Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Munich and WWKIP Day

Munich was so crazy, I needed an entire day just to recover and upload all the frickin' photos! It was a fantastic whirlwind trip, I actually came out of my shell a little bit for the first time since I've arrived here, I showed off my knitting, and got to see some really cool old stuff.

While planning, we decided on a three-day, two-night stint in the capital of Bavaria, knowing that we wouldn't be able to see absolutely everything. That's the way it is, though. The fact that you won't see everything, but can still get a sampling of life in a foreign city is what makes travel exciting and worthwhile. So we drove into town on Saturday morning, checked into our hotel room, and set out into the center of the city. In the main square, Marienplatz, we were welcomed to Munich with the chiming of the Glockenspiel in the tower of the Rathaus, stalls selling beer and several different varieties of würst, and some epic crowds.

Marienplatz, Munich turns 850

Our guidebooks had described the Glockenspiel, and I expected the display to be kitschy and cutesy, but not really exciting. You know, sort of how you'd expect the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland to appear to a grown-up. I was wrong: it was more fascinating and intricate than I expected, and I was struck by how impressive this must have seemed to the first people to view it, to whom it might have seemed a miracle of craftsmanship and engineering. We were all stuffed like sardines in the platz, craning our necks to see the display. This year, the city of Munich turns 850 years old, and a large chunk of the celebrations were going on while we were there. Although this did detract from the general amount of personal space we were alloted on Saturday, it made the sightseeing much more exciting. Around every corner, there was a makeshift stage or people in the traditional dirndl and lederhosen outfits providing entertainment.

Munich's 850th birthday

After we spent about an hour trying to get our bearings in the city while navigating the crowds, we finally procured our first sausage-based meal of the weekend (keep track, there'll be a quiz at the end). We basically spent the rest of the afternoon looking at churches, and Munich has some spectacular ones. The exterior of St. Michael's appeared to be under some heavy renovation, and all the photos I tried to take of it looked like a bunch of scaffolding surrounded by even more crowds. We did, however, go see the crypt below the church containing lots of dead royals. I thought it odd that the most ornate coffin was not King Ludwig II's, but that of a field general (whose name I have neglected to write down).

We stopped for a drink and a rest, and I took the opportunity to take out my knitting while we planned the rest of the day. There were four ladies sitting at a table together next to us, who ordered some fantastic-looking desserts. I was going along on my sock while reading over the significant other's shoulder, and being a little bossy about turning the page now that I was finally properly caffeinated. One minute the ladies were chatting away, their conversation part of the charming background noise, and the next their conversation abruptly faded into silence. I looked up and realized they were staring at me knitting. They pointed and (probably) asked what I was making. We were able to tell than that we spoke hardly any German, they apparently spoke only a tiny bit of English, but I showed them my first sock (so handy at explaining what you're doing!) and it all became more clear. They oohed and aahed over the colors, said it was "Super!", and I said dankeschön many times. One lady pantomimed knitting while gawking all around at everything besides her hands, and I realized what had probably struck them speechless was seeing me knit without looking at my knitting. If I knew more German, I would have asked them to hold the sock for a picture, but I didn't know how to ask permission to post their picture on the internet. In spite of this setback and the language barrier, I felt I'd done my duty in spreading the love of handknits.

Refreshed and flush with knitterly pride, we took on St. Peter's church and the climb to the top of the spire. It was quite crowded at the top, which made it a little scary, but we got some amazing views of the city.

View of Marienplatz from St. Peter's, Munich

View from St. Peter's, Munich

After more sausage (this time the white veal sausage) for dinner from the stalls in the square, we strolled around a bit more, gawking at the folks in traditional costume and basically enjoying the festival atmosphere like everyone else. After dinner, we had dessert in a small cafe at the top floor of a building across the platz from the Rathaus. We had just placed our order when an oompah-band trickled in and sat down at the table next to us. Instruments appeared: a clarinet, an accordion, a trumpet-like horn, a tuba, a drum, plus a few other friends, probably backup signers. They were all dressed in a combination of dirndls/lederhosen and street clothes, so we guessed that they'd probably been playing all day and were gathered for a post-work drink. After their first round, they sang and played three or four songs, which we thoroughly enjoyed. I knit the whole time, tapped my feet, and wished I could sign along.

That was just Saturday. On Sunday we did a marathon of museums, starting with the Deutsches Museum, which is basically a shrine to anything remotely connected to science or technology. They had a Model I Zeiss planetarium projector, a recreation of Lavoisier's chemistry lab, boats, model airplanes, a sundial garden on the roof, and a textiles wing:

Spinning wheel in the Deutsches Museum

It was enormous, and we could have spent the entire weekend there. But I wanted fine art, so we skipped about a quarter of the museum, ate a quick lunch (schnitzel and sausage), and headed over to the Pinakotheks: Altes, Neues, and der Moderne. The Altes Pinakothek had more Rubens than I've ever been exposed to in one location, and I was only familiar with the most famous 20% of the artists on display there. I remarked on this to the significant other, and he agreed that much of the work in this museum was "outside our canon." I guess my canon is more fully based on British, American, and Italian art than I'd realized. We did see one Hieronymus Bosch painting (awesomely weird and creepy, probably inspired Terry Gilliam a bit), a da Vinci Madonna (with the chubbiest Christ Child I've ever seen), and a really cool hallway. The Neues had one of Monet's water lilies paintings, one of Van Gogh's Sunflowers series, a William Turner, and a pair of really good Klimts. By the time we got to the Pinakothek der Moderne, we were nearly beat, but we bravely held out for the Mackintosh furniture, Matisse, Klee, Picasso, and Warhol. I know this sounds like a laundry list, but I love seeing art and it was a really spectacular afternoon. After it was over (we got out of the Moderne about 15 minutes before closing time), we were also pretty proud of (and just a little appalled at) ourselves for seeing 4 museums in one day.

While we were analyzing what sort of art is in "our canon" in the Altes, we also tried to pin down why we like looking at art. Not in any grand or deep sense, just trying to explain why we were willing to tire ourselves out and immerse ourselves so deeply just to look at some pictures (or objects, in the case of the Moderne). I think that fundamentally, I enjoy looking at art in museums because it allows me to combine knowledge from many different subject areas (or at least I try to) all at once. I can think about mythology, symbolism, writing, history, politics, religion, belief, technology, and everyday life all while glancing at a single image. I particularly enjoy thinking about art in the context of its moment in history, both for the artist personally and on a larger scale. The significant other waxed poetic on perspective and the evolution of the "purpose" of art, and spent a bit of time trying to get the perfect perspective shot in the Altes. I think he did a pretty good job:

Altes Pinakothek in Munich

I'm going to stop here; I know I've only gone up to Sunday afternoon, but Monday was basically more gawking at Munich and eating sausage (grand total: 4 out of 7 possible meals were basically sausage). We were very tired after the drive back on Monday afternoon, but not too tired to go watch the Germany-Austria game (0-1, Deutschland!) with friends. As soon as it gets sunny, I'll take pictures of my newly acquired stash.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It will fun to talk about Munich when you return. Dad and I visited most of the museums, churches, etc. that you mentioned. You end up taking off a few pounds walking and putting them back on with sausage and beer. The beer in Munich is unbelievable! Mom