Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Sub-Sub-SUB Zero Munich

Wowee, it's cold here. This morning, after not having had the best sleep because we enjoyed the bar too much last night, we attempted to get ready for the 10.00am walking tour (again with Sandemans, because we love them). Cara and Alfie made it, Sean and I didn't, but it just meant we had a very leisurely morning before heading out on the tour at 1pm instead. It was possibly one of the more fascinating tours, but again, like Berlin and Prague, the cold is such a distraction, it's hard to recall the finer details of what we learnt. But I shall do my best. Our guide's name was Marcin and he was from Hampshire in England. He has had a pretty fascinating bunch of experiences, and is a fully qualified guide at the Dachau Memorial Camp. See his website for a really interesting project he is working on. http://www.marcinonabike.com/

We started the tour in Marianplatz, with the New Town Hall and the Old Town Hall, both of which were damaged by the bombings in WW2 and rebuilt afterwards. There are a handful of buildings that survived the bombings - these are all in the centre of the city and have spires. This is how the Allied pilots could tell where to aim the bombs - around the spires. Pretty much everything else in Munich was bombed to dust. Before the bombs fell, the Nazis sent photographers round the city to document as much evidence of where things had been, all the little things like, where trees were, the detail on facades and doorways etc. All the things that wouldn't necessarily show up on building plans. This meant that after the war, the city could rebuild more or less the exact same way it had been before.

In Marienplatz we also learnt about the useless Duke Wilhelm, who bankrupted Bavaria by supplying the Bavarian Army with free beer, and his useless son, who succeeded him and promptly abandoned Munich when it was invaded, only to return when the Munich citizens had successfully saved the city. He claimed he had fled (with the entire Bavarian army) to climb a mountain in Salzburg and pray for the salvation of Munich to the Virgin Mary. He had obviously been successful, and was deaf to the protests of Munich citizens that they, in fact, had saved the city.

We then saw St Peter's Church, the oldest church in Munich. There is a cannonball embedded in the window sill from when the Austrian's fired it there. There is also a little bell that was rung specifically to remind the prostitutes and witches to come to Mass. Ah, Munich. A city full of very weird things. We went to an open-air market, which is apparently quite beautiful in summer because there is a large beer garden, but it was packed away for winter. After this, we went to the place where the Night of Broken Glass began. The story is far too complicated for me to go into here, but if you don't know the story behind it, particularly the story of Herschel Grynszpan, whose actions (which were, I believe, justified) were used as an excuse to begin the Night of Broken Glass, it is a very interesting one. Tragic and unfair, and often thought of as the beginning of the Holocaust, but an important chapter of Munich's history. 

We saw a statue of Juliet (from 'Romeo and Juliet'), as apparently Verona is a sister city of Munich. This was awesome for us, because Verona has been on our itinerary, but it looks like we won't be able to make it there after all. So it was nice to see a piece of it in Germany. We then walked to Hofbrauhaus, Munich's most famous brewery, and also the birthplace of the Nazi party. It was here that the Nazi's changed their name to the National Socialists and elected Hitler their leader (after he had proven his popularity and overthrown the previous leader). There is a hall up on the top level of the Hofbrauhaus that looks like the inside of a beer barrel. It has a stage at the back where Hitler delivered many speeches and it was creepy to stand there because it was full of people dancing and laughing. I think it's wonderful that it is used for fun gatherings, which have nothing to do with the sinister stuff that occurred there, but it's still confronting to see a place where such hate-filled vitriol was spewed.

We then walked partway along the route of the Beer Hall Putsch, which is the name for an attempted revolt by Hitler before the Nazi party had come to power. Basically, the Nazi's decided to seize power from Germany's current dictator, but were trapped by a police blockade and engaged in a gun battle on Odeonsplatz. Hitler's bodyguard fell on top of him and took 11 bullets. The bodyguard survived and became a prominent Nazi later on, but imagine how different the world would have been if one of those 11 bullets had hit their intended target and killed Hitler. After this occurred, the Nazis made a memorial for the 'Nazi martyrs' that had been shot (13 in total, though the sign said 20), and every citizen was forced to give the Nazi salute when they passed the memorial. The beginnings of German resistance formed in Munich when the citizens began avoiding the memorial. They would walk through the side streets instead, and there is a copper-coloured trail through the cobblestones to mark their efforts. This later became difficult. The Nazis cottoned on to what was happening and stationed an undercover guard in the side streets to take names and details of people passing through, who should have walked on the Odeonsplatz. If your name ended up on the list twice, you were sent to the concentration camp in Dachau to be 're-educated' politically. So taking the side streets really was a risk of one's life and the citizens continued to do it, which was extremely brave.

Odeonsplatz has a beautiful hall (concert hall? I can't remember) that has sculptures to honour Bavarian generals. There are two statues of lions. One is facing the palace with it's mouth open. This is to signify that the citizens were entitled to free speech, even if it criticised the royal family. The other lion is looking towards the church with it's mouth closed. This is to signify that free speech didn't extend to the church. You weren't allowed to criticise that! We saw the Theatine Church and one of the many courtyards of the palace, which has a wall of portraits of every Bavarian Duke/King in chronological order. Our guide took us down the wall, explaining the complete craziness of every ruler. They are an interesting and insane bunch! After that, we finished the tour and hurried back to Marienplatz with a German girl who was staying at our hostel. We found a cafe, because I simply had to defrost my feet. The cafe was run by this older German woman and there was an older German woman who was a customer in the shop. It was the littlest, sweetest cafe and there was a big, fluffy, white dog sitting in the middle of the floor. We played with the dog and the women found out we were Australian and tried out their English and were so friendly and welcoming. The lady convinced me to have apple strudel and it was even better than the one I had in Berlin. 

After we had defrosted, we plunged back into the snow and went back to the hostel. We defrosted once more and then decided to head out again (hey, our time in Munich is limited!). So Sean and I went to a beer hall for dinner where I, being not a huge beer fan, consented to having a half litre of Augustiner mixed with lemonade. It was...alright. I still didn't love it. But we had AMAZING Bavarian food for dinner there. Potato dumplings, meatballs, meat ravioli, beef broth, sauerkraut and potato salad and gravy. So delicious. The beer hall looked just like you expected it to, with barrels and long tables and beer wenches and it was heaps of fun! Then we walked home and have alternated between the bar, our room and the laundry.


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