It’s been a right old time here in München, Deutschland. You may recall the general rejoicing over the SNOW, KENNETH, as we rode the train into Munich. Yeah, well, what you saw as picture-perfect Christmas-postcard delight, meteorologists saw as a 90-year record snowstorm, blanketing Germany in feet of snow and crippling transportation all across the nation.
But first, let me back up and tell you how our Saturday did not end in starvation but indeed turned out beautifully.
Our tour leader Jim texted us all that he had made reservations for an Italian restaurant nearby if anyone wanted to join, which we did. There were seven of us and we had a great time over drinks and dinner, getting to know each other and laughing. One of us, Debbie, misheard the waiter asking if “alles” wanted the tiramisu and thought he called her Alice, which is her name now I don’t make the rules.
(“Alice” also made an inadvertently — and hilarious — vulgar joke which I will not repeat here but which you definitely should ask me to repeat for you in person if you’re that kind of person. You know who you are.)
Alice went out for a smoke and returned to tell us excitedly that there was a carousel right down the street, plus one of the dozen Christmas markets that litter the city at this time of year. Of course we headed out, only to find that she had scammed us: the carousel was kiddie-sized. But the market was real, and we had a blast wandering through it. It was much smaller and much more fun than the Marienplatz market downtown.
Finally we returned to the hotel and hit the bar.
You will recall that I had hit the hotel bar on Friday night and called it solid but basic. This was their bar book:
It listed all the whiskeys, rums, vodkas, etc., that they stocked, plus a handful of basic cocktails. But it didn’t list the gins, of which there seemed to be dozens. I thought that was odd.
On Saturday night, we headed back to the bar after that long day, where I discovered:
I was in a gin bar! This bible contained all the gins they stocked…
… including its type, its botanicals, where it’s made, and the recommended tonic water for a gin & tonic. And you see that half-page bit in the center? Those are regional gins. I suddenly didn’t mind that a) Munich does not seem to be blessed with solid craft cocktail bars; or b) that I might be trapped here for a while.
We were supposed to go to Nüremberg on Sunday, but transportation across Bavaria was largely shut down. What trains were running were overbooked as Germans tried to get home from Munich. We had to cancel any of our plans, which included my visiting the Ayers gin distillery and buying more of one of the most delicious gins I’ve ever bought. Ugh.
I am omitting our visit to the Alte Peter church, because it triggered my inner Marxist and I’d like to keep this positive.
We went to the Residenz, the in-town palace of the ruling Wittelsbach family back in the day. It was largely destroyed in WWII, so most of what you see is a reconstruction.
The main courtyard as we waited to enter was blanketed in snow. I found this cherub delightful:
Yes, there is a cherub under there.
The first room was the Grotto, a fantasy of one of the Wittelsbachs.
A close-up of one of the ladies in the decor:
Yeah, the whole thing was pretty grotesque. Yes, the whole thing is encrusted with seashells.
The first main hall:
Here the Wittlesbachs gave full rein to their imperial fantasies, with busts of all the Roman emperors and their appendages.
Me with my friend Marcus Aurelius:
My friend Dionysus:
My friend Apollo:
These two were fairly nubile, but there were multiple athletes of one kind or another who were much tauter.
Here’s a terrazzo at the bottom of a very big staircase leading up to the Elector/Duke/Emperor’s private chambers. I really liked the geometry involved in graduating the sizes of the tiles to accommodate the arced design.
The palace as a whole is a rabbit warren of halls, antechambers, bedrooms. Each head honcho felt compelled to build his own suite of rooms, often adding entire buildings to do so. The only rooms open to the public are the glamorous ones, but of course we wondered where the accommodations for the servants were, where the kitchens were, dining halls, etc.
We noticed throughout this little dingus:
I thought perhaps it was some kind of drawer for the maids to keep brushes or something, but it’s simply a retro-fit for electrical outlets for today’s custodial staff.
The Residenz has some nice bits, but on the whole the Wittelsbachs were not Bourbons, and the Residenz is not Versailles.
We roamed the Marienplatz market again for a while, then the group set out to find sustenance. At some point, two of the company and we set out for a restaurant that one of us had highlighted in her book, i.e., highly rated. We set the phone to guide us, and trudged through the snow-still city only to find that the restaurant was closed because of the weather.
Just down the street though was another restaurant, a charming little cottage set in a courtyard, which was brightly lit and warm and closing as we walked in.
But they recommended Siggis, right next door, and it was open. It was also vegan, but the meal was delicious and we were content.
After that it was back to the hotel, a few more gin and tonics at the bar, and then bedtime.
Everything is still at a standstill. We slept late, then hit the road to explore another market. On the way were these cool sculptures, made even cooler by the snow:
Did you see it?
All the trees in this park had straw bales tied to their bases. Why? Because kids were sledding there; these cushioned any kid who whammed into the tree.
Our main goal on the way to the Sendlinger Tor market was the Asam Church, which we had seen in 2007 but was worth another visit. Our hearts sank as we hit the street and saw scaffolding covering the facade, but it was open. Although the gate to the chapel itself was locked, we could still see the interior, which is a stunningly Baroque masterwork.
This was the private chapel built by two brothers; it sits behind an unassuming facade in the middle of a 21st-c. shopping street, and it’s a showstopper.
The Sendlinger Tor market was a bit of a disappointment, very few booths and most of those food or glühwein.
Lunch at a really good burger place, then more wandering through the main market before linking back up with the group to head over to the Hofbrau Haus for a beer and pretzels. There we discussed how the hell we were getting to Stuttgart tomorrow, or if we would get to Stuttgart tomorrow.
All I will say is that we have a plan, but since it involves the icy precipitation holding off enough for us to escape, I will spare you the details.
Back to the hotel, where I have decamped to the lobby with the laptop to catch up on this blog, this time with a Manhattan rather than a gin and tonic. (I had to teach the Hungarian bartender how to make one.)
I apologize for the blogging of this trip being so lackluster, but as I said in the previous post I haven’t been able to get as many photos as I usually do. Rest assured that we’ve done plenty of shopping, and the company has been first-rate. (In fact, I can snag a lot of photos from our WhatsApp group, but the wifi at the hotel is less than first-rate and it’s a pain to stay online.)
Here, have a photo from one of the markets:
Will our intrepid crew make it to Stuttgart, much less Frankfurt, much less home? Stay tuned.