I went to Munich last year to attend a wedding and came back full of a new picture in my head of what Germany had to offer. What a wonderful city Munich is, how compact the city center, yet a sprawling metropolis dedicated to its residents, who live in a mixture of Edwardian townhouses turned apartments or modern block flats that don’t necessarily lose their charm. The neighborhoods are easily navigated on foot, even with the predominant presence of those German car brands. At first glance the subway may seem intimidating, yet after a long hard look, you get a sense of how the lines were built, expanding and stretching its reach all the way out to the towns, North, South, East and West.
Many days were spent absorbing the artistic beauty of the museums and artists who used the city as their canvass. I’d always had a fondness for Rubens, and found myself in front of one of the largest collections of his works in the “Old Museum” (Alte Pinakothek). His works had a robust, sensual nature lacking in modern art. Now I know why I am enamored with the earth mother form he captured; I can say that I’d fit in that period very well without feeling corporeally out of place.
The modern masters are also easily visible in Munich, the Neue Pinakothek and Moderne Pinakotheks are chock full of paintings, art forms, and technology (like cars) that represent their eras. The collection of Bleue Reiters at the L---- Museum taught me a great deal about the 20th century works of Kandinsky and Klee.
Picture perfect castles are strewn around the Bavarian region, especially Schloss Neuschwanstein, the tragic fairytale castle of King Ludwig the 2nd. The experience of visiting the castle reminded me of the throng at the Great Wall, particularly Badaling. All it needed was some guy dressed as Ludwig II, letting pictures be taken of him in his garb to set it off. Luckily the beautiful weather made up for a three kilometer parking nightmare heading towards the castle. We found an open field available for parking and hoofed it through country paths to the ticket area, before another 30-minute climb up to the castle. The world was milling around, eating, drinking, taking enough photographs of the castle and the Arcadian environment to fill hours of snooze-filled slide shows. Inside the castles and museums, tourists aren’t allowed to take flash photography as it may damage the artwork. I wonder why nature doesn’t take similar offence to all the photos taken of her in multitudes of forms? Many of us don’t take very good photos of Mother Nature at her best, yet here we are investing in high end cameras and mucking about with them adding to the detritus of photography.
The other architectural wonders around the city and all over Bavaria, it seems, were the lavish churches built to honor the Catholic saints and images of the Virgin. Since I was in Germany at the time of the World Youth Day Celebration (although the Pope was in Cologne and not in Munich), it seemed fitting that I take a tour of the churches. My favorites were the rococo gone amok Asam Kirche and the Weis Kirche. The latter took us several hours to find as there are a few Weis towns around, quite a Bavarian road trip it was. We managed to squeeze in before the doors closed and it was a worthwhile hunt and trek. The other churches were far more modest than these two in terms of internal décor, but were larger and statelier or housed more royal bodies (the Theatinerkirche has the bodies of King or Emperor Maximilian the 2nd and some of his family members. Ludwig the 2nd is ensconced in perpetua at the Church of St. Michaels.).
The wedding itself went off without a hitch inside a beautiful baroque chapel 30 minutes outside of the city. The solemnity was in sheer contrast to all the drinking that took place at the reception in a greenhouse altered for events like this. Perhaps the city didn't want to let go right away, as I missed my flight to Amsterdam the next day, and had to take a later flight back to Asia. I'll have reason to return one day, for more visual art and baroque splendor.