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Trip to Munich, Bavaria, Germany, August 19-26, 2019

by Jenny and Charlie Plesums


We have been to Germany many times, starting with the North (Bremen) in 1972, Charlie did a tutorial in Cologne about 1986, Münster with Frankfurt, Brühl, Heidelberg, Cologne, Dusseldorf in 2011, and Berlin in 2014. But we had never been to Southern Germany (Bavaria).

Getting there

We left mid-day on Monday, through Dallas, then direct to Munich arriving about 8am Tuesday. The only reasonable way from the airport into the city is by train, taking close to an hour. Fortunately our hotel room (Hotel Krone München) was available early, so we took a quick nap.

Trivia (or not so trivial). Munich was the location of Hitler's rise to power, so here (and maybe elsewhere in Germany) making the Nazi salute, even as a joke, is illegal, punishable by a huge fine and up to two years in jail. The swastika may only be shown in tutorials (as the concerned tour guides, showing historical pictures, explained).

Tuesday August 20

We signed up for a walking tour our first afternoon, starting in Marienplatz, Munich's main square since 1158. Why the name "St. Mary's Square? The gold statue on the the top of the column is Mary.

The central market is not just tents and stalls, but many permanent buildings, known as Viktualienmarkt (means victuals market) For example a whole row of sausage shops, a row of cheese vendors. There are also beer stalls; some tables reserved for restaurant service, other open to people bringing their own food and buying beer.

The Munich MayPole, common in each community, is here. Traditionally a neighboring community tries to steal the May Pole, and the losers must treat the thieves to a beer party to get their pole back.

Our walking tour guide, Matt, pointed out this bronze statue and encouraged everyone to do a "Jeffrey Epstein" as many others had done. I never learned the real purpose of the statue.

The Wittelsbach dynasty would rule Bavaria from 1180 until 1918; each generation expanded their home and made it more elegant. The Residenz is now a museum - this courtyard was on our walking tour but we came back later for a full tour of the hundred or so rooms in the museum.

Another courtyard at "the Residenz." Look closely at the walls on the right - especially the round windows. Much of the palace was destroyed during World War II, and when they were rebuilding they ran out of money, sacrificing the round windows. In fact many of the masonry details on that wall are only painted - so well that you have to look closely to see the fake.

The Theatine church across the plaza from the residenz was built from 1663 to 1690 as a gesture of thanks for the first male heir as their seventh (or eighth) child. The outside is relatively plain, the yellow color popular at the time but the inside is extraordinary.

The inside is so elegant and detailed that it took so long to build, that the parents who commissioned the church never lived to see it.

Don't miss the dark colored pulpit and the carvings around the ceiling and skylight.

Odeonsplatz is the plaza between the Residenz and the Theatine church. A prominent "Field Marshall's Hall" is at the end of the plaza, modeled after a similar building in Florence Italy. In 1923 it was the site of Hitler's failed attempt to take over Bavaria by force. In 1933, after Hitler came to power, it became the "spiritual" center of Nazism with memorials to early Nazi casualties. Look closely at the lions - the one on the left side of the picture is facing the residenz, and had an open mouth to signify how people should speak to the government, but the one on the right facing the church has a closed mouth.

Wednesday August 21

We returned on Wednesday to tour the Residenz, the largest palace in Germany. Near the entrance are the traditional Lions holding a shield, that has a small lion to be rubbed for luck.

One of the rooms of the Residenz is decorated entirely with sea shells. Maybe if you have ten courtyards and 130 rooms you need to find different themes.

Some of the fireplaces were large. I can't imagine an indoor fire big enough to fill this fireplace.

If you entertain a lot, you need a large room for your parties. Yes there is a lot of gold on the ceilings between the art work.

The room where you store and show off your art collection is far more elegant.

Of course there is a private chapel decorated in gold.

Jenny was impressed with the size of the doors, but I was more impressed with the elegant design.

some of the original furniture was hidden during the war, and is now back in the Residenz.

