Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Day in Munich

     I had hoped to have close to 12 hours to explore Munich, but thanks to snowstorm Linus, my flight got delayed and I arrived in Munich about two hours later than planned. I still had plenty of time to check out the city though. After getting out of the airport, I hopped on the S-bahn (the MBTA could learn a thing or two about efficiency from the Germans) and headed into the city center. On the way, I overheard a woman who appeared to be a nun say something about Dar es Salaam. After awkwardly staring at her for a few minutes and eyeing her pin of a Tanzanian and German flag, I ended up asking if she was from Tanzania and she was! She lives in Moshi and climbed Kilimanjaro in the 80’s so we had fun talking about out Kili climbing experiences. As it turns out, she’s actually part of a Lutheran order of sisters (which I didn’t even know existed) and was in Germany for a meeting. We chatted about Africa for a bit and what I’ll be doing in Sierra Leone. Eventually we parted ways and I headed off to my tour.
     I took the Sandeman’s Free Tour of Munich which was pretty good. I’ve done a few of their tours in other cities and have loved them so I knew it’d be a good option especially since I had limited time to waste trying to find everything I wanted to see on my own. We started our tour in Marienplatz and learned about how Munich got its name (from the term “Munichen” or “by the monks” because monks maintained a monastery there). 
New Town Hall and the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz 
Old Town Hall
     One particularly interesting story considering the work I’ll be doing in Sierra Leone, involves the Glockenspiel in the New Town Hall. The bottom half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of “The Coopers’ Dance”.  According to legend, after the end of the plague in 1517 in Munich, the coopers were losing money because people were fearful of going outside and, therefore, weren’t buying beer that was stored in barrels made by the coopers. In order to get people to buy their barrels full of beer, the coopers danced through the streets to tell the people that the plague had passed and it was safe to be out and about. I thought it was interesting considering how difficult it has been to get people to stay inside and away from other people during the Ebola epidemic. Anyway, the dance is still performed every seven years. The next one is in 2019 and our tour guide plans on being there. She told us that if anyone is there and finds her and says they took her tour once, she will buy their beer all night. I’d love to come back to see The Coopers’ Dance and explore the things outside of Munich that I missed this time like Dachau and Neuschwanstein. 
     Here are some other fun facts I learned on the tour today. First, Germany is ranked 3rd (after the Czech Republic and Ireland) in beer consumed per person per year, but if you exclude beer consumed in Bavaria, Germany falls to 27th.  If Bavaria were it’s own country, it would be ranked 1st in beer consumed per person per year. I think Oktoberfest probably unfairly skews that ranking though. Speaking of Oktoberfest, the origin of the festival is pretty interesting. When Ludwig I got married, there were celebrations that lasted for days. The people had such a good time that when Ludwig’s one year anniversary rolled around they asked him to host another party just like his wedding celebrations. He agreed and they’ve been celebrating (mostly) every year since. It's probably not a shock to hear that people lose a lot of stuff at Oktoberfest. It's basically a given. The things people lose, however, are pretty strange. Apparently, the main things lost at Oktoberfest are Australian passports, artificial limbs (??) and wheelchairs (which could only be attributed to the “beer miracle”). Lastly, the Opera House was originally built with an inverted dome which was used to collect rainwater which would drain into pipes that became a sprinkler system for the building (that’s German engineering for you). Unfortunately, when there was a fire 5 years after the Opera House was built, the sprinkler system was useless because it was January and the water was all frozen. The river was also frozen so naturally they decided to use beer to put out the fire. As the beer drinking capital of the world though, it might not surprise you to know that as the buckets of beer were passed down a long line of people from Hofbrauhaus (a beer hall) to the Opera House, people decided to take sips and by the time the buckets got to the Opera House, they were empty. So the building burned down, but they rebuilt it using funds from a 1 cent increase on beer prices.
The Opera House
     I ended my day in Munich by going to Asamkirche which is one of the most beautiful churches I have even seen. Naturally I somehow managed to be that awkward person who walked in right as mass was starting and decided it was probably a bad idea to be the obnoxious American and take pictures during mass. So I grabbed a delicious (and expensive) hot chocolate from Starbucks (American Starbucks really need to step it up with their hot chocolate) and went back to the church after mass ended. After that I headed back to the airport and now I’m at my hotel in Brussels and I should really be sleeping since I need to be up in about 2 hours. I'm so tempted to stay in Europe and enjoy this really comfy bed and the cold weather for awhile. I can’t believe I’ll be in Sierra Leone tomorrow!! 
Inside Asamkirche

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