07 July 2007

Day 10: Munich

Hey, 7/7/7! I know, I don't care either.

The Über-30 party was enormous. Three different dance rooms, plus multiple patios and bars, all crammed with people. It's bigger than most parties I've seen in the U.S., with a wide age dispersion. We spent most of our time crammed onto the dance floor in the largest room, which played a mixture of classic rock and techno. Not my kind of event, but I had fun anyway because I got to hang with both my siblings and see my dad party—not a common sight, but he was definitely enjoying himself. The copious amount of drinking we did also helped increase the enjoyment.

So…up much later than usual today, as you might expect. My mother, Colleen, and Armin went on a shopping trip to furnish their house, so my father, Reed, and I ventured on our own into Munich. We did fairly well on by ourselves, and even managed to jet around on the U-Bahn without making a mistake. However, all the guide books that have told us that most people who live in Munich can speak English must be having a little joke; we ran into nobody who spoke English during our little sojourn, and we struggled with what scant German we knew.

We also immediately lost our map (left it on the S-Bahn) and when we emerged from a bookstore in Marienplatz after purchasing a new map, we got to see a remarkable sight: the police handcuffing a punker they had flattened onto the ground. An animal-rights protest was occurring in the Marienplatz, and a group of German punks (punk culture is extremely colorful here, nothing like in the U.S.) had wandered in and started trouble. I don't think they actually had anything to do with the protesters, who acted calm and controlled; they just wanted to mix it up with the khaki-dressed municipal police. After the police dragged off the punk they had arrested, the other officers had a stand-off with the remaining punks, but there were no further violent incidents. The punks were escorted out of Mareinplatz, shouting slogans all the way. I really wish I knew what they were saying or what this was all about, but it was damn interesting to observe.

Reed wanted to see a brewery that lay outside the old city walls, the Paulaner Bräuhaus. Although famous for its beer, Munich has few actual breweries in the city; this is one of the few. It didn't turn out to be that interesting: just a biergarten and a few metal vats. But on the way there we stopped for a bit of lunch at the Altes Hackerbräuhaus and learned an important lesson about paying close attention to what you are ordering in Bavaria. Reed ordered what he thought was pork pieces and carrots. However, he didn't know a crucial word in the dish's name: zülze. Which means "encased in gelatin." Which looks really disgusting. Imagine solidified vomit. That's what his food looked like when it arrived. The waitress did explain that "In Bayern gut," but the look on Reed's face when he saw what he had ordered…. He ate some of it, and said it wasn't that awful, but we will all carefully avoid the word zülze from now on.

We took the U-Bahn back to Marienplatz and wandered through the city's sights. First we went to Munich's premiere church, the towering Frauenkirche, completed in 1488. The double onion domes are the most famous sight of Munich's skyline, and the interior is simple in design but massive and awe-inspiring. Most impressive is Ludwig IV's tomb near the entrance, an astonishing black marble sculpture. But sorry, no photos allowed. Here's one of the exterior:

When we entered the plaza of the Residenz (where the Kings of Bavaria lived and held court), massive stadium speakers were blasting "The Ride of the Valkyries" to advertise an opera company. It was awesome, even if a total German cliché. Unfortunately, the Residenz Museum was near to closing, so we instead wandered the courtyards, had some beer in one plaza with amazing painted columns on the walls, and entered another stunning church, the Theatinerkirche, which was started in 1663 in the Roman baroque style. A service was going on when I entered, but tourists were free to walk around while it went on. Next to the church is Feldherrnhalle, an 1844 monument built to two Bavarian generals, Tilly and Wrede. I'm familiar with Tilly because of his role in the Thirty Years' War, which (if I haven't already mentioned this) is My Favorite War. Everyone should have a favorite war.

Reed, Dad, and I met up with the rest of the family in the Marienplatz beneath the Mary Column, and walked to an excellent Italian restaurant in South Munich, outside the wall. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: southern Germany has terrific Italian food. The pizze salami…delicious. The heat inside the restaurant…nearly unbearable. And Germany's anti-smoking laws can't kick in too soon.

Tomorrow I'm going on the "Hitler's Munich" tour, and event I've looked forward to ever since we got here.