(Tales Told From The Road continues its month-long virtual European journey.)
Yesterday we finished touring Berlin. The question we now face: What’s the best way to reach the next stop on our itinerary, Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria?
Since we already know that we’ll be driving a rental car when we leave Munich and go south into Austria, we could simply pick up a car in Berlin and spend six to seven hours or more (with stops) driving the 568 kilometers between the two cities.
The flight from Berlin to Munich would take just a little over an hour, but if you factor in time to get to and wait at the airports to check-in, collect bags, find ground transportation, we’d be in-transit for four hours or more, assuming that our flight wasn’t delayed. We’d save a little time over driving, but probably spend $75-$100 more to travel by air.
Traveling by train will take about the same amount of time and cost about as much as driving (if we weren’t traveling on a rail pass, which we are), cost slightly less than airfare, and be far less nerve-wracking then zipping down the Autobahn or flying.
So after breakfast at our Berlin hotel, we’ll take a taxi to the train station, and head south.
By 6:30 pm we’ll have checked into our Munich hotel and have some time to roam about the center of the city where “locals” hang out before we head off to dinner.
Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauser Strasse are main streets that converge in the center of the old town’s Marienplatz where the town hall and its famous glockenspiel draw crowds of tourists.
On Saturday evening, we’ll fell like we’re in San Francisco’s Market Street or Union Square, chock-a-block with people out shopping until they were dropping, and street performers trying to earn a few bucks to pay the rent.
The Residenz is the more formal abode of the two, and has its own in-house theater.
Nymphenburg is more like Versailles, with a long reflecting pool with swans a-swimming, and several buildings scattered across the grounds behind the main place.
At the end of World War I, the Wittlebachs, who had ruled Bavaria for 700 years, lost any claim to power, just as happened with the Hapsburg of the Austrian Empire. But punitive action by the winners against the losers, and poor economic conditions, left Germans pining for the good old days when they had a single, strong leader, and this opened a door through which Austrian-born Adolf Hitler gladly walked.
Hitler’s Nazi movement had its start in Munich in 1923 when he attempted a “putsch.” There was a “Shoot Out at the OK Corral” gun battle near the Residenz palace with casualties on both sides. Hitler might have been tried for treason and sentenced to death, but he only got nine months in jail for this failed coup attempt. (Perhaps he was only charged with “Disturbing the Peace”).
However, once Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and moved to Berlin, his popularity far to the south in Bavaria began to wane. And when Munich was being bombed, Hitler ordered that precious art and paintings in its churches and palaces not be removed to places of safety, since to do so would have been a tacit admission that the war was going badly for Germany.
Munich was bombed to pieces, but you wouldn’t know to stroll its streets and boulevards today. When the Allies occupied the city after WW II, they allowed churches and public buildings to be rebuilt, as long as the reconstruction was intended to restore that which culturally and historically important, and not to create a powerbase for yet another strongman to rule. So like in Dresden, many buildings appear to date from the 15th-19th centuries, but most are actually of 20th century vintage.
Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation held sway to the north and east in Dresden and surrounding Saxony, but the Catholic church reached north from Rome, through Austria, and into Bavaria.
Pope Benedict XVI was the archbishop in Munich when he caught the eye of Pope John Paul II and was transferred to the Vatican in Rome. When he succeed the Polish John Paul as pope, Benedict’s first trip “aboard” was to Poland, possibly born of a desire to heal any wounds left open from the Nazi’s poor treatment of the Poles during WW II.
But enough of dictators and religion!
We want to fondly remember our childhood, so we’ll pay a visit to the Munich branch of the toy museum that we passed by during our walk through the Prague Castle complex. Barbie and Ken, teddy bears, and mechanical toys will be waiting for us there.
Tomorrow: Let’s eat and drink to life in Munich!