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 5, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 32 / Munich-1

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Tour of Munich - München / Part # 1
The Galneder Family Explores Munich
It was Sunday, the last day of my final weekend in Bavaria.  The few remaining days would be devoted to packing, tying up loose ends, and hosting our Goodbye Dinner to thank all of our students' host families for all they had done to make our trip a tremendous success.  Before the final hectic school schedule began, the Galender Family had one last day-trip planned for me, off to visit the famous city of Munich.  Once again we loaded up the Opel minivan with the usual essentials, Leo, Amalie, stroller, and the ever critical sippy cups filled to the brim with diluted apple juice known as Apfelschorle.  Popular with all age groups, the German drink is a combination of equally measured parts of apple juice and carbonated mineral or seltzer water.  Next to Coca-Cola Light, it was one of my favorite beverages to grab on the go, refreshing on a hot summer day.  I had previously been within the city limits of Munich briefly when we first arrived on our connecting flight from Frankfurt.  However, I had not visited the city since the airport was located outside the metropolitan area and our bus route took us east toward Altotting, away from the city limits.  Andy drove the Opel minivan on the well maintained, interconnected highway system of Germany, making good time toward the capital city of Bavaria.  Munich is also the largest city in Bavaria with 1.2 million residents, which ranks as the third largest city in Germany behind Berlin and Hamburg.  The city was officially founded in the middle of the 12th Century along the Isar River by monks representing the Order of Saint Benedict.  The city grew over the years due to the river and the ever present rich salt trade of the region.  Today the city continues as a vibrant economic power center, home to industrial giants like BMW.  The city is also home to successful publishing, news media, biotechnology, and other service based industries.  Consequently, Munich is also one of the most expensive places to live in Bavaria, Germany, and Europe as a whole.  Andy maneuvered the Opel through the outer edge of the city and into the heart of Munich, finding a parking space along a busy city street.  We had arrived!

Munich New Town Hall / Rathaus
We stepped out onto the streets, saddled up the kids in their stroller, and topped off their sippy cups with the great Bavarian pacifier, Apfelschorle.  I suddenly realized we had parked the car right in front of a busy Burger King, causing me to quickly look away, only to gaze upon a McDonald's located right across the street.  I was trying to hide the remaining guilt from my secret visit a week earlier to the Golden Arches, where I sinfully devoured American fast food goodness on foreign soil.  It was like returning to the scene of a crime.  I was relieved when we turned the corner toward the center of the city, leaving fine American gourmet dining out of sight and out of mind.  Within a short time, we arrived through an archway into a large courtyard known as the Marienplatz, the official square of Munich since 1158.  The name of the plaza translates to Mary's Square and the key attraction located within the square is the massive Gothic styled building known as New Town Hall or Neues Rathaus.  The building was amazingly detailed, telling the story of the history of Bavaria in in the form of sculptures depicting the likeness of past dukes and kings who adorned the facade of the building.  The town hall's stone and brick exterior, consisting of multiple balconies, spires, and towers, were contrasted in color by the abundant bright pink flowers that trimmed the lines of the structure.  It was an amazing building and the large crowd gazing over all its ornate architectural details seemed to collectively sigh... I can't believe I am here!              

Rathhaus Glockenspiel on the Marienplatz
The New Town Hall was built to replace the previous structure, which the city had outgrown during the end of the 19th century.  The Old Town Hall still resides nearby and is also a beautiful building in its own right, much brighter in overall appearance than the new structure.  In fact, the archway we passed through to enter the square was actually part of the Old Town Hall.  The New Town Hall is much larger than its predecessor and 24 buildings were razed to make room for the enormous structure.  The new seat of the city's government was constructed between 1867-1874 and contained a total of 400 rooms upon completion.  However, the main attraction of New Town Hall is the famous glockenspiel or carillion, housed within the main tower located on the left hand side of the building.  The world famous animated musical instrument was added in 1908 and contains 32 life-sized figures that move, dance, and twirl to a traditional musical tune played by a series of 43 bells, each producing a different note.  The tower comes to life three times a day and crowds gather beforehand in anticipation, since no trip to Munich is complete without seeing the famous glockenspiel in action.  As luck would have it, the figures began to turn within minutes of our arrival to the Marienplatz and the square fell suddenly silent as all eyes centered on the two level musical time piece.  The carillon tells two short stories of Bavarian folklore complete with a wedding, dancing ball, and even a jousting tournament, which is always won by the Bavarian rider, always causing a loud cheer from the enthusiastic crowd below.  The whole show lasts about fifteen minutes and is really a cool thing to see in person.  I'm so glad we arrived just in time to see the Marienplatz in all its glory!

