First day out in Munich


A day in Munich


Woke up early. I do hate Venetian blinds! Why bother hanging anything! Still afforded me an early start to a planned day of tourism. I’ve been cycling round and using this town for six weeks, but haven’t really seen any sites nor attempted to ‘look up’ and notice the places I’m passing through.


First destination is the town hall. A massive gothic pile, famous for its clock with dancing statues that dominates the main square. I was surprised to learn that despite its crumbling gargoyles and funny wooden figurines, it was built at the beginning of the twentieth century. The old town hall next door, with its newly plastered façade, looks much younger.


In fact, much of Munich’s historical buildings look pretty new, covered in, well maintained, brightly coloured plaster. The age of the building underneath remains a mystery. Of course, large chunks are reconstructed, post-bomb damage, but which bits I cannot tell. The vast royal residence, the most famous townhouses, many of the churches are all to some extent hidden. Painted facades and interior rococo decorations only add to this sense of unreality. Am I looking at an old building, a new building or even a film set?


The point was even better illustrated as, having found the town hall tower closed on a Saturday I happened upon Munich’s oldest castle, the Alter Hof. Once this was a square of stone buildings and towers surrounded by a moat. Today it is adjoined by the rest of Munich, is faced in sparkling white plaster with Bavarian coats of arms decoration and even has double glazing! Yet underneath it all somewhere is a medieval castle, proof being in the small museum where small oblongs of wall have been gouged out so visitors can see the medieval masonry beneath. Just in case that is insufficient for you there is also on offer a series of computer screens cased in medieval-looking wooden chests that display computer-generated images of what the castle might have looked like once upon a time.


It’s not my idea of a fun castle and somewhat mischievously I asked the girl at reception if there were any proper castles in Munich. Not manor houses or Schlosses, but proper castles, like forts. She looked perplexed and I sauntered back towards a piece of exposed brickwork before she called me back over and announced “Grunwald”, with a triumphant smile. I was sufficiently charmed not to let on that I had in fact been to Grunwald castle and instead dutifully followed her direction on the map. Grunwald castle does at least look a bit run down but is not really an impressive of imposing fort of the kind I had hoped to find in Germany. Indeed, I am assured that there are plenty elsewhere, but I have yet to find reference to one anywhere near Munich.


After that, another dose of plaster as I walked to Munich’s most famous church, the Theatinerkirche. A lot of this sort of thing is billed as ‘Baroque’ in the guide. I’m learning that when the words Baroque masterpiece appear in a guide, its best to steer clear. Baroque seems to me to be a sort of over-decorated classicism and is particularly over the top in this Catholic pile, the interior stuffed full of stone cherubs and gold tinting and rubbish oil paintings of biblical scenes. How anybody can find this spiritual is beyond me. The only thing I do like about the church is that it is a pale yellow on the outside. A pleasant and very distinctive colour that definitely ads to the skyline, despite the actual form of the building with its funny octopus tentacles, really being pretty ugly when you stop to think about it.



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