(New City Hall at Marienplatz)
After Dublin, I was back in Bordeaux for a few days working on school work. Then, on Friday the 18th, I flew to Munich, Germany. I met my friend, Emilia, in the Munich airport (which does in fact have its own brewery...Germans don't mess around when it comes to their beer.) I have always wanted to go to Germany, but I wasn't ever sure which part. Munich wasn't at the top of my list, I guess because I never really knew anything about it. When Emilia and I arrived in this city, we were definitely surprised! We absolutely loved it there and the state of Bavaria is gorgeous! It is very high on my list of favorite places I have been to!
We had arrived in the city in the late afternoon, so we checked into our hostel and left right away to go meet some people. Ironically enough, Emilia's friend Katrina (from their hometown Ottawa, Canada) was also traveling in Munich with her three study abroad friends from their school in Prague. Emilia and I walked through a rich residential neighborhood to meet the others at their hostel. The walk was beautiful, but very creepy. It was dark out, and a little rainy, and since it was Good Friday, there wasn't a single person in sight for the 20 minutes it took us to get there. It was like a ghost town! We went out for some burgers and good ole German beer, and then went to their hostel to have some drinks and hang out for the night.
(About to go on our walking tour.)
The next morning, we met up with Katrina and Milena again to go on a free walking tour of Munich! The tour started at Marienplatz. This is Munich's main square. For almost 1,000 years, people have gathered there for markets and tournaments. On the New City Hall is one of the world's most famous glockenspiels, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Every day at 11a.m. the bells chime and it reenacts two stories from the 16th century. It is made of 43 bells and 32 life sized figures, all over 100 years old and still working. Each day crowds form to watch the famous glockenspiel. It is apparently the second most overrated tourist attraction in Europe. Our tour guide told our group that and we all laughed, but it was still cool to see!
(Random pictures while touring the streets of Munich)
Next, we toured the beautiful and charming streets of Munich. Even on a cold, cloudy, Saturday morning, everything was so lively and fun...and of course there was beer...everywhere! We stopped and toured the Frauenkirche, which is a church with an interesting story. Legend has it that the builder made a deal with the devil: the devil would finance the building of the church as long as there wasn't a single window in it. The devil would come and stand in the foyer and watch the progress. The tricky builder, however, did build windows in the church, but none of them can be seen from the angle at which the foyer stands. When the devil finally discovered he had been tricked, he couldn't enter the already consecrated church. He was furious and stomped his foot on the ground with so much force, his footprint was embedded in the stone...where it can still be seen today! I stepped on the devil's footprint. The devil's feet are only a few sizes larger than a woman's 9 1/2, in case anyone was wondering.
(May Pole in the beer garden)
The next place we stopped at was Viktualienmarkt, a market that had Munich's main beer garden and its May Pole. This stop on our tour is a large reason why I love Germany so much! They are very serious when it comes to tradition, and they have so much fun! First of all, Munich produces 6 beers. These beers are served all around the city. Beer houses, however, will only sell one of them. Liking a Munich beer is similar to liking a professional sports team. I, obviously, love the Packers. This means you will never, ever, see me offering my support to a team over the Packers. Beer houses are the same. They will serve their favorite beer, and offer nothing else. It is a fun battle. We stopped at the main beer garden, which is literally a garden of trees in the middle of the city where you sit and drink beer from various stands. This is usually neutral territory. So the six Munich beers are served on rotation. Beer #1 is offered at the beer garden, and is served until it literally runs out. Then they move onto the same amount of beer #2 and so forth.
In this beer garden was Munich's May Pole. A May Pole is a strong tradition that dates back hundreds of years. The pole is decorated to represent the city of which it stands for, much like a flag. Most of the time, the poles are left up all year round, then decorated for the May Day festival on May 1st. Traditionally, there are dances that take place around the May Pole. In Bavaria, May Poles are an important part of their culture and history. As May approached, towns would often sneak into rivaling villages at night and try to steal the May Pole. If the town was successful in stealing the pole, the other town would have to host a party for them in order to get it back. Awesomely enough, this still happens today. People sign up to take shifts to guard the pole all night. The last time one was stolen was 8 years ago. To our great surprise it was Munich's airport May Pole that was stolen! One day, the airport realized the pole was gone, and with no evidence of anyone stealing it. In a great panic, they quickly called Munich's City police to get their help, but all the airport police heard on the phone was laughing. The city police had actually stolen the airport's May Pole and changed out the security footage so they wouldn't see. The airport ended up throwing a party for the city in order to get their pole back!
