Welcome to the land of beer and jet lag

April 16-20 – Munich, Germany

Dear Nate:

Yay!  April 16th and we’re leaving for Europe!  Don and Linda packed all our bags, and the four of us (“Bear” came along too) stopped for dinner in Concord on our way to Sacramento.  Our plane leaves April 17th, so we spent the night in a motel near the Sacramento airport.  For the next three weeks we’re going to visit Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and Austria.

We’re going to write a journal for each city we stay in; this journal is for Munich, Germany (and the trip there).

Munich is in an area of southern Germany called Bavaria.  It is very close to the Alps, a major mountain range running through Europe.  Munich is Germany’s third largest city (it’s about the size of Dallas), and is home to the BMW car manufacturer.  It also has the Deutsche Museum, a large technology museum, similar to our Smithsonian.  Munich is home to six of Germany’s largest breweries, and dozens of smaller ones.

Our flight from Sacramento didn’t go all the way to Munich.  We had to stop in Chicago and change to another plane.  The main airport in Chicago is very interesting.  They have a dinosaur skeleton in one of the concourses, and an underground walkway between this concourse and the next one over.  The walkway has colored lights in the walls, and neon lights hanging from the ceiling that flash on and off as you walk along the passage.

Since we had a long wait for the plane in Chicago, we decided to have lunch.  Here’s Linda, me and Bear having some Chicago-style airport pizza.  Linda says the pizza outside the airport is better, but this tasted pretty good.

After a 10 hour flight, we arrived in Munich.  We were suffering from a thing called jet-lag.  This is where your body still thinks it is still home, while the place you are is in a different time zone.  You probably know that Iowa is two hours ahead of California; Germany is NINE hours ahead.  We felt tired and wanted to go to sleep, but the best thing for us was to try and stay awake until German bed-time.  So we went sightseeing. 

This is the city hall on the main town square, Marienplatz.

From Marienplatz, we walked over to an open-air market called Viktualienmarkt.  There were lots of stalls selling food, drink, gifts… all kinds of things.  There was also a beer garden.  Don says these are very popular in Bavaria, the area of Germany Munich is in.  People sit at large tables enjoying drinks, food and each other.  We had a nice chat with a German couple sitting next to us.

We also visited a number of churches, both the day we arrived and over the next few days. The insides were amazing!  Don says there are many different styles of church architectures; the heavily decorated are rococo or baroque, the less decorated, simpler churches are gothic or roman.  Many have lots of gold highlights and beautiful marble.  The baroque have beautiful paintings on the ceilings.  The gothic have interesting patterns of ribs (called vaulting) on their ceilings.


Don says we’ll be seeing a lot of churches this trip, as most of the major historical building of Europe are castles, palaces, fortresses, and churches.

Local rulers (kings, princes, archbishops) would build a town palace and a country palace.  In Munich, the Wittelsbachs build The Residenz (in town), and Nymphenburg palace outside of town.  The country palaces allowed the rulers to escape the hot, dirty crowded cities in the hot summers.  Don decided this trip to only visit either the town palace OR the country palace in each place we visited, not both.

In Munich, we visited the town palace, known as the Residenz.   This was built by the ruling family, the Wittelsbachs.  The House of Wittelsbach remained in power from 1180 to 1918 (738 years!), holding various titles (Dukes, Counts, Kings, Electors, Emperors) over the years.  They were finally stripped of power at the end of World War I.

The first part of the Residenz was built in the 1300s. Before then an older building, “Old Court” or “Alter Hof” in German, was the original palace.  Both the Residenz and Alter Hof were severely damaged by bombs in World War II, and have been rebuilt.  You can see the modern construction, although the design is old.

The picture above is part of the Alter Hof, known as the “Monkey Tower”.  It is said a court monkey once carried a young prince to the top of this tower, before returning him safely to the ground.  The picture below is from the treasury, and is a crown once worn by a Wittelsbach ruler.

Inside the Residenz are many beautiful rooms and hallways.  The hallway on the right has portraits of many of the Wittelsbach rulers over the centuries.  The hallway on the left has a gorgeous marble staircase on the left, leading down to the ground floor.  The floors are either marble or inlaid wood, and the ceilings are either painted plaster or beautifully carved wood.


One of the most striking rooms in the Residenz is the “Antiquarium”, lined with busts of both Roman emperors and Wittelsbach rulers, with lots of marble and more painted ceilings.  The picture on the right is one of the central ceiling paintings in the room.


Our last full day in Munich was Sunday April 20th.  Don booked us on a full day bus tour to see two of “Mad King Ludwig’s” castles.  Ludwig II (a Wittelsbach) spent himself bankrupt building fantasy castles in the Bavarian countryside.  He eventually was deemed insane and forced out of office.  These two pictures are taken at his smaller castle, Linderhof.


His more famous castle, and the one he was building when he was “fired” as king, is Neuschwanstein.  Ludwig was a romantic, and dreamed of the days of knights and ladies.  Since he ruled in the 1800s, this was a long time ago, even for him.  He built this castle as his idea of what a castle from the days of heroes would look like.  His design was so striking that Disney based Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland on Ludwig’s design.

Ludwig may have been as nutty as a jar of super-chunk peanut butter, but he did have a great sense of style and drama.  The picture below is taken from the porch of his throne room (which is the thing jutting out from the left side of the castle in the picture above).  Just to the left of the base of the pillar, you can see a yellow-brownish building.  This is Hohenschwangau, the castle where Ludwig grew up as a boy.  He knew growing up this location was perfect for a magnificent castle.

Our last night in Munich was spent walking around the main square, enjoying the buildings and street musicians.


Tomorrow we’re off to the little town of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber. 

Auf Wiedersehen;

Flach Stanley

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