München was more than I was expecting. I had been fantasizing about visiting Europe since I was a kid, when the invite came to visit a friend it took me a milisecond to say “Yes”.
Getting all the heavy stuff out first…
Without getting into politics and debate, out of all the cities I could visit first in Europe I am extremely happy it was Munich. Why Munich? It is a city full of history that has touched and shaped our lives in some capacity.
On my way over, I did my best to check out Greenland from the tiny plane window, but was unsucessful of seeing anything but darkness. I did get to see England, France and ofcourse Germany from the sky.
I wasn’t expecting so much openess about what happened in Munich during the late 30’s and early 40’s. The economic and political upheaval that made room for extremetist views, eventual rule and war.
The first full day in Munich we took a Sandemans 3-hour walking tour of the city (I highly suggest checking out these tours for this and other cities, time and tip well spent). Our tour guide, Peter, was German with a fantastic sense of humour. My favourite monument to honour those who died while avoiding bowing to the Nazi’s is Dodger’s alley in Odeonsplatz. You can see the bronze path that runs from the left side of the alley to the right, it is the path of those who dared walk down Dodger’s alley to the waiting hidden SS guard who then determined their fate.
On to the light side of the München adventure.
It starts in the great city of Toronto. Perhaps against my better judgement, I decided to brave the TTC bus/subway system to get me to the Airport. With all the Subway/LRT discussions going on, I decided I might as well be an involved Torontonian and see what it is like to take public transit to Canada’s biggest hub for air traffic. After an hour that had me on two separate buses and one subway, I arrived sweaty and tired – yum! Now to put this into perspective, my condo is a 15 minute drive door to door in a car to the airport. I am really tempted to do a whole ramble about how terrible our transit system is, but back to talking about Munich! 🙂 Before we arrive in Munich, we do have Airport security in Toronto who I must remember are NEVER joking – which is for the better of course. They checked my hat to make sure I wasn’t taking my pet monkey on my adventure.
Getting from the airport to downtown was simple, efficient and I was there in less than 45 minutes on the S train. I had 4 hours to kill before meeting up with my friend so after finding the hotel that sat in strip club ville with parking lined with Maserati’s, Porsche’s and 6-Series BMW’s, I did the logical, safe thing and decided to tour as many Munich museum’s as possible. If I counted properly, they have 38 museums to visit.
I walked up to Königsplatz, which according to my 40 cent Euro map, was the epi-center of Museum’s in Munich. It’s a beautiful square and being so close to the University, was filled with lounging students. My handy map told me the museum with the oldest artifacts was the Antikensammlungen.
The older gentleman at the front desk didn’t know English or at least that is how he felt. But he could understand me, and we were able to get through the monetary transaction that allowed me access to the museum. It was filled with lots of Egyptian bowls, tools, plates and statues. When I was leaving, my lovely gentleman wished me a good afternoon and complimented my tired, worn 8 hour airplane atire by telling me I was beautiful! Since his admission that he didn’t know English, I am not sure he meant what he said, but hey I am going to take what I can get! 🙂 and off to the Glyptothek Museum I went.
They weren’t quite as friendly at the second museum and I was a little confused that there was a museum full of Greek artifacts in Germany. I purchased a helpuful English booklet for 3 Euro’s to help decipher all the Greek…I mean German signs. For such an English language friendly city, it was surprising that all the signage in the museum was German.
The inside of the museum was grand, with high ceilings, enormous doorways and a sunny courtyard in the middle. They had a small restaurant with clanging dishes that could be heard almost throughout the entire tour. It added to the ambiance.
One thing about Europe, they love their naked statues, unlike their Western friends. Candy, this picture I took specially for you, I couldn’t resist :). According to my handy booklet, this statue is part human, part horse – although I am not sure what part is the horse!
After looking at so many statues, seeing Apollo, Athena, Medusa, Mercules, Artemis, I decided the remaining 36 museum’s would have to wait another day and off I went in search of Marienplatz.
Marienplatz sits at the East end of a long street filled with shops, restaurants and tourists. There are no cars on Kaufingerstrasse but there is a lot of hussle and bussle along the street. It is in Marienplatz that the famed glockenspiel resides. You can read all about it on here on Wikipedia, my number one source for all “mostly” accurate information. The top show in the Glockenspiel is a rendition of the marriage between the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm V and his new bride Renata of Lorraine. At the end of the first show, as one would expect, the Bavarian jousting knight knocks the French knight off his horse. The show at the bottom depicts the end of the plague in 1517 when barrel makers danced out in the street to convince the residents of Munich that the city was now safe.