Next we went to the Hofbrauhaus! This is the most famous beer house in the world! It was very large and very cool looking! Here we learned that in Munich beer houses it is possible to own a permanent table. Locals do this by going to that same beer house 3 times a week for 15 years!! If you pass that, then you get your own table with a plaque on it and a very special customized beer mug in a locked cabinet, ready for you at all times. If you come in by yourself and there are 25 people at your table in the middle of their meal, you have the right to get them all to move because, hey...its your table!
(In one of the dining halls in the beer house)
The two pictures above are going to be my little section about Nazis in Germany, its kind of like the big elephant in the room! The picture on the left is where there was once a plaque for the Nazis. Two guards would stand by it and make sure that everyone that passed it would acknowledge it and then do the Nazi salute. If a person did not do this they would be badly beaten or arrested, most of the time it was both. Many people did not want to salute the plaque so they started taking a side street in order to avoid it. The guards started to notice the redirection of foot traffic. It was odd that so many people were walking on that street when there were only two shops for people to go to. The picture on the right has gold tiles that represent this alternative path. The path stops halfway down the street because that is where a guard was placed and caught all of the people trying to use that street to escape the plaque. Those people were also beaten and arrested. There are hundreds of these unmarked memorials all over the city.
A common misconception is that Adolf Hitler was German. False. He was actually born and raised in Austria, and his first dream was to be a painter, of all things. Several times he was rejected from admission to an art school, and then was conscripted to the Austrian Army. He didn't like their army, so he fled to Germany, the city of Munich to be exact. He joined the German army for WWI. After the war, when he was back in Munich, he joined a small political party called the German Workers Party. He was excellent at giving speeches, and soon he gained the support of the members and became the leader of the party. Hitler renamed the party to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) which later became known as the Nazi Party.
I, for one, had no idea that Munich was essentially the birth place of the Nazi Party. One can imagine, the city has a lot of dark history. It was definitely a weird feeling, being in a lot of the same places that possibly the most infamous person in the history of the world had been in. One of his most famous speeches was in the Hofbrauhaus. (The beer house I just talked about visiting.) An important thing I did learn was that the word "Nazi" isn't some dark forbidden word in Germany. You won't be shunned or punched in the face for mentioning it. Germans think it is very important to know. They encourage their youth to learn about it. They believe heavily in "The youth is the future. The best way to prepare for the future is to learn about the past." German children probably know more about WWII than most of us. There is a law that requires all German students to visit at least two concentration camps in order to graduate. Our tour guide ended on this note. She thought it was important that tourists know that, but she also didn't want us to be stuck on all of the bad things that once happened here because it truly is a great city! It was a very powerful and enlightening tour!
On the tour, we met Lori. Lori is also a business student who is from New York. She is studying abroad in Sweden and was traveling by herself for the Easter break. After the tour, Lori, Emilia, and I went to the BMW Headquarters! BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) is an automobile, motorcycle, and engine manufacturing company that was started in 1916. It is one of the three best selling luxury automakers in the world. The other two are Audi and Mercedes-Benz, both of these are also German.
BMW also produces the brand of Mini cars and is the parent company for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. We started by going to BMW World which has all of the brand new cars and technology on display. Then we went over to the BMW museum and saw all of its cars and motorcycles throughout history. It was very cool!
Right by BMW was the old Munich Olympic Stadium!
(Lori, Emilia, and I)
One of the six breweries in Munich is the Augustiner Brau. This brewery was established in 1328. It is the favorite beer in Munich. When looking for a beer house to eat at that night, we made sure to go to one that served Augustiner beer. The locals weren't wrong about this beer, I loved it!!
Pro beer drinker: naturally I drank it by the liter. When in Germany...prost!! (Cheers in German)
Random side story: In 1810, King Ludwig I was married. The citizens were invited to celebrate this wonderful occasion with the new royal couple. They celebrated for days and had many festivities including horse races. The next year, the citizens of Munich wanted to have a celebration once again, but obviously there wasn't anything to celebrate. The people realized they could make money off of selling beer, and decided to have a festival anyways...who doesn't love a good party?! (Especially one that great!) This festival was held in the month none other than October. This ladies and gentlemen, is where the world famous Oktoberfest was born.
