Remember Anna from Lochness? (The one beside me.)
Well, our paths crossed again in Munich. Though she’s from Berlin, Anna is doing an internship in Munich, and so she was kind enough to host us for the weekend even though she had to move to a new place on Sunday. And remember Felice, Anna’s friend from Berlin? (I sadly forgot to snap a picture with her.) She was visiting for the weekend as well. Reunion time!
We arrived in Munich and walked over to Anna’s place, which was mercifully nearby. Anna was actually in the process of getting ready to meet up with some friends, and so she invited us to tag along. They were going to a jazz jam session. (Two nights in a row!) This was more of a social event than a music event, though. The music was just on in the background.
I got to meet more of Anna’s friends that night, including Max, Kathi, and Marie. We all hit it off, and at the end of the night, they extended an invitation to join them on a hike the following day. Unfortunately, the hike never happened, as the forecast didn’t agree with us.
Instead, we agreed to meet up in the afternoon to catch a documentary. In the meantime, I spent the day exploring the many sights of Munich.
First up: This thing.
It’s a double helix-shaped steel staircase standing over 30 feet tall. Its name, Umschreibung, translates to periphrasis according to the artist. This means “a movement without destination, a space defined by motion rather than walls.” I think my favourite thing about the structure is its location. It’s attached to an office building, which kind of reminds us of the futility of our work lives.
We continued along, intending to find the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, but stumbled upon a few nice things along the way, like St. Paul’s Church.
There was also the Munchner Stadtmuseum, which is a museum dedicated to the city of Munich. Sometimes I just can’t resist museums, so we ventured in.
There were a few interesting things, but overall, I wish we’d passed on this museum. Mainly because a lot of the information gleamed here can be found in other places when walking around the city. (If you have the right tour guide, of course.) Plus, while the audio guide did help, a lot of the information was only available in German, so a vast majority of the exhibits were of no use to us.
You’ll also see these guys later on. They are four cherubs fighting a snake, lion, dragon, and a basilisk. (The audio guide claims it’s a basilisk, but after Harry Potter, I thought a basilisk was a snake. Apparently it’s a mix of a cockerel and a serpent. Anybody have Ms. Rowling’s phone number or e-mail so I can shoot her a quick query?) The four creatures represented Munich’s fight against war (lion), hunger (dragon), heresy (snake), and the plague (basilisk).
The third floor had a really interesting exhibit on this guy Kurt Eisner. It was unfortunately a bit of a familiar story. Political parties spit anti-Semitic rhetoric to pull policy opinions in their favour. He railed against the limiting constraints of the existing political system, despite the fact that his beliefs alienated him from parties on both sides. He believed in redefining the political landscape for the benefit of the people. I wanted to read more about him, but I was getting tired of the museum at that point, and was in need of some fresh air. I’ll definitely look into Mr. Eisner in greater length down the road.
Found a nice little market on a street corner and had this deep fried little dish. It certainly was no beavertail, but it was alright.
It’s beer o’clock! Time to hit up the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum!
Fun fact: Prior to Industrialization, the greatest contributors to the development of the brewing process were monks. They brewed it for themselves, as well as for financial gain.
In the 19th century, inns became the most popular place to grab a drink. Farmers from outside the city would find themselves an inn after selling their goods at a market and discuss their success at the market.
From the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, there were roughly 60 brewers in Munich. There were strict regulations stating that no additives were to be added to their product, so brewers had to hope their products didn’t go bad or they didn’t experience crop failure. Many literally turned to gods and supernatural beliefs to pray for the protection of their products.
Eventually, beer barons challenged these regulations and invested in new technology that helped make brewing beer on a larger scale possible. These new breweries pushed out the little guy, who could no longer keep up with these fancy new cooling systems and controlled processes of the bigger breweries. By the end of the 19th century, Munich was home to just 16 large breweries. With mergers, takeovers, and bankruptcy, that number has since dwindled down to six.
The brewing boom provided great Economic growth for Munich. Who says beer is no good for you?
The two photos on the bottom left are of two successful beer barons. Just look at the stache on that guy, though. It just screams beer baron. Also, is it just me, or does he kind of look like Al Pacino?
Following Industrialization and all of this free time on their hands, people developed a thirst for public entertainment. Oktoberfest began to attract the fun, the strange, the erotic, and the exotic.
And now, on to the beautiful city itself with our old friend Izi the walkin tour app.
This is the National Theatre. That fella waving at you is the first King of Bavaria, ol’ Maximillion I. The theatre was built in the early 1800s and features a couple prrty gables up top–one of the Greek and Roman God Apollo, and one of Pegasus.
The outer walls and columns were miraculously left standing after the WWII bombings. However the inside and the lower gable had to be rebuilt.
Then in 1968, the theatre caught fire in the dead of winter. With all of the water having turned to ice, Germans used their beloved beer to try to put out the fire.
The government put a heavy tax on beer to finance yet another reconstruction of the theatre.
These statues just outside the Residenz Palace, which is a former royal palace, are considered symbols of good luck. Tourists passing by rub the nose of the little creature at the bottom–hence why he looks so polished.
The story goes that some young prankster once put out flyers everywhere documenting the King’s promiscuous ways. Once the king found out about this, he ordered that the person who did the prank come forward. I’m not exactly sure why, but the kid did just that. When the king found out he was just a boy, he let him off with a stern warning. The kid ran out before the king could change his mind, counted his lucky stars, and rubbed the statue’s nose on his way out. And people have been rubbing that nose since then.
