When I was in Munich and saw an ad for the Munich Walk Tour, I thought, why not? Why not find out what foreigners tell foreigners about Munich? (I’m German, you know)
Starting from the Marienplatz the guide, a young woman from Australia, began with a survey on the history of Munich from the year it was officially founded up to today and covered 800 years in about 10 minutes. Our tour wasn‘t specified as a historical tour, it was just a general introduction, but we heard more about the reign of the Royal Family of Wittelsbach which ended in 1918 than about the Munich of today.
We heard that Munich was bombarded and destroyed so badly during WW2, 70% of the city lay in ruins, that it was considered leaving it like that and building a completely new city in the countryside, that was certainly interesting news, but then we learnt that after the war when the Americans helped the West Germans with the Marshall plan the Germans ´suddenly´ became diligent and busy and built up the country in no time. Ha! Germans have always been diligent and busy, only recently, during the last decade, some people have started discovering that corruption is an easier way to success.
From the Marienplatz we went to the church St. Peter, the only one we wanted to go in. It was closed for cleaning, however. After rattling the handle in vain our guide remembered that that happened once a month; I couldn‘t help thinking that it shouldn‘t be too difficult for a guide to find out the dates and then go to a different church, it‘s not that there weren‘t any others in the vicinity.
So directly to the Viktualienmarkt, the daily (except Sunday and holidays) fruit and vegetable market, beautiful to look at and very expensive. The weather was summery, nearly 30°, so the large beer garden was packed full. Yes, there was a man in leather trousers with a felt hat decorated with a tuft of chamois hair, in case you don‘t know what that is: hairs from the beard of a mountain billy-goat and yes, I did see others during the day, two other men to be precise, which isn‘t a striking figure, however, considering that Munich has 1 300 000 inhabitants. They were all old and I assume that they get some pocket money from the tourist office to uphold the cliché that all Bavarians dress like that.
From there we went through some side streets to the Hofbräuhaus, the best known inn in the world. We met the Third Reich Walk, also called Hitler‘s Munich there, which got a more profound insight into history, but besides some vital info on beer (150 000 litres are pumped into the tank in the cellar every week) and the guests‘ proper behaviour (Men, listen! If you don‘t want to look like a sissy, don‘t hold the 1 litre glass mug by its handle, but slip your hand through the handle and put your fingers round the body of the mug), we also learnt that the NSDAP, the Nazi party, organised its first members‘ conference of its Munich branch in the Hofbräuhaus.
Then the guide added something which I found so strange that I went back to the Hofbräuhaus when the tour had ended after two hours. She said that she had noticed Bavarian flags (blue/white) painted on the ceiling of the big hall ordered like a swastika. The waiters didn‘t have to say anything about that when she asked them, she knew that all references to the Third Reich had been destroyed in Munich, maybe what she had discovered were the only relics of the past.
Fact is that the Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589, was bombed in 1944 and nearly completely demolished, the thorough renovation was completed only in 1958. All this news is on the net, in German and in English! The ceiling of the big hall is divided into nine fields each of which is a small vault with 4 parts, in each part a flag is painted, the sticks meeting in the middle, the cloth waving to the right in a wide curve. The flags and the other ornaments look centuries old, we can assume that the painter painting the ceiling in the late 50s wanted to convey a feeling of authenticity. No further comment besides the hint that a guide would do well to research before making statements.
No comment, either, on the little wooden hut standing in the hall in which a young Japanese woman in a dirndl-like dress sold salt pretzels to her country people.
You‘re becoming tired? Yes, it‘s hard walking on cobblestones and asphalt, if you‘ve had enough, you can go back to the Heiliggeiststr., an alley beside the Viktualienmarkt and have a warm apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce or ice-cream in the small, ivy-clad backyard of the Restaurant zum Marktcafé which is said to have the best. If you want to do as the Bavarians do, drink a cup of coffee with it. You won‘t complain, I‘m sure of that.
Oh, some hard core city walkers are still with me? We‘ve nearly finished our tour, only two more stops. Off to the Max-Joseph-Platz with the statue of the ‘Father of the Octoberfest‘. At first I didn’t know where we were, because I hadn‘t seen the street sign and the guide‘s English pronunciation of German names was hardly understandable. Not only out of respect for the host country a guide should know how to pronounce names, it would also be a help for the tourists if they knew how to ask for directions. Germans don‘t pronounce ‘Joseph‘ the English way (why should they?), J/j is pronounced like the English Y/y, so when you say, "Joseph yodels" you’ve got an alliteration.
You would have to pay me a considerable amount of money to get me to the Oktoberfest, why is it that so many foreigners are crazy about it? Our guide told us that the Australian Embassy sets up a temporary office in Munich for two weeks, because so many Aussies get pissed and lose their passports. Is such news a recommendation? Obviously it is.
The palatial pile that housed the Wittelsbachs from 1385 to 1918 looms over the northern aspect of Max-Joseph-Platz. The complex has a mass of added-on wings, grottoes and courtyards, a baroque theatre and a museum jam-packed with treasures.
Unfortunately we didn‘t go in, not for a sec, but heard long stories about Max-Joseph‘s grandson, Mad King Ludwig´ although we weren‘t on the Royal Castle Tour, pity; imagine what impact a museum full of treasures from a time when Australia wasn‘t even discovered would make on someone from, say, Coober Pedy in the Australian Outback.
The front of the Residence is a smaller copy of the Renaissance Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Feldherrnhalle (Generals’ Hall) on the Odeonsplatz is a bigger copy of the Loggia Dei Lanzi in Florence on the Piazza della Signoria; Florence was ‘in‘ then.
While we were standing near the two entrances to the Residence, people were coming up to the four lions guarding them, even getting off their bikes, in order to touch an ugly man‘s face on the lower parts of the lions´ bronze shields. Touching it or rubbing it depending on how much luck they needed! I asked a woman if that worked and she said, ‘Oh, yes! Oh, yes, it does!’ So there, try it out!
The ‘spiritual‘ centre of Nazism was the Feldherrnhalle on the Odeonsplatz. Here, at the side of this memorial to fallen German military leaders, the Nazi putsch of 9th November 1923 came to an end when Bavarian police fired on the marchers. Hitler succeeded in seizing political power in 1933, two years later he gave Munich the title ‘’Capital of the Movement‘ to remind people that his political career had started here.
Throughout the tour I kept my mouth shut, if I had started arguing the guide could have pointed out that the tour wasn‘t meant for someone like me. I just listened and thought my thoughts.
I‘ve found a research project on the net on the topic ‘American tourists in Germany‘ with lots of statistics and graphs, what age group they belong to, what kind of education they have, what they expect etc. etc. I‘m convinced that everything that‘s said there is also true for other nationalities, in a generalising sort of way, of course. In the case of Munich the tourists´ expectations boil down to: Beer, Mad King Ludwig, Hitler.
Now we come to THE question of the day: should the tourists´ preconceptions and prejudices be fed? If I were a guide, I‘d take them up, question them, put them in perspective and insert topical subjects from the fields of politics, economy and culture so that the tourists return home with some pieces of information they didn‘t have before.
Would you walk with me?