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August 3rd 2019

A personal view on Munich…

Yesterday early in the morning my train trip to Munich began. As I prefer to have plenty of time for changing trains, I took this time the somewhat slower, but much nicer route via Cologne an Koblenz to Mannheim and mainly along the river Rhine, where the Rhine flows through a deep gorge with steep rock walls, a. o. along the Loreley.
Around half past five p.m. I arrived in Munich. My hotel, Hotel Bayernland, was easy to find and not long afterwards I went into town, into the direction of the centre. It was on Friday early in the evening and rather busy and a bit untidy. In the Schützenstrasse I saw opposite of the Apothek a Vinothek – the wine bar was more appealing to me than the pharmacy. This Vinothek by Geisel is part of the Excelsior hotel and looked very inviting, so I sat down at a table with good bread, a bottle of mineral water and – after a glance at the menu that listed more wine than food – a glass of white wine, a German “Markelsheimer Riesling 2017“. This wine went also very well with my starter, crostini with olive cream, served on a warmed slate! From where I was sitting I had a good view on the wine fridge and the cabinet for the glassware. A sabre was hanging on the wine fridge to open champagne bottles (“sabrage”…). I had been advised about the wine I could drink with my main course of pollock with bouillabaisse sauce, fennel, wild broccoli and ravioli: that was a French Chardonnay, a “Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes La Croix 2014” – very good and an excellent start of my stay in Munich!

This morning I went, after a good breakfast, to the city again. I had planned to follow a shortened version of “München in 24 uur“, that I had read on the official website of Munich. That was only a partial success, because figuratively speaking I haven’t actually found my way in this city, to be honest …

From the main station it took only a few minutes to the Neuhauserstrasse, where the Altstadt of Munich begins. The semi-circular square, the Karlsplatz (nicknamed “Stachus“), with the modern fountain, was difficult to reach because of the large construction works, but once safely at the other side I walked through the Karlstor gate that originally was called the Neuhauser Tor gate. This city gate dates from the early 18th century. The town itself has been mentioned for the first time in 1158 under the name “forum apud Munichen“, place among the monks, hence the picture of a monk in the city’s coat of arms. Over the centuries a lot have changed in the cityscape of Munich. In the 20th century the bombings to the end of the Second World War have destroyed most of the city centre, but almost immediately after the war the decision has been made to rebuild the historic city centre in its original form. The well-known urban planner Herbert Jensen (1900–1968) from Kiel has designed the car-free pedestrian zone. Therefore the city has honoured him with a memorial in the Karlstor: the statues of three bronze musicians that originally were part of a group at the old Fischbrunnen fountain in the same Neuhauserstrasse. There are many fountains in Munich – a playful fountain is placed near the Karlstor: a “Brunnenbuberl” by the sculptor Mathias Gasteiger (1871–1934), who originally came from the eastern part of South Tyrol, but who worked in Munich.


Munich: three musicians made of bronze at the Karlstor, which originally formed a part of the old Fischbrunnen on the Marienplatz

Walking on through the busy shopping mall I arrived at the Bürgersaalkirche, an almost square building, painted in red and cream and with two stories, of which the first (the “Oberkirche“) had been meant as a hall for the gatherings of the “Marianische Kongregation“, the Jesuits’ Sodality of Our Lady. Nowadays this building looks beautiful and well-kept, but that wasn’t exactly the case after the allied bombing of April 24th to 25th: only the outer walls were still standing upright… From July 1945 reconstruction has started: it has been mainly based on old etchings and descriptions. In 1971 the restoration was completed.


