Munich (population 1.3 million) is the capital of the German State of Bavaria (population: 11,600,000). Bordering the Bavarian Alps and the Bohemian Forest, Bavaria is a region of incredible natural beauty, featuring the highest mountain in Germany, Mt. Zugspitze, at 9,721 ft. Rome conquered the area in 15 B.C., and Christianity was introduced in the 8th Century. The area is predominately Roman Catholic by faith. Bavaria has had its share of both brilliant and mad rulers over its long history. It became a part of The German Empire in 1871.
Munich, which is perhaps the most beautiful major city in Germany, traces its roots to a monastery in the 8th Century. Today, it is a major art and industrial center, and has the largest zoo in Europe. The most famous product, is, of course beer. (There are six world-famous breweries in the city, and you all have heard of Oktoberfest!) Munich has a recent past that most would like to forget. Hitler first came to prominence in the local beer halls, and the infamous Dachau concentration camp is located nearby. During 1944, Allied bombs destroyed half of the city. More recently, mid-east terrorists murdered a number of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. But today, little remains of the past. The old city center area has been rebuilt to look much as it did before WWII.
When I left the tour description, those of our group that had already arrived were settling into our hotel, The Forum Munchen, which in 2004 became a Holiday Inn hotel. 'Munchen,' by the way, is the German name for the city. After unpacking and showering, I went to the lobby and ran into a retired couple from Austin, Texas. I had made the mistake of telling them I had been here before (23 years ago), and they immediately appointed me tour leader, directing me to take them downtown to see the sights. The hotel was less than a mile from downtown Munich, so off we trudged, crossing the Isar River bridge to center-city. After all, we had only been on the go for 20 or so hours at that point. As I said earlier, it was a gorgeous day, ideal for sightseeing. Here are the photos I took as we spent several hours rambling through the main area of town.
The Old Town Hall (15th Century), leading into Marienplatz, ('Mary's Square,' named after the Virgin Mary) the main square of the city. To the right, the new town hall, with its famous Glockenspiel. At 11 am each day, the 43 figures "do their thing," gradually moving into view, as the clock chimes the time in pipe-organ tones. Very impressive! No. 5 is an interior "courtyard" behind one building. The rightmost picture is from a postcard. It shows the details of the glockenspiel figures.
I only took a few photos as our three-person tour rummaged around different streets. I don't remember the name of the building that sports the lions. Local university music students are shown giving an impromptu concert of chamber music for the gathered crowd. They were quite good. The Germans and Austrians love flowers, and there are flowers everywhere in this part of the world. Don't ask me about the building in the rightmost photo. I just liked it at the time.
Here are some flower beds outside my hotel
We eventually headed back to the hotel, but remembered along the way that we hadn't eaten since breakfast on the plane. I suggested we stop at a German restaurant and sample authentic local cuisine. But, my Austin friends, like most Americans, insisted on stopping at a ...........MacDonalds! Nothing was scheduled for the full tour group that evening, except the usual welcoming dinner at the hotel. I turned in early. Thirty-some hours with very little sleep was enough.
The next morning, after a great buffet breakfast, we had a walking and riding tour of Munich and the surrounding area before departing for the Czech Republic. We heard all about the various royal intrigues and conspiracies that took place over the centuries. We were shown the building where one unlucky (and obviously careless) royal family member fell out of a third story window. (I later discovered, while in Russia, that various political personages in that country also had trouble keeping their footing while looking out upper-story windows.)
We made a stop along the way at Nymphenburg Castle, the summer residence of the Bavarian royal family. We couldn't go inside, but here are a few photos I took outside. They show swans swimming in the pond, and several views of the castle and grounds.
Here is a guide book picture of "mad" King Ludwig II's fairy-tale castle. We didn't see it this time, but I saw it from a distance when I was in these parts 20+ years ago. (I finally did get to go inside the castle during my 2002 Germany tour. You can read my description on those pages.)
That's it for Munich. We now headed for the Czech border. But wait! We ended up back in this area at the conclusion of the tour, coming into Munich through the mountains from Salzburg, Austria. This time, we stopped at a famous tourist spot. I refer to Hitler's mountain retreat and conference center 'Eagles Nest,' perched near the top of a 7,000 ft. mountain, The Kehlstein. We had to take a specially-equipped bus up the mountain. Then, we walked 400 ft. through a tunnel that took us into the mountain to an elevator, which went the 400 ft. up to Eagles Nest. The 40-passenger elevator was solid brass inside, and we were told it was the original one that Hitler and his guests rode. I got a creepy feeling going up, realizing I was perhaps standing in the exact same spot where 'Der Fuehrer' stood when he rode the conveyance 60 years earlier.
The view from the observation platform of the structure, now a restaurant, was breathtaking. In the rightmost photo, you can see the town of Berchtesgaden far below. We were fortunate that the weather was so great. The valleys below are often hidden by mist, or low clouds.
Even though it was May, there was snow on the ground. But with temperatures in the 60's, no one felt uncomfortable. We had lunch on the patio overlooking the magnificent mountains. A flock of Ravens were perched on the railings, hungrily eyeing everyone's food.. I doubt that it would have taken much prompting to coax a few of those birds to our table.
Here are some guide book pictures. One shows the installation from the air, with the bus stop further down the mountain. Two show a sketch of the tunnel and elevator shaft, and the tunnel itself. Next, is a picture of busses navigating the hairpin Scharitzkehl curve going up the mountain. The last picture is of the Eagles Nest facility from a higher vantage point.
Finally, for those interested in history, here are a few photos of The Monster, himself, and various guests and henchmen at the Eagles Nest many years ago.
Thus concludes my look at what just may be the most magnificent scenery on this Earth. Well, I think so.
(OR, if you came here from the "Germany 2002 Tour," click here to return to "South Bavaria" on that tour.)