Tag Archives: munich

Christmas in Munich – Day 4: Egyptian Stuff and the Residenz

So here we are, departure day. Thanks to a combination of a later flight time and Munich’s excellent mass transit system, we managed to fit in a few sights before flying back to the UK.

One thing that really needs to be said is just how fantastic Munich is for art museums. It really is of the calibre and quality that you would expect of a capital city, which Munich was a century ago as the capital of Bavaria. So I guess that makes sense.

There is also Ludwig I, the first king of Bavaria, to thank for all these exhibits because his patronage. The size of the complex and the grand architectural design of the buildings are something to behold. Truly I could spend the best part of a week here and still not be done with the exhibits.

So, the first of the two places we visited was the Egyptian Museum (it has a more complex name, but this will do). It’s one of the newer museums, having been moved to this location a few years ago, and this really does show. For one thing, the entire layout of the museum feels remarkably modern with recent sculptures depicting how ancient Egyptians might have looked being mixed in with the ancient artefacts.

The most modern thing about this museum, however, is the audio guide. You see, this audio guide is a tablet containing pictures and audio snippets to give you more information about selected exhibits. This is done thanks to a metal strip on the floor that highlights the suggested walking path, which is not a perfect to do this but it really helps bring this museum to life.

I know from some reviews on TripAdvisor that a common complaint is that there isn’t a ‘big attraction’ in this museum. Whilst this may be true, there are still a large number of interesting things to be seen, including a silver sculpture of Horus and a golden face that was part of a sarcophagus.

Also of note is how this museum went into the encroachment of Christianity onto Egyptian art. It makes sense that this would happen as Christianity reached Egypt in the first century AD, but the idea of Bible stories being sculpted in an Egyptian style had never occurred to me.

The museum ends with a bit of an extra – some artwork from the ancient Middle East. The panels themselves were huge and, thanks to their proximity to a lot of Egyptian art, you could see how these figures might have been influenced. Especially the positioning  of the feet.

We left Munich’s museum district after this with thoughts of returning to see what on Earth a Glyptotek is. Our final destination being one that we should keep definitely have visited when we had more time to spend: the Munich Residence.

If I have my history correct, where Nymphenburg Palace was the summer residence of the electors of Bavaria the Residence was where they actually held court and would go about most of their business. The museum itself consists of a tour around the residence itself and an exhibition of the treasury – regrettably we only had time for the former.

Honestly, I think that there is more to the Munich Residence than Nymphenburg Palace. The only thing missing is the extensive gardens, which would tip the balance in favour of Nymphenburg should I visit again in spring or summer.

The first two rooms of the Residence alone are worth the price of entry (and the apparently obligatory free audio guide). The first room you come to contains a grotto, as was the fashion of the times. What gets me about this grotto is not only is it beautiful sight, but the outside of it is covered in painted shells. The patience required to complete such a work of art is beyond my scope.

The next room was the Antiquarium. It’s the one of the largest rooms in the building and boasts a square footage that could contain my apartment many times over. It was built to house the sculpture collection of the then Elector, but was later modified to become a banqueting hall of sorts. There’s no real way to truly capture this room, it’s one of those things that you just need to see in the flesh.

The rest of the rooms on the short version of the tour vary between your standard palace fare to some extremely lavish and beautiful galleries. It’s worth noting that a lot of this was destroyed in the bombings of World War II, including a court church that would have been spectacular back in the day.

It’s not only rooms on display in this part of the museum, but also the large collection of porcelain that was acquired by the residents of the residence. Originally these were all Japanese or Chinese imitating the Japanese style, but it was interesting to find out how the demand for these decreased thanks to the creation of Meissen porcelain in Germany. After seeing a lot of this on display in Linderhof it was good to learn some of the historical context.

Quick as a flash it was time for us to be headed back to the hotel to pick up the bags and make our way to the airport. Nothing new to add to any of my longer lists, but today was such a day of discovery that I felt keen to write about it.

So here we are at the end of this short break to Munich. I’m glad to have tomorrow off work as all this walking has pretty much destroyed my boots and I need to invest in a new pair. Also, I just like to have days off. Until the next trip away!

Christmas in Munich – Day 3: Churches and Alte Pinakothek

So here we are already with the last full day in Munich. It’s amazing just how quickly the days go. With that in mind, there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get on it.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 689/751Food item: Schabziger

So, I managed to find some of this yesterday and figured that it would be good to try it as part of breakfast. As cheese goes it does look slightly off-putting as it is a pale green colour. This is because it is flavoured using blue fenugreek, so by virtue of colour addition this cheese becomes green.

On its own this cheese is dry and flaky, which speaks to this being it a cheese grated on top of things. It has a taste that is like a salty, herbal Swiss Parmesan. Nice in small amounts, but not something to chomp on. The web recommends mixing this with butter to have as a spread, and this is the far better option than just having it as it is. The butter tames the acid and helps add a bit of creaminess. It also helps to dilute some of the green colour of the cheese…

With breakfast taken care of, it was time to use and start abusing a group ticket for the public transport (seriously, this is great value compared to London) and went to the first stop of the day: the Asamkirche.

