Munich … Winter Wonderland 2009


I posted this on MyT last December … I repost it here (without the links) in honour of the fact that myself and the same three friends will be going back to Munich this December, DV.

Three of us flew out from Belfast early on Saturday. Met up with the English member of our quartet, who had flown from London, at Munich Airport. 45 minutes on the train, then a short walk on snow-covered streets from the station to our hotel.

One of our number knows Munich quite well (I’d been there just once before, in 1988), and had worked out an itinerary of sorts … much of which revolved around finding and dispatching the best local beers. So, on the first day we did a lot of that kind of thing. Falafels for kebab-shop lunch; dinner at the Hofbräuhaus; between times walking round the city, dropping into bars, shivering in the bitterly cold wind and trying not to step into the cycle lane.

Late in the evening we arrived at a ‘yodelling bar’ expecting a bit of fun, only to find that the yodelling was done in a private club upstairs. Undaunted, we befriended a nice young couple from Oxford, added them to our round and bought them so much beer that they must have had serious hangovers the next day.

We certainly had. Four middle-aged men had made the rookie mistake of drinking too much on the first night. Will we never learn? We trudged to the station for breakfast, and on to the sleekly impressive Pinakothek der Moderne design museum.

Next was a walk in the Englischen Garten, and the bizarre sight of skilled surfers on a stationary wave of the narrow river (in front of the ‘no surfing, no bathing’ sign … I’m told thousands swim there in the summer). Then a restorative beer and lunch in the Ratskeller, and a bit of shopping-for-presents research (during which a punk girl accosted several men, including me, in the men’s toilet of a large department store … I made my excuses and left).

We had a couple of gluhweins to keep out the cold, while watching adults and children skating on a city-centre rink. Later, at the Tollwood (a vast winter market/festival), we discovered that feuerzangenbowle is even better than gluhwein – a dash of rum is added.

Passing a beautiful old church, we heard singing coming from inside, and paid to enter … a concert of Christmas carols by a wonderful choir of men and children, with organ and violin, had just started. That was one of the highlights.

The main event on Monday, apart from the obligatory present-shopping, was a visit to the Hunting and Fishing Museum, which was fascinating. As well as the stuffed animals, birds and fish there are hundreds of old guns, many dating from three to five centuries ago. The craftsmanship these display is amazing. Apparently each gun was required to be a beautifully carved and inlaid masterpiece as well as a technological wonder of its time.

Along with a middle-European fascination with hunting and its accoutrements, which sometimes hints at a mystical union of man and beast, the museum showcases a certain Gothic quirkiness of the German mind. An old painting of a hunter kneeling before a magical deer; caricatures of sly talking foxes … most of all, a section where some master vivisectionist appears to have gone insane.

As well as a hare having sex with a hen, we see here a collection of wolpertingers (bizarre amalgams of parts of various animals and birds – a winged fox was the most conservative). I didn’t realize till later that these are a Bavarian tradition … apparently innkeepers used to try to trick gullible visitors into searching for such ‘beasts’ in the wild.

I lit four candles in a church (one for each member of my family) – a beautiful custom that was replaced by electric ‘shrines’ in Ireland decades ago. We climbed the 306 steps of its ‘Alten Peter’ tower, not without complaint – the photo above is a view from the top – then did our shopping and finished the day with another visit to the Tollwood and a few more feuerzangenbowles.

The people of Munich are friendly and outgoing … typical was the young woman who stopped to offer help on the first day, having noticed the four of us standing on a street corner pointing in four different directions. It appears to be a civilized, cosmopolitan city where hordes of people enjoy inordinate quantities of food (especially pigmeat) and drink in public, without becoming either troublesome or overweight. Male and female stallholders in the markets drink beer while they work.

The police presence is barely noticeable. There is a genuinely ‘vibrant’ (overused word) air to the place. Although I heard some English and Irish voices, there were surprisingly few tourists from outside Germany. The euro coins I received as change were invariably German ones.

It’s a very German city … not ‘multicultural’ except for the sizeable Turkish community. (The Turks are a community … they appear to accommodate to German ways but keep their own culture and do not ‘become German’: that makes sense to me.) Notwithstanding the widespread myth that English is a Europe-wide second language, many people speak no English at all (of course there is no reason why they should).

