Monday, June 4, 2012


26 May

Our first full day in Munich was a Saturday. For our first exploration of the city, we decided to take another Sandeman's New Tour like we did in Paris. On our way to the meeting place in Marienplatz, we got breakfast in a bakery and wow, I want to bring a German bakery home. We both got pastries and they were both excellent!

Our tour started off in Marienplatz in front of the new town hall just in time to see the glockenspiel go off at 11am. It's really just a bunch of bells playing an old song nobody really knows, with some wooden mechanized statues doing a simple performance. Again, contrary to the stereotype (myth?) of German efficiency, this is not yet automatic, and a man has to climb the stairs at 11 and 12 every morning to press a button for the glockenspiel to start. Our guide said once during Oktoberfest, he never actually turned up. What's more, the bells are actually out of tune, despite being sent to the Netherlands for tuning several years ago. The Dutch, who are supposed to know their bells, sent back all the 'C' bells playing C#. The Germans reckon this was on purpose.

Our tour guide took us round to many of the well known and some less well known sights in Munich, including the cathedral, Hofbrauhaus (the most famous beer hall in the world), the Munich Residenz, the opera house, the markets, the street of the Munich Putsch (google it) where Hitler was arrested, still as a near-nobody, and subsequently charged with treason (a charge that normally attracted the death sentence or life in prison -the nazi-sympathising judge sentenced him to five years, of which he served less than ten months) and she showed us many of the little, often unnoticed, signs of the nazis that still remain. An example is the nazi eagle which was put on everything the nazis built. The Germans have left the eagles there, but decapitated them, so all over Munich on buildings, bridges, monuments etc you can find headless eagles.

After our tour we decided to visit the Munich Residenz. It's the old residence of the Bavarian rulers -electors, dukes and kings, whatever title they had at the time. It was very damaged during the second world war and was reconstructed in a basic fashion, with the facade painted on, as they did not have the time or money to reconstruct an elaborate facade. The real facade is only now being rebuilt, slated to be complete in fifteen years. Our guide suggested it would be more like twenty. Inside however, much was preserved, with paintings and furnishings removed before the war and returned afterwards. We spent several hours walking through the bedrooms, state rooms, dining rooms, etc of the old kings, who were only deposed in 1918 after the first world war.

Afterwards we did a bit of grocery shopping for breakfast food, fruit and chocolate (you know, the essentials), before having tea at a tavern-type restaurant down the road from our hotel.

Oh- funny story from our tour. A few hundred years ago, a new opera house was built in Munich. One day, a fire started inside as often did in theatres with all the candles. The architect said- never fear! I built in this great gadget that will save the day!

He had built an upside down dome into the ceiling with a hole in the roof above it. The idea was that it would collect rain water, and when necessary, you could pull on a rope which would open the dome, releasing all the water onto the theatre below. So he pulled the rope. Nothing happened.

You see, it gets very cold in Munich. The water has frozen, and was stuck in the ceiling.

So everyone panicked because their opera house was still burning down. Then someone realised- hey, we don't have much water, but we have lots of beer! So they formed a line from the nearest beer hall to the opera house, and started passing the barrels of beer along. But Munichers are very much like australians, in that they really like their beer. So as the barrels got passed to each person, they took a swig before passing it on. The barrels reached the end of the line empty.

They still threw the wooden barrels onto the fire. The opera house burnt down.

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