Day 4 – Munich / Marienplatz

Today is an exploration day.  Avalon picked us up at the hotel and toured the city for 2 hours in the morning, giving a bit of historical reference to the sights.  In this, (Bavaria) the largest state in Germany, Munich is the capital.  It has about 1.5 million people in the city proper and about 3 million in and about the surrounding area.  Needless to say this populace swells considerably this time of year.  Tourism attracts about 13 million people through the year and about half of that show up for these 2 weeks.

Oktoberfest brings in about 1.1 billion dollars annually to the city.  After expenses and taxes, the hosts of the bigger tents can look toward about 3 million net.  Each.  It may take 2 months to set up and 6 weeks to tear down, but each year the returns are generous.

The economy is pretty good overall, but Munich is probably the most expensive city in Germany to live.  It has high wages, to be sure, but when rent can cost half your paycheque, a lot doesn’t go very far.  Microsoft is moving its corporate self from outside of Munich to inside just next year.  That certainly won’t hurt either.

In the mid 1100’s, there was a little town just north of where Munich proper is today.  Even then, real estate was always location, location, location.  Just down the road was Auxberg which, at the time, had the one and only bridge crossing the river.  This was important because Salzburg (down the road somewhat further) had the salt mines.  Around 1157, Henry the Lion figured out that he who controlled the bridge, controlled the salt flow.  And that meant money and power.  So he decided to build a new bridge.  He then sent his soldiers to destroy the old bridge.  His new town was set up around an existing monastery and on June 14 1158, Munich was finally mentioned by name in an official document.  It’s been celebrated as the city’s birthday ever since.

The Purity Law (mentioned before in Oktoberfest) was struck in 1516.  Next year…it’s 500 hundred years old!!  And likely to be celebrated in a fashion suitable to the occasion.  The drinking age is officially 18 years, but for beer, specifically, it is somewhat relaxed.  It can be as low as 14 if, in a restaurant, accompanied by parents who allow the wait staff to serve the young patrons.  Beer really is a BIG DEAL here.  Centuries ago they figured out that water, around the town, was very impure but beer, because of the method of preparation, didn’t cause the same diseases.  Hence, better to drink beer than water.  In 1854 there was a massive Cholera outbreak which then led to fresh water and sewage treatment.  By 1895 fresh water flowed from the Alps right in to town and drinking water was everywhere (and still is).  There is a fountain downtown that was built in 1895 to commemorate the arrival of fresh water to the town and it still functions perfectly today.

The 30 years war was fought between the Catholics and the Lutherans.  To end it was a marriage between royalty of both sides.  The new prince (who was a whopping 14 years old at the time) and his bride (yep…same age) were married.  In effect by proxy (he had his uncle to stand in for him).  They didn’t even meet for the next 2 years until they were both 16.  When she finally gave him a son (she was very depressed over the marriage and had a daughter before the son, but even that took a few years), he gave her a summer residence.  Over the next 4 generations (about 110 years), Nymphenburg Palace grew.  Substantially.  Today it stands as probably the largest personal residence inside a city anywhere in Europe.  (Yes, Versailles is bigger, but it’s outside of any town).  The back yard, for instance, is about 1200 by 1200.  Yards.  Hell of a place for a BBQ!! 🙂

In May of 1913, Hitler came to Munich. In Feb of 1920, he gave his first public speech at the famous Hofbrauhaas (which they don’t really talk a lot about).  In 1932 he became an official German citizen.

The Bavarian flag is white over blue.  Easy to remember, according to the locals.  A glass of beer always has a white head.  While drinking, your eyes naturally tilt upwards looking to the sky.  White over blue.

The US has a full time consulate in Germany and has had for decades.  Australians, however, do not.  And why does this matter? Well…Aussies are apparently known for their drinking and carousing, especially during Oktoberfest.  As a result, they often lose their passports and manage to get into trouble at about the same time.  The nearest Australian consulate is in Frankfurt, some 250 miles away.  This causes hardship, as one can imagine.  To offset the problem, the consulate sets up a temporary office in Munich for 3 weeks of the year.  Seriously.

There’s one for the books.

Marienplatz is one very large central square in downtown Munich.  It is primarily a pedestrian only location, but the most central part, which is partially surrounded by both the old and new city halls, is open to bus and taxi service.

Part of the old city hall (which is extremely ornate) contains the carillon (bells) and an amazing Glockenspiel.  During Oktoberfest it plays it’s tune 3 times per day (11 AM, Noon and 5 PM) to the wide-eyed public.  The figures don’t appear so due to the distance and angle of view, but they are about 6 feet tall and present the story of a marriage.

Remember what I mentioned earlier about Munich being very expensive?  Well here we have the equivalent to Rodeo Drive in L.A.  Every name brand that you need/want/desire is here. Mont Blanc has a store inside a major dept. store (think Lafayette in Paris or Harrods in London).  Although at one time they were most renown for their pens, they have branched out somewhat.  However in keeping with what they’re known for, I looked for a little somethin’ somethin’ just to see what’s what.  Well…best I could find was a ball point pen for $795 and a fountain pen for $2,500.  Keep in mind these are Euros.  Add another 50% for the Canadian equivalent.

And, just because I own one and wanted to know where I stand in the grand scheme of things, I found out I’m pretty low on the ladder.  Yes, my Rolex (pricing a newer version, so ok, some increase in value for that) is only about $7,250 euros.  I won’t tell you the price of the most expensive I found.  But I have enclosed a picture for evidence.  Why?  Basically because you might think I made a typo.  Add the two up, increase by 50% (for CDN conversion)…and imagine what you could buy.  And some people buy these just because they can!!  It has nothing to do with needing to tell time.

It has been a very leg-intensive day.  According to my phone we covered around 10.5 km and just over 14,000 steps.  And yet, I don’t feel any lighter!  Damn beer must weigh more than I realized.  A hot bathtub awaits and my aching feet long for its comfort.  Tomorrow will be no easier as the castle will be expecting us.  Stairs are plentiful and no escalators to aid the weary.  The time is now, if relaxing is to be done.

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