The city appears to be comfortable with its Catholic heritage, and ‘PC’ notions are nowhere evident: Munich loves Christmas and Christmas loves Munich.

So, a great weekend in a winter wonderland. I’ll definitely go back, DV.

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46 Comments

Filed under Anecdotes, The music of what happened, Uncategorized, Wildlife

46 responses to “Munich … Winter Wonderland 2009

  1. Shermeen

    I like visiting Germany. The distinct architecture, the clean surroundings and generally very friendly people

  2. Cymbeline

    Brendano. I note that you have become a fan of the DV tag.

    I never feel right in Germany.

  3. My mother used to use it in conversation.

  4. Cymbeline

    That’s interesting. I have only ever come across it in written form – and even then, not very often. It has become fashionable, so I believe.

  5. I didn’t know that, Cymbeline.

  6. Cymbeline

    There was an interesting and witty article on the subject in the weekend FT – a surprisingly entertaining newspaper. I used to think that the FT only contained boring information about stocks and shares.

  7. The only time I was exposed to it was when I worked briefly for a law firm in Chancery Lane. I noticed then that it was a quality newspaper, apart from the boring finacial stuff.

  8. Cymbeline

    The weekend FT is the most interesting for those not particularly interested in finance. Some excellent writing in there. Far better than the sort of magazine-type writing one now finds in the Telegraph.

  9. Cymbeline

    Sorry; I should be talking about Munich.

  10. Cymbeline, you have unlimited licence to talk about whatever you want.

  11. Sipu

    The best thing about the Weekend FT is the Polymath Crossword. Not that I can ever get near completing it, but it is fun being pretentious about it.

  12. Sipu

    Your talk of stuffed animals immediately reminded me of the Yann Martel’s latest book, Beatrice and Virgil. Driving back from Italy last month, my brother-in-law and I listened to the audio version. The story centres around a German taxidermist. There many descriptions of his work.

    Apart from driving through it, I have only ever been to Germany on business. I would like to go there on holiday, but it just seems so foreign. One sort of feels one can understand the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French, but Germany and the Germans seem enigmatic. Not sure why that should be.

  13. Thanks for that, Sipu. I don’t know about the rest of Germany, but the people of Munich seemed friendly and not particularly enigmatic to me … possibly because they were all semi-pissed.

    I followed your argument with Janus and others on ‘race’. I noted that you were called ‘racist’ rather than your questions being addressed.

  14. Sipu

    Ah, being semi-pissed will do the trick. It is difficult not to like a happy piss artist.

    Yes, I do struggle with some people to get them to actually tell me why I am wrong. I don’t mind the insults and being told I am wrong, but I wish people would tell me why. I recall your question, something about the need for morality in a completely non spiritual world. Perfectly valid, but it never got an answer. I think that I was as frustrated as you were by that.

    I am afraid that I use these sites to experiment with thoughts and ideas. They do not always reflect my true views, though frequently they do. I am aware that I often contradict myself and even more often make a fool of myself, but I am pretty thick skinned. For all the flak I receive, I quite enjoy the Chariot. My biggest regret is that the owners are a bit too proprietorial. Its their site, so of course they can pick and choose but its sad there is not a greater diversity of members. I wonder if I should start my own blog.

    • Cymbeline

      You do not make a fool of yourself.

      • Cymbeline

        I enjoy the Chariot too. My chariot is a recently acquired 1950s French ‘desserte’ – 10 euros in the French equivalent of the car-boot sale. An old-fashioned trolley with squeaky wheels. Brilliant. Had forgotten about trolleys. My mother used to have one in Africa. Lemon meringue pie, and cakes wheeled around the place on Zambian Sunday afternoons.

      • I remember trolleys. It’s a wonder I survived my childhood.

      • Cymbeline

        I only remember trolleys properly moving when I was quite small. They seemed to stop moving after a bit. As I grew older, they were stationary wagons seen only in my grandmothers’ kitchens – and then not seen at all after that generation died.