Munich: facade of the Bürgersaal Church, originally from 1710, rebuild from 1945

In the “Unterkirche” a museum has been set up about the life and the works of Father Rupert Mayer SJ.. Something I found very moving was the plush animal that the young Rupert had got: a little lamb… destiny? Also his decorations from the First World War are on display. He then served as a chaplain. End of December 1916 he was seriously wounded in Romania at an attempt to save a soldier. One of his legs had to be amputated. For this action he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class. After the war he called the people to inner renewal in his sermons. Already in the early 1920s Mayer recognised the danger emanating from national socialism. After the takeover he determinedly stood up for the rights of the Catholic Church and for the liberty of confession. In public he declared that a catholic could not be a national socialist. He kept on condemning the regime. Therefore a ban on preaching was imposed upon him, which he ignored time after time, for which he was condemned to prison sentences several times. He has also been sent to the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. Because of his poor health he was eventually interned in a convent. On All Saints Day 1945 he died of a stroke while celebrating Mass. Because in his pastoral care he has always been there for all walks of life in Munich, he had already during his lifetime been considered as the “Apostle of Munich” and already venerated as a saint. His grave is visited by many believers until today. In 1950 the procedure of beatification has started – the beatification eventually took place in 1987.

After this impressive visit I continued my walk over the Neuhauserstrasse, where I saw after a few steps the St. Michaelkirche, also a Jesuits’ church. This church had been suffering quite a lot from the allied bombings too: here only the front was still standing as well. This church from the 16th century has characteristics of the Renaissance and Baroque. At the richly decorated pulpit a sign mentions that here Father Rupert Mayer has been courageously preaching. Also on display is an information panel with pictures showing how the church looked like after the bombing: the timbers are lying on the floor and the open sky is visible… On Assumption Day 1948 the Saint Cecilia Mass by Charles Gounod had been performed in the church – towards the end it had started to rain: the picture shows a sea of umbrellas! Eventually the Church has been re-consecrated on Whit Sunday, May 24th 1953.

Here again I left the church with a somewhat uneasy feeling: on one hand the dedication and willpower of the civilians to rebuild and repair what has been before the Nazi regime, on the other hand Munich has also quite been the beating heart of the Nazi world… This made me feel rather uncomfortable.

Later on I saw something extremely funny: a large bronze statue of a wild boar, a male, that was lying elegantly on its plinth like a young Adonis! At the other side of the entrance a huge pike was lying on its plinth. The wild boar has been made in 1960 by the German sculptor Martin Mayer (*1931) and it has been placed in 1976 in front of the Deutsche Jagd- und Fischereimuseum.


Munich: a bronze wild boar in front of the German Hunting and Fishing Museum, made in 1960 by the German sculptor Martin Mayer

I made the decision to visit this museum and I didn’t regret it one moment. The Museum has been established in the Augustine convent from the 13th century in 1966, a wonderful building, in which in early 19th century a tollbooth had been installed after it was no longer needed as a church. In the early 20 th century it has been renovated and equipped with beautiful stair well and a large state room, so it could also be used for commercial activities, like the museum. Now an imposing collection of old weaponry and trophies can be admired here. Nothing reminds of the damage done during the Second World War anymore.

On the first floor a interesting, educational and well-designed exhibition has been established. With a pass various displays could be activated and one’s knowledge about biotopes, wildlife or sounds of animal tested. I have played around a bit with those sounds, because one hasn’t often got the opportunity to hear a marten or a chamois – compared to the sound of an owl or a jay. There were beautiful diorama’s of the wildlife in its natural habitat, like in the mountains, the grasslands, but also a clear representation of “wildlife” in the urban world: the fox, the marten and the crow “foraging” around the garbage bins…


Munich: a diorama of “wildlife” in an urban environment in the German Hunting and Fishing Museum

Furthermore there was an impressive collection of long-extinct animals. A tusk of the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) is hanging on the wall: the woolly mammoth, an ancient relative of the elephant, lived until roughly 10.000 years ago during the last Ice Age. In the great upper hall the skeleton of a cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) is on display: the difference with the normal bear is that the cave bear has an indentation halfway the skull. Another huge skeleton belongs to a gigantic deer (Megaloceros giganteus), which has enormous shovel-shaped antlers up to 320 cm wide. It has lived about 12.000 year BC in steppe-like areas in Europe and Asia and later has become extinct. Many skeletons have been excavated in Ireland. Its latest living relative in our times is the fallow deer.


