-the-top as some of the other Rococo churches we’d visited.  I hadn’t really planned on even stepping into St. Peters.  Little did I know how willing Bill would be to check out old churches.coin operated

 

We made our way through Marienplatz and I marveled at some of the many street performers there.  We’d listened to several Klezmer bands since arriving in the city.  The best way I can describe Klezmer is as traditional eastern European Jewish music.  I had not ever seen a Klezmer band before and at first it was kind of unique and interesting.  By the end of the day, I was thinking, “Genug!” (Enough!)  There were street artist posing as sculptures; one beautiful woman all spray-painted white.  She held completely still until someone dropped a coin into her little basket and then would move in a graceful, yet mechanical fashion to assume the next pose.  There was also a guy a short distance later painted bronze and another, a kind of a green.  They each did the same thing; held very still until a coin was dropped.  I have to admit I thought this was very fascinating.  I don’t know how they could do it.  The woman was perched on top of some kind of a box – no room for losing her balance.  I tossed a coin in to the bronze guy’s hat and by a series of gestures and clicks he indicated that Bill could take my picture with him.  I stepped up, he robotically put a hand on my shoulder and that was my moment.  I loved this.  Kelly with the bronze manA short way down the street we watched as some parents gave their little boy a coin to toss in the green man’s hat.  When the guy came to life the little fella ran screaming and crying to his mom and dad.  He was terrified but I have to confess the grown-ups all got a chuckle; including us.

 

We checked out the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady), a twined dome church often seen in pictures of Munich.  One of the domes was being restored and was covered with scaffolding and sheeting.  From there we walked to St. Michael’s church.  This one was actually on my list of churches to go into while in Munich.  The entire front of St. Michaels was covered by scaffolding and a tarp very cleverly painted to resemble the front of St. Michael’s church without scaffolding.  That couldn’t have been cheap but it sure did look better than a plain tarp.  I especially wanted Bill to see this church because the vaulting over the nave is the second largest after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  It was a very pretty and impressive church.  As we stepped in someone started to play a few keys on the enormous pipe organ.  I was hoping perhaps we were in time to hear that baby let loose but alas, it was just a tease.Ruben's Great Last Judgement 300 sq ft

 

It was a bit of a trod from St. Michael’s to the Alte Pinakothek but we were now pretty confident that we could find our way around.  In fact, I believe I even heard Bill say, “I like this city!”  We just set a comfortable steady pace, dodged the traffic in one or two round-abouts, and arrived at around 3:00 p.m.  The art gallery was only opened until 5:00 but we didn’t plan on spending a whole lot of time there.  I have to confess, although I have family members very interested in art and a sister who is an amazing artist herself, I am pretty ignorant.  I am getting better at recognizing the different styles associated with different periods; and the ways the artists used light and colors.  Overall I appreciate art but I am not a connoisseur.  If only I’d taken and an art appreciation class once in my life!  This collection of art was begun in the 1500s by the Royal Wittelsbach family.

 

Raphael's Holy Family at Carngiani HouseThat being said, there are many artist in this gallery familiar to me and to Bill.  It is huge.  I think it cost around 10 – 12 Euro total for us to get in and we were provided little English audio guides for particular paintings.  Per instructions of our man Rick, we headed directly up the stairs to the first level.  The museum is laid out like a barbell and this level held paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, El Greco, and Botticelli.  The Rubens paintings are so enormous and colorful.  We each took off in our own directions and took much of it in.  The place is full of “observers” everywhere, ensuring that no one peels a painting off the wall or injures one.  I found this a little on the annoying side even though I understood the reasoning.  At one point I had a woman circle all the way around me at about a 3 foot distance.  Then she gave a little signal with her hands I’m sure to a camera somewhere.  So many paintings were commissioned by the church that many religious scenes predominate.  I especially liked several paintings by Bartolomé Murillo of little street urchins.  They were certainly idealized but I just found them kind of refreshing subjects.

False front on St. Michael's

We left before closing time and chose a slightly different path for our return to town center.  We passed by a plaza dedicated to the National Socialist Party and soon spotted the twin domes of Frauenkirche.  By a not-very-direct route we settled in for a cold beer at the Augustiner Grosssgaststatte located slightly kitty-corner from St. Michael’s church.   We relaxed at an outside table along with Munich businessmen and visitors unwinding from a long, beautiful day.  Our waiter struck up a conversation upon realizing we were Americans (apparently not hard to do in spite of our best attempts to speak German).  His parents had been in Grand Rapids, Michigan but I can’t recall why at the moment.

