München & Nürnberg 2006                  

13th December 06 - 19th December 06




The Olympic Park - courtesy of Wiki website.


A visit to Zoltan in Munich

Despite the fact that I had three weeks scheduled for a trip to South Africa flying out Xmas Day, I still had some annual leave to dispense with. My Hungarian friend, Zoltan, might not be in Munich for much longer. Having moved there recently, he was contemplating a return to his homeland. "I've had enough of the Germans", he exclaimed. Zoltan was there when I arrived at Munich Flughafen. We took the S1 line to Feldmoching, Zoltan having driven his car there earlier from his office. His rented accommodation was in a fairly classy part of Munich south of the Olympic village, close to where his company, BDT, were located. We stopped at the supermarket for some groceries and headed to his flat, the precise address being Volkartstrasse 70A, 80636 Munich. It is located south of the Olympic Village. BDT had organised this very tidy little flat for Zoltan. It was conveniently situated for access to the town centre, requiring a short walk down Leonrodstrasse to Leonrodplatz, a tram stop on Dachauerstrasse on the S21 Strassenbahn route  to Karlsplatz (Stacchus). From here one accessed the pedestrian zone between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz, largely a shopping area. I recalled my first visit here in 1980 as a student. I had lived in Nuremberg for three months mid winter as a student and visited Munich on my last weekend prior to wrapping up my job. A short walk from Karlstor (the arch at Karlsplatz) lies Brunnenbuberl (boy at the fountain), a really funny fountain depicting an old Satyr spitting water on a young boy, while he in turn is spraying water on the satyr. According to Wiki, in Greek mythology, satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus— "satyresses" were a late invention of poets— that roamed the woods and mountains. In mythology they are often associated with male sex drive and vase-painters often portrayed them with erections. This funny Art Nouveau fountain was made by Matthias Gasteiger in 1895. Prinzregent Luitpold visited the artist and asked him to add at least a small leave of a fig tree in order to hide the "most precious part" of the boy but the artist refused.                                    


The ever-efficient Zoltan home from the office, relaxed and at his PC, checking tram timetables, plotting my next move!

The reason I mention this oddity is not due to some morbid curiosity but that I have a photograph of it taken in 1979 with the entire sculpture covered in a thick layer of ice, with stalactites hanging down in thin strands, thus making it harder to figure out its precise significance. On this occasion, there was no water running at the time, nor was it iced up, despite it being winter; Global warming, a sign of the times, perhaps? Well, after dropping my stuff at Zoltan's flat, which was in immaculate condition, we ventured into town down this precise pedestrian zone to Marienplatz Christmas market stalls for a Bratwurst and Glühwein, which I enjoyed so much, from my days back in 1979 at the Siemens canteen. These markets are a real treat and crowds throng the squares and alleyways. Mid winter, the huge trees near the markets, devoid of any leaves, are dressed in an endless chain of tiny, bright white lights, which seem to sparkle like tiny stars against the black sky. There is a special ambience that has always attracted me to Christmas in Germany and its markets in general. Indeed, the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg is regarded as the heart of Christmas in Germany, which Zoltan and I were to visit in the next few days.


This lady at the Gluhwein and Lebkuchen stall on Marienplatz "chirped" passers-by, in a Bavarian dialect.


A bleak midwinter skyline depicting the Isar river towards the island and Maximiliansbrücke, from the bridge over Prinzregentenstrasse.


Exploring Munich and the Englischer Garten

I surfaced late the next morning and sent a text to my friend Christa in Greiling in South Bavaria, in the hope that we might meet up either in her home town or in Munich itself. I took the S21 around 12h30 and via Karlsplatz-Marienplatz, walked down Maximillianstrasse, crossing the river Isar at Maximiliansbrücke, turned left through a garden which joined up with Prinzregentenstrasse.Where the avenue crosses the river, it circles the Friedensengel (Angel of Peace), a monument commemorating the 25 years of peace following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Prinzregentenstrasse is one of four royal avenues in Munich. It is the location of Haus der Kunst (House of Art), a modern art museum I had once visited; I go in with an open mind and leave with a headache. I guess it's Munich's Tate Modern. A tributary of the Isar, the Eisbach (Ice River) flows just by Haus der Kunst through a tunnel. As the waters emerge, a wave is created and the spot is popular for surfers.  It is regarded as a pro spot but is dangerous, as the rock is located only 40cm under the water. The Bavarian National Museum (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum) is one of the most important cultural history museums in Europe. It houses a large collection of European artefacts from the Middle Ages until early 20th century. The historical collection displays artworks in a tour through more than forty rooms from the hall for Romanesque art via the rooms for Gothic, renaissance, baroque and Rococo art to the exhibits of Classicism and Art Nouveau. It was here I was able to access the Englischer Garten, where I had been before in summer in the '80's, only to discover that it had become immensely popular as a nudist colony since the 1960's! This is in the area of the gardens known as Schönfeldwiese (lit. "Beautiful meadows"). It caused quite a sensation at the time and also made the English Gardens well-known, even outside Munich.


