Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 33 / Munich-2

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Tour of Munich - München / Part # 2

Aerial View of Munich Bomb Damage
(Photo Credit / The Library of Congress)
We were in the middle of our tour through the capital city of Munich, enjoying lunch at the beautiful inner central courtyard biergarten of the Hofbräuhaus.  After finishing our meal of Bavarian white sausage, we and walked through the interior seating areas that were now quickly filling with customers.  The festive scene was complimented by the robust sound from the traditional om-pah band who were playing the old folk songs from Bavaria's Alpine past.  Before leaving the historic former brewery, we checked out the extensive gift shop where you could buy just about anything and everything adorned with the HB logo.  We stepped out into the bright sunshine and looked over the beautiful building one last time.  The brewery was practically destroyed during an allied bombing raid in 1944, like most buildings in Munich by the end of WWII.  The brewery was rebuilt in the traditional style and reopened for business in 1958, just in time to celebrate the 800th birthday of the city of Munich.  After returning back to the states I researched the aftermath of WWII in Germany, looking at news articles and watching military film footage of the aerial bomb damage inflicted by the allies.  The film footage showed nothing but rows upon rows of brick and mortar skeletons of former buildings what were once part of vibrant cities.  It resembled the apocalypse and the German people, most of whom were civilians, suffered in the decade that followed.  Many called it deserved justice for the atrocities caused by the Nazi Regime during the war on other countries.  Subsequently, millions of the German people likely died in the aftermath of surrender and subsequent peace.  

Adolph Hitler / Odeonsplatz Speech 
(Photo Credit / The Library of Congress)
"In the aftermath of the destruction of World War II, many Europeans became disillusioned with the entire concept of government and faced the future with glum pessimism.  Political movements had brought about the greatest level of human suffering in the history of the world.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who were once prevalent in the Middle Ages made an appearance once again in the modern age, taking the form of Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death..."  (Paraphrased words and points of author Margaret MacMillan - Rebuilding the World after the Second World War / The Guardian / Sept. 2009) 

Setting up for Odeonsplatz Concert
Andy stepped back into the role of tour guide, pointing out city landmarks and locations of historical significance.  Munich is where the Nazi Party was first created and began to gain momentum.  The city was once called the capital of the movement, the birthplace of the Nazi Party, and the spiritual center of the Nazi Pantheon.  We entered the large city square known as the Odeonsplatz that contained a large Italian styled outdoor concert pavilion known as the Field Marshall's Hall, which was built to honor Bavaria's greatest generals. The hall contains three large arches, which are flanked by a pair of large Bayern Lions that straddle a center staircase.  Adolf Hitler gave several speeches from this stage and it was also the location where gunfire erupted between police and Nazi supporters in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch.  Thankfully, the Odeonsplatz was being prepared for a much more positive event this evening.  A sea of black folding chairs had been assembled for a free public concert scheduled for later that night.  We stopped in at a local coffee house so Angela could get some brew of a different sort and the kids were rewarded for good behavior with a fresh baked pastry.  I suddenly realized I was running low on Coca-Cola Light and took the opportunity to top off.  Again, it was nice to be in a major city where commercialism was not obviously overwhelming.  Mom and Pop style family owned small businesses seemed to be more the norm.  It was strange to be standing within an urban coffee shop that wasn't a Starbucks where you could look out the front window and see another Starbucks across the street!        

