Our welcome to Munich began even before we disembarked the plane. “Ladies and gentlemen” said the voice over the intercom as people shuffled restlessly in the aisles, “I don’t know if you have heard but we are experiencing a strike at the moment that affects security, baggage handling and the fire personnel. As a result many flights have been cancelled and you may experience some delays….”
The voice continued with instructions for those who might be affected by cancelled flights but I was no longer listening. If truth be told, as a South African one can often feel beleaguered by the social, political and economic problems so prevalent in our country so I was indulging in a moment of schadenfreude swiftly followed by relief we didn’t have to catch any connecting flights that day. Finally off the plane and prepared for long, frustrating delays we found ourselves through customs and collecting our bags in no time. Even when on strike the Germans are efficient.
The train ride took us past quaint homes neatly maintained and both they and the hedges bordering them were all sprinkled with snow as though there was a bake off happening among the Nordic gods and one of them had got hold of the icing sugar and a sieve ….Magic. It wasn’t a lot of snow, certainly not enough to make even a diminutive snowman but…regardless its the first time I have ever seen snow and I was enchanted.
Munich founded in 1158 is the 3rd largest town in Germany with a population of around 1.5 million it is steeped in history with Roman and Greek influences clearly visible. Whereas in Paris it feels as though nothing has changed in centuries and all modernity is but a transient illusion Munich feels thoroughly modern with a well preserved history. It’s streets are wide, extremely clean and it’s people friendly. It has university’s, art galleries and a busy media centre as well as a variety of museums.
Our apartment in Munich is very centrally located and it was a short brisk walk to reach it. And “brisk” in this context refers both to the temperature and the speed we walked in order to keep warm. It’s a beautiful, recently renovated apartment with great finishes and lots of room…and even more importantly heaters and underfloor heating. We drop our bags and deal with the essentials (connecting to WiFi, grabbing a shower, getting coffee and a local sim) this taken care of we set off to Marienplatz which is the central square in Munich and has been since 1158. Back in the Middle ages it was where the market was held and executions and festivities took place, one can only assume not simultaneously, though I guess nothing is impossible. Originally called something else (Schrannen) the name was changed to St Marys square, Marienplatz, as a way of asking her protection during a cholera epidemic. There is also a column erected in 1638 in the centre called St Marys column with a gilded statue of Mary at the top to celebrate the end of the Swedish invasion. Overlooking all of this is the imposing Gothic styled New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) built between 1867 and 1909. The Neues Rathaus houses the Glockenspiel which consists of 43 bells and 32 life size figures which at 11:00 every day (more often in summer)like a super sized cuckoo clock chimes and plays out two stories; one relating to myths surrounding 1517 apparently a year of plague in Munich and the other reenactment the marriage of Duke Willem V to his wife.
On the walk to Marienplatz we strolled through one of the many parks. The white flowers springing up among the grass and the beautiful bright tulips a bright splash of colour against the grey day. A reminder that it is in fact Spring, no matter how chilly.
Marienplatz is central to the city and a great place from which to start exploring the Munich. Most places of interest are either in the square, or as in the case of the market (the same one which used to take place in the square) the Viktualienmarkt now a a short walk away.
And not to mention a multitude of restaurants and that aside from sightseeing is what had brought us to the square. Our host had suggested that we try the famous white sausage. We found a cosy restaurant – self service and started dishing up. Upon seeing the famed white sausages bloated, pale objects bobbing in lukewarm water I said a private prayer of thanks that I am vegetarian and thus feel in no way obliged to try them ..I am too polite to say what they initially reminded me of (though I will add that I have been reading a lot of forensic stories lately which is probably what brought to mind the comparison) let’s just call them, the zombie sausages. …most disturbing from a visual perspective but fortunately my companions said it tasted much better than it looked.
We strolled back after lunch eager for a snooze. Later that evening we went looking for somewhere to watch the Beyern Munich versus Athletico Madrid game eventually settling on a spot with an Irish pub upstairs and Australian one downstairs (Best of both worlds when it comes to pubs) where we enjoyed a bit of grub and I have to say the best selection of food I have possibly ever come across in a pub. Broccoli and potato soup with gratings of parmesan and cashews for me and chicken wings and onion rings for Pierre and Ann. Even though Beyern didn’t win we walked away content with the evening.