A surfer on the icy waters of the Eisbach, a tributary of the Isar.


The Englischer Garten or "English Garden" is a large urban public park that stretches from the city centre to the north-eastern city limits. It was founded in 1789 by Benjamin Thompson, who is also known as Count of Rumford. With an area covering 3.7 km² the Englischer Garten is one of the world's largest urban public parks. It is bigger than New York's famous Central Park but smaller than Richmond Park in London, which is the biggest city park in Europe. The name refers to the style of gardening; the term English garden is used outside of the English speaking world to refer to the style of informal landscape garden which was popular in the United Kingdom from the mid 18th century to the early 19th century, and is particularly associated with Capability Brown. Though the trees were devoid of leaves, the garden still brings a sense of calmness. The gardens feature a 25 metre Chinesse tower, a Japanese tea garden and numerous beer gardens. I exited on the north side.


The Bavarian National Museum on Prinzregentenstrasse, one of four royal avenues in Munich.


  I crossed Koenigstrasse heading into the popular and trendy Bohemian borough of Schwabing, an area of bars, cafes and restaurants frequented by students attending the Ludwig-Maximillian and the Technical Universities. Indeed, I passed by the University as I walked back towards the city centre along Ludwigstrasse, passing more markets. Cosmopolitan Munich is a fine city, the wealthiest in Germany and has a sense of openness similar to what one would experience walking the parks of London. Hungry, I tucked into a Bratwurst. Taking the S21 Strassenbahn once again, I returned to Zoltan's flat on Volkartstrasse. It was around six and dark and in my attempt to find the front door, located down a gated alley, I somehow caused a young woman, whom I later learnt from Zoltan was in fact his landlady, to become suspicious, enquiring as to whom I was looking for.  I have that effect on people! We were fetched by Zoltan's Hungarian friend, Andor and driven to Westbad, an indoor pool facility and spa. We used the sauna and stayed till 23h00. It was fantastic and I continued my love affair with saunas. It has become an ambition to build my own.

Colourful artwork adorns the facade of a buildingnear the Christmas markets, just off Marienplatz.


A day trip to the Allianz Arena                     

Zoltan had told me that the annual Tollwood Craft Festival would be worth a visit. Up late again on the Friday, I took the U4 and U5 underground to Theresianwiese, which is also the venue for the annual October Beer Fest. Unfortunately, it was still shut so I decided to take the U6 to Froettmaning tube station, to Munich's famous Allianz Arena football stadium. It is the home of Munich's two football teams, Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich.  Previously they played at the Olympic Village. It is a remote location, the surrounding landscape somewhat barren, though it is close to an industrial park. The stadium, well worth the visit, was constructed by the Allianz Group, a large financial services provider, taking three years. For certain tournaments, this name may not be displayed, as it conflicts with the sponsorship of the organisers of the particular tournament - officially it is known as the Fussball Arena München, though hardly anyone calls it that. Soon after its construction, Allianz Arena's distinctive shape inspired its occasional nickname, Schlauchboot ("inflatable boat"). The National Team also play there. For evening games, the stadium is lit in the colours of the three teams which use the venue i.e. red, sky blue and white.

  I was astounded that one could walk up to the facility and enter the premises with no security whatsoever! The clubs and owner sell merchandise at the official shops on site. I was able to purchase a ticket for less than 10 euro (!) to take a guided tour of the stadium, albeit in German. It is only one of two three-tier stadia in Europe. We were taken through all of the change rooms, which was a real treat, well worth the visit.   

A guided tour of the Allianz Arena football stadium in Munich and the changroom of Bayern Munich football team.

