no matter where you go, there you are

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

if you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home - james michener

Olympiapark was constructed for the 1972 summer Olympics in the northern section of the city. Since then, it has become a popular venue for cultural and social events and some facilities are also used for sports training. The park is a popular tourist destination and has "commercialized" itself by offering a variety of tours as well as the chance to walk on the tent-like roof during the spring and summer seasons. The tower also serves as an attraction as it provides a wonderful view of the Alps and the expanse of the city. It was still quite early when I arrived to the park and no one except some runners were around. For something that seemed like it was theme-park-esque there was no one around which made it very eery. Passing by the swimming hall I could hear people gliding through the water so there was some form of life. The tower opened at 9am and even though it was later than that, the lack of people made me think it may have been closed. Nope, just very empty; the atmosphere I would normally enjoy very much but it somehow ended up feeling a little creepy.

At the top of the tower, only the indoor observation deck was open which was bumming to hear since I prefer looking out over cities without glass and walls obstructing the view. The sun was still on the rise, reflecting against the glass, and off the clouds. I was able to see the Alps which floated along the horizon, blending beautifully into the clouds. The city however, was much harder to distinguish. The refracting light of the sun made it hard to pick out the major sights of downtown Munich and much of the city was a blur. To the west however, I was able to view Nymphemburg Palace, one of my stops later on in the day. Overall the tower was a semi-good investment. Had I known that I would get a much better view of downtown later I might have opted to save the cash on this tower. The Alps in the distance were certainly the best part, but even they could have been better had I been allowed in the outdoor deck or had I visited the park later in the day.

Back to downtown Munich...and into the Hunting and Fishing Museum aka Deutches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum. Containing a variety of hunting and fishing weapons in addition to stuffed animals and crazy looking fish skulls, this museum was fascinating. It started off like a natural history museum with two long hallways with different displays featuring a number of hunted and stuffed animals. Hawks, deer, seals, bear, wolves...all sorts of creatures. However, upstairs contained a very cool weapons exhibit, world's largest fish hook collection, a narwal skull and even a 12,000 year old skeleton of a deer or moose-like ancestor.
Although there was almost no English to read, there was a vast amount of artifacts to look at and visually learn from such as fish traps, fish hooks, guns, hunting sleds, paintings, and blades of all shapes and sizes. A very cool place to see and it was inexpensive so if you're like me and don't have the time or money to go to the infamous Deutches Museum, here's a wonderful small place to whet your appetite.

Only a few blocks away from the museum is Frauenkirche, the "Notre Dame" of Munich. It's domed towers are a symbol of recognition for the city. Due to construction height restrictions, it remains to be the tallest building around and towers over it's city.

Inside, I got my first impression of Central European churches and took note of how different the style is compared to the grandness of Parisian cathedrals or Italian masterpieces. Just as tall as the other massive cathedrals, Frauenkirche is fairly narrow and its columns are straight white all the way to the top, no stone or carvings. The ceiling is white with brown wood highlighting all it's crevices.
The side chapels are small and do not house as many large, elegant paintings but do have wonderful altars highlighted with gold. The crucifix hangs in the middle of the sanctuary and even the organ isn't as lavish as others I'd seen. In not being so covered with wonderful things to look at, the church may originally be perceived as uninteresting, but it definitely still has charm. A fun fact I learned while eavesdropping on a small English tour group was that despite the heavy, heavy, heavy bombing that occurred during World War II, the towers were never hit even though they were prime targets. US and British armies ordered pilots not to hit the tower and instead, used them as a landmark to aim for other things.

After the Frauenkirche it was back to Marienplatz for a daytime look inside Peterskirche as well as a climb to the top of the tower for a wonderful overlook of the city and the one of the daily Glockenspiel shows. The Neues Rathaus was spectacular since it wasn't raining and the background of clear blue skies and white, wispy clouds was breathtaking.

With a plain exterior I didn't know what to expect in Peterskirche, but it reminded me greatly of the extravagant Italian churches. Much more than Frauenkirche had.
There was a large and gorgeous, gold-decorated altar, a fantastic pulpit, and ceiling adorning frescoes. My favorite part however was a skeleton dressed in jewels and a crown inside a glass coffin in one of the side chapels. Although probably meant to be serious, the skeleton was smiling at me so there was nothing to do but love him. The climb to the top of the tower in Peterskirche was, like all other climbs, strenuous on the legs. But by that point I'd done so many I would say I was actually in some shape to be able to climb all those stairs.

At the top there was full access to all sides of the tower, therefore a view of the city from every angle possible. I found this overlook to be more interesting than the Olympia Tower, as I said above, because it was from downtown and gave a great view of how the city is structured and all the landmarks I'd just seen earlier that day are really visible from this point. The sun had now risen so the lighting was much better and evenly spread across the buildings.

Before heading back down, I was treated to the Glockenspiel on the City Hall which performs at least once, daily. I had a much different image in my head about how the Glockenspiel would go and even though I didn't understand the story which was being told, it was a cute but lengthy show.
What I liked observing from the tower most was the gathering of people in Marienplatz below. Once the Glockenspiel began, a small crowd formed in the center and by the end there was a fairly large crowd. With the Christmas Market stalls all set up, there really wasn't much room for the people so they squished together.

Now past mid-day I departed Marienplatz and strolled toward the trolley lines which would take me out to Nymphemburg Palace.

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