The food that we ate on this trip was nothing short of amazing!!! We made sure to stick to the beer houses and really have traditional German meals. The above pictures are of the meal that Lori, Emilia, and I had together. We each ordered different plates, than split each up into 3 parts and shared all of our food. What we ate that night: pork roast, pork knuckle, bratwurst, gravy, potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and cabbage salad all washed down with a liter of beer. The next night, Emilia and I had the exact same foods, but we added some duck and then apple strudel for desert. It was all delicious!
The next day was Easter Sunday! We had booked reservations to tour one of the prettiest castles in the world: Neuschwanstein Castle! This castle was built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle. To get there, we woke up nice and early and went to the main train station in Munich, Hauptbahnhof. We took a train to the town of Fussen, then a bus to the village of Hohenschwangau. Lori had joined Emilia and I again for our adventure. Apparently everyone else had the same plans for Easter, the train and bus were absolutely packed!! We were lucky to find seats on the train.
The village of Hohenschwangau is at the base of the mountain that the castle sits on. It is in the village that you can get tickets to tour the castle. I am so grateful that we decided to get reservations the day before because we got to skip the insane line! We went right to the front, got our tickets, and were on our way. By the time that we got there early in the morning, people at the front of the line were already signing up for tours 6 hours later in the day because they were already full until that point! Yikes! So we then took a shuttle up the mountain, you can also hike but we didn't have time. Once at the top of the mountain, there is a hiking trail for visitors to get to the actual castle, about a fifteen minute walk.
Finally we made it in time for our tour! King Ludwig II was obsessed with living in a fairy tale world of his own. He used his own fortune to build extravagant castles such as this one. Although he wasn't using the state's money for all of his opulent projects, the state was still in a financial fallout. People thought he should use his family's money to help economize things, but instead he didn't hesitate to make more extravagant designs for himself. Ministers of his rule felt that he was mentally unfit to be king any longer. A panel of psychiatrists, led by Bernhard von Gudden, declared the king mentally insane and unable to rule for the rest of his life. Keep in mind that none of the psychiatrists had ever actually examined him, and only one had met with him once 12 years earlier. The next day on June 13th, 1886, the King and von Gudden decided to take a walk down by a lake...they never came back. Both of their bodies were found in the lake, shoulders and heads above the water. Autopsies showed that neither of them drowned as they did not have water in their lungs. It is still a great mystery to this day, no one knows what happened and why.
(The crowd trying to get on Mary's Bridge.)
At the time of the Kings death, the castle was still in the middle of construction. Most of the exterior was finished, but only 12 of the nearly 200 rooms were completed. The king only lived there for 172 days before his death. Most of the castle has been untouched since 1886. A short six weeks after Ludwig II died, the doors were already opened to paying visitors. On the tour, we got to see the 12 finished rooms. Although there were few, they were extraordinary! They included the thrown room, servants living quarters, the king's apartments, a grand hall, the kitchen, and a grotto...yes, there was a random cave in the middle of the castle. All of the designs and decorations looked like they literally came straight out of a fairy tale. It was gorgeous. Research the interior of this castle and you will understand what I am talking about!
After the tour, we hiked out to another mountain and went onto Mary's Bridge. This bridge was named after the king's mother. It offers an absolutely amazing view of the castle. I am pretty sure everyone in the country was trying to get on that freaking bridge that day. People were yelling, pushing, fighting. There was a line up the mountain of people waiting, it was crazy! But after all of the chaos, the view was completely worth it. The day wasn't as sunny as we had hoped it would be. Instead there was this weird creepy fog that just swirled around the mountains. It almost looked better that way. It made everything feel that much more magical and mythical. It truly felt like another world up there! When we were done, we got back to Munich and went out for another fantastic meal and beer, lots of beer! Liters of course! ;)
Munich was definitely an amazing trip, I just loved it there! Maybe its because I come from a German background, my last name is Weinberger after all. (By the way, people loved that name! If they found out, they treated you like family!) Wisconsin has a lot of German settlers, and a lot of our traditions and mannerisms are still very similar to that of the actual country, Oktoberfest is a case in point. We still use some German words, even though I am pretty sure my family has made up a lot of them! hahaha We also eat a lot of German food still. Going to Germany just felt so much like home. The heritage and culture, the people, the scenery, it was all beautiful!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!
Thank you all for reading!
"Strive for perfection in everything you do."
-Sir Henry Royce