"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad



On our way home from Prague, we decided to break up the long train trip by staying a couple of nights in Munich. The town is in Bavaria, which was independent up until 1871. Bavaria is known for its social conservatism. Munich was also where Nazism was springboarded into action after the devastation of the city during WWI.  Today it is known for its firm roots in traditions but also as a powerhouse in the German economy. Bascially, it's all about beer, pretzels and lederhosen, folks.

We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed our visit to Munich. We were amazed by all the nice stores, nice cars, and nicely dressed people as well as how neat and clean the city is. Much of Munich was destroyed by the WWII bombings, yet Munich decided to rebuild the town center as close as possible as to what the city looked like before, and the results are quite nice. (The Nazi's actually documented what the town looked like by photographing everything before the bombings began, and these photographs were used by the architects.) They even kept to the old rule of not allowing any building to be taller than the church spires. 

This is Marienplatz. It was bustling with shoppers, tourists, and people lounging at the outdoor cafes spread about the square. Behind you can see the twin towers of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) rising above the skyline like two large, green onions. The towers survived the wars and the church has since become a symbol of the city.
The tall, ornate building on the right is the New Town Hall. It's not exactly new (from the late 1860's and mostly survived WWII bombings), but it is significantly newer than the Old Town Hall which sits on another edge of the square and was originally built in 1470. But since the Old Town Hall was destroyed in the war and not rebuilt until the 1970's, actually the Old is newer and the New is older--but now I'm just boring you with tedious information.

What you really need to know about New Town Hall is that it is famous for its Glockenspiel--that's German-speak for a clock that chimes. But in this case, the clock not only plays music but also has figures that preform an intricate routine every day at 11 and 12.
We gathered with the rest of the tourists in Munich that day at noon to wait for the Glockenspiel show. At 12:00 nothing happened. At 12:01 nothing happened. At 12:02 nothing happened. I started to wonder if the town of Munich was playing a big joke on all of us tourists. Maybe all the locals sitting outside at the cafes were just there to point and laugh at us and say, "Gotcha!" at any moment. Three more minutes of staring up at the figures on the clock, and then finally 12:05 rolled around and the show began.
First, the top figures recreate the feast from a royal wedding from the 16th century. The musicians and jesters go around while the Duke and his queen watch from above.
They are followed by the jousters. The knight on the blue horse represents the Bavarians. After everyone goes around, it starts all over again. But this time, the Bavarian knight hits his enemy and knocks him off the horse. The poor guy has been killed twice a day for over the last 100 years.
The second half is not quite as exciting. It's just these guys twirling around doing a jig. It's supposed to be the 'coopers' who supposedly danced in the streets to celebrate the end of the plague in 1517. Not sure what the clown guy in the middle has to do with it. 

This is from the tiny Rococo church of the Asam brothers--Asamkirche. Rick Steves describes it as a "gooey, drippy Baroque-concentrate masterpiece by Bavaria's top Rococonuts," and I think that that a very accurate description.

We really liked the Theatinerkirche (church). Here is the bright yellow outside:

And the contrasting inside:

It sits in Odeonsplatz. The Residenz, the palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty who ruled Bavaria for several centuries is opposite the church. The Siegestor at the end of the square (on my right), a triumphal arch based on the Arch of Constantine in Rome.

Connected to the Residenz palace is the Hofgarten, the former palace gardens whose geometric design dates from the rign of Maximilain I (1610-1620).
The Hofgarten with the Theatinerkirche in the background.

Penelope was mesmerized by the fountain in the middle of the gardens. She kept on reaching out to try to touch the water.

The Father looking on from his bench.

Our last stop in Munich was the Alte Pinakothek Museum. It was one of our favorite museums we've been to in Germany. When it was built in 1826 it was actually the largest art gallery in the world. It houses a variety of German, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, French and Italian art from the Middle Ages until the 18th century and features paintings from Cranach, Duerer, Botticelli, Rubens, El Greco and Raphael.

Thankfully Penelope took her afternoon nap while we walked around so we could enjoy the art. When we were almost finished she woke up and was ready to explore. The Father put her on his shoulders for a little bit so she could get a good look around, but was forced to take her down when the museum guard stopped and told him in German, "You are not allowed to carry her on your shoulders in the museum." I wanted to ask her for proof that this rule really existed, but instead just raised my eyebrows and went along with it. Seriously?

So, except for an annoying museum guard, we had a wonderful time in Munich. It definitely exceeded out expectations!

Tomorrow we leave for Amsterdam to go see the tulips at their peak with our friends who came to visit us from England but have been unable to fly home due to the volcanic ash. We're looking forward to yet another memorble European adventure. Pictures and stories to follow soon...

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