Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visit to Munich, Germany - Nov. 30th - Dec. 2nd

Friday afternoon, nine of our friends from Nestle and Paula and I left for Munich, Germany (in two cars) to visit the Christmas Markets and the Neuschwanstein Castle.  It is about was about a 5 hour drive from Vevey to Munich.

Living Tradition - History of Munich's Christmas Market.
According to some sources, the Christmas Market dates back to the 14th century: town records first mention a "Nicholas Market" in the Kaufinger Strasse near the Church of our Lady in 1642.  Goods from Oberammergau (about 50 miles south of Munich) and Nuremberg (about 100 miles north of Munich) included such things as gingerbread, cotton children’s wear, manger figurines, and chimney sweeps made of plums and almonds were among the wide range of traditional fare on display.

In 1806 the Nicholas Market changed its name to "Christkindlmarkt", but it wasn't until 1972 that – after several changes of location – the Munich Christmas Market found its permanent home in the heart of the city, at Marienplatz.  In addition, to Marienplatz, there are numerous other Christmas Markets in and around Munich.

Munich (German: Munchen), is the capital and the largest city of the German state of Bavaria. It is located on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. About 1.42 million people live within the city limits. The city's motto is "Munchen mag dich" (Munich likes you). 
Its native name, Munchen, is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks’ place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city.

After we all got settled into our hotels, we had some time, prior to going to dinner, so we visited the Christmas market at Marienplatz (Mary's Square), which is the largest square in Munich and corresponding has the largest Christmas Market in Munich).  Marienplatz has been the city's main square since 1158.

The next six pictures are of the Christmas market at night.

Under the Christmas Market sign, at Marienplatz, are part of our group.  From left to right: Mark, Paula, John, Cindee and Patty.

One of the buildings in Marienplatz decorated for Christmas.

It was cold in Munich, but clear.  This is a picture of Marienplatz with the moon shinning above. Truly an amazing experience.  

It is hard to tell from this picture, but the market was jam packed.  It was difficult to get close to the booths to see what was being sold.

Crowds at the Christmas Market.

Another picture of the Christmas Market.

We met up with the rest of our group and had a great "German food" dinning experience.  Around the table, clockwise is: Patty, Cindee, John, Laura, Karissa, Roman, Nicolas, Juan, Mark and Paula.

On Saturday morning we met our guide, Monika (she is standing to Paula's right, in the brown coat), who took us on a 3-hour tour of Munich.  We have discovered that because of the limited time that we have, when visiting cities, it is best to get a guide to show us the most important sites of the city. 

The first place she took us to was Konigsplatz Square        (German for "The King's Square") - see next three pictures.
The buildings in this square are from the 19th century.  The architect modeled them after the Acropolis in Athens. Today these buildings house Munich’s art galleries and museums.
During the Third Reich, Konigsplatz Square was used by the Nazi Party for staging mass rallies.

The Propylaea -  (Greek for The Gateway Building).
The building was completed in 1862 and was constructed in the Doric style of architecture which was the first of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture.  It evokes the monumental entrance of the Propylaea (gateway) to the Athenian Acropolis. This gate was created as a memorial for the accession to the throne of Otto of Greece, a son of Ludwig I of Bavaria.  The reliefs and sculptures, inside the building, celebrate the Bavarian and the Greek War of Independence. During World War II, the museum was bombed and sustained heavy damage.  It was later reconstructed.
Note – over the course of six years during WW II, Munich was bombed over 70 times, suffering total destruction to many of their homes, businesses, churches and museums.

The Glyptothek (Greek glypto – “sculpture/to carve”).
This building was commissioned by the Bavarian Ruler, Ludwig I, to house his collection of Greek and Roman sculptures.  It was built from 1816 to 1830 in the Ionic style. The museum was originally built completely out of marble. This building was also heavily damaged during World War II.  It too was also later reconstructed. 

State Museum of Classical Art
The building was completed in 1848 and it was built with Corinthian columns, which was the last of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. This museum houses the Bavarian state’s antique collections of Greek, Etruscan and Roman art. The museum building was severely damaged by bombing in World War II,  but was reconstructed and reopened to the public in the late 1960s to display the State Collection of Antiques.