An amusing anecdote is that, for European games, the seats behind each of the goals are not to be removed. They were removed at the time and also when Bayern Munich play home Bundesliga games. The explanation is that the Bayern fans prefer to support their team like true fans i.e. standing up, presumably with a Bratwurst in one hand and a beer in the other. It is a very modern, clinical design which raised the question as to what sort of atmosphere the stadium generated. the guide conceded that there were probably other German stadia where the ambience was superior, such as Dortmund's Westfalenstadion (now known as the Signal Iduna Park). I purchased a few souvenirs from the megastore. Around 17h00, I took the U3 and U2 tubes from Marientor to Frankfurter Ring. Zoltan and I had been invited for dinner by, Jaros, a colleague of his from Knorrbremse, and his wife, Mare. It was a Hungarian dish consisting of paprika and liver wrapped in bacon. washed down with loads of red wine, it was delicious. By the evening's end, Zoltan proclaimed himself pissed!

Visiting Munich's Allianz Arena football stadium.


Hungarians love cabbage too                  

On Saturday 16th December, I took the Strassenbahn with Zoltan to the Hauptbahnhof (main station). He needed to shop for electronic goods, so I went off on the U6 to Münchener Freiheit in Schwabing, for another walk to the Englischer Garten, proceeding some distance through the gardens towards a small lake known as the Kleinhesseloher See. I encountered riders on horseback. Without even asking, I was amazed that, on two occasions, I was approached by people who enquired as to whether I was indeed lost and needed directions, as I must have given that impression, gazing earnestly at the map. I met Zoltan at Marienplatz, a central square in Munich since 1158. In the Middle Ages markets and tournaments were held in this city square. the Glockenspiel in the new city hall was inspired by these tournaments, and draws millions of tourists each year. We returned to the flat before heading off to friends in Laim, where a Slovakian friend, Szuzsa, was celebrating a birthday. A typical Hungarian dish of stuffed cabbage and meatballs was being prepared (so it's not just the Poles). Drink was in great abundance. One of the girls was quite into her football. Zoltan wasn't amused - this made no sense at all! Another couple had lived for a while in Newcastle.

A return to my favourite German city

The following day, Zoltan and I took a 09h25 train to Nuremberg, 170 kilometres north of Munich. Zoltan tried to arrange for a number of his friends to go along, as a ticket for 5 only costs 35 euros, but there were no takers. I had spent three months as a student working there some years ago. I had been returned on a number of occasions at different times of the year, most recently when my Tokai (Cape Town) neighbours, Ian and Lily, had visited friends in Germany and we had agreed to meet up. The annual Christkindlesmarkt, on the site of the  picturesque Hauptmarkt (main market) dominated by the Frauenkirche, was a hive of activity and the streets were crowded, with Christmas still only a week away. We had lunch, visited the market, churches and Kaiserburg (Nuremberg Castle) on the hillside. Nuremberg's star attraction is the Gothic Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) which was erected around 1385 but subsequently replaced with a replica (the original fountain is kept in the Germanisches Nationalmusuem). I stocked up with famous Scmidt Lebkuchen (gingerbread) to take back with me to South Africa, for Christmas. In the late afternoon we returned to Munich.


The Glockenspiel on the new town hall facade on Marienplatz, Munich, attracts millions of visitors.

Nuremberg is the largest city in Franconia and is situated on the Pegnitz river. It is often referred to as having been the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly because imperial courts met at Nuremberg Castle (Kaiserburg). In 1298, the Jews of the town were accused of having desecrated the host (thin, round wafer made from bread and used for Christian communion) and 698 were slain in one of the many Rintfleisch Massacres. The cultural flowering of Nuremberg in the 15th and 16th centuries made it the centre of the German Renaissance. In 1525, Nuremberg accepted the Protestant Reformation, and in 1532, the religious peace of Nuremberg, by which the Lutherans gained important concessions, was signed there. In 1632 during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) the city was besieged and declined after that and recovered its importance only in the nineteenth century. Nuremberg held great significance during the Nazi Germany period. Because of the city's relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its position in the centre of Germany, the Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions–the Nuremberg rallies.

Zoltan at the main market, site of the annual Christkindlesmarkt, in Nuremberg, with the Frauenkirche in the background.


To be continued



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