Trip Start Nov 25, 2010
17Trip End Feb 23, 2011
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Upon arriving in Munich, capital of Bavaria, the difference between the city and Nuremberg was already quite staggering - simply from standing amidst the hustle and bustle of its central train station. From the old of Nuremberg’s cobblestone and timber-framing to the new of Munich’s sleek, modern look. The city is an architectural cocktail of different styles of building, with historic Gothic and Baroque structures standing side-by-side with ultra-modern department stores. With the prospect of a vast, new city to explore fresh in our minds - and the added benefit of a hostel room that seems more like that of a hotel - spirits were high before we even hit the streets. There’s something about the vibe of a big city that sets it apart from life in the slow lane and small towns. Whereas the German towns we’ve visited are not without their own charms, making for beautiful picturesque getaways, we couldn’t see ourselves spending longer than a weekend or so in some of them. Munich, by comparison, is a proverbial treasure trove of never ending delights, always with something new to offer, uncover and explore. Weeks could be lost here, and quite easily so, with not only the liveliness of the sprawling cityscape to keep you company, but its excellent location, moments away from the Bavarian alps and other points of interest
Our first day in Munich was spent simply wandering the surrounding central area of Karlsplatz and Marienplatz. Clumsily stumbling our way into the central shopping district of immense, open air streets and pavilions lined with all kinds of wonderful stores and goodies, it’s refreshing to find ourselves in city built with large crowds of people in mind. Night time in Nuremberg saw the most popular regions of the city's winding, narrow streets cluttered with people shuffling about like cattle. This is not the case in Munich, with large open areas of space to accommodate its population of millions. We arrived at the Marienplatz to the delightful chiming of forty-three bells that filled the city with song, the ‘Glockenspiel’ of the New Town Hall alive with a display of moving, brightly painted mechanical figures that reenact the city’s history at eleven every morning. The square itself is, like so many others in Europe, marvellous. The heart of Munich, the Marienplatz dates back to the Middle Ages when markets and tournaments were held in the square, however it now finds itself host to the city's largest Christmas market and quite literally a plethora of clocks and towers that dominate the skyline. It was all too easy for us to spend hours wandering about the surrounding region, admiring the scenery and taking in the smells of fine German food cooking. From the top of the Glockenspiel, which thankfully had an elevator, we could see all of Munich before us under clear blue skies, stretching onward forever out to the alps in the distance and Austria.
The city is home to more than thirty world class museums, however we found only the time to visit a mere two of them. The Deutches Museum, located on a small island along the city’s Isar River is the German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology, covering thirteen hectares of exhibits
Church and cathedral hopping appears to be becoming quite the European pastime, and our time in Munich proved to be no exception, with us visiting the exceedingly lavish Church of St. Peter and the Church of Our Lady. Perhaps what made these churches most fascinating is how different they are to any other we’ve visited so far, both inside and out. The exteriors of the churches are designed very plainly, without rich Gothic ornaments, whilst the interiors open up to grand stylings of white marble and gold. Most notably, they were not quite as, say, frightening as other churches and cathedrals, hanging dead or dying Jesus’ from every cold, stone wall. Rather, the interiors appeared quite pleasant and, dare I say, happy, with fantastic painted murals covering the ceilings, grand white columns and immense shrines of holy depictions in silvers and golds.
The real attraction to this region of Germany, however, surrounds the mystique of King Ludwig II, the so-called mad king of Bavaria. An eccentric recluse, King Ludwig II lead his family to financial ruin upon taking the throne. Living in his own private fantasy world, the king had a longstanding love for art, architecture and construction - an interest that lead him to spend almost the entirety of his family fortune designing and constructing various lavish castles and palaces unrivaled in their majesty by those of any other in Germany. We first visited Nymphenburg Palace on the outskirts of Munich, the ‘holiday house’ of the Bavarian royal family during the summer months and birthplace of King Ludwig II. The interior of the place is everything you’d expect from a palace, really. Vast, open rooms with all the golden royal trimmings, marble staircases and brilliant painted murals on every ceiling. Of particular interest in our grand tour was the birthroom and bed of Ludwig II, as well as the ‘Gallery of Beauties’, a room filled with the portraits of women from all walks of life, handpicked by the former king as the lands most beautiful women - and many of them surely mistresses
The Munich Residenz, located in the cities most beautiful square of the Odeonsplatz, is the actual royal palace itself; home of the former Bavarian monarchs and the largest palace in Germany with almost every room available for viewing. Although badly damaged in World War’s I and II, the palace has been reconstructed and many of the original rooms still survive, with each representing a wide variety of styles and architecture that reflects the palaces many years in operation - each successor to the throne adding their own personal touch to the palace grounds. With over one-hundred-and-thirty rooms in the palace and each so vastly different and beautiful in their own respect, it would be impossible to recount all the wonderful treasures within. Perhaps the grandest of rooms, however, is that of the ‘Antiquarium’ - or Hall of Antiquities. Built in the fifteen hundreds to house Albert V’s antique collection of Roman statues, it is the largest Renaissance hall north of the alps. Upon first stepping into the hall it is literally breathtaking, defining and surpassing the very word magnificence. With it's brilliant tapestries, archways and marble flooring, the intricate ceiling paintings of Bavarian landscapes and holy imagery above blend perfectly with the wood finishings and busts of Roman emperors below
To complete our tour of royal Bavaria, we took a day out of Munich to visit Fussen and Schwangau, towns in the shadow of Ludwig II’s most infamous castles. Located by the foot of the alps, the immense castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwangau sit opposite one another upon the mighty mountainous terrain that paints the morning fog with unreal pastel blues, purples and greens. The scenery surrounding the castles is beautiful unto its own, the village located beside a shimmering lake of perfectly flat, glass-like water that forms a basin below the snowy peaks
Neuschwangau castle, located upon a higher cliff face opposite Hohenschwangau, is a sight to behold, its views over the lakes and villages of the region unrivaled. The interior, however, was never finished, with only one third of the castle actually completed after seventeen years of construction before Ludwig ran out of money, leading to his being declared unfit to rule and eventual mysterious death
Considered to be the beer capital of the world, you can also bet we did indeed indulge in a pint or two that even I could not resist. I have come to the conclusion that perhaps its only Australian beer that tastes like swill after sampling a few of the local flavours. Either that or Germany has finally made me a man. The remainder of our days were spent exploring the city and just enjoying its various offerings, with many an hour lost gallivanting about fields of snow in Munich’s immense English Garden - complete with a paradoxical Chinese Pagoda. All in all, I think I could honestly spend many a week in this place, and shall definitely put it straight to the list of destinations to visit again one day. For now though, there’s plenty more Germany to see and tomorrow I must heed the call to Heidelberg. Until next time.