Tour of the City and the Beer Challenge!

Trip Start Apr 09, 2009
Trip End May 21, 2009

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Friday, April 10, 2009

I didn't get all that much sleep due to some fairly drunk Spanish guys in my room.  I got up early to meet up with the early Free Tour.  It's the same tours I've done in Amsterdam and Berlin and they meet up at my hostel.

I got a very fun tour guide from Texas, even if his outfit looks deceiving.

The tour started in Marienplatz which is the city center and home of the Old and New Town halls.  The New Town Hall is neo-gothic, so it looks old but it's from 1908.  It also has the Glockenspiel which chimes and plays a scene once a day.  No performance today though because it was good Friday.  Instead, there was a long procession going through the square.  I think they were doing stations of the cross.

All the sites in Munich are really really close together so it's a great walking city.

So some highlights from the tour.  Munich is basically the birthplace of the Nazi party.  Hitler first rose to power here and the first concentration camp is located just outside of the city.  The city doesn't have big flashy memorials like Berlin but small hidden things throughout the city.

One of the interesting ones was some gold bricks laid into the street on a side road (pictures of it in the next entry).

On the main street outside was where Hitler first attempted (unsuccessfully) to take power.  The street was barricaded by police and a shoot out occurred.  Many of the national socialists were killed and Hitler's bodyguard saved him narrowly by taking 17 bullets (and still living).  Once he did come into power, a memorial was erected there guarded by 2 men who made sure everyone who passed by saluted them.  As an act of passive resistance, people started taking the side street.  However, once this was found out, guards started to write down the frequency with which people used the side street, sending many of them to concentration camps.

In that same area is this building with two lions. 

One has his mouth closed facing a church, meaning to believe in God and not to question things.  The other lion faces a government building with his mouth open meaning to question the government.  Hitler, apparently unaware of the symbolism, used to give speeches here.

Of course, the other thing Munich is known for is beer.  These people drink it for breakfast...seriously.  The Hofbrauhaus is the most famous of the beer halls actually started by a Bavarian king when he thought all other beer was crap.  Today, a regular who comes in for 10-15 years gets his own seat and beer stein.  The place is huge!  Many beer gardens hold hundreds of people.  The largest in Munich holds 8000.

As for Oktoberfest, it was apparently started as a marriage celebration and an agricultural fair.  To anyone that goes, it seems that the whole continent of Australia shows up for this thing.  Having hung with many Australians, they do like their beer and big public festivals.  They also tend to be rather ridiculous drunks.  So, there's a problem.  Many come to Oktoberfest, many get drunk, and many lose their passports.  In Germany, it is illegal to board a train without a passport.  The closest Australian Embassy is in Berlin.  Big Issue!  So for the two weeks of Oktoberfest every year, the Australian Government has now set up a temporary embassy strictly for the issuing of passports in Munich.  wtf mate

Annnyways, after the tour, I climbed one of the church towers.  Many people climb the New Town Hall tower.  It charges a bit more and the tower I climbed blocks out some of the best views.  The tower I went up only cost 1 euro.  As it was a perfectly clear day, this one gives a good view all the way to the Alps, which still have some snow on them.  I wasn't expecting Munich to be so flat but the Alps seem to just pop up out of nowhere.  They are a bit hard to see in the photos.

My last adventure of the day was another tour organized by the free tour people to different beer halls.  It was a lot of fun.  We started out at the Hofbrauhaus, home to giant pretzels and liters of beer.

Just to clarify, I am not wasted in that picture like everyone seems to think.  It was about 80* in the beer hall and I had a sun burn.  Besides, that's only my first liter of beer.

We went to two more beer gardens.  One was large with all kinds of self service food.  Lots of pork, ribs, chicken wings.  And lots of beer.

The last beer garden was connected to a brewery and sold their own beer.  You really can't get bad beer here.  The reason is because of the purity laws.  They are very old, basically the first food safety laws in the world.  They say that beer can only be brewed with hops, water, and ummm something else.  But no other crap.  I should also mention that Munchen (German spelling for Munich) basically means Monk.  This used to be the town with all the monks that brewed all the beer.  Due to not eatting meat, extra strong (high calorie but very alcoholic) beer was usually made for Lent, of all times.
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