Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Munich

We spent the night in Munich and took a free tour through the town the next day. It was run only for tips and, although the guy who ran it was a bit too flippant for my tastes, I was glad we took the tour since he gave some interesting history of Germany that I hadn’t realized before. The thing that surprised me most was that the modern nation-state of Germany didn’t even come into existence until 1871 – before that there were 4 main kingdoms who each had a major city as its capital.  They were: Prussia (Berlin), Bavaria (Munich), Saxony (Dresden) and Wurrtemberg (Stuttgart).  I think it is awesome we saw 3 out of 4 of these cities during this trip.  We also heard about the rise of Hitler in Munich and his initially failed attempt to take over the government.

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We wandered through Marienplatz (thanks Wiki for last shot and church shot below) and got to see the monument built to honor Mary after Munich was spared during the plague.  We also got to watch the amazing astronomical clock do its show.  Our tour guide was making fun of how lame it was going to be – but the kids and I thought it was quite amazing that such a thing, created over 100 years ago, before computers or even engines, still works perfectly and tells a great story, with life-sized knights jousting and barrel makers that do a funny beer dance.  This dance is still re-enacted once every 10 years with real people. 

We then walked over to Frauenkirsch.  This famous church was built in the 1400’s and completed in less than 20 years, having been made out of brick.  We got Resized_HPIM5133to hear the wonderful legend of the Devil’s Footprint: “Much of the interior was destroyed during WWII, and even the restored parts still look plain by comparison. However, an attraction that can still be found is the Teufelsschritt, or Devil's Footstep, at the entrance. This is a black mark resembling a footprint with a small Resized_HPIM5137hooked tail at the heel, which, according to legend, was where the devil stood when he curiously regarded and ridiculed the windowless church that Halsbach had built. In fact, it is a large casting in the square base plate, and none of the side windows can be seen from the spot when one looks to the high altar.

In another version of the legend, the devil made a deal with the builder: no windows were to be built in the church. The clever builder, however, tricked the devil by positioning columns so that Resized_HPIM5138the windows were not visible from the spot where the devil stood in the foyer. When the devil discovered that he had been tricked, he could not enter the already consecrated church. The devil could only stand in the foyer and stomp his foot furioResized_HPIM5134usly, which left the dark footprint that remains visible in the church's entrance today.”

Yes, we did get to see the Devil’s Footprint.  I was a bit amazed to see it wasn’t cloven!  It even seemed like he must have had shoes on….

We also found out that Frauenkirsch is the home church to the current Catholic pope former Cardinal Ratzinger – I guess that might be cool to practicing Catholics.  I loved the ceilings in this particular building – glorious!

Resized_HPIM5149We then got to see another church.  The guide told us that most of the churches in Munich had heavy Resized_HPIM5147damages after the war and had to be rebuilt.   In general, only church towers were left standing.  I had always thought this was outResized_HPIM5149 of respect but the guide informed us that it was to help the bomber pilots have a large and easily noticeable landmark to navigate from when flying over strange cities.   So much for respect! 

The guide then told us that the people of Munich were particularly upset at the idea of their beautiful city being destroyed and so took thousands of photos of the major buildings so they could be precisely rebuilt.  He claimed that the cannonball lodged in the wall of the church next to the window was put there during a 16th century battleResized_HPIM5155 and was carefully retained and replaced while rebuilding it after the destruction of WWII.   I’m not sure if I really believe that, but it makes a great story.

We Resized_HPIM5189also went to the most famous beergarden in the world Hofbräuhaus.  It was founded in 1589 and still is in use today.  Hitler had many many meetings there and the photo at far left is of the room where he made some of his most famous early speeches.  Some of the earliest cases of violence against Jews happened in this house as well.   As you can see the meeting room is still in active use today. Kind of creeped me out, to tell you the truth!  Hofbrauhaus is sort of a tourist trap now but remains wildly popular. Patrons go there to drink and have fun, especially during Oktoberfest. The large bathrooms still contain a vomitorium, which our tour guide proudly bragged about using. 

We wandered further, seeing more churches, statues, monuments and the road where Hitler first tried to overthrow the government.  For this crime he was put in jail for 6 months, coming out more powerful than ever.

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The tour guide Resized_HPIM5148pointed out the sign (left) outside a church. It warned us not to tour during hours of Holy service and also had a helpful visual to remind visitors of what to avoid while in the cathedral.  No smoking, no ice cream cones, no cell phones, no hats and (my personal favorite, blown up at right) no hands in pockets.  Guess they don’t want people to enjoy themselves too much.

We spent more time wandering about and hearing stories before the end of the tour.  Then we headed for the car and Zurich.  Man we are really getting tired of this vacation, majorly tired! I think I might have been overly ambitious (once again).

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