Directly across from the statues lies this tiny little alley, which is officially called Viscardigasse. However during the war, it was known as Druckebergergasse, meaning Avoider’s Alley. Not everybody supported the Nazi regime. On the Residenz Street side of the Felderrnhalle stood a Nazi memorial with guards posted all day. Anybody who walked past was expected to give the Nazi salute. In order to continue on towards Feldhernnhalle and avoid having to give the salute, some people would walk down Viscardi Alley and continuing north from the other side. If you look closely, you’ll see a bronze path cutting through the alley. This is to honour the people who defied the Nazi regime and chose not to give the salute.
Welcome to the Theatinerkirche. This badass Italian Baroque church has a pretty cool story behind it. The King and queen, Ferdinand and Adelheid, were arranged to be married. However, they didn’t actually meet until a year after being married. The king sent a stunt double to fill in for him on the day of the wedding!
People became stressed because the couple couldn’t conceive a child, and so they wouldn’t be able to continue the long-standing tradition of rich white people inheriting unearned power. Adeheid was so stressed by this that she became deathly ill–twice. She received her last rites both times. This traumatizing experience bonded the couple together very closely.
They prayed to Saint Kajetan and promised to build a church in his honour should they be blessed with a son. Shortly after, Adelheid gave birth to a daughter, and two years later, the highly anticipated Max Emmanuel was born. And so, the two statues up to are of Adelheid and Ferdinant, and the two states on the bottom are Saint Kajetan and Saint Maximillian, the inspiration for their son’s name.
Just to the left of the church in Odeonsplatz is Feldhernhalle. King Ludwig I built this in the mid 1800s as a memorial to the commanders of the Bavarian army. (Feldherrnhalle translates to Commander’s Hall.)
This is one of the most unusual memorials I’ve ever seen. It’s called the White Rose memorial. I never would have noticed it had I not visited the Atlas Obscura website and read about it. It’s placed at the entrance of the LMU School of Law. As a tourist, though, you’d never have reason to venture from the main street and walk along this path, where you’d find the memorial, which is in honour of siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl. They practiced non-violent resistance against the Nazi regime, often handing out leaflets and writing political graffiti throughout the city. They were sadly captured by the Gestapo on February 18, 1943, along with other White Rose members, for handing out leaflets, and were executed four days later for their brave efforts.
There are apparently many White Rose memorials scattered around Munich, but this one is considered to be the most powerful one. Bronze replicas of the leaflets that got the members arrested are embedded along the cobblestone entrance to the university. This site marks where they were arrested.
Of course, no visit to Munich would be complete without checking out the heart of the city: Marienplatz. This is kind of the birthplace of Munich. Remember Henry the Lion from the Munchen Stadtmuseum? He burned down the toll bridge to the north of the city and built his own over the Isar River to reroute the salt merchant trading route through his city. The resulting trade route, which offered salt, sgrain, and various other goodies, gave Munich a huge economic boost. The fountain off to the right was used to keep fish fresh in the markets during the Middle Ages.
This magnificent building, which seems to also function as an art gallery and shopping mall, is actually the new City Hall. The old City Hall is off to the right. The new one had to be built to respond to the growing needs of the city. It was built over 100 years ago and took 40 years to construct.
The Glockenspiel, like the rest of the building, is pretty damn ornate. The figures are life-size up close. They come to life three times a day. The upper level reenacts a tournament from the 16th century, which was held to celebrate the marriage of Duke Wilhelm the fifth to Renata von Lothringen. Part of the celebration is a jousting duel. Apparently when the losing knight gets knocked down, somebody has to put him back sitting upright. That’s somebody’s job–knight sitter-upper. And it’s been like that for a hundred years now.
Remember the cherubs from the Munchen Stadmuseum? Here they are as well. They are protecting the Virgin Mary. Our old friend Maxi I declared Mary the patron Saint of Bavaria and thanked her for her protection of the city from Swedish invasion.
I mentioned before that one of the cherubs is fighting a dragon, which is supposed to represent the Plague. Well legend has it that on one quiet day over Marienplatz, a dragon appeared in the sky and spread the Plague to the people below. A brave knight shot that sucker down with a cannon shot to the heart. This makes no sense on two levels. 1) How does a dragon spread the Plague? 2) If Knighty McKnight killed the dragon, why did the Plague still go on?
Well anywho, that’s the story behind this random dragon on one of the building’s corners.
After a day of strolling around Munich, it was time to meet up with Anna and her friends. We had agreed to watch a documentary called Walk With Me at 5:00. It was alright. It was about a Zen Buddhist Master and spiritual leader named Thich Nhat Hanh and some of his followers at the Plum Village meditation centre in France. I wasn’t crazy about the first half of the movie because I thought they would talk more about Thich Nhat Hanh’s history, his exile from Vietnam, or the art of mindfulness itself, but they kind of just followed various monks around for the first 40 minutes or so. It was also a bit annoying for me personally because when there was dialogue, it was often in French with German subtitles, so I had no idea what was being said.
The second half was a lot more interesting because a bunch of the monks went to America for a spiritual seminar/event, and then you got to see them reconnect with their friends and family. Those stories and those connections were far more interesting than the first half of the movie. For example one woman visits her father in the nursing home, and he breaks down in tears of joy at the sight of her. That was pretty cool.
After the movie, Max took us on a bit of a walking tour of Munich, since he used to work as a tour guide. We visited a lot of the places Trevor and I had already visited during the day, but that was fine. I impressed everybody with my knowledge of the Baroque church.
At the end of our little tour, Max took us to one of his favourite watering holes for a pint. Everybody left after the pint because they had places to be, but Trevor and I stuck around, and we ended up befriending these beautiful ladies, Nicole and Yoko. It’s always great day when you make a new friend or two. Especially if one of those friends buys you a beer.