Theatinerkirche / The White Church
The other key building within the Odeonsplatz is the bright yellow high-baroque styled church known as Theatinerkirche, which Andy said is also known as the White Church.  I thought he was being playfully sarcastic since the mustard yellow exterior was unlike any other color scheme in the city.  However, upon entering the church's vast interior, the nickname was obvious as the entire space was bathed in bright angelic white.  The main central dome is 233 feet high and is complimented by two matching tall slender bell towers on either side.  Most of the interior sanctuary is made of white plaster and reminded me of my children's unfinished art creations still awaiting the glazing and firing steps.  It's simplistic color scheme yet ornate angles and carvings made it one of the most beautiful churches I had the opportunity to visit.  We moved back out onto the Odeonsplatz and traveled a short distance before we entered a lush, manicured, rectangular park known as the Hofgarten or Court Park.  The eight acre public park was first created in 1617 and is divided by symmetrical sharp lined pathways, flowerbeds, and shrubs.  The Hofgarten is bordered on the east side by the large State Chancellery Building that is a unique mix of traditional and modern design.  The building replaces a similar structure that served as a huge barracks for the German Army which was destroyed during WWII.  The classic style of the central dome of the building's center was contrasted by arched wings covered by a tinted green glass skin that spanned the length of the neighboring garden in both directions.  Directly in front of the building's entrance stairway sat a relic left from the previous barrack building.  A large raised rectangular platform, bordered by neatly trimmed uniform hedges, sat conspicuously empty.  The platform that had previously supported a large Nazi era symbol, now sat purposely empty, sending an obvious and powerful message.  

Munich State Chancellery Building 
Many parts of the city were full of grand buildings that housed universities, government offices, libraries, art galleries, and all the things that made Munich one the cultural centers of Germany.  As the capital city of Bavaria, it lacked the small town charm of many of the villages and smaller cities I had previously visited but was still beautiful, expressing its own individual personality.  It reminded me of Washington D.C. back home, with its complex labyrinth of streets, open green spaces, monuments, churches, restaurants, hotels, etc... I noticed both capitals were equally limited in height, void of skyscrapers, tall office buildings, and anything over ten stories high.  In Munich, church steeples mostly reigned supreme, looking down over neighboring structures and the streets below.  As we walked through the shopping district, I realized I had not seen a shopping mall during any of my travels and wondered if they existed at all in Europe.  The streets were filled with large department stores traditionally accented with beautiful flower boxes overflowing with bright red annuals.  Since it was Sunday, all businesses were closed, with the exception of those serving food and/or drink.  It was like stepping back in time, as it reminded me of the days when I was just a wee laddie and my mother used to take me into Lancaster City to go shopping.  Days before the mall were filled with trips to downtown city department stores to purchase clothing, shoes, books, and just about everything you now purchase at the nearest shopping mall.  It was refreshing to see a economically vibrant downtown once again and even more enlightening to see most shops were closed in respect to the Sabbath.  It was a nostalgic observation that filled my mind with fond memories of my childhood.  In many ways the mall shopping concept has killed many Main Streets across America but in Bavaria, every town I visited during my travels was alive and well with abundant commerce and accompanying customers.
Shopping Bavarian Style Baby!
We continued navigating our way through the main shopping district of Munich, window shopping along the way, and enjoying the beautiful warm sunny afternoon.  Leo and Amalie were great companions as always, absorbing the vibrant sights and sounds in seated comfort from their stroller.  We next visited the famous Cathedral of our Lady locally known as Frauenkirche.  The red brick church is known for its twin spires that rise 325 feet high above the city and the elaborate interior tomb of Emperor Ludwig IV just inside the cathedral's entrance.  As you might have guessed, the beautiful building was heavily damaged during WWII when it suffered a partial roof collapse.  Allied bombers were not in the habit of intentionally targeting historic churches during bombing raids.  However, the allies often attacked under the cover of night to make it difficult for German ground artillery to see the planes but the tactic made it equally challenging for the planes to zero in on their precise targets.  The Frauenkirche was slowly rebuilt in several distinct phases with the first completed in 1953.  However, the final restoration work on the damaged cathedral was not finished until 1994, a full 50 years after it first fell victim to allied forces during the war.  After Andy and I took a quick ten minute interior tour, we turned the corner to catch up with Angela and the kids who were cooling off in a large public play fountain.  It was really cool in more ways than one!  Water sprouted from multiple sources around the large concave shaped rocky formation.  The water was never deeper than a few inches and the entire fountain was shrouded from the sun by large shade trees that framed the refreshing space.  The water tricked from above, mimicking mountain springs and collected in a central shallow pool containing more subtle fountains.  The kids were having a blast, including me!

