DAY 15 in Munich, Germany:
“The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back.” — Wendy Wunder
It was bright and sunny when we arrived, the sun’s rays were streaming through the leaves of trees and I couldn’t see a cloud in the sky. I was ecstatic to be home. I was excited for all the words I wrote in texts and emails to Miriam to finally come to life. She’d see my humble abode where I wear my silliest buns, experience beautiful Schloss Nymphenburg where I frequently cycle to and act like a tourist, drop by the nearby REWE where I buy food to stock up my pantry and taste THE PHENOMENAL KARTOFFELBROT (Potato bread) from IHLE bakery among many other things!
From the Hauptbahnhof, we took S4 to Hirschgarten where we alighted and lugged our carry-ons to my apartment. It still had the distinct comforting scent from when I left two weeks before, I felt so in place and so at peace. We settled down, got changed into matching outfits, shopped for grocery and lunch at REWE, and snacked on potato bread on the way back. Miriam fell in looooove with the bread! 😉 What I simply love about this specific potato bread are the soft chunks of potato the bakers left in them. It isn’t pricey or fancy, but it sure is perfect.
On our way to Marienplatz where we had to meet for a Free Walking Tour, there was a disturbance on the train tracks — technical matter, I believe — that caused a long pause on the tracks. We saw a guy with really good hair and Miriam attempted to take a picture of him to send back to her brother (Miriam thought he was going through a not-so-nice hair phase and she wanted to send him some ideas for improvement).
We finally arrived at Marienplatz, slightly late, but we caught up as they watched the world-famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel (Play of Bells) in the tower balcony of the Neues Rathaus. Since 1908, figurines representing stories from Munich’s history twirl on two levels daily at 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. In addition to the well-known coopers dancers, the Münchner Kindl (symbol of the city’s coat of arms) and the angel of peace also make an appearance in the almost 12-minute-long spectacle.
Our guide was an American native who moved over to Germany for high school, and she’s lived there ever since. She was lovely and oh so bubbly too. 🙂
She brought us to Viktualienmarkt next, where we saw the Maibaum (maypole), a tall wooden pole erected as a part of various European folk festivals, around which a maypole dance often takes place. The festivals may occur on May Day or Pentecost. Munich’s maypole is painted in the Bavarian colours of white and blue (called ‘the heavens of Bavaria’) and decorated with emblems depicting local crafts and industry — beer, Biergarten and merry-making obviously. A funny tradition Münchners have is that if you steal another town’s maypole, they must throw you a big beer (of course) party in order to get it back. One day, the airport’s maypole was discovered missing, prompting the airport to contact the police. Believe it or not, it was then brought to light that it was none other than the police who had taken their maypole! You guessed it, a huge beer celebration at the police station ensued.
My Mum told me that Indonesia has a ‘maypole’ of sorts too, it’s called “Panjat Pinang“. It is a centuries-old tradition of Indonesia. Every year, Indonesia’s Independence Day is celebrated by climbing slippery (made slippery by oil) nut-tree poles to reach prizes placed in a wheel at the top.
A ‘shitty moment’ happened here at the Viktualienmarkt. We were standing under a tree for shade at one point (it sure was sunny that day) when “Aaahhhh!” Two of our tour members had gotten shat on! Tissues, dry and wet ones, were offered in quick succession.
Walking down Munich’s Viscardigasse next, a small street in the centre of the city, we saw a gold pathway marked out on the paving stones. The gold path snakes its way along Viscardigasse, outlining the route that those who wanted to resist Hitler’s reign would have taken as they silently protested. It’s a subtle tribute to the citizens of the city who could not bring themselves to make the Nazi salute (Hitlergruß) as they passed by the monument commemorating the death of Nazi sympathisers who died during the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch when Hitler tried to seize power in Munich. These silent protestors took a detour, and Viscardigasse was their detour. Making their own silent protest meant that they were taking a risk, though. Those who refused to salute would possibly face a future in Dachau if caught, or at the very least be on the receiving end of a brutal beating. Their memory has been plated in gold.
We walked into the Residenz Square next, where we learned about King Ludwig I, a womaniser who chose a beautiful exotic dancer over his throne. Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12th October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honour of the Crown Princess ever since (the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”). Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest. Fun fact: During Oktoberfest, 1/3 of all beer made in the year is consumed! Also, beer was recognised as a basic food group, like carbohydrates or proteins, until the early 1900s.
Next up was the Hofbräuhaus, aka. The Beer Palace. The Munich Hofbräuhaus on the Platzl is one of the most well-known city institutions and is at the same time the most famous brewery in the world.
