Pinokotheks or Bust – Munich

Today we are all tired from the large amounts of walking we have done the past two days and the disrupted sleep patterns.  We get started at mid-morning and head for the museum district.   This is our day of culture in Munich.  Our first stop is the Alte Pinokothek (the Old Art Museum).  The name is correct, there is a lot of old art in here.  I found it rather boring, but at least we only stayed 45 minutes.  Next door was the Neue Pinokothek (the New Art Museum), which we skipped in the interests of time and excitement level.  Across the street was the Pinokothek Modern (the Modern Art Museum).  This was a little more interesting.  This museum had 20th century art, including one or two Picassos, and sections on automobile design (Porsches of course), and product and furniture design.  Some of the artwork was good (in my opinion), some was absolutely weird, and one painting in particular I thought I could have done in five minutes.  It was a large painting of the color red, with a lighter red near the top, and a darker red near the bottom.  I don’t remember what the title was, but “Red” probably was descriptive and appropriate.

We rested our aching feet at an Italian café overlooking the Odeon Platz, a big plaza near the Opera House.  Over spaghetti and salad, we watched the Muncheners (if that is the right word…) walk and ride by.  Very entertaining.  The Muncheners dress differently than we do in the US.  More formal and dressy, with a certain style, especially in their footwear.  No flip-flops, and certainly not as many athletic shoes.  After windowing shopping at the Ferrari and Rolls-Royce car dealer, we entered the Residenz for our next tour.

The Residenz was the city palace of the King of Bavaria.  It occupies a large area of central Munich.  We toured the reception and private rooms of the palace.  There were displays explaining the history of Bavaria at the time of Napoleon.  We also toured the Treasury, which exhibited the king’s crown, the queen’s necklace, the royal silverware, the royal feather duster, the royal jock strap (OK, the last thing was not really there, but something Peter made up after seeing all of the other stuff.  Overall, the palace and the treasury were not as good or as interesting as similar places in London.

Bavarian crown

We continued our exploration of every shop in the central Munich area, including another visit into the Dallmayr delicatessen, where we bought some chocolate truffles.  That didn’t stop us from buying more chocolate truffles in a chocolate shop a little while later.  As some of us have said, you can never have too much of that stuff.

We ended our day with a traditional American dinner at the Hard Rock Café.  Burgers and Caesar salads are a welcome respite to us hard touring Americans.  No wurst, sauerkraut, and pretzels tonight.  These restaurants all look and sound the same, no matter what city you are in, but we like them.

Time to leave Munich in the morning for the drive into the Bavarian Alps…

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Surfing the Isar River – Munich

After a good breakfast, by mid-morning we made our by U-bahn again to the center of the city at Marienplatz.  We shopped around a lot of the stores in the pedestrian zone, and had lunch at a café.  I wanted to have lunch in the Victualmarkt, a market area of food stalls, but we got too hungry before we ever got there.  After relaxing in the café, we found the Victualmarkt.  It was very crowded for lunch.  There were many fruit and vegetable stands, and places where you could buy fish sandwiches, brats, breads and rolls, and of course, beer.  We then wandered back through the Marienplatz to visit Frauenkirche, the signature building of the Munich skyline.  It is a very old church with twin towers, that is on most postcards of Munich (wait for yours to come in the mail).  While Lisa and Allison rested, Peter and I went to the top of one of the towers to see the view.  I was a little disappointed to find that there was no open terrace at the top (like at the nearby Peter’s Church tower), but small windows.  It was still a nice view, but hard to say how well the photos will turn out through the glass.

The view from the tower

 At this point, Lisa and Allison both wanted to go back to the hotel for a nap, so we traveled back to the hotel.  Peter and I then went to the Deutsche Museum.  This is the main science and technology museum of Germany.  It is a huge complex on an island in the Isar River, which cuts through Munich.  We spent only about an hour there, looking at the things that most interested us, such as the airplanes, space gear, and sailing ships.

 Near the museum was a spot in the river where people were surfing.  Yes, that’s right, surfing the Isar River.  I had read about this in a guidebook, but didn’t know where the surfing spot was along the river.  We stumbled upon it near the science museum, and were amazed.  A guy in a wet suit would jump into the river with his surfboard.  If he pushed off just right, he could paddle into the middle of the river and push up onto his board before the current swept him down about 20 yards of rapids.  There must have been some boulders placed in the river at that spot to form the rapids.  The surfer could go back and forth across the river in this “groove” spot in front of the rapids.  If he was skilled, the surfer could stay there for a minute or two, not drifting down river at all, but staying somewhat stationary.  If he fell, the surfer would crash through the rapids and get sent by a cross current in the river back to the river bank nearby where he started.  There were about 10 guys doing this.  It was entertaining to watch them and the moves they could make before falling.

