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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Munich



A Favourite 
Get-Away...
I had not visited Munich for some time but as a cultural traveller it was timely for an extended week-end trip to explore its rich heritage again, its vitality and renewal of friendships. With its carefully preserved architecture and safe streets, it has been ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities if not the most expensive in Germany.

In the centre of the historic section, I had chosen the highly applauded Hotel Torbräu, Tal 41, family owned since the 19th century. The second floor breakfast room with its sunny yellow and blue décor and light wood finishes extended to the exterior for eating al-fresco on a flowered balcony overlooking the medieval Isator gate. 
The main floor offered the contemporary Schapeau dining room and bar in dark woods and art deco details with culinary choices of Tomato and mango soup 6, Crispy pike perch filet 16 and Sorbet infused with Champagne 5.50 among additional contemporary choices.

Joining my friends the following day we walked along Tal Strasse to the animated Marienplatz, the living room and heart of the Altstaat (old city) with the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) built from limestone in the 19th century Flemish Gothic style. The crowning glory on the façade is the famous ‘Glockenspiel’ where brightly enameled copper figures of coopers do their jig and the royals joust as they move through the arches at selected times. To the right is the Altes Rathhaus (Old City Hall) and the popular Ratskeller restaurant in the lower basement.

Close by on Neuhauser Strasse, 30 we posed for a photo op on a weird bronze boar designating the Hunting and Fishing Museum in a former Augustinian church with its renowned antler collection, paintings and prints of animal motifs!  Looking up, my friend pointed to the twin towers of the famous Frauenkirch with its onion domes that has identified their city landmark since 1525 while inside to the right is the imposing cenotaph of the Emperor Louis IV. Further along the street is the Michaelskirche with the sombre cryprt of the Wittelsbachs and the legendary Bavarian King Ludwig II sometimes referred to as the mad King.

Cutting back to Dienerstrasse 14/15 we stopped to admire the ochre and white façade of Alois Dallmayr with its arched display windows and yellow awnings. This is the ultimate food emporium, a destination and world famous delicatessen in the spirit of Harrods of London. We also noted their Bistro with contemporary white walls, dark wood floors and community shared tables contrasting with the elegant dining room’s décor of taupe wall coverings and burnt sienna leather upholstered chairs. Advance reservations are a must where the finest food is not only served but literally celebrated.  Zum Wohl!

At times we felt like a pinball as we navigated towards the Maximilianstrasse and the Max-Joseph-Platz where the Residenz Palace, the National Theatre and luxury boutiques begin. The palace ranks among the great European museums of the decorative arts with its Treasury and magnificent rococo Cuvilliés Theatre created by architect François Cuvillés all of which we visited for several hours.

One could also spend hours in the art museums. We chose the Alte Pinakothek’s treasure trove of European artists from the 14th - 18th centuries reflecting the tastes begun by the Wittelsbach family.  On the opposite side of the park, the Neue Pinakothek devotes itself to the contemporary visual arts while the new kid on the block, the Museum Brandhorst with its exterior of enameled vertical ribbons of colour, exhibits cutting-edge works and installations amassed by Udo and Anette Brandhorst.

My friends said “No trip to Munich is complete without visiting a beer hall” so our GPS mind-set directed us to the historic Weisses Bräuhaus, Tal 7, an institution since the 19th century. Stepping inside one could barely converse above the raucous, celebratory patrons, the oompah music and hustle -bustle. We became part of this milieu while  selecting choices from their seasonal German/English menu - White asparagus, Pretzel soup 3.60, Suckling pig €11.40 topped off with their Wheat beer!  What an experience!

Our bucket list also included one of the most popular sights of the Bavarian capital, the baroque Schloss Nymphenburg and park dating back to the 17th century. Among the many memorable rooms of the palace were the Great Hall, Galleries of Beauties and Tapestries and the room in which King Ludwig was born. Also a number of delightful pavilions dot the park including the Amalienburg  Pavilion with its masterpiece of rococo silver and blue Mirror - Hall - our favourite room!

Our day trip included the Palace of Herrenchiemsee, the most famous palace of King Ludwig II reached by ferry boat on the island of Herreninsel.  Guided tours included the State Bedroom, the Great Hall of Mirrors à la Versailles and fourteen additional sumptuous rooms. Almost as interesting is the King Ludwig II Museum including memorabilia, portraits and works of art, the original furniture from the Castle of Linderhof and a collection of decorative arts. Although the palace was unfinished it was intended to be the equivalent of the Palace of Versailles in France!

With old world charm and its traditions, Munich was a city with a treasure trove of options and day trips to satisfy one's insatiable curiosity. I tried the beer and now to try Octoberfest!

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