After getting our bearings and checking in to our rooms in Munich, we took on the Rick Steves Munich Walking Tour. Mr. Steves is our go-to guide for trips around Europe. His no-nonsense guides offer honest advice for American travelers, and I feel like he has a good sense of what non-backpacking-partiers want to see in European cities. His self-guided walks (often accompanied by a free downloadable audio guide!) are always top notch.
This walk starts us off at Marienplatz, under the looming shadow of its New Town Hall. I know, the building depicted below hardly seems like anything we could call, "New," but it used to be younger than its sister hall, just across the square.
|New Town Hall|
The Hall is so long, it's difficult to capture in a single photo frame from the square, so we have to admire its charm and beauty piece by piece. It is one of the few buildings that survived World War II, as Munich was largely bombed flat by the allies.
The stars of the New Town Hall dance around her famous glockenspiel, a marvel of cute 19th-century automation. Twice daily, the coopers dance below as the Lord and Lady watch the mounted knights joust above. We were lucky enough to catch the show the morning after this walking tour.
|New Town Hall Glockenspiel|
And... Here's a shaky cell-phone camera video of the climax of the show from YouTube.
The New Town Hall was built as an improvement to the Old Town Hall nearby in the same square. The Old Town Hall was completely destroyed in The War and rebuilt later.
|Old Town Hall|
Still in Marienplatz, we took a look at the statue from which the square gets its name, Maria, the Virgin Mary stands tall in the middle of the square. Munich was a longtime Catholic stronghold as much of Germany was converting to Protestantism in the wake of Martin Luther. The New Town Hall and the other buildings in the square all face inward to the central pillar with Mary.
|Mary in Marienplatz|
Inside the New Town Hall complex, we noticed the seals of Munich's sister cities. Look at the venerable company attached to Munich: The Great Kiev, Shakespeare's Verona, Stony Edinburgh, Imperial Sapporo, and...Cincinnati! Nasty 'Nati. Hmmmm.
In the next corner of the square is St. Peter's Church. Another Catholic stronghold in Munich, the church was badly damaged in the war and rebuilt, like much of this great city.
|St. Peter's Church Sanctuary|
|St. Peter's Church Exterior|
We will be back to this church, particularly the belltower... but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Next stop is the Viktualienmarkt, the busy food-and-goods open air market just off Marienplatz. The market was booming and buzzing with locals and tourists. Pictured below is the famous Maypole in the square. Maypoles like this used to serve as information posts for illiterate villagers, advertising what was on sale in the market on a given day.
Near the market is the Jewish Synagogue and History Museum. Note the not-so-subtle fortress-like atmosphere surrounding the rebuilt synagogue and Jewish center. A set of huge iron double doors with the Ten Commandments inscribed on their faces is the only entrance to the complex. Much more on the tragedy of the twentieth century later.
|Synagogue in Munich|
Around the corner from the Synagogue is another church, this one a hilarious advertisement to a pair of wonderfully-named 18th-century church architects. This church is just 30 feet wide, and is built between two homes. It was designed and constructed by the Asam (pronounced awesome) Brothers in 1740 as a demonstration to potential church building customers. Without much space, the brothers had to squeeze in all the potential features of their churches, regardless of taste, space, or restraint.
The front facade is overly decorated with concrete and stone gargoyles, statues, and a variety of pillar and scrollwork. Potential buyers could admire all of these features before stepping into the delightfully tacky...
|Asam Church Facade|
Oh yeah, the interior. Many of the crowning achievements of these two brothers were in their trickery. The ceiling is flat, but painted to give the illusion of an expensive dome. They used cheap glass to look like thin-sliced alabaster, and painted wooden pillars to perfectly match precious marble. All the plaster, gold, and paint tricks here would be selected a la carte by potential church builders and ordered from the brothers.
Apparently, they did quite well for themselves, and why not! Today, the church is a legitimate functioning Catholic church.
|Asam "Awesome" Interior|
|Asam "Awesome" Altar|
...Just another 500 year old church, St. Michael's lies between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz. The statue of St. Michael stabbing a protestant in the face serves as a very not-so-subtle reminder that the Catholics were (and are) in charge of southern Germany.
|St. Michael's Exterior|
|St. Michael Rockin' the Spear|
|St. Michael's Interior|
On the way to Frauenkirche, I was ambushed by a large bronze catfish.
Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is the most famous Catholic church in Munich, at its twin domed towers are visible from just about anywhere in the city. It is of particular modern note because Josef Ratzinger served as Archbishop from this church until he moved to the Vatican. Later, he would become Pope Benedict XVI.
By this time, we were ready for angels of a different sort to give us respite from our long travels. Luckily, there was just such a place on our way, Hofbrauhaus.
Not sure what kind of thing happens at the Hofbrauhaus? Here's a hint. Tune in next week!