The day started rather badly, and I blame my wife for this. She is a nervous flyer and insisted we stay up drinking late the night before so that she could sleep on the plane. Thus, at 4.30 in the morning, I was sat, bleary-eyed on the loo, performing my functions and feeling woozy. I have rhinitis and every morning I must blow my nose vigorously to clear my sinuses. Consequently, I was using the toilet paper for… two purposes. My multitasking ability is poor when half asleep and half pissed.
I don’t know how the mix-up occurred, but my ablutions were interrupted by a hideous smell. A glance in the mirror confirmed my worst fears; effectively I had shat on my own face. At least I learnt that I don’t suit a moustache.
It was a disappointing experience, but I put it behind me. The day could only get better and thankfully, it did. We were fortunate that our good friends Mick and Andrea would be our guides for the first day in Munich. Mick’s specialism is ‘places that serve alcohol’ and he did not let us down as he promptly led us to the Augustiner beer garden.
The beer garden is really a kind of adult theme park where the theme is ‘drinking’. It’s a big place with trestle tables and benches set out in the shade of trees. The area is well-appointed for families and there’s a play area for children. The beer is, inevitably, Germanically fantastic and the food is yummy if you like pork. There are lots of different types of pork, but all the meat on sale is porcine in origin. The sauerkraut was awesome, the crackling was crackly, and the big pretzels were a revelation (I’d never had them before). In fact, the place, the beer, the food, the sunshine, the company… I wanted to weep for joy. Actually, people did weep when I told them about my bathroom incident. It was some time before my wife kissed me again.
Perhaps it’s just my tastes, I don’t think any city is worth more than three nights but, that said, there’s a lot to see and do in Munich. I loved Saint Johann Nepomuk Church, also known as the Asam Church. It’s decorated in the Rococo style, utterly over the top in 18th century bling, but I was spellbound. It’s like Dame Edna Everage and Lady Gaga did the interior design. Despite the gaudiness, the building had a reverent atmosphere. It was a triumph of content over form. I popped in a couple of times. There are other nice Churches too. The Peterskirche (Church of Saint Peter) contains the skeleton of Saint Munditia. She was beheaded in the early 4th century but was reunited with her skull later. This will have cheered her up enormously. Today she is the poster girl for Weight Watchers.
In Marienplatz square is the town hall which showcases the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. It’s a clockwork tableau affair which plays an endearing tune while figures move around acting out a story and dancing. Lots of photos are taken, all of them identical, all of them boring. Hundreds of tourists gather to watch the display, which lasts up to twenty minutes. It is charming for about two of those minutes, then most people start to fidget and shuffle their feet, praying for the spectacle to end. Or at least I did. Maybe I’m judging too harshly.
The Englischer Garten is a large park in the town and offers a pleasant stroll on a sunny day. Alongside the greenery there are novelty buildings and follies, open-air bars and cafés. There’s a particularly superb man-made river which flows for 2km which you can actually surf in. I found the park very impressive apart from the opportunity, in certain allocated areas, for nude sunbathing.
I just don’t ‘get’ public nudity. Nudists stand for the notion that modernity has robbed us of the purity of simpler times. Naturism can be (un)dressed up as a philosophy as if it were somehow a liberation, a deliverance from conformity and imposed strictures of modesty. It purports to recapture a bygone age of innocence when “both went naked and thought it no shame”. The inference is that Naturism’s not just some tawdry ‘get your kit off’ exhibitionism.
Yet, archaeological digs universally produce evidence of clothing. Today, even the most primitive tribes don clothing after puberty and usually before. Adam and Eve did not walk naked because myths don’t walk. I have stumbled upon nudist beaches several times; most of the participants are solo, aging, males. I have seen mature couples enjoy some early morning skinny dipping in Fuerteventura and, fair enough, it’s refreshing. But basking like albino walruses, as one portly couple did, is undignified.
It’s dangerous to generalise, but I suspect that for most nudists, i.e. elderly men, naturism is an optimistic and ill-advised attempt to attract a mate. They need to learn from Saint Munditia. At least she wears something, even though it is a see-through stocking with astutely placed jewels to cover her modesty. Actually, maybe we should blame her. If she, a saint and martyr, thinks it’s acceptable to lounge about scantily clad in a Church, then it’s no wonder everyone else’s standards have dropped.
Well, I digress. The city has a lot more to offer than we unearthed in our short stay. There’s so much to see, just be ready to avert your eyes in the Englischer Garten. After Munich, we caught the train to Füssen to do some sight-seeing; specifically Neuschwanstein Castle and Schloss Hohenschwangau, names that roll off the tongue. Try saying them without spitting in your listener’s face.
Neuschwanstein is what a castle should look like! In fact, the reason it’s so perfect in its Disneyesque grandeur is that it isn’t a real castle. King Ludwig II of Bavaria knocked down a genuine ruined castle to build his fantasy. And we should all be glad he did. Well done Ludwig! He had a rare combination of unlimited access to credit, architectural vision, and a love of Wagner’s pompous operas. His building spree left a splendid legacy but got his family into enormous debt. Three days after its completion they had him declared insane, next they had him murdered to finish the job. Then, without a whiff of shame, six weeks after their regicide, his unscrupulous heirs opened Neuschwanstein to tourists and started raking in the cash.
We stayed in Hohenschwangau and got some misty nice views early in the morning. Walking round the lake was enjoyable, and it gave us a few good photo opportunities. However, the place is really only a watering hole for the day trippers who come to see Neuschwanstein. It doesn’t offer much beyond burger n chips and a beer.
There’s little point in me rambling on about such a stunning visual spectacle of the castles. There are photos in the video below. Internally, Neuschwanstein is only partially completed, but the finished parts are inspirational. Alas, whilst Ludwig was a gifted artiste he was in every other respect unfit to lead. His various nicknames; the ‘Fairy Tale King, ‘Mad King Ludwig’, and ‘King Pillock’ are indications of what his subjects thought of him.
With Munich, Neuschwanstein and Rothenburg ob der Tauber (reviewed separately) our Bavarian trip was packed with beautiful places, fascinating buildings, gorgeous countryside, mostly good food, awesome beer and wrinkly genitalia.
Should you go?
Yes, it’s great. Use beautiful Munich as your starting point for a little tour of Bavaria. The region has so much to offer and Munich is worth more than the three nights we gave it. I intend to return. There are so many options that careful research is essential. You could check out where the organised excursions visit, then tailor an itinerary for yourself.
If you liked my blog, there’s every possibility that you’ll like the brilliant comic novel I’ve recently published. It’s just so groovy! As much as I enjoyed teaching, and respect those who do the job, there’s plenty to laugh at. I spent 30 years giggling 😊. It’s a bargain at £2.21 for the Kindle! Click on the image for the Amazon link.