In the Hofbräuhaus, it used to be (and still is) very difficult to find a seat during the busy hours (or simply when a big tour group passed by for a meal). If one needed to relief their bladder after having lots to drink, which in the past meant going outside of the building and peeing in the street, one would have to leave their seat and their mug of beer, and when they returned the likelihood was that someone else would be sitting in their seat and drinking out of their mug of beer! Brawls were rampant! To solve the problem, the brewery installed troughs beneath the tables for customers to pee from the comfort of their seats. (But this led to splashing and more brawls.) Can You imagine the stench? Long story short, the beer hall definitely has toilets now (and there even is a puke bowl in the toilet for when one has had a little too much to drink)!
Speaking of beer, a beer glass became a holy relic a while back. In 1876, a thunderstorm made the golden cross on the spire of Alter Peter (Church of St. Peter, Munich’s oldest church, built in 1150) fall off. No one in the church (or any sane person asked by church personnel) was brave enough to climb up to replace it, and so the church people went to a nearby Beer Hall (understandably full of drunk men), offered free beer all night to the man who would put it back up. One brave soul manned up, and, beer glass in one hand and golden cross in the other, climbed to the top of the spire. He fixed the cross back onto the spire, raised his beer glass in victory – and dropped it! The glass fell, but didn’t smash on the pavement below, which was regarded as a miracle, and so the glass became a holy relic! The beer glass is still kept in the church today.
We climbed up the Church of St. Peter that day, too, but not the way the drunk man did from its exterior. We climbed up all 306 steps of the tall steeple and reached a viewing platform, where we managed to snap great photos of the city of Munich on that very clear and hot afternoon. The almost 100-meter-long main facade on Marienplatz is richly ornamented in neo-gothic style and shows almost the entire line of the house of Wittelsbach in Bavaria. I just love this city so much, it’s perfect.
Tip: If you’re up for the climb, look for the colour-coded circles at the lower platform. These will let You know whether or not it’s worth it to climb the 306 steps to the 56-meter -high platform. For example, a white circle means visibility is at its best and You may be able to see all the way to the Alps.
A quick lunch at home before we were off again. This time, we drove to a strawberry farm just off Neu-Aubing. We were ecstatic, we truly were. We went up the owner of the farm, which was an adorable elderly man with a big beer belly and shiny platinum white hair.
‘Wir möchten Erdbeeren pflücken bitte!’ (‘We would like to pick strawberries please!’) I told him.
‘Ehrlich?!’ (‘No way, really?!’) He said in mock astonishment, as Miriam so accurately described.
We laughed as we bought a paper basket-crate-type thing from him. Then off we went! Two girls and a large, endless field of strawberries. We were in our elements. We saw something funny about halfway through filling our basket: other pickers were facing their backs to the farm’s owner, who was comfortable standing in the shade of his little hut, and munching on strawberries they’d just picked! Miriam and I were a little naughty and did so too. I know this picture of me makes it seem as though the strawberry was sour, but take my word for it, it was anything but. The strawberry I hit all the sweet notes and man was it juicy! We left with full hearts, an overflowing basket of ruby red happiness, and a selfie with the farm owner himself (featured above).
Next was Schloß Nymphenburg, our last stop for the day. Schloß Nymphenburg was where King Ludwig II was born. Being 1.7km away from home, I went there a lot, but always, alone. This time, I was with Miriam and I was absolutely excited because I had a feeling she would love it as much as I did. Schloß Nymphenburg is so grand and magical, it’s incredible — mythical gods, lush green grass, neatly grown lanes of flowers of all sorts, pristine white swans and gondolas in the lake, just like what one would see in Venice.
Schloss Nymphenburg is the birthplace of King Ludwig II, someone who loved fairytales for he went on the build another fairytale castle, Schloß Neuschwanstein. Some people call Schloß Neuschwanstein ‘the Cinderella Castle’. We sat on a bench under a big tree for shade where we watched sprinklers creating colourful bows of ‘rain’… rainbows. Beside us was a guy who looked like Lajoc. Remember the cartoon boy from Naples?
That evening, we did our laundry for the first time in 2 weeks (a record for me!), baked sweet potatoes for the first time in 2 weeks, cooked vegetables for the first time in 2 weeks and made granola for the first time in 2 weeks. So many ‘first time in 2 week’s! It was good to be home. We had dinner and dessert (a bowl of hazelnut mylk-drenched cornflakes) while watching Jumanji.