The Residenz had a large chapel that was destroyed during the war.

You can see the old brick at the lower levels of the columns, and the new brick across the ceiling. This room is now used as a concert venue.

While we were in the area we stopped at the market. The variety of meats available was amazing. Would you like pig snout soup?

While in the area, not part of a tour group, Charlie did his required Jeffrey Epstein polishing.

Jenny was amazed by the size of the sidewalk plantings.

Why did we take this dumb picture of a restaurant door? Look at the size of the radiator - the biggest I have ever seen - and I was raised in the North. They must really have winter here.

Thursday August 22

Today we returned for another walking tour, this time of the Third Reich. (First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire, second was Germany from 1871 until their defeat in WWI, and third was Hitler's plan for a 1000 year empire that lasted from 1933 to 1945.

This is the NEW city hall. Why wasn't it bombed during WW II? It was used as a landmark to guide the pilots and bombers in the days long before GPS.

The top two levels of the white tower on the left are the Glockenspiel. The plaza fills with people at 11 and 12 (and 5 in the summer) to see the show. The joke is that it is the second worse clock show in the world. One guide said, when the time rings, start your video and watch nothing happening for the first 2½ minutes. Then so little action happens that you wander off with the rest of the people.

This is the OLD city hall. No, the pictures are not reversed. The old city hall WAS destroyed by bombs in WW II so the construction is far newer, but functionally it is still considered the old city hall.

The "Royal" HB House or Hoffbrauhaus is one of the larger biergartens and restaurants in central Munich. I forgot to take a picture during the day when I was there, but Google provided this dramatic night picture. For many years the brewery for their beer was here, but now has been moved to the suburbs.

The important part of the HB House is that it was in this Dining Room that Hitler made the first speech that gave him recognition. It was a period of great political turmoil in Germany (post WW I) and following his speech in 1923, Hitler and friends tried to take over the Bavarian government by force. The "Beer Hall Putsch" failed, 14 Nazis were killed, and after a couple days in hiding Hitler was arrested, tried, and spent 9 months in prison (during which he wrote "Mein Kampf"). Later attempts to take over Germany were through political action rather than fighting.

Jenny had to play, but presumably the local waitresses can carry that much beer. I didn't enjoy drinking from a full liter mug (the glass part was heavy as a tank).

After a stop at OdeonPlatz where the Beer Hall Putsch was put down, we continued to the Bavarian State Chacellery. Much of it was destroyed in the war, and the glass wings (for government transparency) weren't completed until 1993. The "pit" in the foreground contains the war memorial to the Bavarians killed in WW I.

Circling back, we came to the memorial to those killed by the Hitler regime - with a perpetual flame in the open grid near the top.

Would anyone suggest that Germans (and especially Bavarians) don't like Sausage? I tried this plate with 5 different types of sausage - all of them different and very good.

Friday August 23

Munich is the home of BMW (which includes Mini and Rolls Royce) just as Stuttgart is the home of Mercedes Benz and Porche, and Zwickau (near Dresden and Leipzig) is home of VW/Audi. Thus being in Munich, a pilgrimage to the BMW campus was in order. Unfortunately the factory is shut down (no tours) for two weeks each year... while we were there.

The tall building on the left is BMW headquarters, the bowl on the right is the BMW museum. Jenny is on the walkway from the Welt.

We started at the BMW Welt. The building architecture is noteworthy. The exhibits are many, there are restaurants and meeting facilities. There are displays of countless BMW, Rolls Royce, and Mini cars (recent and future). But having been there, I still don't know how I would define "welt", or how it is different than the BMW museum.

One of the most impressive cars on display was this red BMW sport coupe. There were only 399 made between 1979 and 1981, but it looked like it could be sold today.

Rolls Royce was a major display (wonder why?) Although owned by BMW, they are still hand built in the traditional plant in England. They now have an SUV and several "cheap" models like this convertible coupe in the $330,000 range.