Munich: a skeleton of a giant deer with an enormous shovel-shaped antlers in the German Hunting and Fishing Museum

Among these trophies also “natural” excesses were shown, odd twists of fate: the deformities of the antlers of the roe deer. One roe deer buck had so-called ““perruque” antlers “: a disturbance in the male hormone system causes a kind of uncontrolled growth, looking like a wig, of the antlers from the pedicles, the point where the antlers are fixed on the skull. The other roe deer buck was a so-called “seven-pointer” with seven pointers instead of eight: a strange ramification of one of the beams of the antler…

In the educational part of the museum a special diorama was created with a kind of “horror show”: there were fantasy animals, put together from limbs of different wild animals. No comment had been given, but for me it was like a warning to leave the animals as they are: in their own right! Nevertheless it was amusing and “spooky” at the same time.

Normally such fantasy creatures can be found in gothic churches and other buildings: I saw many examples thereof at the Neue Rathaus, the New City Hall, a neogothic building from 1905. That was where I was going after my visit to the Hunting- and Fishery Museum, especially to the Ratskeller te have lunch. Although it was not very warm and it was raining a bit, I sat down in the courtyard, the “Prunckhof“, under a large parasol and had a large bowl of salad. At the entrance to the Ratskeller, established in the actual cellar, with decorated vaults, under the City Hall, a clock-like stele was standing with on top a painting representing a person deep asleep hanging lopsided over the table – thereunder was the text reading that this hiker won’t be able to move on, but that out of solidarity others should drink much to help him along on his way again. Quite witty!

On the Marienplatz is the rather modest looking Alte Rathaus, the Old City Hall, dating from the 14th century, a white building with a stepped gable and thre copper turrets. The Neue Rathaus from 1905 has been built along the complete length of the square, in an elaborate neogothic style. From under the arcades the sound of classical music, played on a cymbalom, drifted over the square – that was quite remarkable!

When in Munich the Viktualienmarkt really has to be part of the visit. This food market has already existed since 1807. It was crowded: everywhere on the square (of more than 2 hectares) fixed stalls have were built with food and drinks, fresh vegetables and fruits. There are many fountains too, of which the statues were decorated with flowers. Yesterday the annual “Brunnenfest” (fountains festivities)had taken place, already since 2011 – it looked very cheerful. The statues depict well-known personalities from Munich and Bayern: like the statue of the actress Elise Aulinger (1881–1965) by the German sculptor Anton Rückel (1919–1990), of the folk singer Roider Jackl (1906–1975) by Hans Osel (1907–1996) or of the comic and singer Karl Valentin (1882–1948) by Ernst Andreas Rauch (1901–1990).

Apart from the central Biergarten there were of course many, many stalls wiwth Bavarian and Münchner food specialities. I could not resist the “Weisswurst mit Brezen“, the white sausages with pretzel and it didn’t take long before I sat down at a table with a plate of sausage, bread and sweet mustard! Meanwhile it had started to pour with rain again, but that didn’t disturb me at that moment…


Munich: “Weisswurst und Brezen” with sweet mustard on the Viktualienmarkt

Another well-known feature at the Viktualienmarkt is the May-pole: on this big standard in the colours of Bavaria, white and blue, all breweries from Munich have been presented.

The “goodies” on offer at the Viktualienmarkt wonderful: fresh vegetables and fruit, piles of fresh mushrooms, but also flowers… Everything looked so appealing. Walking back towards my hotel I passed through narrow alleys near the Hauptbahnhof, where many small supermarkets offer many produce from the area of the Mediterranean Sea: there is not much difference in the supply of fresh food!

When I had almost reached the hotel I suddenly saw further down the road an enormous neogothic church: it was the St. Paul Kirche, a church from the end of the 19th century. It is the highest and also one of the largest church buildings in Munich. From the outside the straight and austerely designed building was slightly intimidating, but once inside I was surprise by the interior: it was light, cheerful and modern. A moment of tranquillity in this busy day.