  15. Cymbeline

    I spent some weeks living in a French barracks in Linx, Germany. I have mentioned this before. I was rather struck by the cigarette machines in residential streets. I ate rather a lot of pumpernickel and liverwurst in an unmarried French lieutenant’s bedroom – this was to do with being a non-military person who whilst not quite in hiding, was not supposed to be living there.

    • Yes, I remember that story.

    • Sipu

      ‘The French Lieutenant’ has a certain ring to it. Many years ago I went to stay with a family in Joburg. I had with me a copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ . My hostess, who was ‘Born Again’ assumed it must be pornographic. There is a certain arrogance about such people and though she was intelligent, beautiful and talented, she was very narrow. I fell in love with the daughter. Sadly, she married somebody else. Bugger.

      Cymbers, I remember the dropped cigarette.

      • Cymbeline

        Sipu. If she had married you, you would not have had the luxury of pining for what might have been.

        Flattered that you remember the story of the dropped cigarette. Rosie’s Bar, Monte Carlo.

  16. Cymbeline

    German lavatories, complete with porcelain shelf enabling pre-flush inspection …. Fascinating.

  17. Sipu was berated on Bearsy’s site for saying that in his opinion black people don’t have the necessary traits to rule themselves (or similar), posited on what he sees as the differences between races. I had some sympathy for him because his case was rejected (quite irritably) rather than refuted. He wasn’t saying that one race was inferior to another.

    It has always been an article of faith with me that we are all more or less the same, but I don’t think anyone should be berated for asking an honest question.

  18. Cymbeline

    I didn’t see the discussion, Brendano.

    Sipu is a man who thinks, and a man who has lived amidst cultures very different to his own. His thoughts are not tied down by ideas of inferiority and superiority.

    • True. I think some of his ideas are very much shaped by his experience of Rhodesia and his upper-class ancestry, but we are all shaped by our environment and background to some degree.

      Sorry to talk about you as if you weren’t here, Sipu. 🙂

      • Cymbeline

        He possesses certain distinctive magnifying glasses, yes. But, more importantly, he is brave enough to try to think in a truly independent manner.

      • Sipu

        No problem Brendano. I come and go. You are of course right. I have always had the problem of not being competitive. I genuinely do not mind losing to those better than me. If it is sport, the better player deserves to win. If it is a debate, the better argument deserves to prevail. I do not mind losing, but I must know why. Does that make sense.

        By the way, I am sorry about frequent references to my ancestry. The truth is I genuinely find it quite interesting while at the same time realising that it is totally pointless.

      • Yes, that makes sense. I don’t think you refer to your ancestry particularly frequently … I was thinking of MyT way back.

  19. Sipu

    Oh dear. You are under attack.

  20. Sorry, I just accidentally approved a couple of the stream of obscene comments instead of trashing them as usual … now rectified.

  21. Cymbeline

    I did not see the stream of obscene comments. I do not understand this unrelenting obsession, and I do not understand the form it takes. If I were attacked hundredfold in this way – daily, I think that I would close shop. I do not know if this would be a sign of weakness on my part, or not.

    • It is a strange phenomenon. The same person is attacking me on my MyT blog tonight. I think he lives in hope that I will say something that will cause my MyT account to be deleted.

  22. Cymbeline

    It is different on a public site like MyT. I think that public hassling is part of the deal if one chooses to write on a public site. You do quite a bit of public hassling yourself.

    However, there is a sort of understanding that one should not hassle people in their private quarters.

  23. There is hassling and hassling. The person in question wouldn’t say the same things on MyT, or his account would be deleted.

  24. Cymbeline

    You seem to be suggesting that I may be downplaying the situation. I am not. I do not doubt that what you receive here is of a different category to the MyT hassle. In addition to that, this category of attack takes place in what is tacitly seen by most as private internet space.

    The situation is thus DOUBLY wrong, and I do not understand. As I suggested earlier, I would probably find the situation sinister enough to actually stop blogging altogether, if I were at the receiving end.

  25. Cymbeline

    I would certainly try to avoid wasting mental energy on a deeply destructive situation.

  26. I have to go to Munich for a couple of days at the start of November. This photograph and your account of the friendliness is making me feel much more positive about it. Thanks.

  27. Hi Isobel … that’s good. I’m sure you’ll enjoy Munich … I certainly hope so. It does have an awful lot to offer.

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