I have been to Europe six times and three of those times, I have been to Germany and the Munich area. The first time I went to Munich was in 1987, but it was only going to and from the airport to and from Frankfurt on the was to Innsbruck, Austria, so as my Freiburg friend Johannes said, "it doesn't count."
The second time I was in Germany was in 2001. I was staying with a friend in Neuburg an der Donau and we were going to spend a day in the Bavarian capital when I got the flu. Instead of strolling along some of Munich's beautiful strassen (streets) and seeing the sights, I had a view of my friend's toilet for two of the days I was visiting her. UGH!
You what they say about the third time being the charm. This trip to Germany, I was not letting flu or other disasters prevent me from seeing Munich at least once in my lifetime. I was staying with my friend Helga and her family in Dachau, which is a suburb north of Munich and a short S-Bahn ride away from her home. Helga suggested we visit Munich on Thursday since Friday was Good Friday and most shops and other sites would be closed for the Easter Holidays starting that Friday. So that Thursday afternoon, Helga and I took her car to the S-Bahn station at Karlsfelf and jumped on the S-2 Bahn for a couple of hours strolling around Munich (that is Munchen to the locals).
If you are looking for a journal with all of the tourist traps and other sights that are seen from the window of a tour bus, this isn't the journal for you. Helga and I just did a whirlwind walking tour of this beautiful old city and saw some of the famous sites along with a couple of places that Helga likes about Munich. But first, I will give you a short history of Munich, the place that was founded because of salt.
Munich's history dates from the 12th century when Heinrich der Lowe (Henry the Lion), a wealthy salt trader, built his home on the Isar River near a monastery. The name Munich comes from the German word for monks, Munchen. After Heinrich died, Munich was taken over by the merchant family Wittelsbach in 1240 and Munich then became a major hub of trade and the seat of the Holy Roman Empire when Ludwig IV became Holy Roman Emperor. In the 15th Century, Munich got its fame and wealth from a new source, beer, when several breweries were built in the area. Residents of Munich who got rich on beer sales then started to build many of the buildings in Munich that are standing today including the Frauenkirche, the Residenz, and the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall). Munich was a Catholic city that stood its ground during Martin Luther's Reformation that swept Germany in the 16th Century.
In 1800, another invasion swept Munich. Napoleon's Grand Armee surrounded Munich and instead of fighting the French, the Wittelsbach family surrendered to Napoleon and offered Bavarian hospitality to Napoleon, who in return gave the family royal titles starting with crowning Max-Josef Wittelsbach King of Bavaria with the name of Maximillian I in 1806. Max only had to have his daughter marry Napoleon's step-son to make it a done deal. Maximillian ran Bavaria until his death in 1825. Then his son Ludwig I succeeded him almost running Bavaria's coffers into the ground spending money on his mistress, a dancer named Lola Montez, pissing off Muncheners and coining the phrase, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets!" Ludwig I's successor wasn't any better, but Ludwig II's problem wasn't women, it was blowing the budget on fairytale castles in the Alps (can you say Neuschwanstein!?) and his obsession for Richard Wagner, the composer. Bavaria and Munich joined the German unification in 1871 and suffered greatly during WWI. Hitler used Munich to start his evil empire in the 1920's and the city suffered much damage during WWII due to Allied bombings. The Marshall Plan allowed Munich to rebuild after WWII and today Munich is restored to its former beauty and is home to several of Germany's and the worlds most-prominent industries including BMW and Siemen's. Munich hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics and hopes to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, and I saw the signs all over town calling for Munich to once again host its first Winter Olympics since 1936.
Helga and I started our trip by getting off the S-Bahn in the Marienplatz, then looked around the beautiful platz that contains the Frauenkirche, Neues Rathaus, and the statue of St. Mary for whom this square is named after. After getting out of the Marienplatz, Helga and I walked to the Max-Josefplatz followed by a stroll looking but not buying at some of Munich's most expensive shops on the Maximillianstrasse and then into the famous Viktualenmarkt where one get sample some of Munich's best food and drink. We spent about two hours touring Munich and ended the day at one of Helga's favorite places, a huge fountain with beautiful statues of women and men enjoying the water. It was a nice trip that allowed me to finally visit this awesome town and tell my friends and family back home, "I was there!"