The Fuhrerbau (German for "Leader's Building")
This was a former Nazi Party building.  During the Third Reich, it housed Hitler's office and offices for his closest staff. It is where the Munich Accord was signed in 1938.  This agreement, signed by the UK, Italy, France and Germany allowed Nazi Germany to annex part of Czechoslovakia, which was occupied by ethnic Germans, with out the consent of Czechoslovakia.
Hitler also stood on the small balcony (above the four columns) and gave speeches to incite his followers.
Today this building houses Munich University’s Music and Performing Arts Center.

“The Obelisk” in Karolinenplatz Square.
In 1806 Napoleon had raised Bavaria's status to that of a kingdom.  In 1812 when his army invaded Russia, 33,000 Bavarian soldiers were sent along.  When the war was over less than 3,000 Bavarian soldiers survived.
The monument was erected in 1833 to honor the more than 30,000 Bavarian soldiers who gave their lives.
The monument stands 95 feet high and is constructed out of bronze-plates over brick-stone. The metal was obtained from guns of Turkish battle-ships sunk in the Battle of Navarino/Greece on October 20,1827. At the foot the obelisk is this inscription:
“For the thirty thousand Bavarians who in the Russian War met with death.  They also died for the fatherland’s liberation.  Erected by Ludwig I, King of Bavaria.  Completed on October 18, 1833".

‪‪ The Theatine Church of St Cajetan. St Cajetan was the founder of the Theatine’s, a male religious order of the Catholic Church.

The church, which was built between 1663 to 1690, was ordered built by Ferdinand Maria, King of Bavaria, and his wife, as a gesture of thanks on the occasion of the birth of their son and heir Prince Maximilian II Emanuel, in 1662.

The church was built in Italian high-baroque style after San Andrea del Valle in Rome. The facade, in rococo style, was completed only in 1768. Its Mediterranean appearance and yellow coloring became a well-known symbol for the city.

The Feldherrnhalle (Hall of the Commanders)
This monument was built between 1841 and 1844 at the behest of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, to honor the Bavarian Army.

On November 9, 1923, the Feldherrnhalle was the scene of a confrontation between the Bavarian State Police and an illegal organized march by the followers of Hitler. When ordered to stop the marchers continued; the State Police felt threatened and opened fire. Sixteen marchers were killed and a number were wounded, including Hermann Goring. This was one of the efforts by the Nazis to take over the Bavarian State, commonly referred to as the Beer Hall Putsch (military coup).

Hitler was arrested and sentenced to a short prison term. That's when he wrote "Mein Kampf". Ten years later when Hitler took power, he made this the site of his annual march to commemorate the Beer Hall Putsch.

A Nazi eagle was placed on the building with two 24 hour SS honor guards. Those passing the building were required to give the Hitler salute before being allowed to pass.

The Munich Residenz  (Munich Palace).
This is the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs. The Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is today open to visitors for its architecture and room decorations, and displays from the former royal collections.
In one of the courtyards of The Munich Residenz, they set-up a small Christmas Market.

The National Theatre Munich (Opera House).
This opera house, located in Max-Joseph-Platz, is the home of the Bavarian State Opera and the Bavarian State Ballet. The theatre was commissioned in 1810 by King Maximilian I of Bavaria. It was destroyed by fire in 1823 and was then immediately reconstructed and re-opened in 1825.

St. Peter's Church.
This Roman Catholic Church is the oldest recorded parish church in Munich and presumably the originating point for the whole city.
Before the foundation of Munich as a city in 1158, there had been a Merovingian church (They ruled the region for 300 years during the 5th century) on this site. During the 8th century, monks lived around this church on a hill called Petersbergl.  At the end of the 12th century a new church was consecrated, and expanded in Gothic style shortly before the great fire in 1327, which destroyed the building. After its reconstruction, the church was dedicated anew in 1368. In the early 17th century the 300 ft tall spire received its Renaissance steeple top.

The High Altar in St Peter's.

The Ceiling Fresco in St Peter's.