Just south of Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s oldest outdoor market. This market not only hosts a Beer Garden, it also is home to the Maypole – another Wikipedia link 🙂 but hey they describe it almost as well as Peter, of course without the humour! Essentially it is a tradition to erect and decorate a Maypole May 1st and during the night, neighbouring areas try to steal the pole for ransom. Now apparently the Munich Maypole was successfully stolen a few years ago and the gentlemen who held the Maypole hostage wanted a table and free beer for the rest of their lives during Oktoberfest. They received their wish and the Maypole was returned. I wasn’t able to get a picture of this past year’s Maypole because…it was gone?! nobody knows where for sure.
The other fun Maypole story. The Munich Airport has a Maypole in Terminal 1. Being a secure facility, how would a Maypole ever get stolen from an airport? Well it did and the morning after Airport security sheepishly called the Munich police department to file a report. What kind of job was Airport security doing when they couldn’t even secure a Maypole in the middle of a secure building? Turns out the Munich police had stolen the Maypole as a prank, or rather rescued it since they said it wasn’t being well protected by Airport security. 🙂
Now for the beer garden, I didn’t realize there was such an intricate history to them, but they were built surrounded by chestnut trees to keep the beer cool and from spoiling from when it was made in February into the summer months. The Germans claim Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde invented the refigerator to help with beer spoilage – here’s a link (not wikipedia haha) for those looking into the history of refigeration. The Beer Garden in the Viktualienmarkt is unique in that people are allowed to bring their own food to enjoy with their beer. Munich is known for their beer, as a dispassionate beer drinker their beer was good – a comprehensive list of Munich beers.
One sight we were not expecting while exploring Munich were Camels! Not one, but two. They weren’t super tall, but they were super friendly and enjoying some bread for a meal, something we almost missed out on twice. It is curious, coming from North America, getting used to a country or region that values spending time with family and friends above making money. My suggestion to anyone planning to visit Munich, make sure to pick a place to eat by 5 and remember which street it’s on and be there before 7pm at the latest if you plan to be able to order what your heart desires from the menu. You will laugh, but we had everything BUT Bavarian food while in Munich 🙂 It smelled fantastic but we missed it everytime.
We day tripped to Austria and even though I’d been informed prior to my trip that Salzburg was the birthplace of Mozart, I promptly forgot about it until we arrived and well, saw nothing but Mozart museums! The kind lady at the information booth pointed us in the direction of all the interesting sights we could cover in under 6 hours.
We decided against transit in Salzburg and trusted our maps and amazing sense of direction, however if this had of been one day later, we may have just decided to take the transit 🙂
We made our way to Mirabellgarten which is one of the locations used in the filming of….The Sound Of Music. It’s just as beautiful in the movie as it is in real life.
In the distance you can see the Hohensalzburg Castle looming on the horizon. It is a large, awesome Fortress that grew in three phases with roots back to the 11th century.
Before we arrived at the Castle, we visited two Mozart museum. Saw his musical instruments, read personal letters between family members and well, seemlingly learned everything there was to learn about him and his family. Since spending so much time reading up on the family, we decided it would only be appropriate to spend time looking for Nannerl’s grave, Mozart’s sister.
We spent just under an hour in St Peter’s Cemetery looking for Nannerl’s gravesite and only found out the real reason she wasn’t buried with the rest of the Mozart family in St Sebastian Friedhof after arriving home. Google is a wonderful thing. Apparently, Nannerl wasn’t so fond of Constanze, Mozart’s wife, and neither was his father Leopold but he ended up in the same gravesite’s as Constanze in the end. One of my favourite letters from Mozart to a family member was him describing how he wasn’t very fond of a sketch that was done of him. His neck was too thick and his face a little fatter than should be. Mozart was a small guy, as one exhibit mentioned, Mozart stayed a child even as an adult while his sister flourished into a beautiful woman. Apparently the doctor’s had decided the reason for Mozart’s shortness was the fact he practised the panio for great amounts of time since he was young.
In Salzburg, there are many giant objects. From their churches, castle, fountains, gardens etc, most things are pretty massive. Standing in the middle of Residenzplaz looking past the Residenz fountain towards the Cathedral, people look like miniature toys. Pictures do not do the massiveness justice.
Some photos from Salzburg:
Great trip to both Munich and Salzburg. Now that I am sitting here looking through my pictures, I realize how many I didn’t take! Munich is a wonderful city, and would move in a minute, if not to just be living in a city that is so walk-able and transit friendly. So much I didn’t get to see, until next time…