I wasn’t planning to publish a blog post today, but I experienced so much this afternoon that I couldn’t help writing about it. I walked 10 miles today, if that gives you an idea. Munich is a city that crackles with energy. Positive energy. I’ve been to many cities that are filled with a different sort. Desperation, or perhaps anxiety. Heaviness. But in Munich, it feels crisp, purposeful, electric.
You want a melting pot? This is it. I saw people of every different age, culture and color that you can imagine. Just walking down the street is an adventure, as you catch fragments of conversation in different languages. One thing I noticed; so many people I passed today were impeccably dressed. Businessmen in stylish, form fitting suits and oxfords. Women in colorful dresses and skirts. Teenagers in tight denim and graphic tees. To be fair, you experience the same sort of thing on a smaller scale walking around Downtown Chicago. But it struck me all the same.
One of the first stops I made was St. Michael’s Church. Construction began in 1583 and it was consecrated in 1597, so it’s the oldest building I’ve ever been in. It was severely damaged during WWII, but it’s been restored to its former glory over the years. The inside is “a representation of the triumph of Catholicism as true Christianity during the Counter-Reformation.” It’s certainly impressive, though what stuck out most to me were the sheer number of candles, programs, books, and souvenirs in the sanctuary, each with a price list and donation box displayed prominently. I think Jesus got mad about merchants in the temple once, but I’m not sure.
I had a mediocre lunch, which was my fault. I was hungry, having not eaten since dinner last night, and I stopped into one of the first places I saw. It was a grand, large looking restaurant on the main drag. As soon as I sat down, I realized I had chosen a tourist trap. Ah well; I quickly made up for it, by stopping into a quiet little coffee shop just off of Marienplatz for a Cappuccino. Marienplatz is the center of everything, and has been since 1158; you’ll find hundreds of shops and restaurants, with city hall towering above everything. I spent a good chunk of my day working my way out from there, exploring all the nooks and crannies of the side streets.
I eventually ended up in Viktualienmarkt, the city’s daily food market. If you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market or city market in the States or elsewhere, you get the gist. This one is just a little more extensive, as you can find just about anything: fresh meat, fruit, smoothies, fish, bread, gelato, flowers…you name it. I made a mental note to come back for dinner, and headed to Odeonsplatz, another old city square.
Odeonplatz sits next to Hofgarten, which is a beautiful park that serves as gateway to Englischer Garten, AKA English Garden. This was my favorite part of the day, by far. The English Garden is MASSIVE! It covers nearly 1,000 acres. There is much that I didn’t get to, but what I saw was spellbindingly beautiful. Musicians abound, playing classical guitar or accordion alongside peaceful streams of water. Ducks quack in delight as the passerbys toss them pieces of brot. On a massive expanse of grass, people play futbol or sunbathe. The Monopteros sits atop a gentle hill, offering a view of the skyline and a place to reflect.
Now you see why I walked 10 miles today! After spending a good chunk of time in the park, I wandered back over to the Viktualienmarket, and grabbed a Bratwurst with kraut and mustard. I couldn’t resist another lap around the Marienplatz after dinner to take in the energy one last time. Even as the sun drifted towards the horizon, that same magnetism was still present. It’s the feeling that I’ll remember most from my time here. As I headed back towards the U station to catch my train back to the room, I couldn’t resist treating myself and capping off the day in style.
If I may, I’d like to end this post with some levity, and a statement of truth. All other ice cream is pointless and fraudulent. Gelato will CHANGE YOUR LIFE, people. It is reason enough to visit Europe.