Today we set off towards our first big German city, Munich. It was going to be a full day for sure, with one art museum for our art-history class, plus lots of other stops for fun as well as some free time to explore the city.
Getting to Munich
We were staying in a little Bavarian town about an hour and a half south of Munich called Diessen. Staying outside Munich saved us a bit of money and although making the commute meant we had early mornings and late nights, it wasn’t too bad overall!
Alte Pinakothek Museum
The Alte Pinakothek Museum was our first stop in Munich, and it really is a great museum. Lots of colorful paintings with either very dramatic or dynamic scenes being portrayed. Some were so big that they filled up the whole room!
What I really like about the Alte museum is that its walls are painted with bright shades like fushia-pink and apple-green as opposed to the normal white. You’d think it’d be distracting from the art but it actually accentuated the deep, rich colors of the paintings which were predominately oil.
Strange and spooky art at Alte Pinakothek
We also had to give a presentation on one of the paintings or collections, and my group was set to present on a scene in which Mary is fainting with dead Jesus in her lap and surrounded by some of the apostles. We only had 15 minutes to wrack our brains and create an outline for the presentation so that was kind of stressful. Thankfully, the drama-filled scene caused by Mary’s faint gave us a lot to talk about, and the disciples’ robes are very colorful so I got to go down my favorite color-symbolism-fueled rabbit hole 🙂 . Despite the jokes, I think we did well!
The painting we got to analyze at the Alte Pinakothek Museum
While there’s a lot of cool art here at the Alte Museum, the real show stopper is the separate wing with Van Gogh’s Sunflower portraits. The Sunflower portraits are my all-time favorite paintings (of all time), and I cannot believe I almost missed out on seeing them! I was journaling outside of the museum when one of my school friends ran up and showed me a postcard she’d gotten from the museum with the sunflowers on it. After informing her of the high stakes for the operation, we immediately hatched a plan for infiltrating the museum with our already-used tickets. Thankfully the ticket punchers let us go back in with no problems.
Seeing those portraits was a borderline religious experience, as I’ve loved them ever since we made replicas out of construction paper in elementary school. Hopefully this wasn’t a temporary exhibition, because Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are some of the most famous paintings of all time, and they’re incredible to see in person!
One of my favorite portraits of all time– Van Gogh’s Sunflowers
Right outside of the Alte museum is an entrance to Munich’s English Garden, and our professor took us on a walk through this park on the way to our next stop. Kind of a weird name for a garden in Germany, but I won’t judge! The English Garden is a sprawling, partially forested/partially open field park that runs along the Isar River. Being in such an urban city, its 80km of trails are a perfect escape from the noise. While still feeling the high off of seeing Van Gogh’s sunflowers, this was one of my favorite places in Munich to walk around.
At one point, we stopped by the Eisbach Wave to see the famous river surfers, but there weren’t any there when we showed up. Understandable though, considering it’s late October and the water must be freezing cold.
Another reason to visit the English Garden, and our main reason for going, are the biergartens scattered throughout. After a 25 minute walk, our class arrived at our lunch and drink spot, Biergarten am Chinesishen Turm! My first trip to a biergarten- I couldn’t wait!
Chinesischen Turm & Biergarten
I suppose I should clarify what a biergarten is because I didn’t earlier. A biergarten is pretty much what it sounds like: a beer garden. Biergartens are cozy outdoor restaurants that serve beer and other german snacks, and have long tables to encourage visitors to make new friends.
Hanging out with good food, a liter of beer, and the Chinese tower at Chinesischen Turm and Biergarten
At the Chinesischen Turm Biergarten, our professor told us that lunch here was on the program, which is nice considering this biergarten is one of the more popular ones, and it’s expensive! There are lots of different stalls with entrees, sides, desserts, and beer of course to choose from, and I was a little overwhelmed trying to pick what to have. In the end, I got some kind of sausage and a bavarian doughnut. And to wash it all down? A LITER of beer! That was the only increment of beer you can order which makes sense, but it is a LOT nonetheless. At Chinesischen Turm you can pick either a liter of “Hell”, the normal lager, or a liter of “Radler”, which is the lager with a splash of lemon soda. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know about my love affair with lemon soda on this trip and so the choice was easy.
Lunch at the biergarten was just awesome. The beer went paired *excellently* with the bavarian doughnut, which came as a shock when I received it and it was the size of a hubcap!
Baby’s first Biergarten at Chinesischen Turm Biergarten, Munich
We all sat at long green wooden tables, and the trees in English Park provided us with some shade. Apparently, Chinesischen Turm is mobbed during Oktoberfest and in the summer. In late October, it is still busy but not unbearable by comparison. Because of this there was no rush to finish our beers which was nice considering it was a daunting challenge. I alllllmost finished mine, so I guess there will be more training required to finish the job in the future. 🙂
As the name would suggest, Chinesischen Turm’s biergarten is unique considering the tall chinese tower on the opposite end of the garden. Apparently you can climb the tower in the summer months, but it was locked up when we visited.
