July 15, 2018

Surf Munich!

by Rosemary

Running through Munich's English Garden (a huge municipal park) is the Eisbach, a man-made branch of the Isar River. Just past one of the bridges is a standing wave that has become a surfing legend. The water is shallow, suitable only for experienced surfers (as noted by the stern warning sign nearby). Only one person at a time can ride the wave, so they line up on both sides of the bank and take turns. As soon as one surfer wipes out, the next one plunges in.

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The Eisbach is very fast, and it is dangerous (impossible, really) to swim there, not just because of the current but also because of submerged obstacles. Sadly, there have been drownings here. Nevertheless, on a hot day, many people jump in to be swept downstream. There are some ropes and ladders that can be used to get out, and we even saw one desperate guy grab the warning sign on the bank.

Munich's central square and center of tourism is Marienplatz, named for St. Mary, who is honored as the protector of Bavaria. A golden statue of Mary tops a tall column in the middle of the square.

On one side of the square is the new city hall (completed between 1874 and 1908), which is famous for the Glockenspiel in its tower. Two or three times a day (depending on the season), the Glockenspiel chimes a tune, and the sculptures move around, depicting 16th century celebrations. The performance lasts about 15 minutes, and is not as impressive as anticipated by the upward-gazing tourist crowds.

Atop the tower is a bronze statue of the M√ľnchner Kindl (Munich child), a symbol from the city's coat of arms.

Our walking tour took us to Munich's oldest church, St. Peters, built in 1368. It was severely damaged in World War II, and restored as accurately as possible in the following years.

Many Catholic churches in Europe contain relics of saints, typically small body parts or drops of blood, preserved and venerated in special containers called reliquaries. St. Peter's has a remarkable relic - the entire skeleton of St. Munditia, who was beheaded by the Romans, now decorated with jewels.

Not far from here is the Ohel Jakob Synagogue. In 1938, Hitler had Munich's synagogue destroyed. Under the Nazi regime, Jews fled, were deported, or were sent to death camps. Few returned after the war, but the Jewish community grew as refugees from came here from former Soviet states. The new synagogue was built in 2006. The architecture of the lower portion of the building represents the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and the upper portion represents the tent used during 40 years of wandering in the desert.

Steve stands by the front door, where the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet symbolize the Ten Commandments.

Just a couple of blocks away is the Asam Church. This was built in 1740 by the Asam brothers, architects who wanted to show off their skills. It functioned as a kind of sales catalog, filled with every feature a Rococo church could possibly have. Every inch of the interior is covered with something fancy.

The one simple feature is this niche, where Jesus seems to be reacting to the decor.

After seeing the work of the Asam brothers, a lovely Renaissance church like St. Michael's seems almost Puritan by comparison.

For a completely different kind of worship, this statue of Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso has been commandeered by fans of Michael Jackson, who have turned it into a memorial shrine, covered with photos, candles, and flowers.

The Alte Pinakothek (Old Art Gallery) has a wonderful collection of European masterpieces, from the Renaissance through the 19th century. Particularly impressive are the gigantic works by Peter Paul Rubens, including the 300-foot-square "Last Judgment".

Here is a detail from the lower right corner.

There is more art at the Residenz, the palace where the ruling Wittelsbach family lived for 500 years. It was severely bombed by Allied forces in 1944, so nearly everything we see today is partially or fully reconstructed. Amazingly, most of the Antiquarium, a huge Renaissance banquet hall, survived.

Like all the palaces of the old ruling families of Europe, this sprawling building is filled with luxurious, elaborately decorated apartments.

Down the street from the Residenz is Odeonsplatz, a huge square connecting different sections of the city. In the early 1930s, Hitler had a monument to dead Nazis placed in the square, and required everyone who passed by to give a Nazi salute. Dissenters could avoid the whole thing by turning down a narrow alley just before the square. Today, a line of golden cobblestones commemorates their courage.

From Munich, we went to Budapest.

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