The primary 4 door "Phantom" model starts at a mere $470,000. They all have the same 6.8 Liter turbocharged V12 engine with an 8 speed transmission that gets 12-20 mpg. BMW has a feature where it uses the GPS looking ahead on your route to select transmission shift points; a feature that was incorporated into the Rolls, but probably would not have been developed without BMW input.

A car of the future had a flat display panel (like a Tesla) instead of an instrument panel, a rectangular steering wheel, and "+" "-" marks on the floor for accelerate and brake. I think the ugly color was so nobody would want one today.

A lot of discussion was how electric motors are far more efficient than internal combustion engines, so are probable future technology. Germany is generating enough renewable energy (solar and wind) that people now count the days their electric rate is negative - the renewable power is "free." The challenge is to store that "free" power - perhaps in a car battery.

Many of the exhibits were about transportation overall - especially the "last mile." Encouraging people to take public transit, and then use an electric scooter to go the last mile. The BMW scooter is not competitive with the models littering our cities today, but demonstrated the concept.

BMW is a major motor cycle manufacturer. This touring bike was the closest Jenny has ever let me get to a motorcycle.

One of the displays was the side of a car body in new light weight carbon fiber technology, so light that visitors could easily lift it.

There were many displays of future car designs (where is the door handle?)

I wish I had kept notes of which of these cars were near current or far future.

I have been extremely interested in the status of self-driving cars. Some can be completely driverless, but can only operate in a small area (e.g. taxis in Phoenix). Some can drive coast to coast, but only on specific highways, no work zones (Cadillac). Our current car has "lane keeping assist" that even works in most construction zones, and smart cruise control that will even bring the car to a stop if the car in front of us is at a light or stuck in traffic. We can just verbally tell our car where we want to go. But what's next?

There was a major exhibit (that engrossed me) on this topic. We are now at level 2, which allows a driver to yield control for brief periods. Level 3 will add lane changes on the highway, and will only occasionally require the attention of the driver. BMW expects that technology to be available in their 2021 cars. Level 4 will include urban as well as highway driving, and will cover all but the most complex situations, such as a winding road in bad weather. BMW will start testing (not selling) level 4 in 2021. Level 5, when it finally happens, will eliminate the steering wheel and the need for a licensed driver.

Enough of my technology rant. These are a tiny fraction of the many historical cars we saw.

This 1939 BMW looks like it is moving even as it is parked. It is older than me - I wish I were as well preserved.

The Isetta has always interested me, perhaps because I saw one as a kid. The entire front of the car opens; there is room for two adults plus a small child (in the years before child seats), plus ample storage space for a trip to the grocery store. It has been built by many companies around the world, including (of course) 161,000 built by BMW.

And more examples from the the older side...

Saturday August 24

We took a bus trip on the "Romantic Road" from Munich to Rothenburg. The first stop was at Harburg Castle, one of the largest and best preserved castles in Germany. It was not bombed in the world wars; the first written record of the castle is dated 1150, but it probably existed in the previous century. There is an inexpensive ticket to wander the castle on your own, but you see FAR more (beyond locked doors) if you pay the extra for a guide.

The castle was on a small crest so the primary defense could concentrate on one side

The bus parked and we had a short walk to the entrance

Much more to see once through the entry gate (perhaps at one time a draw bridge)

In the center of the courtyard is the all-important water well - the guide emphasized how important it was that it was a very deep well.

This was a shooting window - larger rifles were hooked over the beam at the bottom of the window.

This hole allowed hot material to be dumped on invaders. At a different castle months ago, they explained that oil was too expensive to dump, water didn't stick enough so burns were superficial, so the hot material was usually molten lead. Any left after the battle could be collected and reused. Of course, night watchmen might also use this hole for other purposes.

An example of the armory. Note the several "hook guns" that were used in the large window. The royal crest was red with a yellow X, as seen here on shields and on shutters around the castle.

Court was held here, with the royal representative as judge and jury.


And the castle had the civil records for the surrounding area.