Walking around Munich
After leaving the biergarten, we still had a few hours left to explore Munich. It’s a big city and there’s an endless number of things to do, so to avoid being overwhelmed, a friend and I decided to just go for a walk and sight-see along the way.
We started at Marienplatz, the main square, and decided to venture down Leopold Strasse (Leopold street). Luckily enough, there are tons of monuments that we passed by on the walk!
Saint Michael’s Church
I really liked the outside of St. Michael’s because its facade is a work of art in itself, and different from any church I’ve seen. Apparently, it is the oldest surviving Renaissance church in the Alps.
Saint Michael’s Church- this looks like a building from Harry Potter
The Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper)
While we didn’t have opera tickets, this building was striking enough for us to stop for a look. It’s especially triangular looking with a shining gold mosaic on the top, where some fairies are dancing around a pegasus. There’s also a bronze statue of some man thinking. Although I don’t know who it is, the fact that the square’s name is Max-Joseph Platz indicates that his name is either: Max, Joseph, or Max Joseph.
The Bavarian State Operahouse on Max-Joseph Platz
Odeonsplatz (Odeon’s Square)
The first major place we stopped was Odeonsplatz because it is full of giant buildings and monuments which felt historic (sorry my writing brain is not switched on today). The main feature is a huge stone awning-covered stage called the Feldherrnhalle, which protects three statues depicting heroes from the Bavarian army. It reminds me of the covered stage we saw in Florence, except this one has some pretty decoration on the top and some lion statues too. It would be a great place to chill and have a snack, but we had more walking to do.
Feldherrnhalle in Odeonsplatz
Next to the Feldherrnhalle was the especially beautiful Theatine church with its bright yellow facade and 2 domed roofs. I think Bavarian churches are my favorite ones to look at from the outside! (nothing can beat the inside of Italy’s churches, though)
There was another church across the square that seemed plain-ish in comparison to the Theatine church except that it had a bright red, green, yellow, and blue mosaic roof. Tons of pretty buildings to see here in Munich!
Another gorgeous church in Munich
Seemingly only 2 steps from Odeonsplatz was Hofgarten, a city park with perfect sprawling lawns and paths with a stone pavilion in the center. Just behind it is the State Government Office, another beautiful stone building with a few memorials.
Boppin’ around Hofgarten, with the State Government Office in the distance
As we continued down Leopold strasse, we came up to… another triumphal arch! Any major european city wouldn’t be complete without one, after all. The Seigestor is Munich’s trademark triumphal arch, although it stands out from the rest because instead of driving a chariot of horses, Bavaria depicted as a person is riding on a chariot pulled by lions! Most bad*** statue I’ve seen 🙂
Strolling past the Seigestor Triumphal Arch
Night in Marienplatz
By the time we’d walked up and down the long street, it was just getting dark. We met back with the rest of our group in Marienplatz, one of the biggest and probably the most famous square in Munich. Since we got there early, we got to have a look around.
The most stunning feature of Marienplatz is the town hall with its attached Rathaus Glockenspiel.
Town Hall with the Rathaus Glockenspiel- a building so lovely it looks like a painting
The town hall is a wonder in itself. It’s a tall, spindly building that takes up the entire northern side of the square. When we visited, the facade was covered in flowers. The Rathaus Glockenspiel is an even taller clock tower rising up from the middle of the town hall, so much so that I had to crane my head up to see balcony after flower-covered balcony. The uppermost of these balconies has a tiny stage with a bunch of German figurines. After researching when we had already left, I learned that they are actually marionettes that dance at the turn of every hour and reenact scenes from Munich’s history! It’s a bummer I wasn’t there at the turn of the hour!
Teeny tiny marionettes on the Rathaus Glockenspiel (clock tower)
Meanwhile, there was a protest going on at the center of the square. I don’t know any German so I have no clue what they were protesting. We had been warned not to approach any protest and kept our distance, but at least it appeared to be peaceful.
I’m not sure if it was seeing Van Gough’s Sunflowers that really kick-started my day, but I think Munich is so much fun and overall fabulous!
It’s a big enough city to where you can find any kind of activity or attraction that you’re into, but I though the biergartens in the English Garden were the best part of our visit. Beer and nature are arguably a the best combination there is. I also love any city where there are monuments, cool or unusual architecture, and generally loads of things to see wherever you look. I’d compare it with Paris in this regard.
I loved Munich so much that I cannot wait to go back someday, hopefully for Oktoberfest! I think in some ways it’s a good thing that my first visit was not during Oktoberfest so that I could see a lot of the city’s sights with minimal crowdedness. We missed Oktoberfest by about two weeks this time around, but I’m determined to come back for it! (who’s gonna join me xd )
Where did she come from? Diessen, Germany
Where is she going (next)? Nuremberg, Germany