Sunday, November 1, 2015

Day 10: Beer in Bavaria


Based on my previous positive experiences with overnight bus trips in Europe, I convinced Mindy that buses were the way to go.  After that unpleasant overnight trip from Paris to Amsterdam, my credibility was suffering. Flixbus and the trek from Utrecht to Munich restored my trustworthiness, and possibly preserved my relationship!

The problem with an 11-hour bus ride is that after you've slept a full night, and looked out the window for a few hours, you're still not at your destination.  When we finally rolled into Munich, we were more than ready to be off the bus!

It was 10:30 in the morning, so when we got to the Westend hotel, we were only expecting to drop off our bags.  We never anticipated getting our room.  Yet we did.  A shower!  A bathroom! A bed! (Actually, given how much we each slept on the bus, no nap was required.) Though Munich is a fair-sized city, we found a highly rated restaurant just around the corner.

Bodhi is a bit of a enigma. It serves traditional Bavarian food, yet it is entirely vegan.  I know.  Aside from beer, what traditional Bavarian food is vegan??  As we contemplated this meatless German food, we paid homage to the region, and ordered some local wheat beer.

Assorted dips with walnut olive bread complemented the beer nicely!

Two traditional Bavarian dishes.  Kind of.  Kasspatzen (noodles and cheese), and a meal of schnitzel, cabbage, and a potato dumpling in gravy.  Both served in the Pfanderl (the pan) that was widely used in the region. Both vegan, though their flavours belied that.

Even in the vegan style, this food is substantial!  We rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and headed toward a walking tour presented by - wait for it - Sandemans! 

It wasn't legendary. Austin, our guide, was knowledgeable about Munich's history and important buildings, and he inserted a fair bit of humour into the tour.  Unfortunately, from my perspective at least, any guide with a Texas accent doesn't quite "fit" when touring the Bavarian capital. (Admittedly, a Scottish accent worked just fine in Amsterdam, so I'm clearly biased in favour of more exotic accents, irrespective of their source.) To his credit, Austin has taken on the German habit of saying "yeah?" at the end of every sentence. It softened the Texan in him a little.

The tour started in the central square of Munich's old town - Marienplatz. Marienplatz was originally the market square that was central to Munich's founding. In short, the Duke of Bavaria Henry the Lion wanted to make money by taxing the trade of goods, and so he built a bridge over the river Isar, and established a market square.  To encourage the devoutly Catholic traders to use his bridge instead of the existing route over a nearby bridge owned by a Catholic bishop, Henry the Lion destroyed the bishop's bridge. It all worked out in Henry's favour, as Munich has persisted. The market square was renamed St. Mary's Square after the Swedish invasion in the 1600s. The story goes that the Swedes invaded in order to pillage and convert the population from Catholicism.  When the Swedes left, having neither pillaged nor converted (but having appropriated all of the beer in the town), the residents of Munich called it a miracle and attributed it to St. Mary.

Looking around the square, we saw the newest old building, the New Town Hall:

...and the oldest new building, the Old Town Hall:

The dedication to St. Mary is in the centre of the square.

The Old Town Hall dates back to the early years of the Munich's history, but when the New Town Hall was built, its presence of significance was grounded in its historic look.  During the war, Munich suffered heavy bombardment, and around 80% of the town was destroyed, including the Old Town Hall. The New Town Hall survived the bombing, along with the statue of St. Mary. The rest of the buildings around St. Mary's square, as well as many other historically significant buildings around Munich were destroyed, and have since been rebuilt to mimic what was once there.

Despite the scaffolding the surrounds it now, the Church of Our Lady ("Frauenkirche") in Munich also survived the bombing of WWII.  Unlike the New Town Hall, this was not due to good luck (or divine intervention).  Allied bomber pilots used the twin towers of this massive cathedral to confirm that they were over Munich when dropping bombs.  They preserved their "compass" for future use.

