Münich is the home of Oktoberfest and many, many beer halls…but I promise that we did more than drink beer today. Promise!
Germany was not on our original itinerary…but it slipped in due to the exorbitant costs of Switzerland, which we have now limited to a trip to Zurich and surrounding towns. The trip from Salzburg was only 2 hours, so we got in during the early afternoon. Our hosts were leaving for their own holiday in Rome, so we had the place to ourselves. While we waited for our check in time, we fortified ourselves with a couple of beers across the street.
Post check in, with an afternoon full of possibility ahead, what did we do? I took a three hour nap and John drank beer, blogged, and argued with people in the US about the potential Redskins name change. We are getting good at this travel thing.
We woke up the next morning to the sound of rain through the open window, so we waited for a couple hours for it to taper off. After temperatures in the 90’s from Prague to Vienna, we had considered shipping our sweaters and jackets back to Nashville; I am glad we didn’t, as the temps hovered around 65F today. It’s the first time I’ve worn my fleece in about 3 weeks, and I couldn’t be happier.
We navigated to the center of town; our first destination was Marienplatz. Marienplaz (St. Mary’s Square) has been the city’s main square since 1158. Today, the space is dominated by tourists first, and the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) second.
By the way, “new” means 1874…you know, that new-fangled time when Ulysses S. Grant was president of the U.S. and Queen Vic was still on the throne in England. The Neues Rathaus is where the fine folks of the city government go to work…although from the birds-eye view I took from the tallest tower, it appears to include a large outside cafe, so maybe not that much work goes on here. Also, the German word for Town Hall makes me snicker just as much as it did back in grade school, although now it’s a much more cynical snicker. A syniker? Incidentally, the Altes Rathaus can be seen in the panorama shot, on the right. It’s a small, cream colored building with a simple spire. This building was first documented in 1310. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged in WWII, and what stands today was reconstructed in the early 70’s. It was in the Great Hall of the Altes Rathaus that Joseph Goebbels gave his kick-off speech for the Kristallnacht.
By now, I am sure you are familiar with our need to climb tall things, so it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that we tried to hike up the Town Hall’s main tower. Disappointingly, you get up there by lift, so we felt as though we didn’t really accomplish much. But, ho! What is that we see from our aerie? The bright colors of waterproofs across the sky, huddled together against the rain, holding onto the railing atop a church spire. That’s where we need to be!
The tower belonged to St. Peter’s Church, a Roman Catholic church and the oldest in the district. It’s due to this fact that people presume the site to be the originating point for the whole city. The tower is 91 meters tall and accessible by 306 narrow steps. Unlike the N. Rathaus, the viewing platform consists of a 2ft platform that skirts around the outside of the spire, which was a bit tingly…however, the views were great. The iphone was very nearly hurled over the edge; a young lady elbowed her way through the single-file line of people that were shuffling around the 24″ ledge precipice. Her enormous camera bag wacked my arm as I was taking a panorama (outside the railing) and there was a few seconds of terror as the iphone jittered and jived out of my hand towards it’s 83m plunge. I’m pretty sure the only thing my otter-box case would do in this scenario would speed up my phone’s descent directly into someone’s brainpan (editor’s note: as some of us remember from high school physics, increasing an object’s mass does not increase its velocity). (editor of the previous editor’s note: some of us stopped at Biology). My fingers grasped for purchase, but they felt like someone else’s hands. I managed to grab it in the end, resulting in relieved glances from my fellow travellers, and then adrenaline pushed every ounce of sweat out of my body at once. This is how I know that I have never experienced true terror…because nearly dropping my easily replaceable phone was the most intense 5 seconds of my life to date. I suppose when your are travelling, a smartphone is a little more important than when you are back home. At home, you have a computer, internet access, an actual phone at work and neighbors/co-workers. When you are on the road, that smartphone is everything. At least, that’s how it feels right now. Maybe in South America and Asia, as we get away from the more populated places, our relience on this device will start to fade…but right now, it’s our lifeline.
The interior of the church was pretty impressive too. As John succinctly pointed out, “they sure love their gold up in here.” True dat.We wandered around the Viktualienmarkt, a large open air market, for a while. A lot of the stalls were selling gourmet food-stuffs: olives, meats, cheeses and wine. There were quite a number of stalls selling various Bavarian style gee-gaws, which were usually being visited by the fanny-pack crowd. We gave them a wide birth and settled in with a cup of strong coffee and watched the crowds.
It was too early to start drinking beer, and believe me, we have fairly low standards, but it’s never too early for more churches! I am sure John, and probably you, constant readers, are growing tired of churches, but I can’t pass them up. They are so beautiful and everyone shows a little respect and shuts up for once…its a nice break away from the bustle of city streets. Asamkriche was built in 1746 in the Baroque style and it’s a bit like sitting in an inside-out Faberge egg. Every surface is covered with gold leaf, stucco filigree, sculptures and paintings.
We decided to work up a thirst and visit the Englischer Garten. The English Garden is bigger than Hyde Park and Central Park, stretching for about 5km. A river runs through the park, which includes an man-made urban wave generator at the south end. Surfers line up here for the only opportunity in land-locked Germany to ride the waves.
It was finally an appropriate time for beer, so we set off in the direction of Hofbräuhaus: a brewery and beer hall in the city center. It’s the site of one of the largest tents during Oktoberfest and it was packed with people. I am sorry to say, we couldn’t hack it…the crowds were too much…especially after the relaxing hours we spent in our beautiful beer garden in Salzburg. We pushed out way back out to the street, bought some novelty postcards, and headed back to the flat. Our hosts had provided us some local recommendations for beer gardens, so we took them up on the Paulaner am Nockherberg, a convenient 5 minute walk away. It was a fairly unfriendly place, but the beer was good. As we bent our elbows, we were given the stink-eye from this lion, who, I assume, does not give two shits about anything.
The Great European Taco Famine of 2014 has come to an end, thank god…we dined until we were stuffed to the rafters. We finished the evening off with a presentation of Top Secret. Thanks to almost constant re-runs of this Zucker Bros. movie on Comedy Central in the early 90’s, I’ve seen this film many times. It was just as enjoyable 15 years later, and it was John’s first time seeing it. Strangely, this film depicts East Berlin in the 50’s or 60’s as being full of Nazis. What better way to end our first full day in Germany? Beers, tacos and a great (albeit historically inaccurate) spoof film.