Friday, July 10, 2009

Monday, July 6: Nymphenburg Palace & Downtown Munich

This morning, Munich greeted us with buckets of rain! We no sooner got there when it just unleashed and we were all glad we’d packed our umbrellas. While we nearly had heat stroke in Paris, Munich required a jacket, so the Weather Channel wasn’t lying when it described July as Munich's "rainy season."

Our first stop was at the beautiful Baroque Nymphenburg Palace, summer home to the Wittelsbachs (the royal family of Bavaria) since its construction in the late 1600s. Its architect took his inspiration from the Palace of Versailles, thus proving that Paris was the trend-setter even 350+ years ago. Although both were done in the Rococo style, Versailles was much more grand (and dare I say pretentious) than Nymphenburg. When we took a poll at the end, the group was pretty equally divided on which palace they preferred.

A few things stood out to me while in Nymphenburg. First, were the gardens. It was obvious they had been created with thoughtful planning, yet they seemed more natural than those at Versailles. Versailles was completely symmetric and precisely manicured, while Nymphenburg’s gardens seemed more harmonious with its natural surroundings. (In defense of Versailles, it was built over swampland, so there wasn’t much nature to work with…)

The second thing was a particular room that belonged to Ludwig I. As did most kings, Ludwig had mistresses. However, he had a room dedicated for the sole purpose of displaying his mistresses’ portraits as a means of showing off their beauty. And there weren’t just 2 or 3 or even 10 portraits. No, there were 36 portraits and the room was dubbed the "Great Gallery of Beauties." Ouch. Talk about the proverbial slap in the face to the queen…

The final point of interest was Amalienburg. King Karl Albrect also had mistresses and to distract the missess from his revolving bedroom door, he built for his queen, Marie Amalia, a beautiful hunting lodge. Apparently, Queen Marie Amalia was no girly girl. She loved two things most; hunting and her dogs. One of the docents stopped us to tell us about her and Amalienburg (the hunting lodge). I don’t know about you, but when I hear “hunting lodge," the word "beautiful" does not come to mind. Dirty? Yes. Flannel shirts? Yes. Beautiful? Not a chance. Now, I don’t do the outdoorsy thing, but I would happily stay at this hunting lodge in a heartbeat. It was gorgeous! Hunters today should visit this little gem and get some decorating ideas, for sure.

After Nymphenburg, we headed to downtown Munich to the center of town called the Mariensplatz. Pascal took us here to see the glockenspiel play at noon. It was really a sight to see, especially the second tier which depicted people doing the traditional folk dance called the “Coopersdance” which was created to make the people smile a bit during the Black Plague. I can imagine it now; one peasant talking to another...“I say old chap, two-thirds of the European population is wiped out, I’ve lost most of my family to a most horrid and painful death. In fact, I currently have large oozing pustules forming in my armpits and groin, and am feeling a bit feverish. Oh well. At least I have the Coopersdance. Ain’t life grand?!”

We went to a big, open Biergarten for lunch with tons of markets and food stands. While this sounds amazing (and it surely was) it is where the day went downhill very quickly for me. I got some stomach flu and was sick as a dog. By the time we returned to the hotel at 3:00, I was done for the day. I showered, and went straight to bed, so I missed the Residence (which was, apparently, very interesting) and dinner (which was, of course, voted the best meal we’d had since we arrived in Europe). However, the rest did me some good as I awoke the following day feeling ready to tackle Bratwurst and sauerkraut...

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