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Weekend in Munich

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

The church bells I'll remember the most, the way they ring and ring in the morning and not on-beat, like you can really imagine someone in a bell tower jostling the thing.


On Saturday I slept in and woke up to a message from Doug, that he got us some bakery goods. I nibbled the pretzel and baguette and apple fritter and then we went to the nearby Edeka for some hiking snacks: American-sliced bread and peanut butter and no-sugar jelly and trail bars and grapes and apples. After lunch we went to Nymphenburg Palace, a Baroque palace in the heart of Munich. Doug and I had just been talking about men and women (of course) and grand gestures, and whether we like to do them or receive them, and it's strange to think of grand gestures in proportion to wealth and status, and how the whole palace was essentially a gesture to celebrate the birth of an heir to the Bavarian throne.

One of my favorite things to do in life is walk through peoples' houses, and so of course I loved seeing all the decorations and beds and marble tables and portraits of women with ermine coats. Doug bought us each one of those audio tour guides that we could hold to our ear like a cell phone, and so we went around the magnificent rooms listening to the British voice explain in way too much detail the history of this and that, but I only remembered two things from the whole tour: that there was an 18-year-old woman who refused to produce an heir with the 70-year-old man she was forced to marry (the information bulletin specifically said "did not obey") and that King Ludwig the First commissioned an artist to paint him a "Gallery of Beauties" -- a series of oil paintings of beautiful women from all classes of society -- and that he fell so madly in love with one of them (Lola Montez, a Spanish dancer) that he "could not sleep, could not eat" in his older age because of reawakened passion he hadn't felt since he was like 15. Spicy!

After the tour, we popped into one of those museum restaurants and ordered sparkling water and a lemon pie to share, except the waitress didn't understand our request and brought us each a lemon pie, and sometimes the universe just gives you things like this and you accept. It was pretty good (not my favorite, since it had slivers of like almond or something) but there was rain outside and bubbles on my tongue; I was so thirsty I drank a full glass of the delicious water before I even had a chance to cheers. After the cake, we stopped into a butchery to get a couple sausages and Rouladen (thinly sliced beef stuffed with things like onions and pickles) and then went up to the apartment to relax; but a few minutes before 5 pm Doug remembered the Rathaus Glockenspiel at Marienplatz (the town center) was due to play, so we rushed out in the almost rain, sort of running at the end, and caught the five-minute display of the figures doing a merry-go-round (and jostling match) at the top of the tower.

It felt splendidly German and delightfully whimsical. We made our way to St. Peter's Catholic Church afterward and climbed 306 small winding stairs, shoulder to shoulder with the people coming down, to get a panoramic view of Munich. On the way up my brain was of course thinking how there are some places in life where having a health emergency, including suddenly losing motor skills and forgetting how to walk, would be damn near a death sentence.

After the church we came home and made dinner: mashed potatoes with boiled carrots and Bratwurst and Rouladen and buttered bread and Apfelschorle, and it was all so amazing. I ate slowly because I was in one of those moods where I was talking so damn much, and Doug was patiently listening. I chatted with Austin that night and slept pretty well, although the wooden pallets were slipping out from beneath the mattress, and it all made a horrendous squeak.

a may pole

On Sunday I slept in (although the church bells went off at like every hour starting way too early) and walked with Doug to the Viktualienmarkt, a town market that's open every day of the week except for the day we chose to go. There was a tall decorative pole in the square, and Doug read later that night that many villages in southern Germany install their own may poles to celebrate May 01, and that the villages and townspeople play games where they try to steal each other's poles, and there are all these rules about what constitutes fair game, and it all sounds too good to be true, like a real-life Capture the Flag. Here's an excerpt from The Internet:

There’s also a ritual of good-natured maypole theft during the night of 30th April/1st May. Rivals attempt to steal any reasonably portable maypole, despite the fact that most will be specifically guarded against such an eventuality. There are differing local rules: guards can be coaxed away, guards must have/must not have a hand on maypole all night, etc. Once the maypole is stolen, it has to be released against a forfeit, which is usually some kind of alcoholic refreshment.

Approaching Marienplatz, we passed a street-busker accordion man who tucked himself into a big suit jacket and attached a hat on a pole to make himself look headless--he'd play the accordion and every so often kick one leg up, and a couple of kids watched him not quite mesmerized, and I wondered if his legs ever got tired, or if he was tired of playing the same chords over and over--I wondered whether he was even smiling underneath his suit.

Our plan for Sunday was to go to the BMW museum, but first we stopped into a small toy museum that had a few cases of vintage toys, beautiful barbies and dollhouses with little tiny teddy bears, and it was all so cute, and I was wondering what toys my Dad and Oma would have remembered. The journey to the BMW museum was a bit of a hectic one, since there was construction on one of the subway lines, but we ended up getting there before a giant line of people formed out the door. I loved seeing all the motorcycles and cars--and had no idea BMW even built motorcycles (1923!), or aircraft engines, or that they had a factory in Spandau where Oma lives--but I was distracted by some health thing I'd been dealing with for several days. I did learn how much I love the 1960s and 70s BMW car models, and we also got to see a BMW Isetta, although more fun than seeing the car itself was looking at a bunch of vintage photos of people driving it, including some who looked like they were forced into it and others who looked like they were having way too much fun:

After the museum we walked across the street to Olympiastadion, a park Munich built to host the 1972 Summer Olympics. We thought we'd just walk around a little and look for a pretzel stand, but we ended up in the middle of a huge sporting event where wakeboarding was the main draw, and there were stands and stands of food and beer and sporty activities for kids, including a whole tent dedicated to teenage boy breakdancers who were actually quite impressive. We finally found a pretzel just as we were going to give up and get a cone of Belgian fries instead (although I'm not sure we could beat the Belgian fries he and I ate in Portland Maine at Duckfat). The pretzel wasn't the best, but we ate it in a patch of sunny grass at the far end of the wakeboarding competition. I was so ready to be home and eat our delicious leftovers for dinner; I took a long-ass hot shower and that night we played chess, which I haven't played for literal years. The first game Doug said I was in full-on attack mode, but he prevented me from losing way too early in the game by pointing out a mistake I was about to make; his kindness did not pay off, since I won the second game, and then I got to sleep by about 1 am.

I should add that we've taken a lot of pictures with Doug's camera (thanks Doug for being a good camera man!), and I'm trying to get more comfortable behind the lens when someone else is snapping my picture. But yes, I have a favorite side and lighting to soften the lines on my face, and it's not what you see above when I'm contemplating, but I love so much else about that photo--the warmth and mood and juxtaposition of all the women: the Queen and me and the lovely lady looking over my shoulder.

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