06 September 2008

Day 5: Munich (Nymphenburg Palace)

Today Diego is six weeks old! He got around with us today with minimum fuss; he's a durable little fellow. Here he is with me in front of a lion statue at the back of Schloß Nymphenburg:
The Über-30 party last night was even more insane than the one I went to last year. I've never seen a party in Los Angeles so crowded and spread over so much space. I went with Laurent and his wife Jen, and we spent most of the party on the enormous outdoor patio on the edge of Starnberg Lake; it was simply too hot to stay inside on the crammed dance floor, although we tried it for a bit. It was a good socializing time for the three of us, all only recently made relatives and now drawn together closer because of the presence of a baby. The night went late and ended with 3 a.m. pizza.

On to today's current events. Our large group—five adults, a baby, a large dog—headed into Munich in the afternoon to go to see one the great sights of the city that I missed on the last trip: Nymphenburg Palace. It lays far out from the center of the city; we took the S-Bahn to Laim (the connection point to the airport) and then took the long walk to Schloß Nymphenburg. The very long walk. The path to the palace runs along a wall surrounding the immense castle grounds. Once you enter the gate, you move through an astounding wood on twisty paths, occasionally coming across Neo-Classical rotundas sitting on lakes filled with swans. Swans are the symbol of the Wittelsbach dynasty, and they pretty much rule the castle grounds. I would sometimes stop and greet a swan that had drifted close to walkways in Latin: "Salve, cygne!" The long walk got tough for Cuba, Colleen and Armin's dog, and she needed a dip now and then in the streams of the park.

After a while, I started to wonder if there was indeed a Schloß Nymphenburg, since the paths wound on forever with a hint of a palace anywhere, aside from beautiful outbuildings. But at last the path we were on brought us to the magnificent orderly gardens surrounding the castle itself. Here is a 180° panorama of the front of the castle, although we first saw it from the back:
Schloß Nymphenburg, the summer palace of the Wittelsbach Dynasty, was constructed in 1664 by Elector Ferdinand Maria after the birth of his son Maximilian II. (This was long before the rulers of Bavaria were kings; an "Elector" was one of the most powerful positions within the Holy Roman Empire, since the Electors were responsible for choosing the next emperor upon the death of the current one.) The palace was expanded in 1701.

I would just like to point out that you know you're filthy rich when you think it's necessary to have a summer home only a few miles away from your main home. However, I understand why the family would want to get away from the Residenz in the center of city for a few months and enjoy time in the middle of a forest paradise.

Anywhere, where was I? Oh, yeah Schloß Nympehnburg. Armin, Laurent, and I took the tour of the interior of the castle—or at least the center section of it, the place is enormous—and got to look at the room where Ludwig II was born. It still has its original furnishings. The main feature of the tour is "The Gallery of Beauties," a room containing portraits of women that Ludwig I commissioned because he was "fascinated by female beauty," as the tour sign delicately put it. I guess that royalty is always "fascinated by female beauty," and everybody else is just horny. Most of the women in the paintings have a similar appearance, which must have been Ludwig's "look."

Concluding our tour of Nymphenburg Palace, our group took another long walk (you can't gain weight in Germany, no matter how many Thuringer sausages you eat, because you have to do so much walking) to the closest Biergarten, the Hirschgarten. We went here last year: it's the largest Biergarten in Munich and is famous for its enclosure with live deer in the middle. I'm writing at the moment on my NEO sitting in the Hirschgarten and enjoying a large (Maß) Radler. Have I mentioned how much I love having the NEO in Europe?
I love the Biergarten culture of southern Germany, where you can relax, bring your own food, purchase a beverage, and stay as long as you want with your friends. They really are the center of community here in Bavarian, and this Biergarten is especially filled with families and children.

Everyone is exhausted tonight, and after two nights in a row at late-night parties, I'm looking forward to a calm evening sitting in Absofort writing and absorbing the café culture I so rarely get back home. Colleen also wants me to watch Your Job in Germany, an unintentionally hilarious training film for American soldiers working in West Germany during the 1940s. She says it has a Mystery Science Theater 3000-ready quality to it.

Be back with you tomorrow.