Next I didn’t have much time to relax, because I had bought a ticket for a concert in the famous Schloss Nymphenburg, a palace just outside of Munich in an extensive park of 200 hectares. The construction of this baroque castle complex had started in 1663; over the centuries it has continuingly been enlarged. The entire façade with a length of 700 metres is symmetrical in design. Therefore it gives an imposing impression without being over-the-top. When I arrived at half past five, there wasn’t bright sunshine anymore, but it didn’t change the atmosphere. The large crowds that were strolling across the forecourt or were posing – there had just been a wedding – actually underlined the serenity emanating from the buildings.


Munich: panoramic view on the main building with the annexes of the Schloss Nymphenburg Castle seen from the city

There also are many elegant details around the Castle, like the family’s coat of arms on a plinth, surrounded by angels on the forecourt of the earthenware vases and gold plated lanterns on the broad steps at the west side, with views on the elongated pond. Many statues of Greek and Roman gods, like the Jupiter, made by the sculptor and porcelain designer Dominik Auliczek (1734–1804). He had eventually become the permanent sculptor of the Schloss Nymphenburg Castle.

In the gardens at the west side of the castle the views were magnificent! Everything was very well-kept, with beautiful borders with flowers. Only against underground vandalism by moles no measures have been possible – nor against the stripping of the lawns by the Canadian gees! They were waggling and swimming around with an attitude, apparently not intimidated by the “grandeur” of the castle. In the large pond with rock formations in the middle of the central axe of the park also large trout were swimming which were bigger than the lonely little duck that floated in the pond as well…

The concert was held in the Hubertussaal hall in de right side wing of the Castle. This hall had been inaugurated in November 1757 with a banquet in honour of the “Hubertus hunt”. After many refurbishments this hall is used as concert hall since 2003. The walls are cladded with moiré fabric in a greyish-green shade: this gives the hall a quiet appearance. A painting of a hunting party near the Schloss Nymphenburg from around 1730 was hanging on the wall, made by Franz Joachim Beich (1665–1748), but on the walls in the hall way modern abstract and very colourful paintings were placed made by the German garden- and landscape painter Rudi Tröger (*1929), which were perfectly fitting in in this baroque atmosphere.

I was lucky that actually today a Vivaldi-soirée was held: the die Vier Jahreszeiten would be performed by the ensemble “Baroque and Beyond“, mainly formed of musicians who had studied at the Koninklijk Conservatorium, the Royal Conservatoire The Hague. It wi a string ensemble with next to a contrabass also a een teorbo, a lute instead of a cembalo. That brought a exceptionally warm timbre to the music. After a glass of rosé prosecco and “Breze mit salami” I looked for my seat in the rectangular concert hall. Almost all seats were taken and I noticed that practically everyone had been dressing up to the occasion…

The program before the break was diverse, with pieces by Antonio Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti an several composers unknown to me. The ensemble played with a lot of gusto. Apparently the audience wasn’t quite familiar with the pieces of music, because at a certain point there was exuberant applause after the second part of a piece! The ensemble didn’t seem to mind much, but it played the third part ànd the next piece without pausing. That didn’t matter, as it all sounded wonderful! During the break I had another glass of, this time, Riesling and I could enjoy the view from the first floor of the Hubertussaal as well as from the broad steps before the building. The outside of the building has been covered with fine mesh against the pigeons…

After the break the ensemble continued with panache: the well-known piece die Vier Jahreszeiten. Vivaldi has been the first composer of “program music” and he has based the music on sonnets written (possibly) by himself. These poems were recited before the part was played, in Italian by the second violinist, and in (Swiss-) German by the lady violoncellist. That in itself already was a wonderful performance! Because we had heard the text before, we were able to recognise the elements again in the music. The audience exploded into applause. That was real Baroque music with “Schwung“!

The concert had been a nice closure of this day, which I still found somewhat ambivalent. Tomorrow I move on to Mals in the Vinschgau, South Tyrol – into the mountains…