Our last stop before returning to Frankfurt for our last few days in the Father Land was Munich. Naturally, we did our usual and it was time for another walking tour from Sandeman’s New Europe! Our guide Heather was from Pensylvannia, who moved here 1.5 years ago because of her husband’s job. The tour was lots of fun despite mother nature making it a somewhat dreary day, and it’s a great way to get some solid information on the heart of Bavaria.
We began in Marienplatz where the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is. It is the original building as it was unharmed in WWII. It was a strategic point of location for the Allied bombers to determine they were over Munich, therefore they left it unharmed. This played out well as Munich was documented before the war by the Nazis, and those photos were stored in the basement of the New Town Hall. At the end of WWII, the people of Munich had a choice to either rebuild based on the photos, or start from scratch. One walk through the heart of the city and you’ll know right away they chose to rebuild the way it was. Berlin and Frankfurt were documented the same way, but had the same choice but they chose to build anew.
Marienplatz is also home to a statue of Mary, which is where the square gets its name. She has been standing for 400 years (minus times of war), and every Oktoberfest someone tries to steal her. No one has ever been successful… yet. Speaking of Oktoberfest, the tradition started when King Maximillion’s son Ludwig was married. To celebrate the royal family held a party that was 5 days long with free wine and food. The people asked to have a party similar to this every year, and it slowly morphed into what is now today’s Oktoberfest. Two fun facts about Oktoberfest: the first (I learned this the last time I did the tour) is that the Australian Embassy sets up a temporary embassy during this time as many Australians have been known to lose their passports during this time; and second, approximately 50 children on average are left behind by their parent at Oktoberfest. Don’t worry though, the children are always returned to their families.
Another highlight included a stop at Odeonplatz which features the Theatinerkirche, unfortunately undergoing renovations currently, and the Feldherrnhalle, modelled after the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. An interesting thing to note is that the lion facing the government building has its mouth open while the lion facing the church has his closed. This has been said to represent the ideals that you shouldn’t speak against the church, but you can always speak against the government. During the Nazi era, Hitler used this area for SS parades and rallies.
Close by is the Munich National Theatre, home to the Bavarian State Opera. Yes, technically it is an opera house, but the King wanted to name it a theatre, so a theatre it is. It has suffered a few tragedies as it was only half way built before it burnt down the first time. Afterwards, they changed the design to invert the peak of the roof so it would collect water. Pipes were then attached to create the world’s first sprinkler system. This would have came in handy when the stage caught fire in 1823, however the pipes were frozen since it was winter. As all water sources were frozen solid, they turned to the Hofbräuhaus to use their beer to put out the fire. Unfortunately as the Bavarians love their beer so much, it turned into a ‘one for me, one for the fire, two for me, one for the fire’ sort of situation. It then burned to the ground while the city had a big block party. What stands now is actually the fourth rendition of the building as it was again destroyed for a third time in WWII.
Now onto what Bavaria is REALLY known for… their beer! This is seen on the city’s Maypole, a giant pole used to tell travellers way back when what the city was known for. Munich’s is all about beer, and features the six local breweries: Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Löwenbrau, Paulainer, Spaten and Hofbräu. Despite Augustiner being the oldest brewery in Munich (almost 700 years), I’d say Hofbräu is the most well known because of the famous Hofbräuhaus. Originally only for those of royalty, it is now a top tourist attraction with 35,000 visitors daily. You’ll also see monks all over Munich as it’s the symbol of the city. München is derived from the old German word for monk as the first record of monks brewing beer was in 749. The people of Munich definitely know their beer!
The last stop of the tour was at St Peter Kirche, which was destroyed in WWII. Munich had a lot of work to do to rebuild the city, and so in 1950 when the first Oktoberfest happened after the war, Augustiner Bräuhaus said all of the money the made selling their beer would go directly towards rebuilding the church. You can tell how much the people of Munich loved that church (and Augustiner) considering they actually ran out of beer! So St Peter Kirche was literally built with beer money.
Also, you’ll notice that the St Peter Kirche’s cross is crooked as it’s facing the side of the church instead of the front. Legend has it that during a big storm it was blown off. Later monks found it, but being too old to put it back up, thought long and hard on how to find someone to put the cross back on. Naturally they went to the beer halls and found someone to do it for 1L of beer. This man scales the side of the church – beer in hand – and puts the cross back on. While on top of the church he sees a crowd forming below. They were trying to tell him that the cross was crooked, but seeing as he was drunk, he thought they were cheering for him. Not wanting to disappoint the crowd, he chugs his beer and then drops the stein. Despite the fact that it bounces and tumbles all the way down, it doesn’t break. Naturally, this was seen as a miracle and the stein was then declared a holy relic.
With all this beer talk, Robin and I naturally had to have a Maß for ourselves, so off we went to the Hofbräuhaus. However, we were unpleasantly surprised by the lack of service. Finally after waiting 15min for a Kellner to actually talk to us and not stare straight through us, we found out that the upper floors are for reservations only and they will literally ignore you even if you find a table without a reservation tag like we did. With that, we decided to head across the street to the Augustiner am Platzl and give them our money instead (I suggest you do the same). The Maß there were almost a euro cheaper, and the staff much friendlier and accommodating. We had a great time, although I did learn something very important – do not use 2 hands with a Maß, no matter how sore your hands get. The Kellner will come over, take your hand, place it on the Maß the correct way, and tell you that you’re making the beer warm.