Frauenkirche Children's Fountain
We left the pleasant comfort of the children's fountain to continue our tour of the city.  As we made our way through the twists and turns of the wide streets, I absorbed the palate of the colorful buildings, each visually expressing their individual personalities in assorted shades of bright paint.  The number of buildings within Munich was so vast yet complimented by many open spaces, giving the impression the limits of the old city were boundless.  We passed by several universities flush with students on the move, taking a break from their studies to ride a bike to explore the streets, parks, and gardens of Munich.  At one point we passed by a police station where the street directly outside the entrance steps was lined with several matching police cruisers.  The surprising characteristic was they were all well maintained, high end, BMW wagons.  They were the only sign of law enforcement I think we encountered during my entire 21 day visit and extensive travels.  It must be an attractive incentive to join the police force if you get to tour around every day in a luxury, high performance vehicle.  Sign me up!  I also noticed most of the taxi cabs were high end Mercedes, an equally attractive ride choice.  Not something you see back in the states very often.  How high were the taxes in Munich anyway?  Andy's brother Thomas lives and works in Munich and can attest to the high cost of living within the capital city of Bavaria.  However, I was about to find out for myself...

Police / Polizei Bavarian Style
We planned on meeting up with Andy's brother later in the day... but first, it was time for a little refreshment.  We found a large biergarten mostly empty of customers, close to a manicured park and located a shaded table near a large sandbox play area... perfect!  My host family had been so nice to me during my entire stay and they would often refuse to let me pay for anything.  After some light haggling, they agreed to let me pick up the tab for this little pit stop snack.  We ordered two small bottles of Coca-Cola Light and three even smaller ice-cream sundaes.  My sundae scored in the low-average range on the Frau Andrews Official Ice-Cream Satisfaction Scale but did meet the minimum requirement to satisfy my daily ice-cream requirement according to Bavarian Law.  However, I was shocked by the bill!  Munich really is an expensive destination with my bill over 25 Euros or $32.70 American.  I'm really glad I didn't try to spring for dinner!  Sometimes it pays to be cheap!  We continued on our way and walked through the Promenadeplatz, a former salt trade market of the ancient city.  Today the long rectangular plaza is filled with monuments to several prominent citizens of Munich including the gifted composer Orlando di Lasso.  Once music director to royalty and knighted by Emperor Maximilian II of Bavaria, his image was preserved within a life-size statue in a place of honor on the Promenadeplatz.  I was shocked as we walked past the Lasso Monument to find the base of the statue completely covered in fresh flowers, lit candles, and colorful pictures.  I first thought they were gifts to the gifted composer but upon closer inspection, they were honoring a different musical personality.

Orlando di Lasso / King of Pop
The base of the Orlando di Lasso monument had been converted into a spontaneous memorial to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, shortly after his death in 2009.  The makeshift memorial, started by random fans of the fallen superstar, was set up around the statue because it resides close to the Bayerischer Hof hotel where Jackson stayed several times while visiting Munich.  The elaborate colorful memorial is maintained daily by a phantom group of dedicated fans who are collectively known as the Memorial Fairies.  Even though the memorial has existed for several years, it is not an official monument and has only been tolerated by city officials to date.  The Jackson fan group fears the city will eventually intervene and have the memorial removed and are in the process of gathering signatures of support to try and avert a government takeover of the sacred site.  I will admit that I owned a copy of Jackson's Thriller album when he was at the peak of his popularity in America but that was a cassette tape way back in the early 80's!  I had heard that he was always more popular abroad than he was at home in the states and now I was looking at the proof.  Because I'm Bad, I'm, Bad, you know it...  Tune it next time for our final segment on the capital city of Munich where we will visit the ultimate city park and biergarten.

 Father of Modern Munich / Montgelas
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



  1. Germany is most favourable country for tourist and if any body planning to go there than visit at least once Munich.

  2. Munich is an absolute delight. Don't drive around, jump on a bike and pedal your way around the city. You'll see so much more and I promise youi won't regret a minute of it.


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