 I had arranged to meet a friend of mine, David, and his family for supper.  I worked with David, in Oregon, before he moved to Munich for a two year assignment.  We met them at a place called the “Chinese Tower” in the English Garden.  The English Garden is a large city park known for its nude sunbathers in the summer.  It was cool and rainy when we were there, so we didn’t see any of those, but we did have a nice long walk through the park to the Chinese Tower.  The Tower is a pagoda with many tables below it to form an outdoor beer garden.  There is no Chinese food there, just inexpensive grilled chicken and sausages and their somewhat famous fried potatoes.  By the time we got there, the outdoor restaurant had closed because of the weather (there weren’t many people there that night, unlike during the World Cup where I was told 100,000 people had gathered to watch the games).  We ended up eating at a fancy restaurant nearby (we were starving by this time), where we had good, but expensive, steaks and fish. 

 We had a nice visit with David and his family, and also with some friends of theirs who were visiting from Philadelphia.  David has two small boys, ages 5 and 4, and the older boy was very funny.  He was saying the funniest things.  After 18 months in Germany, is bilingual.  It’s easier to learn a language at that age, especially when he goes to a German school for kindergarten and plays with the neighborhood children.  David’s wife, Elizabeth, left after a while to go swimming.  I think she was an athlete in college and enjoys swimming in the Olympic pool, the same pool that Mark Spitz won 5 gold medals in swimming in the 1972 Olympics.

 After all of that walking, our legs were very tired.  It was a good time to go to bed early and rest for tomorrow’s touring of the Bavarian king’s palace and treasury.

Lost in Munich after an Ein Masse

Crossing Munich by car to find the hotel was a little tricky.  Lisa drove, and I navigated.  The traffic was thick, and the roads were complicated, but we made it to the right street, only to find that it was a one-way road, and we couldn’t turn it.  So around we went until we could get there from here.  Good to park the car for three days and not try to go around the city by car.  The subway system is excellent, so that is the way to go.

After a nap and some rest, we went by U-bahn to Marienplatz.  This is the main square; the heart of the city.  It is a huge pedestrian zone, many of the streets nearby were filled with tens of thousands of people.  The area has many department stores, specialty shops, and cafes intermixed with old churches and government buildings.  One store was a high end delicatessen; we walked through even though it was packed with people, to see the fancy cakes and desserts, chocolates, breads, and other foods for sale.  We wandered around this area for a long time, going in and out of stores.  Eventually we made our way to the world famous Hofbrauhaus.

Hofbrauhaus

 The Hofbrauhaus is a large beer hall and restaurant.  It has been open at this location for hundreds of years.  The patrons sit at large rough wooden tables on big benches.  There is a polka band playing and it is filled with hundreds of people.  The place is LOUD!  The signature drink here is a big glass mug that holds one liter of beer.  In a room on the second floor, some locals have their own beer mugs stored for them on shelves for when they are thirsty.  I had a traditional meal of sausages and potatoes, it was ok, but what the tourists come here for is the atmosphere.  There was plenty of it.  It was a fun place.

One liter beer mugs!

 When we walked to the subway stop from the hotel, I asked everyone to look around and remember how we got there.  Sure, they said…. When we got back to our subway stop, we happened to exit via a different stairway.  We arrived at street level in a dark place that look unfamiliar.  Unfortunately, I had not brought the right map with me, the one that had a very detailed view of the roads of this part of the city.  We guessed as to which way to go.

 And guessed wrong!  We proceeded to wander in the dark, going in circles for blocks on end, as I said to my party: “I think it is this way…”  I would have hailed a taxi, but couldn’t find one. Because the subway system is so good, I don’t think there are as many taxis as in other big cities.  We were tired and our feet hurt. 

 We came around one corner to see thousands of in-line skaters roll by.  It must has been some kind of fund raiser or rally.  Five to ten thousand young people rolled by in a buzz of excitement.  At one point, we found a map in a pizza parlor, and finally figured out where we were and which way to go.  Eventually we ended up back to where we had started our night’s excursion, the doorway of the Hotel Uhland, a tourist class hotel not far from the site of the Oktoberfest grounds.  Time to rest our aching feet….