When the church was built in the fifteenth century, it was meant to showcase a new technology - industrial brick-making.  With consistent and uniform bricks available in large quantities, this monstrous cathedral was made to house 20 000 people for mass.  As the bustling metropolis of Munich had a population of 13 000 at the time, it was perhaps an overindulgence.  On the topic of indulgences, that is how the church was financed.  124 000 indulgences.  For 13 000 people. Bavarian culture is focused on excessive drinking, but it boggles the mind to think of nearly 10 indulgences for every man, woman, and child. What were they up to??

Whatever they were doing, it didn't lead to widespread literacy, and so the tradition of the maypole continued.  Unlike British maypoles - made for celebrating the coming of spring - every Bavarian town had a maypole to announce the services available within the town.  At a minimum, every pole had a symbol for beer brewing and selling... 

Looking closely at the bottom of this pole, you can see a commemoration of the law of 1487 which limited the allowable ingredients of beer to water, malt, hops, and yeast. Nothing else.

The Munich Opera House is a reproduction, too.  It was originally built with an inverted dome roof. The truly brilliant architect devised a fire suppression device that could distribute this rain-water from the basin throughout the opera house in case of fire.  Unfortunately, when the system was needed, the pipes were all frozen in the coldest winter of the era.  As the theatre began to be consumed by flame, the stage manager came up with a truly desperate plan. The Opera House belonged to the King of Bavaria, directly.  The brew-house just up the street also belonged to the King, directly.  As all of the municipal water pipes were frozen, the stage manager ran to the brew-house and demanded all the beer available to douse the flames.  In a heroic act of teamwork, all the patrons of both the brew-house and the opera formed a chain to carry the barrels of beer to the opera house to save it.  The plan never should have worked, and it didn't.  The thirsty Bavarians made sure that most of the beer never made it to the flaming Opera House.  Apparently it is thirsty work to carry beer.

The brew-house of that story is Munich's Hofbrauhaus. 

The King's own brew-house, it was opened to the public in 1828, allowing even the most lowly (male) Bavarian the opportunity to drink alongside the King. Today, the Hofbrauhaus continues to serve thousands of patrons, though it seemed to be mostly tourists.  Catering to such tourists, the staff continue to dress in traditional Bavarian costume.

Perhaps Mindy's favourite moment of the whole trip was when she made a new friend at Hofbrauhaus.

Down the street from the Hofbrauhaus, there is a memorial to Germans who resisted the Nazis during the Third Reich. Though subtle, these forms of resistance could have lethal consequences for the Germans who carried them out.  To properly understand this memorial: need to understand the plaque that used to be here:

When Hitler was first coming to power, his fledgling Nazi party attempted a coup in the city of Munich.  Unsuccessful, the attempt resulted in 15 Nazi party members killed by the police in a shoot out (4 police and one innocent bystander were killed by the Nazi party members). Once in power, Hitler commemorated this sacrifice for the party with a plaque on the street in Munich where it happened. Anyone who passed by this plaque - on a main thoroughfare - had to give a full Nazi salute in honour of the dead, or else face consequence from the SS guards stationed at the plaque to ensure compliance. Some Germans so resented the idea of saluting these dead that they turned down the previous alley to avoid passing the plaque altogether.  This alleyway is the one with the gold bricks in the photo above.  As the SS realised what was happening, Gestapo agents began monitoring this alternative through-way, and some of these tacit dissenters ultimately ended up enemies of the state in concentration or death camps.

The tour concluded at this massive stage of statues, where Hitler gave speeches in front of the assembled SS.  Look closely, and you can see lion statues flanking the stairs.  The lion on the right (left when facing out from the stage) faces the church, and has its mouth closed.  The meaning of this is that people ought never to question the authority of God.  The lion on the left (right when facing out from the stage) has his lips parted as he faces the municipal administration building, delivering the message that one has every right to question and challenge political leaders. Hitler gave speeches flanked by these lions, yet his Nazi party suppressed any challenge to their authority. Ironic?

No comments:

Post a Comment