Munchin’ in Munich

Chris thinks he’s so clever with the title of this post because “munchin'” sounds like München and also we ate a lot of food in Germany. But anyways. We arrived in Munich and immediately had to dig our sweaters out of our bags because it was about 15 degrees colder than everywhere in Italy. Good thing Munich is also full of beer halls!

Hofbrauhaus

As we were now in Germany, our first stop was Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s most famous (and thus most touristy, but what are you going to do) beer hall. It was every stereotype of German culture brought to life. Everything was wood. There was a band with a tuba playing oompah music. There were old men wearing traditional outfits not for any reason, just because it was their daily wear. There even was a stein vault. A stein vault is a locked rack where the regulars keep their steins. When they come to drink, their personal stein is unlocked for them to use. There are a bunch of different groups that are regulars, coming every second Tuesday, or the first Sunday of each month, etc. You have to be very regular to have a personal stein though (I think nowadays the only way to get one is through inheritance). The regulars also get tokens to pay for their beer, which gives them a slight discount.

We wandered in and were confused. This is because in Germany, unless you are at a fancy restaurant you generally seat yourself. Furthermore, as all the tables are large at a beer hall, you generally will sit at a table with others. Luckily we eventually found some confused Americans and some empty tables. The Hofbrauhaus house also is known for its large biergarten, but it was too cold to be outside. It would have been cheap though, as you can just bring your own food to the beer garden and only order drinks. This stems from the historical situation of the breweries. Back in the day, the breweries kept their beer underground under the hills outside of town, and they planted trees on top to further shade the area and keep the beer cool. People got wind of this and started to go hang out under the trees on hot summer days. Seeing an easy market, the brewers started selling them beer and food. The innkeepers and restaurants in town got angry because they were losing business so they petitioned the king. He responded by prohibiting the brewers from serving food, but allowing them to serve their wares. This meant that people would bring their own picnics, which continues to this day. Except now you can get food there again.

The stein vault.
Chris and his Hofbrauhaus beer.

We ordered too much food, but it was all delicious. We had a bread basket, pretzels (called breztels here), sausages and sauerkraut, suckling pig, and of course red cabbage. Everything was delicious, and Chris greatly enjoyed his 1 litre of beer.

At Hofbrauhaus, they also have an upstairs area which is a giant hall for events, and also where they have concerts in the evenings. There is also a small museum up there where we learned that Hofbrauhaus is actually owned by the Bavarian state government as a way to generate revenue. It certainly seems to work as it was pretty busy in there! We also learned that Munich’s beer purity laws were the first food safety laws known in existence, and also that the Bavarians can’t survive without beer. There were riots in the past when beer taxes were raised, as it’s seen as basically liquid bread (i.e. a staple).

Marienplatz

Marienplatz is the centre of Munich, and is where the Glockenspiel is. We played glockenspiels in elementary school (i.e. tiny metal xylophones) and I think the Glockenspiel clocktower is a giant elaborate version of those that tinkles an elaborate tune at noon each day. It also has various figures that move around. The clock was originally built celebrating a wedding, so the bride and groom are visible. During the wedding there was a big jousting tournament, so two jousters meet and of course the one in Bavarian colours unseats his opponent. There are also a bunch of men dancing in little circles. This is apparently the coopers’ dance, a traditional dance that happens every seven years. When we went on a walking tour later on we learned that the coopers are barrel makers and were once suffering because of the plague. The plague meant no one went out to drink, which meant beer halls weren’t producing beer, which meant the coopers were not making barrels. They made up a dance craze, which apparently brought the people back out and drinking again and saved their business. But it was too popular, so the king limited it to be held only once every seven years. I think the next one is in 2019.

The Glockenspiel.
View of Marienplatz from St. Peter’s Church.

There is also an outdoor market called the Viktualienmarkt, where there is another biergarten. This biergarten is special because unlike all other beer gardens that are sponsored by a particular brewery, this one is sponsored by several different Munich breweries so you have have several varieties of beer there. There were some hardy individuals out, but it was too cold for us.

A Museum Day

We were staying in an AirBnB near the museum district, where several of Munich’s big art galleries are located. It was raining one day so we decided to get a day pass and see as many as we could, in order to get the most bang for our buck. We started with the Pinakothek der Moderne, which is Germany’s largest modern art museum. Chris doesn’t like a lot of modern art, and he reaffirmed his opinion here. He has expressed several times that he likes ‘functional art’, i.e. I think industrial design, or making useful objects look good. Random art that is not useful is less his thing. The art gallery is quite good though, and has many Kandinsky’s and Magritte’s, among others. Chris also decided that being a gallery security guard must be a kind of hell, as you actually do nothing all day unless someone (like Chris) leans too close to a painting and sets the alarm off.

Modern art.

Upstairs was a collection of Murano glass vases, which was nice because we hadn’t had time to go to Murano island when we were in Venice. After watching a short video of how the glass is blown and twisted to form the various styles, we could appreciate the work a lot more. It looks both slightly dangerous because of the heat, and very stressful because it seems you can instantly screw everything up at any second.

Murano glass.
Artistic chairs.

Chris’s favourite part was downstairs where there was a design area with a lot of chairs, tables, old computers, etc. We hung out there for a bit while he took a bunch of photos.

The second gallery we visited was the Museum Brandhorst, which is a newer modern art gallery, if that makes any sense (i.e. the artists featured in this one are mostly still alive). When I asked Chris his opinion after he said: “It was filled with giant turds and people ejaculating paint onto canvases. There was art that was a log sitting on the ground. There was art that was a picture that had then been completely covered with black paint, i.e., useless art.” I thought it was quite good though. It’s the kind of museum that’s more about the experience, rather than admiring the detail expertly painted into a piece. It’s also unfortunately the kind of museum where they don’t let you take pictures, so you will just have to go see for yourself to know which of us is right.

The third gallery we went to was the Alte Pinakothek, which is the contemporary one. Though it’s billed as contemporary, it was started in the early-mid 1800s, so what was contemporary then is what I would now call kind of old. Chris liked this one a lot more though. He especially liked a part of the gallery where they discussed the difficulties in painting different blacks in a figure (black silk vs. suede vs. a felt hat etc.) and making everything clear. He was suitably impressed by the artists’ ability to render all the different “shades” of black. I liked the end of the exhibit the most, which was where the most contemporary stuff was, including some Monets and the famous Van Gogh sunflowers.

Contemporary art.

Schneider Weisses Brauhaus

In Munich, because it was cold and we were a bit lazy, we decided that brauhauses were our tourist activities. This meant that we could spend all our money on beer and various meats guilt-free. That day we tried the Schneider Weisses Brauhaus, where Chris had more roast beast and a litre of beer. He especially liked the dunkel that he had with his apfelstrudel.

Walking Tour

We found a free walking tour of Munich, and being cheap, decided we should go (it’s run by Sandeman, a company that operates free and paid tours all around Europe, geared towards the younger crowd). Our guide was a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student who was very nice, if a bit all over the place with his explanations. He had been in South America and attended a bunch of free walking tours, so this was his way of giving back. We learned that Munich was started at the site of a monastery, so that is where its name comes from (it means “by the monks”), and also where the munchenkindel, the sigil of Munich, comes from. It was originally a monk, then it morphed into a small monk boy, and now it may be a girl, oddly enough. We also learned about a young prince who was carried out of a palace window by a monkey, the “dodger’s path” taken by those not wanting to give the Nazi salute, and the May Tree, which towns erect on May 1st. Apparently people try to steal it because then the town has to grant you a wish, or something.

After we had had our fill of Munich, it was time for some day trips around the area!

 

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