Today was the perfect day in Munich. I learned, I ate, I ran, I relaxed.
The morning began with a four-mile run followed by a delicious breakfast.
Yum!! Milchkaffee und rosinenbroetchen. (Milk coffee and raisin bread) Of course, I could have looked for something slightly more wholesome, but if you know me, you know my infatuation with German bread, and I knew that Tara would never forgive me if I didn’t order the rosinenbroetchen, her favorite from our year together in Hannover. Rosinenbrotchen is chewy, soft, and perfect. I also enjoyed another coffee. I can’t get enough of German coffee, especially from the little corner bakeries where they press a button and all the milk and coffee streams into the cup. I feel like when we get “button-press-coffee” in the USA, it’s a sugary mess, but this is frothy, creamy, and delicious.
Lunch was off the street:
A 1-euro carton of raspberries…
…and a pretzel. I learned today that hundreds of years ago, wealthy people eating pretzels in the beer hall used to flick the salt off and onto the street. This action showed their wealth; who else but the very rich could afford to throw away “white gold”?
After a day of walking around, I decided to relax in the English garden. As I was sitting on a bench enjoying the scenery, I heard a band began to play in the distance. Well, I’m on vacation, I thought and followed the sound.
and what the heck, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!
I enjoyed a half liter of Radler (a beer/sprite mix). Actually, I enjoyed 1/2 of a 1/2 liter. I guess I wasn’t just feeling it today.
Drinking 1/2 a 0.5L officially makes me Bavaria’s biggest wimp.
I went to a department store for dinner!
Kaufhof has an upscale college dining hall—that’s the best way I know how to explain it. Weary shoppers can make their way to the fifth floor and partake in a buffet. It’s surprisingly chilly here, so I got some roasted veggies, bread, gulasch, and apfelschorle (YUM!).
Before I moved to Germany 5 years ago (gulp!!), I was watching Family Guy with a friend. In this episode, Brian and Stewie end up in Munich and go on a bus tour. The tour guide, in heavily accented German, points out the various places of importance in Munich, stating, “Munich is renowned for its many beer halls.” When pressed by Brian for information about WWII, the guide’s responses range from evasive to aggressive. “Everybody was on vacation.” In response to Germany’s invasion of Poland, “We were invited. Punch was served.” Finally, the guide devolves into violent German shouts.
Of course, Family Guy is a comedy, but it perpetuates the notion that Germans do not own up to their history, which is completely false. When I moved to Germany I learned, and this lesson was reinforced on a walking tour today, that Germans begin learning about their actions during WWII from the age of eight. For the next ten years, before graduating from high school, German students continue to learn different aspects of the Third Reich, and in order to earn a high school diploma, Germans must visit at least two concentration camps. In German, the word Vergagenheitsbewaeltigung means “coming to terms with the past.”
I spent my morning on a three hour walking tour of Munich. Our guide was amazing; she was enthusiastic and informative. In fact, I only hope that my lessons as a teacher excited and involved my students as much as she drew us all in to her tour today.
Highlights for me:
In Bavaria, maypoles are very important. Each town, village, or city has its own maypole that shows significant aspects of the place. For example, in Munich the maypole is all about beer. If a town cuts down and steals the maypole from another town, the only way for the town to get its maypole back is to throw a party for the thieves. The last time a maypole was stolen in Munich was in 1995! The maypole in the airport was stolen. When airport security called the city police to report the theft, they were greeted with laughter. Apparently, the police had stolen the maypole. Munich’s crime rate is one of the lowest in Europe, so I guess the police have to create their own crimes to keep themselves busy.
The citizens of Munich knew they were going to be bombed during WWII, and they spent time taking detailed pictures of all of their buildings before the bombings. In Frankfurt and Berlin, the cities built new buildings on top of the rubble, but in Munich, the people built meticulous copies of the buildings that had existed previously.
Examine this picture closely. Do you see anything in the top right corner of the window?
If you look carefully, you can see a little round cannonball. The Bavarians were so meticulous in rebuilding this church, they even replaced a cannonball that had been lodged alongside the window from a prior skirmish.
The early Hofbrauhaus lacked bathrooms, so men used to pee into grates situated under the table. EW! Today, the restaurant has bathrooms, but only the men’s bathroom has a special “toilet” our tour guide called “the vominator” that was carefully constructed with two handles to cling to and an especially powerful flushing system.
Though the majority of the tour was lively and interesting facts, our tour guide had a particular interest in history, and she spent a lot of time asking us to think more deeply about German history during WWII.
All around the city of Munich, there are subtle monuments to the war, like this one:
Rather than a massive monument like Berlin’s, the government of Munich wants to pique people’s interest and ask them to look more deeply into history. These gold bricks memorialize “Dodger’s Alley.” Long before Hitler came to power, in 1923, he organized a revolt in Munich. The revolt failed, and Hitler was sent to jail, but when he later became dictator, he erected a memorial to the failed revolution. When citizens walked by the monument, which was guarded 24/7, they were required to salute. Only 1/3 of the population had voted for Hitler, and especially in Munich, where people had witnessed his earlier violence, the citizens did not necessarily support his rule. Rather than saluting the memorial, citizens of Munich used to dodge down a nearby street. However, the Nazis tried to prevent this disloyalty and stationed guards along this alley. If a citizen was caught twice going down this alley without a clear reason, he or she could be beaten or jailed. The gold bricks exist as a memorial to the quiet ways citizens revolted against Hitler.
Sonja, our tour guide, asked us to consider the kind of attention that WWII receives. Of course we should remember these events, but which is the best way? Should cities create large monuments like in Berlin, where people can’t avoid it but don’t always understand it? Or, should cities go down a path like Munich, creating various smaller memorials to capture people’s attention. What I liked most about Sonja is that she really thought about history; there is no clear truth, there are many ways to see or construct an event.
The square above is discolored because it was the sight of a plaque which commemorated Hitler’s revolt (Beer Hall Putsch). The plaque, created by the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, stated that twenty Nazis died during the Putsch—in fact, 15 Nazis, 4 policeman, and 1 innocent bystander where murdered, but the propaganda of the Third Reich asserted that the Nazis had killed no one. The police were killed leaving their posts to join the Nazis, though the fact that they were all shot in the chest was ignored. (Sonja joked, “Maybe they were waving good-bye.”) And the bystander, an innocent waiter shot in the head, was a “Nazi in his heart,” according to Goebbels. After the fall of the Third Reich, the city tore the propaganda plaque down, and another plaque memorializing the four fallen police now exists nearby. There is no one clear truth to history.
What Sonja wanted us to remember, however, was that although the stories about WWII were powerful, she told us a lot more about the lore and laughter of Munich. There is a lot more to Germany than the Third Reich.
And with that, I will leave you with one of my favorite scenes of the day.
In a little river that runs through the Englischer Garten. I don’t get it either, but I love it.