Above is a picture of the Neues Rathaus (The New Town Hall). It was actually only built in the last century - but it was designed to look much older. On the front (near the middle) and built into the Rathaus's tower is the famous Glockenspiel - a set of life-sized figures that, twice daily, act out an elaborate dance-sequence as the clock's 43 bells chime the hour. The Glockenspiel is, interestingly enough, not on a timer. The government actually pays an official Glockenspiel Starter who goes up there and (hopefully on time) presses a button to start the whole thing moving. And then in front of the Rathaus is the Mariensäule, capped with a real gold state of the Virgin Mary. To find out why the gold statue has never been stolen, you'll have to read the captions in my photo albums!
This next picture is a little gourmet bakery that was highly celebrated by my tour guide as the best in Munich! It had an incredible display going on - every little cookie and pastry and delicacy you can imagine! I may or may not have purchased some Christmas items here...
Hofbrauhaus (the largest beer hall in the city) capitalizes on that tradition. I enjoyed the traditional Bavarian dark (served at room temperature, not cold) and their lighter Münchner Weisse. I also had dinner (I tried sauerkraut for the first time!) and spent the rest of the night chatting and hanging out with two American servicemen, an Engineer from Northern Michigan (yes, we discussed being Yoopers in Germany!), two bullfighters (one of which was the local champion), two bicycle racers (one of which was the Berlin champion), and only one guy to translate amongst the bunch of us.
Munich is a great city - like I said, it has such a great individual personality! The city is steeped in history - especially with regard to World War II. Munich is where Hitler first got his start and birthed the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Union) which became the Nationalisozialistische group (or Nazi's). This is also the home of one of the most festive celebrations in the world: Oktoberfest. I feel like these German cities have a strong grasp on their past - they neither hide, nor celebrate, the darker eras and choose instead to focus on that which truly defines them. My tour guide mentioned that, of all the visitors that come to Munich and take his tours, Americans area always the only ones who ever care or ask about Hitler - that it has become an almost solely American obsession. I also read an article today about a new German/American short-term exchange program - where residents from one country can visit the other (and vice-versa) as a way of helping to relieve the tension between the two. Honestly, I didn't realize that there was any sort of special tension between us! My thoughts? I think Americans just need to settle in a bit and start accepting our position/role in today's Global Communities - before it's too late.
I had a phenomenal time at Munich and would love to return again some day. I hopped on the Munich train at 11:45 and exhausted-ly set out for Vienna, Austria!
You can see all of my Munich photos at: http://picasaweb.google.com/christine.zani/munich