WWII Munich Bomb Damage
(Image Credit / Peter Keetman: 1948)
The industrial city of Munich was a major target for allied bombing missions during World War II, which decimated much of the infrastructure of the city.  Most of the buildings we would see today had been heavily damaged or destroyed during the war.  When the dust settled, many that remained standing were only a skeletal shell of their previous form.  Most were painstakingly rebuilt over time, many in their former traditional style.  Amazingly, over six tons of unexploded allied bombs are discovered throughout Germany each and every year during the excavation process of construction projects.  Most can be successfully defused and safely removed from their urban locations.  However, during August of 2012, a 550 pound unexploded American bomb was discovered during a building project near the center of Munich that could not be safely diffused.  Due to the fact the bomb had a chemical fuse instead of a mechanical detonator, the bomb had to be triggered on site, causing the evacuation of over 2,500 people from the surrounding area.  The massive evening blast lit up the night sky and violently rocked the city, causing several small rooftop fires to ignite.  Check out the short video uploaded at the bottom of this blog posting.  The force of the blast also resulted in multiple windows being blown out within the evacuation zone.  City officials estimate several thousand WWII era live bombs still remain buried throughout Munich and are becoming more dangerous with time.  The bombs become more unstable with each passing year as they continuously fall victim to the elements.  As they age, the bombs' fragile built-in safety mechanisms and sensitive detonators continue to deteriorate and become brittle.  Thankfully, the ground beneath our feet remained calm and quiet during our entire visit.

Side Street Cafe / Restaurant
As we walked away from the square and checked out the surrounding sites, Andy pointed out one landmark after another that had been destroyed during the war but painstakingly rebuilt.  Several buildings had plaques proudly mounted, noting the date when the reconstruction process was completed.  It was hard to imagine the previous destruction as there were no signs that the city had ever been anything other than what you observed in the present.  We walked down ancient streets past theaters, churches, and government buildings, some of which were modern, while others historic in style.  We came upon the large courtyard of the grand Munich Opera House where a large statue of Max-Joseph-Platz, the first King of Bavaria, is seated and looking out over the plaza.  Also known as the National Theater, the opera house of Munich was first constructed in 1818 but was completely destroyed by fire only five years later.  The theater was rebuilt within a few years but was destroyed once again during WWII by allied bombs in 1943.  Two decades passed before the building was constructed a third time and hosted its first opera within the 2,000 seat theater.  The opera house is flanked by the Königsbau, the southern section of the Residenz Palace, which currently houses the treasury where the jewels of the Wittelsbacher Dynasty are stored for safekeeping.

King Max-Joseph-Platz / Drop Cloth Facade
Upon taking a closer look, I suddenly realized the entire Königsbau building was in the process of renovations and repairs.  However, it was hard to tell at first because the entire building was cloaked in a gigantic drop cloth skin that was accurately imprinted with the detailed image of the building's exterior.  The drop cloth skin supported by scaffolding, concealed the workers yet retained the familiar historic facade for the city's residents and visiting tourists.  It was getting close to lunch time and Andy decided to take to visit one of Munich's most famous landmarks for some Bavarian style food and drink.  The Hofbräuhaus am Platzl is Munich's most famed traditional beer hall where the world famous brew was first made in 1589.  Over its long history, the Hofbräuhaus has served the likes of Vladimir Lenin of Russia, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and even President John F. Kennedy.  In the aftermath of WWI, beer halls became popular sites to host political meetings, using the beer as an attractive incentive for people to attend the speeches.  In 1920 Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists held their first meeting at Hofbräuhaus in a room on the third floor, which quickly evolved into the Nazi Party.  Hitler was known to dispense strong political viewpoints at the beer hall but not the famous brew itself since he was known to never consume alcoholic beverages.  We were hoping to see the decorative upper floors but unfortunately, they were closed to the public at the time.  Let's get something to eat and drink!    