When I first saw this 15 years ago I found the Asamkirche to be incredibly overwhelming. I still have never seen any church that is as over-the-top as this one with its skulls, angel heads and figures of the grim reaper strewn around the place. Also, it’s hard to get to grips with the amount of gold leaf present in such a small space. To think that this was actually built by some rich brothers as a place to be buried. Just ridiculous amounts of money there.

From here we walked a few blocks until we reached the Viktualienmarkt: a sizeable daily food and crafts market that takes place around the corner from Marianplatz. One of the defining features of this market is that it happens in a square surrounding the Munich maypole.

You know me, I am a sucker for markets and want to see all the fresh produce on sale. It’s a real pity to stay in a hotel when there is so much nice looking food on offer. Still there’s one thing I couldn’t resist:

There’s no way that I could be here in Bavaria without having some Weisswurst and a pretzel. Finding this made me glad to have just tried out that cheese for breakfast. I know this sounds weirdly sexual, but I just love dipping the Weisswurst in the sweet mustard and sucking the meat out of the skin.

Anyway, from here we left the market and went to St Peter’s Church. This is one of the largest churches in the city and, whilst not as glamorous as the Asamkirche, is still an impressive building on the inside.

One part of the church caught my attention – the bejewelled skeleton of Saint Munditia. This is not the first time that I have come across one of these catacomb saints, but this is the first one I’ve seen whose placement wasn’t too far out of your field of vision when walking around the church. I have to admit that I really do not understand why you would dig up a skeleton in Italy and have is shipped to Munich in order to be put on display covered in jewels… then again I’m not am 18th century Catholic.

We had a quick break for coffee and poppyseed cheesecake (I had some Schwip Schwap, because I need as much Spezi as possible before I leave the country) is we could be fuelled up for our next stop…

The English Gardens. One of the largest urban parks in Europe and over three times the size of London’s Hyde Park. Considering the amount of snow that we traipsed through yesterday, it is incredible just quickly it can all just melt away.

We only spent a few hours here and we barely scratched the surface of these gardens. In all our walking we didn’t come across the Chinese tower or the Japanese teahouse or any of the interesting buildings that are mentioned on the Wikipedia page. If I ever come back to Munich then this is a place that needs revisiting and a proper explore.

By now our feet were aching, but we marched on to the final sight of the day: Alte Pinakothek. It’s an art gallery that focuses on ‘old art’, so anything that’s not classed a modern. Sadly this museum was under renovation so we only got to see about a quarter of the collection on display, but this was just enough for our now-aching feet to deal with.

Where the museum would usually cover artists from all across Western Europe, the rooms that were not under renovation were mainly Dutch artists, with some Spanish and German ones. Considering that the entry fee was only 4€ and this came with a free audio guide, this was still tremendous value for money.

On previous trips to art galleries in Rotterdam and Vienna, I have been seeing a lot of paintings by Rubens recently. With today’s visit I think I must have seen a substantial cross-section of his life’s work and, now, I am becoming a bit of a fan. The sheer variation in his pictures is astonishing as he goes form a contorted scene of the Last Judgement to an imagining of the scene when Seneca killed himself. So much talent.

It was also interesting to find out how the height of the rooms within this particular museum had been designed with a particular Rubens painting in mind. A painting that is one of the largest canvas painted at around 6 metres in height. As with all the other Rubens paintings on show this was excellent, but to think this dictated the height of ceilings in a museum wing is extraordinary.

The other artist that I saw that stuck out for me was Bartolomé Estéban Murillo with his posed and idealised paintings of street children. There is just something with these pictures that interest me, as does the fact that none of these are on display in his native Spain because only foreigners would buy them from him. Hopefully he was able to carve out a proper living for himself anyway.

Finally it was dinner time and, in stark contrast to the more refined surroundings of the previous day’s meal, we went to Augustiner-Keller for dinner. As with the Weisswurst from earlier in the day… when in Bavaria do as the Bavarians do. It’s a bit loud in the cellar (which is accessed via a long spiral staircase) but a lot of fun.

It was time to overdose on more sausages (again, this is Bavaria), drink a tankard of Spezi and share a starter plate containing local foods including brawn and the restaurant’s own version of obatzda. We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and proceeded to start walking this off with a final walk around the Christmas market in Marianplatz.

Today I brought my decoration count up to four with the purchase of a metal tree hanger of Santa on a steam train as well as a squirrel and a songbird made of something that I’m not currently able to name.

Tomorrow we leave for home, but we have enough time to at least get something done. At the moment I’m not sure what it is, but that’s a worry for tomorrow’s me.

