München (Munich) is a city filled with Biergartens, Dragons, and some beautiful sightseeing adventures. While I didn't have time to visit the legendary parks, majestic castles in the nearby Alps, or the palaces, a self-guided walking tour let me see the city, and discover that I would much like to return. It's name means 'by the monks', and this refers to the monks of the benedictine order. Munich has remained a cultural hub since 1158, and remains so today.
The first sight that I ventured to today is the old town center. Here, as in Prague, a magnificent clock, with moving figures. The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is not nearly as old as the one in Prague, which dates from the 1600's. This one is a mere child by comparison, having been completed in 1908 as part of the 'New Town Hall' construction. The whole glocken-show lasts somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes long depending on which tune it plays that day. At the very end of the show, a very small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps quietly three times, marking the end of the spectacle.
The next location that I wanted to see, was the Frauenkirche, which means the "Cathedral of Our Dear Lady". Because of the lack of a nearby stone pit, this building was built in only 20 years, because brick was used as the main building material. Construction started in 1468, and completed in 1488, though not officially consecrated until 1494. The unique construction of the church gives the illusion that it is a windowless church. None of the side stained glass windows can be seen from the main entrance , because they are housed in vaults off the side hallway sections of the church. It is said, that the devil himself left a black footprint in one of the tiles on the doorstep of the church, where he stood, curiously regarded, and ridiculed the builder for constructing a windowless church. Regardless of legend, the church is beautiful. It houses the tomb of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and many other art pieces that have survived the centuries, conflicts, and damage to the church during WWII.
Following the Frauenkirche, I had read that there was a lesser-visited church nearby, St. Peter's Church. The original building was destroyed in a fire, but the structure that stands today was dedicated in 1368. It is a Roman Catholic church, and the oldest in this area of the city. The high alter is the main focal point of the building, but I was most amazed by the priceless painting and works of art on the walls and ceiling of the interior. The ceiling fresco by Johann Baptist Zimmerman (1753–56) was recently restored in 1999-2000. It was truly a surprise to find such beauty, when the exterior of the building is humble red brick, and completely understates what is inside.
Finally, after walking a few miles, what is there left to do? Pay a visit to the most famous Biergarten in the city, the Hofbräuhaus, followed by Cafe Luitpold for a coffee. The Hofbräuhaus is one of Munich's oldest beer halls. It was founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, as the brewery to the old Royal Residence, which at that time was situated just around the corner from where the beer hall stands today. It actually has a garden, in which there is seating, as well as a balcony overlooking said garden, on which I was able to snag a table. The interior of the Haus has a colorful painted ceiling, as well as bold Bavarian decor. It was full of tourists, but the excellent food made it worth it. Cafe Luitpold was equally excellent, but in a French manner. I highly recommend stopping by for a coffee and one of their many excellent cakes and pastries.
Munich will go in the books as yet another city I wish to return to. The city itself is so full of museums, sights, and so near to the surrounding mountains and castles, that I will plan several days here, next time I visit. That is the one downside of tour life, you might get to see some incredible places, but you must use your free time wisely. Germany itself, has done a lot to preserve and rebuild its history, especially since WWII. There is a lot of darkness in that history, but the culture thrives, and is full of warm people, if you just take the time to walk a bit, and see things from a different perspective.