Hofbräuhaus Brewery / Beer Hall
After I returned home, I was surprised to discover the picture I took of the exterior of the brewery was a close match to a painting done by none other than a young Adolf Hitler, seen below.  During the years he lived in Vienna (1908-1913) he earned a meager living painting, hoping to become a full time artist.  He also spent a lot of time in Munich, mingling with other artists in the city's street side cafes, hoping to gain acceptance into the profession.  However, despite painting several hundred works of art, he was denied admission to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, eventually gave up the trade, and became a politician instead.  How different the world might have been...  Ironically, many of his known customers, who supported him by buying his work, were Jewish.  Many of Hitler's original paintings were discovered and seized by the United States Army during the war.  The United States Government still has them today, permanently hidden from view in locked storage.

Hofbräuhaus Brewery / Beer Hall
(Painting Credit / Adolf Hilter Circa 1915)
Like most former breweries, Hofbräuhaus has been fully converted into a restaurant and showcase to celebrate the coveted brand.  The interior of the beer hall was richly decorated with simple study wooden tables, richly stained wooden wainscoting, ceilings accented with traditional folk artwork,   and racks full of the large glass beer steins adorned with the famous crowned HB logo.  We took a quick walk-through of the historic beer hall's ground floor as Andy navigated us to a beautiful interior courtyard, that turned out to be the ultimate biergarten!  The space had an Old World feel and was crowded with thirsty patrons seated at traditional outdoor wooden tables and benches.  I didn't ask but I am sure there was only one brand of beer on tap!  I will confess, I am far from a beer connoisseur and if you have been following this blog from the beginning you should be able to tell by now that Coca-Cola Light (AKA: Diet Coke in America) is my beverage of choice.  On the occasions I do drink beer back home in America, I usually go the light pale route, avoiding dark robust beers.  As my friends can attest, I have even been known to order a Miller Light when dining at a microbrewery or European style pub.  How lame is that?   I was more than a little concerned before my trip expecting all German beer to be warm, strong, dark and bitter.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find just the opposite and enjoyed most of the brews I sampled during my three week stay.  Hofbräu Original is a light colored pale lager, brewed at the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus brewery located nearby in Munich.  The recipe is over 400 years old and is the same one first handed down by Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria.

Hofbräuhaus Brewery / Interior Biergarten
I found their signature beer, Original Hofbräu, to be very good, light and refreshing in the warmth of summer.  Beer is ingrained in the culture and history of Bavaria, a topic of community and even national pride.  Even most small villages have a small brewery nearby that makes good use of the abundant grain harvest from the surrounding fields.  Another popular drink during the summer months is any beer combined with lemonade or Sprite, known as a Radler.  It makes almost any beer light and refreshing.  The biergarten within Hofbräuhaus was a beautiful space with large shade trees, a traditional urban spout fountain, and even a second floor terrace bordered with colorful flower boxes.  The best possible atmosphere when experiencing casual dining in Munich.  Ok, what's for lunch?  I had tried every kind of sausage during my stay except for one... the traditional white sausage known as weisswurst.  I will admit I had been putting it off, not something that looked all that appetizing in the meat case at the local metzger!  However, this was my last day-trip and it was now or never.  Andy ordered the quintessential Bavarian dish for us, while Angela selected other choices from the menu for her and the kids.  When it arrived, the white sausage was contained within a large crock and accompanied by spicy brown mustard and my favorite pretzels.  The white sausage had a unique taste and the interior meat must be removed from the rubber-like casing before you can eat it.  Andy taught me the proper technique to remove the white sausage from its matching thick white skin so I looked like a pro.  It was ok; the taste improved by the spicy mustard, but not as good as some of the other new foods I tried during my travels.  I was curious as to why this sausage was white in color but decided I was probably much better off not knowing.  Tune in next time as we continue our tour of historic Munich!

Hofbräuhaus / The White Sausage
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



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