You can rent portions of the castle for private events, such as this wedding reception later in the day.

We then continued to the historical city of Rothenburg. We are headed to a doorway cut into the city wall from the bus parking lot outside the city wall.

Medieval "Half-Timbered" houses are common in Rothenburg. The construction timbers show on the outside of the house, with the area between the timbers filled with plaster, brick, or stone.

The tradition of year-around Christmas stores was started here by Käthe Wohlfhart. Across the street from the original store was another similar store, and she has expanded all over the country. I joked with a clerk "does she own the entire town?" The clerk replied "No, but maybe half of it."

This antique delivery car was parked in front of the store as as an advertisement.

There are water wells every few blocks throughout this "walled city."

The windows open as the clock strikes the hour but the animation in underwhelming.

It was a neat old town to wander around.

On the bus riding back to Munich we went through miles and miles of hops farms, almost ready to harvest. The picture on the right was through the bus window, so not great, but the fields went as far as the eye could see, mile after mile.

Hops flower - Photo By LuckyStarr - Own work, CC BY 2.5

The Munich Allianz Arena soccer stadium was large as we drove past it, but the special feature is that it changes colors for the teams playing.

Sunday August 25

On Sunday morning we went to St. Paul's church - just a couple blocks from the hotel.

The stations of the cross were very unusual. Ignore the art exhibit between the stations.

One of the "art" exhibits was an AI driven automaton in a confessional booth. (There was a note that it might give counseling but not absolution.) It looked at people, and presumably responded, but did not understand English, and I couldn't use German, so it didn't perform for me.

Very close to the church was the entrance to Oktoberfest, known locally as Wiesn. Munich is the home of the annual party, celebrating the wedding of the Crown Prince (soon King) of Bavaria to his wife Theresa in 1810. He invited the public to the wedding reception, which was so popular it became an annual party. It is located in Theresienwies, Theresa's meadow (and now the name of that part of Munich)

The other symbolic marker of Oktoberfest is the huge bronze Bavaria statue.

Oktoberfest runs from noon on the third Saturday in September until the first Sunday in October, or October 3 (whichever is later). With Oktoberfest a month away during our visit, it was still very much under construction. We tried to find photogenic parts of the 100 acre site, but were disappointed. We strongly recommend spending some time surfing https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/information for lots of pictures, videos, and information. To summarize, there are 17 "large" and 21 "small" tents to choose from. The large tents seat from 5,000 to 11,000 people each, plus other facilities to handle over 6 million visitors per year. No entrance fee. This year beer is €9,50 per maß (pronounced mass, one liter), plus tip if you want to see your waitress again.

In addition to beer, "half" the area is an amusement park like a state fair.

Having wandered the Oktoberfest construction site, we then went to the nearby Deutsches Museum... of the several locations, the transportation section was located in this area.

This is not just another car museum - it is all forms of transportation

The museum had reproduced (or imported) an antique bicycle repair shop.

Of course I cannot resist seeing another Iseetta.

A real World War II Army Jeep in like-new condition.

This was the first streamlined car. It never caught on, perhaps because it was ugly, perhaps because it didn't go fast enough to need streamlining, or perhaps because gas was cheap.

A very early personal motor scooter, before useful batteries. Think how tiny they have become today.

From the train exhibit...How do you stop a train? With electric trains, electrically reverse the motor to make a generator and put the energy back in the power lines. But the extreme case is the Japanese bullet train. If it senses an earthquake (common in Japan) it must stop immediately. But it cannot assume the power lines are still available to absorb the energy of the speeding train, so it can only count on using brakes. A simulation in the museum showed how the brakes were extra large so they could become red-hot in an emergency stop, but not so hot they would melt. Yes, I am a geek

Monday August 26

Time to go home: We took the train 11.60€ or US$12.68 to the airport. American has a non-stop flight from Munich to Charlotte (just over 10 hours enroute), then 3 hours later a 3 hour flight from CLT to Austin. It was a great trip; we really loved Munich

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