9 Sep 2011

Munich Day 2 – Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Posted by Deborah

After finally catching up on sleep, we headed out of Wombats and across the street to Hauptpanauf station to pick up a croissant breakfast on-the-go. We made a quick u-turn back to the hostel to meet up with a ‘free tour’ of Munich. We’ve found that most cities now have these ‘free tours.’ Of course, they’re not really free, rather they collect tips at the end of the tour instead of charging a flat fee at the start. The premise is that you pay what you think the tour is worth and the guide has an incentive to do a better job.

Thus far we’ve had pretty good luck with them. Our Munich guide, Ozzy, was the son of a Jamaican father and a Bavarian mother. He grew up in Munich, but had lived around the world so his English was quite good.

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The tour took us around most of the historic landmarks of the city. We learned that while Munich’s architectural style makes it look old, in reality just about everything is new. After the city was largely destroyed in WWII, the people of Munich decided to rebuild it to look as close to the original as possible. When they could, they would restore an original exterior wall and simply build a new interior. The few buildings that survived the war could attribute their good fortune to being tall landmark, which made them useful reference points for the allies during air raid targeting.

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Ozzy also gave us a synopsis of the history of Bavarian beer and its integral role in the development of the city and Bavaria. Due to Munich’s central location, it was relatively easy to export beer to surrounding regions. During the Black Plague, there was great uncertainty around what transmitted the disease, so many people stopped consuming nearly any food they didn’t grow themselves. As a result, the economy ground to a halt. The local Duke eventually had the Bavarian beer makers take their beer out into the streets and drink it while singing and dancing. This ploy was to convince the locals of the beer’s safety–and it worked. People began drinking beer again and coming out of their homes. Thoroughly convinced that Bavarian beer didn’t cause the plague, exports resumed and the economy was back on track. This story is commemorated in the clock tower of the central square, where dancing beer makers come out twice a day to great fanfare.

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For lunch, Ozzy led us to a small shop in the Viktualienmarkt. Deb opted for only a pretzel since all the sausages were pork. The sausage sandwich was surprisingly better than the meat from last night, and I got to act like a true local by walking around with an open beer – which is legal in Munich.

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Some other notes we picked up from the tour were that building height restrictions have severely limited the available real estate in the city and thus driven prices way up. As a result, Munich is a very wealthy, very old city compared to Berlin. The culture and people do not change a lot, which is reflected in the fact that people still wear drindls and liederhosen in daily life. Liederhosen were meant for agricultural work, so wearing them today is more for dressing up.

When the tour concluded, we decided to take the U-Bahn to the site of the 1972 Olympic Games. We actually didn’t make it to the village area where Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, but we did stroll around the park to peek in the various athletic facilities.

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We also stopped in the BMW Museum, located right at the entrance to the Olympic Village area. BMW also has corporate offices there. I was surprised to see a classic Mini driving around the museum – the English predecessor to the Mini Cooper that the company bought at least 10 years ago. Deb picked up a panini and I got a cappuccino from their little cafe, which was reasonably priced and had free WiFi.

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We headed back toward the city around dinnertime, checked into Hotel Maritim (a Priceline find just around the corner from our first hostel), and promptly went back out for dinner at Cafe Ignaz. The cafe was well off the beaten path, but Deb did an impressive job of navigating through dark, residential streets until we found the place. The service was slow but friendly. We each had gnocchi – mine was savory with banana, zucchini and cheese; Deb’s was sweet with raisins, dates and sweet potatoes. Both were excellent – and so filling that the waiter teased us for also ordering a heavy coconut shake with dinner. On our way out, we each got a large piece of cake for dessert which was included in the price of dinner – a bargain by European standards. Deb made a good choice in grabbing the chocolate cake while my poppyseed slice turned out to be a little too poppy-seedy.

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