El albergue

El albergue

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moments in Munich

When I finally met up with Kels at our hostel in Munich, it was pretty late, so after a rather tasty Italian dinner, we headed to bed in preparation for a big day of sighseeing on Saturday.  First, we spent a few hours wandering around and check out some really beautiful spots, like the huge Englischer Garten that seemed to stretch out in an endless succession of manicured open fields, streams, ponds, and stands of trees, intersected and connected by meandering sandy pathways and dotted here and there with joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, and the odd Frisbee flying around between a group of young people.  We also spent a fair bit of time at one street vendor’s table, where she was selling hollow hand-painted Easter eggs with the most delicately beautiful designs – we learned later on that it is traditional in Germany and Austria to hang such eggs on a sort of Easter tree in celebration of springtime.

In the Englischer Garten

In the afternoon, we joined a free tour of the city in order to learn a little bit about the things we were seeing.  The tour guide was fantastic, energetic and entertaining, with an obvious interest in the information she was imparting and a voice that carried.  She told us too many things to remember, but here are just a few tidbits that you might enjoy:

- “Munich” comes from the German word for monks.  Apparently, in ancient times, Munich was heavily populated by monasteries, and famous for it, and the people who lived near would always just say they lived next to the monks…so eventually the town sort of took on that name.

- Once, when the Opera house was burning down, the people tried to put out the fire via bucket line, except all the buckets were filled with beer from the nearby Hofbräuhaus (biggest beer hall in town)…pretty soon the buckets were arriving at the end of the line empty, and the streets were filled with raucously drunk men.  Unfortunately, the Opera house burned completely down.

- Oktoberfest started as a celebration of the wedding of one of their kings, and the people liked the giant party so much that they repeated the festivities every year thereafter. 

- Before the major fighting started in WWII, the people of Munich went out and took detailed pictures and sketches of every building in the city so that they could rebuild them exactly as they were in case they were destroyed.  Good thing they did, too, because almost the entire city was in smithereens after the roughly 70 bombs that were dropped on it.  Because of their foresight, the city is as beautiful today as it has always been.

- There are about 120 discreet memorials placed around the city in memory of different people who died during the time of the Nazis.  Most of them have no immediately obvious explanation because their purpose is to make you curious enough to go investigate their meaning, the thought being that if you search for the significance of the memorial it will be more memorable, have more of an impact.

- Also, Germany has the third highest per capita beer consumption in the world, but if you don’t include Bavaria (the area in which Munich is) in the tally, it falls to 27th place. …Bavarians are very serious about their beer.

We were trying to fit in.
The last part of our day of sightseeing was quite lovely too – after the tour, we meandered around the open air Viktualienmarkt (can you guess what that means?) and ended the day by sitting down in a beer garden with giant soft pretzels and steins of beer.  Completely Munich.

The Rathaus, or Town Hall, another impressive site in the city

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