Long overdue, it was time to catch up with Dad and Jane in the stunning Bavarian city of Munich. Here, where German stereotypes are born it was time to indulge in Kaffee und Torte, Beers bigger than your head and Pretzels which would also rival that.
In this stunning city, every stroll is lined with amazing architechture, mixed histories and at this time of year, Christmas lights. The activity is based largely around the hub of Marienplatz where the gothic downhill stands proudly, its famous Glockenspiel poised and ready for its daily performances.
The city, like a lot of German cities, was flattened by Allied bombing in WW2, with the three tallest buildings spared as reference points. Frauenkirche was one of these, its two turrets standing tall as a symbol of the city. Inside it is incredibly plain, built fast and on a small budget in 1240. It was built so fast that it was said to have been helped by the Devil, who made a bargain with the architect that it would be built without windows. On the unveiling of the cathedral, the Devil is said to have stepped inside from a vantage point where the stain glass was blocked by the slender pillars and been satisfied, until the clouds parted a light flooded in. Once he realised he was tricked he stamped his right foot, leaving a footprint which remains to this day, daring unsuspecting tourists (such as Jane) to tempt fate by stepping where he stepped.
Munich was a city which has a lot of dark history too. It was home to Hitler’s unsuccessful Munich Beer Hall Putsch which led to his arrest in 1933. Later however, under Nazi control, the party leaders who lost their life in this and other events were memorialised around the city and should be saluted when passing. Resistors took back alleys and short cuts to avoid these checkpoints, and many of these pathways are memorialised in subtle gold steps.
From the city to the beerhall, it was important to try the best of what Munich has to offer. The city has strict laws about what was allowed to be used in beer and was the birthplace of food safety standards controlling the production of food and alcohol. For this reason however there is usually 2 or 3 options on a beer menu, light or dark. There is usually only one follow up decision too, 0,5l or 1l. We were armed and ready to declare our first ‘Prost’ of the trip!
Until 1918, Bavaria was ruled as a monarchy. We visited the summer residence of the House of Wittelsbach in all of its grandeur. The lands of the palace lay aside from the busy city in serenity of lush grounds. Whilst walking in the footsteps of princes, we found the perfect place to enjoy Kaiserschmarrn, a pancake version of the Eton Mess.
From here it was straight to the city to enjoy more green spaces. The huge Englischer Garten is bigger than NY’s Central Park, and in its autumnal beauty was colourful with vibrant leaves. We sat at the Monopterus looking at the sky crack into sunset colours over the city scape. Then, ready for another Munich evening we sampled Glühwein and Heiße Maroni at the Weihnachtsmarkt, mopped up at the cities largest Bierhall, and indulged in even more of Munich’s traditional albeit heavy cuisine.
On our final morning in the city, we were in Mariensplatz for an audience at the Glockenspiel. The 15 minute reel of moving figures tells the story of two historic events. The first is the court of the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine which took place in the square in 1568 over many days and included a jousting tournament in which the Duke defeated the Lorraine of Austria. The second story tells of the Munich Schäffler (barrel-maker) who danced in the streets during the plague in order to ward away the bad spirits believed to have caused the disease.
As it is the first day of the cities official Weihnachtsmarkt, there is endless vendors of sugared nuts, Glühwein, Lebkuchen and wooden trinkets. For quality control reasons, we aimed to try as many as physically possible, then ended the afternoon by climbing the 306 steps to the top of St Peter’s church tower, for our view of the scenes of city life below.
A stunning, sugary and special few days in a spectacular city. Next up, a new country!