04 September 2008

Day 3: Munich

Last night ended with a relaxing drink at Absofort, the restaurant and bar a block down from Colleen and Armin's house. After that it was early to bed—not too early, since I was still trying to get on German time to some extent, but early for me. However, with new parents in the house with me, everybody was turning in quite early.

As I might I have expected, I was up at 6:30 this morning and unable to get back to sleep. I puttered around the house with Colleen while she took care of Diego, and I felt again the strange feeling that I wasn't in a foreign country on vacation because the life around me was the ordinary, day-to-day life of a family. The usual hustle of hotels, transportation worries, sightseeing, and other vacationer stresses, weren't concerns. I wonder if I'm starting to take Munich for granted.

I finally left the house in the late morning with Laurent, Colleen's brother in law who lives with his wife downstairs in the same apartment complex. We had a specific sightseeing goal: The Neue Pinakothek Museum. On my trip last year, I went to the Alte (Old) Pinakothek, an amazing collection of early art, but didn't get a chance to go to the two sister museums, Neue ("New") and Moderne. The Neue Pinakothek doesn't hold "new" art, it's just new relative to what's in the Alte Pinakothek. The artwork covers a period from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, and as Laurent and I progressed through the rooms according to the guided plan on our map, we moved from Neo-Classical, to Romantic, to Impressionist art—making for some shocking transitions. I remember the moment I walked into a room, saw a dark gothic cathedral back-lit with the setting sun, and thinking: "Well, we've hit the Romantic period."

One of the most amazing paintings in the museum is The Siege of Cosel (1808) by Wilhelm von Kobell, which has an astonishing view of the grand sky with horse soldiers on a mountain planning an attack. This was a current event painting, since the siege had only occurred a year before. "Cosel" is the Polish town of Koźle, which fell to Bavarian troops allied to Napoleon.
There are also some excellent paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, such as this portrait. One of the key exhibits in in a large room of gray stone where hangs a painting series by Carl Rottmann of the landscapes of Greece in the 1840s. King Ludwig I of Bavaria commissioned the paintings from Rottmann after he placed his son Otto on the Greek throne. Fourteen of the original twenty-three landscape paintings are now on permanent display. 

Related to this display is a huge painting in another of the gallery by Peter von Hess that depicts Otto's entrance into Greece as its new king. The size of the painting allowed me to pick out many details, but I couldn't quite tell what the reaction of the Greeks, especially the Orthodox Greek priests, was to Otto's entrance. However, the most interesting painting (if not exactly the most gorgeous) is a work entitled Monkeys as Judges of Art by Gabriel Cornelius von Max in which a crowd of monkeys and apes stare at an unseen painting. (Is this a criticism or art critics? Or a criticism of art itself.) Another portrait with an interesting name is a painting of the artist's dog and is titled "Caesar," Mein Überhund, or "Caesar," My Super-Dog. Sounds like a 21st century children's book. 

The museum concludes with a few of the big names: Cézanne, Rodin, Monet, and Munch. The single Munch painting is a cheery contrast to his famous The Scream titled Woman in Red Dress. Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers (below) is housed here, along with a few works by Gaugin.
After the Neue Pinakothek, Laurent and I headed down to the center of old Munich on Neuhauser Straße to the Augustiner Beer Hall, one of the oldest beer halls in the city. I've gone to the Augustiner before, and it's my favorite of the beer halls; much less touristy than the better known Hofbräuhaus, and the décor speaks to me more of old Bavaria than any place that has a chain outlet in Las Vegas (yes, there's a Hofbräuhaus in Vegas). I've found that I really love Radler, a light beer (Helles Bier) mixed with a lemon soda that has a very refreshing taste that I don't often associate with beer. I finally got my Bavarian sausage, although they were out of the famous Weißwurster—not served at certains times of the day—and I instead had the Regensberger, a smaller, fatter sausage. Of course, it cam with heapings of sauerkraut and the famous sweet mustard. Ah, I feel truly Bavarian now. But I still haven't gotten my Pontiac-sized pretzel.

On the way toward the S-Bahn station, I discoverd that the Neues Rathaus finally has its ugly scaffolding removed. Last year, I had to settle for only getting to see part of the famous town hall because of the restoration work, but now at last I can provide a photo of it in its uncovered glory:
Now I'm back in Starnberg at Colleen's house. We're going to eat dinner here tonight, and then I will head out to Café Cord to go swing dancing.