Munich Part III: Palaces, Swans and Glockenspiels, Oh My!

Munich’s city slogan is “München mag Dich”- Munich loves you. If Munich loves me, then I love Munich’s coffee, which tastes like home to me. While cappuccinos, espressos and café con leche are available, I feel fortunate that here they do filter coffee, and they do it well. While so many Americans stateside spend extra cash on fancy espresso drinks, I’m true to my roots, and prefer my coffee black and long, and I don’t mean an espresso with extra water, whatever the Europeans may think (in Spain, an espresso with extra water is an “Americano”).
A big goofy caffeine smile on face, and steaming to go cup in one hand, I 
gulp the brew of life while Jesus inhales some sort of pastry. The Bavarians know pastry, and Jesus is out to try them all. Indulging in our respective drugs of choice (caffeine, and sugar), we stroll towards Marienplatz
to see the famous Glockenspiel clock tower built in 1908. Since there’ll be no show until the clock strikes eleven, we wander around until Jesus finds a pickle vendor. Even though I’ve been known to drink coffee with just about any gnosh, pickles don’t combine particularly well with coffee, so I slurp what’s left of mine and trash the cup. Let the pickle sampling commence! After trying pickles large and small, sweet and spicy, dill and garlic, we decide on a spicy pickle, and purchase small glass jar of the variety in the hopes that it tastes as good (or better) as the bumpy green monsters the vendor fished out of the murky waters of a large oak pickle barrel.
The flaky goodness of a large pastry and an appetizer of pickles for a snack is apparently not sufficient breakfast for my husband, so we hit up a sausage stand next. White sausage and mustard on a hard roll for Jesus, and a second coffee for me (okay, and a bite of the sausage and bread).
We wander our way back to Marienplatz as the clock starts to chime. 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures on a tiered balcony-like structure tell two stories from the 16th century. The upper level tells the story of the marriage of a local duke. Two knights on horseback, one in Bavaria’s colors of blue and white, joust in honor of the happy couple. Rampant with regional pride through simple symbolism, the Bavarian knight on his steed stands victorious. Directly below the scenes of married bliss, barrel makers spin and hop, arms lifted in revelry commemorating the brave16th century barrel makers who danced in the street after a plague to show the townspeople it was safe to come out again. The traditional dance can be seen performed by live barrel makers every seven years during German carnival. Three chirps from a tiny golden bird perched in a tiny triangular shelter atop the two levels signal the end of the spectacle.
It’s time to grab a tram across town and visit Ludwig’s childhood home, the Nymphenburg Palace. Baroque Palaces aren’t really my cup of tea, but the immense gardens sprinkled with snow, and slightly frozen lakes are enough to make the trip across town worth my while. Jesus grins and laughs as I , true to form, chase around the palace flock of swans with my camera. Why is it that I feel the pressing need to capture local wildlife on film? Why do hunters collect antlers? In the end, swans are swans and deer are deer, and I’ve seen more castles and palaces than anyone in my immediate family, but still I search. Perhaps it’s an instinct to collect evidence of experiences? I digress.
Nymphenburg Palace

Swans at Nymphenburg Palace

Midwesterner Abroad at Nymphenburg Palace

The swans send me suspicious looks as they alternately flap, honk and hold their positions in sloppy snow that sparkles as it melts in the afternoon sun. Swans and grounds aside, the immense half-mile long palace in front of the lake holds little interest for me. Baroque is not among my favorite architectural styles, after all, I skipped going in at Versailles because of the line and I prefer castle exteriors to palaces. But since Jesus is cold, I gracefully acquiesce to forking out the cash to tour the inside. Okay, well, maybe not particularly gracefully, since I protest, promptly drop a 20 euro note in the snow (bad karma?) and have to swallow a few snarky comments before they slip out to ruin our afternoon.
The inside of the palace is largely baroque, a style I don’t particularly prefer, but can appreciate for the skilled craftsmanship required for such over-the-top details and embellishments. For the most part, I’m content to let Jesus take over the camera, although there is a golden carriage that pulls my Cinderella strings. It was made for Ludwig’s marriage, a union between the king and Duchess Sophia of Bavaria that never happened. Ludwig may be gone, but his fairytale creations remain. Ludwig II is said to have taken moonlit sleigh rides in an elaborate 18thcentury sleigh, accompanied by footmen dressed in 18th century livery, stopping to meet and greet peasants as he went. Would he have done the same with the golden carriage come summer, harnessing a team of white steeds to the carriage and riding off into the deepest night with only the moon to guide him? I’d like to think so.

P.S. Sorry about the somewhat striped pictures in the Munichseries. My digital camera was slowly dying at the time. For a picture of Ludwig’s carriage, go here and for a picture of the sleigh, here. The pictures at the links do not in any way belong to me.

Originally Published in The Tipton Times. Chris Ciolli Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.
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