Christmas in Munich – Day 2: Nymphenburg

Well, the snow that was falling last night just did not stop. We woke up in the morning to the sight of bright white streets covered in freshly fallen snow. I honestly cannot remember the last time I woke up to a winter wonderland, especially since I am staying in Lehel – which is one of the oldest suburbs of Munich.

So this was where the day started, a snow covered Munich with yet more snow falling slowly. Apparently this is a cold snap as this is not what you would expect in the first week of December… but this just helps to make everything feel that much more Christmassy.

Continuing yesterday’s theme of Germanic history, today our main attraction was Nymphenburg Palace. Not only is it the birthplace of Ludwig II but it was also the summer residence for the rulers of Bavaria since the late 1600s. So, as someone who enjoys absorbing history during holidays, a visit here was a no brainer.

When you arrive it is difficult to not be impressed by just how expansive Nymphenburg is – it really does put Buckingham Palace to shame. Then again I might be biased because I saw Nymphenburg completely covered in snow, which just helps to make anything feel a bit larger and more other-worldly.

Seeing how yesterday I was walking through Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, it would be expected that I would be a bit ‘palaced out’ or at least that most things in Nymphenburg would just pale in comparison. That is until you enter the Great Hall of Nymphenburg and you remember that since Ludwig grew up here, he would likely have derived at least some influence from his surroundings.

The Great Hall truly is stunning. A bit chilly because of the lack of heating, but artistically it is absolutely beautiful. It reminded me a bit of a Grand Hall that I saw during my visit to a palace in Tallinn, just on a far larger scale. It’s one of those rooms where pictures really do not do it justice, but there’s no harm in trying.

Walking around the many rooms of the palace with the audio guide playing reminded me just how little I know about European history. Especially German history, which must be extra complicated seeing how it was split into so many parts with their own rules for such a long time. I don’t think I am completely up to speed with how it worked for the rulers before Bavaria became a kingdom, so I guess that is some homework for me to do.

One of the rooms that has, weirdly, stayed with me was the Queen’s antechamber which has been decorated with the ‘Gallery of Beauties’ as commissioned by King Ludwig I. The idea of commissioning portraits of 36 beautiful women to be hung in your home sounds a bit creepy. More than that, it is a little bit creepy. However, it is also incredibly fascinating. All of the pictures are pretty chaste and many of them come with very interesting stories (especially those of Lola Montez and Jane Digby, the latter of the two being so interesting that I purchased a biography of her within a few hours of leaving the palace).

After the palace we had a wander through the gardens, which coincided with the snow becoming decidedly heavier. As weirdly magical as it was to be seeing these gardens covered in snow, there’s a part of me that would love to see the gardens in their full glory during the summer.

One benefit of being in the gardens in winter is that you can go for a long time without seeing anyone, so you can walk around and pretend that these gardens belong to you. We also managed to see a doe and fawn bound across the path and graze within the bare trees. That was a pretty cool moment.

We made our way back to the Munich a Central Station for lunch (because nowhere was open in Nymphenburg Palace… which feels like a wasted opportunity). This may sound a bit weird to any Germans reading this, but I am so jealous of the sandwich shops that you can find in German stations. In Britain it’s a bit of a tasteless baguette with some generic filling, here I had a leberkase, pickle and salad sandwich in a role that tasted of pretzels. If a sandwich place like this opened near where I worked, then I would be an incredibly regular patron.

The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around some of the larger shops and department stores in Munich. Just window shopping, for now, but it is always a treat to see how some of these larger stores are when you go to other countries. I tried to use this opportunity to track down the last German sausage on the food list, but nowhere had it. I guess that I’ll have to give up the ghost on finding Thuringer Leberwurst during this trip.

By the time we reached the Christmas Market near the Rathaus it was well past sunset and a choir had just started a half hour set. How Christmassy, right? It’s hard to not get in the spirit and find yourself buying a decoration. For my sins, I purchased an elk carved out of a tree branch. I really love this one because of how unique he is because of the wood itself.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Alter Hof where I found myself demolishing this plate of sausage and sauerkraut with a trusty glass of Spezi. I am not sure if I have mentioned Spezi before on this blog, but this is pretty much the only thing I drink when I find myself in either Germany or Austria. It’s a blend of cola and orange that just makes me incredibly happy.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 688/751Food item: Basler Leckerli

For dessert is a food item! I managed to find some of these being sold by a gingerbread stall in the main market. These are Swiss-style spice biscuits in the same family as gingerbread, but in these the ginger is in balance with, what tastes like, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You also have the bitter, sweet and sour influences of the candied citrus peel. In terms of texture, this is more like a dense, sticky and slightly dry cake instead of a biscuit, which would make this like a spiced flapjack. Have to say that I may need to buy another pack of these to take home.

Tomorrow is set to be the warmest day of this break as we reach a maximum of 4 degrees. I’m expecting that all the snow will be gone by the time I wake up tomorrow, which will be a pity in a way but I’ll be happy to not have freezing cold toes and thighs.