 

We worked our way back down the street for another quick stop at our room.  Along the way I saw my bronzed man taking a smoking break along the curb. 

 

Festival hall of the HofbrauhausBecause it’s what most people do and we weren’t quite what you’d call “experts” on getting around Munich, we’d decided to return to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and musical entertainment.  We found the place much more easily; it helps to realize they have signs posted about with directional arrows.  All the way to the top floor was where the music was reported to be.  We climbed the wide stairway and entered an enormous banquet (festival) hall.  The hall has long, long rows of picnic tables and all were covered in table clothes.  I asked a waiter if we could sit anywhere and he escorted us way to the front against an outside wall.  We had a great view of the band from there (trumpet, trombone, accordion, and bass tuba), but were very far away from anyone else.  Das Band, HofbrauhausWhen the waiter came to deliver our giant mugs of beer he explained that we were really supposed to have reservations to sit in this room; apparently that’s why he hid us in the corner.  Within a short period of time, this all became much clearer as tour groups began to pour into the place.  Doggone it.  I suggested to Bill that we leave. He was okay with the setting so we did decide to order some foods, and then reconsider. 

 

The waiter (Michael) provided us with English menus and then immediately suggested the pork knuckle.  I’d seen someone trying to eat one of those things and it looked like work to me.  He then teased me with, “It’s traditional and delicious.” Okay; deep fried pork knuckle for me and relatively safe pork steak for Bill.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say “delicious”, but it was good and there was plenty of meat on the knuckle.  Bill was happy with his steak and we enjoyed not only the music, but one demonstration of slap dancing as well.  By the time we finished eating and left, the place was at least half-filled with tour bus groups as well as a table or two of Germans.Deep fried pork knuckle2

 

We considered stopping in the cavernous beer hall after leaving the festival hall but by then it was almost 8:00 p.m.  We had both decided to keep it a short night since we’d have to be up early in the morning to catch our train.  Instead, we settled for familiar and walked directly back to the Jodlerwirt.  It had just started to mist a bit when we left the Hofbrauhaus, our first precipitation of the trip!

 

When we entered the Jodlerwirt, we were immediately greeted by the beer maids and musician from the night before.  I asked in German if the man knew the song “Frau Meier”.  The gals began singing it while he grinned and nodded “yes”.  They then pointed to our place at the bar and I suggested we’d rather sit at a table.  We were then directed to a couple sitting alone at a table and we joined them.  Not quite the merrymaking we’d had in the past but still a friendly couple.  They could both sing very well and it was nice to have voices supporting that of our accordion player. Jodlerwirt in Munich

 

At the table next to us was a young couple from Wisconsin.  They were traveling about Germany by train.  Bill engaged in friendly conversation and I admit I was a bit standoffish.  I just wanted to listen to the German speakers around me, hear the music, feel the intimacy of the bar, and forget I was leaving in the morning.  An older gentleman came in after a while and sat at the table by himself.  He nodded and smiled over a couple times so when the accordion player took a break I stopped by to chat.  He said he spoke no English but I understood him to say that he lived near Asamkirche, a very famous Baroque-Rococo church in Munich.  It had been one on my list but after all the other Rococo churches we’d seen I’d easily given it up. 

 

Later, the old guy was joined by a couple other old guys and some younger women.  They were living it up.  When two “unrelated” young women came in Old Guy #1 attached immediately to one and was doing his best to woo her I think.  Old Fella #2 sat down next to me grabbed my hands and began to talk quite intently.  I did my best to “conversate” until Bill let me know he needed to use the “facilities”.  When I told the guy my husband needed to use the toilet, he asked, “Husband?”and quickly scatted never to be visiting again. 

 

We had a great time filled with fun and melancholia.  Neither one of us was quite ready to leave; to end this amazingly great adventure.  It was close to 10:45 when we finally waved our good-byes and left the Jodlerwirt.  As we stood in the street orienting ourselves to the direction of our hotel, the barmaid called to us, “You didn’t pay!”  Good heavens.  We’d nearly created an international incident alright.  We embarrassingly settled with her in the street and made our way to our hotel.        

 

 


Pictures

Beer garden at Hofbrauhaus
Bill
bronze man Marienplatz, Munich
Cheese stand at the Viktualienmarkt
 
 
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