Munich

A quick visit to Munich on our way north.

On my first trip out of the country since January, we’re headed to northern Germany to visit relatives. (The Schengen area largely reopened to cross-border travel on 15 June.) We decided to make a stopover in Munich, to break up the long train trip and to enjoy visiting the sights of this historic city. Although our one-day visit just scratched the surface, I hope you’ll read on and enjoy the gallery.

Munich Rathaus (town hall).

We took the SBB train from Zürich to München (Munich), with everyone aboard dutifully donning masks as we entered Germany – which requires masks to be worn on public transport. (Switzerland has long encouraged it, but only this week decided to impose a requirement, effective this Monday.) I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the Swiss rail system, but heard often from (German) students at ETH that the German train system was not nearly as nice or as well run. While riding on a Swiss (SBB) train I didn’t expect to notice any difference – until our train suddenly braked and hit another train.

Ok, that sounds worse than it was. Apparently some rail workers had left an ‘engineering’ car on the tracks, at the wrong time, and our train bumped it after quickly braking to avoid a serious collision. Apparently a small fire started, though I’m not entirely sure what happened, because all the announcements were in German. We sat on the tracks for two hours while the emergency team was summoned to evaluate both trains and to clear us for onward travel. Meanwhile, I was impressed as a team of local Red Cross medical workers passed through the car, inquiring about any injuries; and the ticket-checking staff passed through, handing out free drinks and a voucher for a refund. When we disembarked, Pam surveyed the nose of the train and saw no visible damage.

Anyway, we arrived late, but safe, in Munich. Our hotel was super convenient – right across the street from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). Still, as we checked in, the desk clerk admitted that his hotel was nearly empty and we were welcomed to a top-floor room. Masks required all spaces outside the room.

The next morning I crossed back to the station to hunt for breakfast in the (massive!) food court, but was quickly shooed out of Starbucks for not wearing a mask. oops: Masks required in all indoor spaces, not just the trains. Fortunately, street vendors were everywhere, offering cloth masks for sale.

We enjoyed a low-key day walking through the streets of old town, many of which are pedestrian-only. (I love it when cities realize the value of pedestrian-only zones; it brings so much life to the core of the city.) We visited two of the original four Tor (gates) to the city (Sendlingertor and Karlstor), beautifully restored; we walked through the royal residence, a sprawling palace that has largely been rebuilt and restored after damage in WWII; we stopped by Hofbräuhaus, a famous tavern that was once the official brewery of the Bavarian kingdom; and we watched the Glockenspiel on the Rathaus (town hall) play its little concert at both noon and 5pm.

Glockenspiel at Munich Rathaus.

This impressive bit of mechanical and musical machinery dates to 1908 and draws a crowd every time. “The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V (who also founded the noted Hofbräuhaus) to Renata of Lorraine. In honor of the happy couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (in white and blue) and Lothringen (in red and white). The Bavarian knight wins every time, of course” [Wikipedia]. I recorded a movie.

The bottom half, though mechanically simpler, struck a surprisingly contemporary chord, perhaps unknown to the many masked tourists gawking upward: “According to myth, 1517 was a year of plague in Munich. The coopers are said to have danced through the streets to ‘bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions.’ The coopers remained loyal to the duke, and their dance came to symbolize perseverance and loyalty to authority through difficult times” [Wikipedia]. I recorded a movie.

In the center of the plaza out front, Marienplatz, there is an impressive fountain topped by a golden statue of Mary. Personally, I found the four corner sculptures more interesting: “four putti are each depicted fighting a different beast, symbolizing the city’s overcoming of adversities: war represented by the lion, pestilence by the cockatrice, hunger or famine by the dragon and heresy by the serpent.” [Wikipedia] One is pictured below; the others are in the gallery.

Putto on Mary’s tower in Marienplatz, Munich.

We ate twice in sidewalk cafés, one of the great pleasures of summer in Europe. In the first, I sampled a local specialty that, as I’d been warned, seems to be on every menu: Schweinshaxe (pig’s knuckle). It tasted fine, though it was a lot of work. For me, once was enough. 🙂

Schweinshaxe – pig knuckle – at a Munich restaurant.

Anyway, enjoy the gallery. We’ll see you in Bremen.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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