We have finally finished sorting through and editing the photos from Munich, or München, as the Germans call it. The division of labour on our projects is like a metaphor for our relationship: I come up with a creative idea and gather far too much information and data, Manuel parses through everything and undertakes all the technical responsibilities, I write a lot of words in English, and Manuel painstakingly attempts to explain what I meant to say in German. It makes Manuel a great Project Manager and perhaps the most patient man on earth, and it makes me… well, me.
Manuel spends several days each week at an office not too far from Munich, so when I found out that one of my dear friends from South Carolina would be in Munich for work, I took the train to meet her on Thursday, and then Manuel joined me after his work on Friday.
First ICE train ride in Germany! After spending the summer on the rails in the US and Canada, I was pretty excited for a long distance ride in Germany. Since the whole purpose of the Autobahn is to drive fast and not be distracted, it tends not to be the most scenic route. I enjoyed watching the landscapes whizzing by, and managed to put a 300 page dent in the latest book I’m reading (Kristin Hannah’s the Nightingale)
I am also on a mission to rate the train coffee service of various countries. Germany gets an A plus. Amtrak has a solid C rating that is improved with cream and sugar as extra credit, and could possibly get a B by the end of the semester. Canada’s ViaRail also earns a solid A. The rating aboard the UK trains is something akin to “you said coffee, but I only understand tea, so here is some dishwater”. And my now 15-year old experience aboard Russian rail is that you BYOB and try not to arrive at your destination with a hangover. Also, 15 years ago, I failed VERY hard to arrive at my destination without a hangover.
While in Munich, I got to meet up with Chandra. We met on a Facebook group devoted to foreigners living in, moving to, or looking to immigrate to Germany. That group has been such a sanity-saver, and it was nice to meet one of my friends in real life. She and her boyfriend had a few hours in the city before they continued on their trip to Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. We spent a few hours walking around downtown, exploring the Old Botanical Gardens, Marienplatz, and a few churches and museums.
We took the tour to the top of New Town Hall. The weather persisted in being cold, damp, and windy (Germany’s favourite weather triple threat), but in the distance, the clouds parted enough to provide a spectacular, yet unphotographable, view of the Alps. You can kinda see the Alps in this photo: they’re the blue-greyish blob just above my shoulder.
Thanks to Atlas Obscura, an informative off-the-beaten-path travel resource, I found out about the morbidly fascinating art of relic adornment and display. I’ve been wanting to visit a church that displayed one of these relics, and St. Peter’s Church was my first chance.
Saint Munditia, the patron saint of spinsters, was martyred by beheading around 300 AD. Today, her bejeweled skeleton lies in repose inside an ornate glass and wood coffin. In her hand is a glass phial of blood, purportedly hers. And above the coffin (easily overlooked amidst the Baroque overload) is the enshrined head of St. Erasmus, patron saint of mariners and protector against intestinal ailments.
Melanie caught a very early morning flight back to the US, and I had most of the day to walk around the city by myself. Since temperatures were hovering just above freezing, I would spend about an hour strolling around before seeking warmth in a cafe or museum.
Pro-tip: Marienplatz around 8 am is nearly empty. Seeking a warm drink and a hot breakfast, I stumbled into Cafe Woerner’s and was able to secure prime seating near a window overlooking the old city. The server did not understand my request that the Classical Breakfast Special not be served with ham (perhaps the Bavarians really don’t understand “no ham, please”, as if they could not possibly be hearing your entreaty correctly); however, the rest of the food (which I did eat) was divine. The cappucino, cheese plate, muesli and fresh fruit, fried egg, four types of bread and a croissant only set me back €15, which is more than reasonable for the quantity of food I received and the restaurant’s central location.
Another find thanks to Atlas Obscura, Viscardigasse is an alleyway that people could take during the Nazi years, when Hitler declared the nearby Feldherrnhalle a national monument, and stationed officers outside to ensure that all passers by recognized the monument with a Nazi salute. Dissenters took this alternate route to bypass the monument, denying Hitler the satisfaction of their allegiance. Today, the alley is open only to foot traffic, and the paths of the dissenters are marked in bronze.
I spent most of the remainder of the day at the astoundingly ornate Residenz Museum, and thus, there is still a very long list of places I want to see in Munich that I haven’t gotten around to visiting yet. From the deceivingly simple outside of the museum (the former home of the house of Wittelsbach, who governed Bavaria first as dukes, and then as kings, because everyone deserves a nice promotion every now and again), I figured a tour would take about an hour or so.
For Christmas, I’m asking for a small notebook where I can jot down all the interesting facts I learned at a museum, like about the history of fine china in Europe, and then be able to remember those same facts later.
A fun fact that I learned at a former imperial residence in Russia: nobility would commission silver-laden velvet tapestries and hang them in rooms, where they would inevitably tarnish. And you can’t polish the silver threads without damaging the velvet. So, they were left with wall hangings that had all the brilliance of pewter. I don’t care, this room is still #bedroomgoals for me. Also, that is just about the fanciest chamberpot I have ever seen in my life.
And here we have the head of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was evidently a very prolific head-haver, in addition to being famously and biblically beheaded. This head of John the Baptist is one of 3 in existence, the other two being located in Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria and in Rome at the Church of San Silvestro.
After a few hours in the Residenz Museum, my plummeting blood sugar reminded me of a delicious looking bakery I had seen earlier, when it was not yet open. And my brain can never forget a pastry shoppe, so I headed off to Cafe Maelu. I won’t lie, I’m bookmarking that site to see if they will ever post a job I’m qualified for. Once there, I had the uniquely terrible and difficult challenge of deciding on which cake to eat.
I settled on the Pink Lady cake and an herbal fruit tea. The Pink Lady is raspberry mousse with a litchee compote center, a flaky cake base, and a rose gel covering, decorated with a raspberry and edible gold flake, a hibiscus petal, and a chocolate leaf and stem. It was the most elegantly flavorful thing I have ever eaten.
Thanks to a complete and utter failure to plan (did not check event schedules, did not buy ticket, did not bring fancy clothes and shampoo and hair dryer), I MISSED A PERFORMANCE OF MOZART’S REQUIEM IN THIS THEATRE. That was pretty damn stupid.
But I did obtain a theatre tour. And I listened to a performance of Requiem on my phone, which, obviously lacked some of the magnificence of seeing it live.
“Hey, girl. How’s it going? Oh, me? Just holding up this whole theatre. So what are you doing later?”
So that was my trip to Munich! I’m off now to get some groceries to cook a belated-Thanksgiving feast. For the past two Thanksgivings, Manuel has been in Germany while I celebrated with my family in the US. And I have been promising him that I’ll make a pumpkin pie, or a big Thanksgiving style feast, basically for over two years now, so I’ll finally make good on my promise.