Sunday, 7 June 2009

Goodbye Europe! For a bit...

Day 16.
Munich -> London

Today is the last day of our Europe trip! Part one mind you. But still it’s coming to an end and that’s sad...
We decided to take a FREE walking tour around Munich. The girl that came to pick up at our hostel was studying in Royal Holloway – how weird is that? We RoHoers plague the Earth. We went back to the glockenspiel and met Matt our tour guide for the day who told us about the characters within the clock. The top part (which moves first) is a wedding story of Wilhelm V and his French wife. There are jesters and jousters that turn around and the jousters are representative of the bride and groom’s respective nations. Given that this clock is in Munich – the Munich team wins. Then below that is another window which has a bunch of guys in red coats twirling about. They are dancing the Coopers Dance. Coopers are the people who make barrels and when the plague was pillaging Europe people wouldn’t go outside for fear of catching it. One day the coopers decided to go outside and dance about because they didn’t catch the plague. So this dance became popular and the king of the time said that it was so such a sweet dance that they must do it every seven years for eternity. And they still do it too! Behind the dancers on the clock is this jester guy who was doing a sort of party thrust behind the coopers. Apparently, he was the guy who entertained the children by painting their faces and so on. I was concerned about this guy for two reasons. 1. He was thrusting the children and 2. Because the paint he would have used was lead based – so the people of the town would encourage the children to play with a paedophile that would poison you.
Matt said that the Glockenspiel is the #2 most overrated tourist site - #1 is the Astrological clock in Prague – I still think they’re both cool.

Next stop on the tour was the Frauenkirche Church. There is a legend with this place which is called the Devil’s footprint. The people of Munich started to build this church and the Devil popped by, saw it and decided that it was the coolest thing he’s seen. So he went in the front door and noticed that there were no windows in the church and really liked it – being the Prince of Darkness and all – so he found the architect and said – Architect, I love this place and will get my minions to help you build it in record time as long as you don’t add any more windows. The architect agreed and 27 years later the Devil came back. This time he went through the side door and notices that the sides of the church were covered in stained glass windows! “Architect!” he shouted “you promised no more windows and look at these! Your soul is now my property” the architect shook his head and said “no Devil, these windows were here all along but you came in the front door and didn’t realise that they were blocked by the columns holding the church up” The Devil was pretty pissed that he got tricked so he stamped his foot, leaving a mark, and vanished. Here is that footprint (keep in mind the Devil was wearing Birkenstocks at the time). No, not really, the footprint is the architect and that was his way of signing his work. It’s a pretty cool church though – see the trick?
Sadly, this was one church that got majorly damaged in WWII. In fact, 90% of Munich was destroyed and the people of the town had photographed and drawn the town before it was destroyed in case of situations like this so they could re build. This means that pretty much the whole town of Munich is less than 70 years old – pretty amazing stuff.
Also sadly, today is a Catholic holiday! All the shops were closed again! Fie! Fie! They almost didn’t let the tour guide and us in because of this... almost.

The tour guide then stopped us and gave us a quick run down of WWII. He was SO KNOWLEDGABLE. I would have just loved to have lunch with him and just listen to everything he knows... It was really great. I mean I knew about everything he was saying but he made it really accessible. He said that when Germany was suffering from hyper-inflation one US dollar would by about 54 trillion German marks – WHOA. Money became so worthless that the ink printed on it was worth more and that children would play with money and not toys. People would burn money because it was cheaper than wood. Wow.
Another interesting note he made was that in 1997 or so this information came to light that when the Nazis started pillaging Jewish places of business – their uniforms were made by Hugo Boss! Makes you think twice about designers...
All the memorials in Munich are really small – random segue there but they are in existence – they are just quite small. He then showed us this awesome looking market but because of the darn Catholics it was closed. Munich is on my list for places to return to in the future.

He then led us back to my favourite house – the Beer Hall. He told us that this was the hall where Hitler started the Nazi party. Inside the men’s toilets it also has a vomitorium. Again – lovely segue. It’s all modern now – Matt said – and it’s motion activated which is handy... The thing is there isn’t one in the ladies toilet because ladies don’t vomit. Huh. The beer house didn’t use to have any bathrooms (and women weren’t even allowed) there was, instead, a big canal running under each row of tables and the men would simple pop open their lederhosen and whizz away. Very nice.

We then stopped at the Residenz which is the main palace of Munich and each part of it was built in a different style due to different kings wanting different things. After WWII there was just around one fifth remaining. Yeesh.

And now to Hitler. If you don’t like hearing about him or it offends you then scroll on because I learnt a lot of interesting things. Hitler came to Munich to become an artist but the academy denied him because he was rubbish at drawing people. He thought that one way he could take power of Germany was to stage a coup. Violence, however, didn’t work and Hitler was in big trouble. The coup was staged where politicians of Germany were having a meeting (in a beer hall that no longer exists) and Hitler came in and tried taking the three main guys as hostages. Long story short – the hostages got away. Hitler had planned for his whole group to march towards the main square but the road they were taking was blocked by police (that the escaped politicians had called). We actually walked down this road where Hitler’s bodyguard jumped on him and took 11 bullets – can you imagine how history would have changed if just one of those bullets had of strayed? Hitler made a run for it, hijacked an ambulance and fled. When he got in power this story was fabricated and they stated that Hitler actually saw a little girl, scooped her up and drove her to safety. Huh. During this coup 15 Nazis, 4 police and one innocent bystander were killed. When the Nazis erected a memorial for this occurrence they wrote that 16 Nazis had died – after all they would never kill an innocent bystander – he must have been a Nazi as well! How noble! The memorial isn’t there anymore and when it was people walking by would have to salute it – note – you can’t heil in Germany, it’s illegal. There were guards always watching the memorial and if people didn’t salute it they could be heckled and beaten! So there was this little alley just behind it which was labelled “Dodger’s Alley” where resistant Germans would go to get round the memorial and not have to heil. There are only some golden cobblestones on this street to commemorate this. Like I said Munich had small memorials – but they are there.

The tour was coming to an end and he told us one more story about some students who were trying to silent protest the Nazis by distributing flyers and pamphlets. It was illegal to distribute these so these students would leave them all over the ground outside classes so if individuals just happened to pick these up then it was nobody’s fault. Until one day the students were caught. This was called the White Rose Resistance and each of these students were decapitated as a warning to anyone who wanted to resist the Nazis. Yikes.

After our tour we went and had a look at the view on St Peter’s church. It was pretty nice. The staircase up and down had all this graffiti on it and I tried taking an artistic type picture of Miranda with it... at least Miranda looks nice. My skills, however, are... yeah... now. When we were in the tower the bells went off and that was pretty cool. I felt like I was being bounced out of there with sound. It was scary but neat. We also found these lion statues – there are four of them and one of the other tour guides was telling us that if we touched three of the four we would get lucky either in love or financially. If you touched all four you were being greedy!

We said our goodbyes to Munich and Europe in general as we caught the train to the airport and then had to sit around and twiddle our thumbs for about two hours. I had another ice-cream sandwich and for some reason they were playing Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” on the television – which I love.

We got on the plane and came back to London! Good to see Founders again – very excited about the ball. Overall, an excellent Europe trip! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it – there’s another whole trip to come so I’ll keep you posted!

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