We had reached the end of our trip, the last 3 days in Munich before we flew out of Europe, by a regional train from Salzburg. The Bayern pass we took enabled us to travel by the extensive rail, underground, bus and tram network of Munich very comfortably. After checking into Hotel Europhaiser hof, a brilliant find by Yogesh again (thanks!), right by central Munich station, we hurriedly grabbed a bite at the station itself, and rushed to Dachau concentration camp. Why did we choose to cloud a beautiful holiday with a visit to a place where humanity died? Where we would relive the Nazi days? Where we would end up sad and melancholy? Mainly to show our child how the madness of one can spread and destroy mankind.
Dachau was the first concentration camp to be built, and the model for those to follow. As Hitler grew in power, so did the camp and the unspeakable horrors unleashed on its inmates. This was where most new ideas for torture spread to other camps.
The entire memorial site is stark, an agonising reminder of a time that should never have been allowed to happen. We walked in through the gate to see the huge empty area where the ground was and then the barracks beyond. This was the most chilling of all the places in the memorial site.
Walking through these grounds, reading about the state of the prisoners, a documentary about the camp itself and the barracks themselves were the most depressing experience anyone could have. I was amazed that the kid was holding up, but impressed by how Germany took no effort to conceal its terrible past. Instead, it kept it alive in the memories of generations to come, to understand how history must never repeat itself. But today, for me, the sun seemed to go out of the trip.
Extremely disheartened as we were, we decided to go straight to the center of Munich old town, Marienplatz. While on the train, some 9-10 year old school kids climbed on and sat down around us. Our daughter, who was still very disturbed, had asked to play games on the phone and was engrossed in it. The little boy beside her got so curious that soon he was peeping over her shoulder at the screen.
You can depend on children to lighten up your mood and brighten up your day! We got off at the Marienplatz stop. Mary’s square has always been the center of Munich (München), when monks settled here and started a market right here. Now, it’s the most crowded and attractive of the many attractive squares that make up Munich, with the beautiful new and old town halls, restaurants and cafes and a very lively atmosphere.
We stood amongst the crowds to see the Glockenspiel, where figurines twirl to depict a medieval tournament and a dance. Famous as it is, I wasn’t particularly impressed by it. I personally found the rest of Munich far more enchanting.
We followed the downloaded Rick Steves audio tour to guide us around, and frequently and enjoyably got lost. We might have missed a few sights (and churches, much to my chagrin), but fell in love with Munich. My friend Olivia told me that I should have taken a Munich walking tour, but we didn’t have time over the next 2 days and missed a chance to relive the history of this amazing city.
As I read aloud about the new town Hall and its Gothic architecture, my husband heard he magic word “elevator”. I’d told him that we would climb the bell tower of St Peter’s church, but the mention of the word “tower” made him clutch his shoulder and promptly refuse to accompany me. So as soon as he heard elevator, he was thrilled and without further ado, we were riding the elevator to the top of the new town hall.
A narrow enclosed balcony ran all around the top of the tower and we posed against every quarter we could see.
As we waited for the elevator, we noticed the trademark graffiti and couldn’t stop grinning.
Back in the square, we enjoyed looking around and admiring the statues around and this weird fish fountain with turquoise waters that we’d seen from above.
Our next stop was the oldest church of Munich, St Peter’s church, built by the monks who settled here and built a monastery right here. The village grew around it. We entered to see a very beautiful church with a marvellously painted ceiling. As a service was on, we didn’t sit too long or look about the church.
By now, our stomachs were growling, so we headed to the Viktualienmarkt, the central marketplace with a large biergarten, rows of stalls selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, oils and spices, restaurants and cafes. I love market places and this was no exception, especially when we came upon cherries the size of plums.
The kid and I were thrilled to find a Turkish eatery, with delicious hummus and falafel. No photographs could be taken as the hunger was overpowering! Tummies full and system recharged, we were set to conquer Munich old town more. Now that we’d ventured off theRick Steves route I struggled to reorient myself and then just gave up. We just roamed around the streets and admired the buildings.
And weird fountains that you can have a beer in.
And a church that were built for the predominant purpose of showing off the skill of the Asam brothers who constructed it.
The wide streets that led off from the Marienplatz were all cobble-stoned and pedestrian only and studded with big brands, a veritable shoppers paradise.
The buildings were small and ornately decorated. They were a delight to my camera and the hubby and kid reached way ahead while I went trigger crazy.
What a lovely street with flowers in the center and ancient architecture to house pretty clothes!
Rambling along as evening fell, we reached a square that we realised later was Odeonplatz. We were simply walking towards a very attractive yellow steeple and came upon a this huge square with a bright yellow church the Theatinerkirche, built when the king had an heir after a decade of marriage.
We entered this beautiful peaceful white church that I would have loved to spend an hour in, but were shooed out at top speed by the caretaker as it was closing time. Such a pity!
Disappointed, we turned our attention to the large Romanesque Feldherrnhalle, built to honor Bavarian commanders and misused by Hitler to honor his own. All those who passed by had to give the Nazi salute. A route actually circumvented the square during the Nazi era, for those who wanted to avoid saluting, that earned the name Dodger’s alley and is now marked by bronzed stones.
A long dinner at MacDonalds saw us reach the Marienplatz by dark. Gently lit up, the square was filled with musicians, playing at all corners. A violinist tugged at our heart, a band made us wanted to stomp with them. A little ahead a lady with an opera singer’s voice was raising her pitch higher and higher. I held onto my glasses fearing their shattering. Soft lights lit up the buildings of the square.
The old town hall seemed to gleam at night.
From around the corner of the new town hall, the onion-domed brick towers of the tallest church of Munich, the Frauenkirche dominated the skyline. These two towers had survived the massive bombing Munich underwent in World War II.
As the sky darkened, the clock tower of the new town hall grew brighter and brighter.
We headed back home, tired but happy. We had loved our first day in Munich, the big city with the small town charm, a city where Nazism started and spread from, yet one that has neither hidden nor suppressed that fact, a city that stayed true to its old world roots while moving forward. We still had two more days to enjoy this vibrant city and were determined to make the most of it.