The fresco represents St Peter being crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill, in Rome, which served as a spring board for the growth of Catholicism.

New Town Hall - in Marienplatz.

The New Town Hall was built between 1867 and 1908. It covers an area of almost 100,000 square feet and has 400 rooms. The 330 foot long main facade, towards the Marienplatz, is richly decorated.  The New Town Hall houses the city government including the city council, office of the mayor and other administrative offices.  These offices used to be housed in the Old Town Hall, but in 1874, due to lack of space, they relocated to the New Town Hall.

The clock tower is 292 ft tall and houses the Rathaus-Glochenspiel. The New Town Hall was one of only a hand-full of buildings that escaped serious damage during the WW II bombings.

The Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
The Glockenspiel dates from 1908, as part of the second construction phase of the New Town Hall.  Every day at Noon, it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century, to the amusement of mass crowds of tourists and locals. The Glockenspiel consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The top half of it tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V  (who also founded the world famous Hofbrahaus – The Royal Brewery of Munich) to Renata of Lorraine. In honor of the happy couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (in white and blue) and Lothringen (in red and white). The Bavarian knight wins every time of course.
This is then followed by the bottom half and second story: Schafflertanz (the coopers' dance). According to myth, 1517 was a year of plague in Munich. The coopers are said to have danced through the streets to, "bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions." The coopers remained loyal to the duke, and their dance came to symbolize perseverance and loyalty to authority through difficult times. By tradition, the dance is performed in Munich every seven years. This was described in 1700 as, "an age-old custom", but the current dance was defined only in 1871. The dance can be seen during Fasching (German Carnival), the next one is in 2019.
The whole show lasts somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes depending on which tune it plays that day. At the very end of the show, a very small golden bird at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps three times, marking the end of the spectacle.

The Mariensaule - (Mary's Column).

This column is located on Marienplatz Square. It was erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years’ War.  It is topped by a golden statue, of the Virgin Mary. standing on a crescent moon as the Queen of Heaven.

At each corner, at the base of the pedestal, is a statue of a putto (a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, sometimes winged). The four putti are each depicted fighting a different beast, symbolizing the city's overcoming of adversities: war represented by the lion, pestilence by the cockatrice (a mythical beast, essentially a two-legged dragon with a rooster's head), hunger or famine by the dragon and heresy by the serpent.

This ended our tour with Monika.  We had lunch and then visited more of the Christmas Market in Marienplatz.

The market, in Marienplatz, was more crowded on Saturday afternoon then Friday night.  In addition, it was getting colder, so we decided to visit the Tollwood Christmas Market.

Most of the booths, at Tollwood, were under heated tents.  The items sold here seemed to be of a higher quality than those at Marienplatz.

On Sunday morning we left Munich for the 2 hour drive to Neuschwanstein Castle.

Hohenscwangau Castle (High Swan County Palace.

This castle, which is located just a stones throw away from Neuschwanstein Castle, was built by King Maximilian II of Bavaria between 1833 to 1837.  

This was the official summer residence of Maximilian, his wife, Maria of Prussia and their two sons Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig II of Bavaria and also built Neuschwanstein Castle ) and Otto (who later became King Otto I of Bavaria).

Next to Hohenschwangau Castle is the annex to the castle.  The King and Queen lived in the castle, while Ludwig and Otto lived in the annex.  It was during these years that Ludwig explored the area around the castle and found the future site for his own castle.  In 1864 Maximilian died and Ludwig succeeded to the throne.

Picture of Neuschwanstein Castle, which means "New Swan Stone Castle", taken from Hohenschwangau Castle.

It is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in Germany. Originally ordered to be built by King Ludwig II, this fairy tale castle is the epitome of neo-romantic style. The famous German castle overlooks the picturesque Hohenschwangau valley and is located only a short distance from the popular tourist town of Fussen.
Construction on the castle began in 1869, but given the exacting tastes of King Ludwig II, progress was very slow going. As an example, it took 14 carpenters four and a half years just to complete the woodwork in Ludwig's bedroom.
The King was an immense devotee of Richard Wagner, even going as far as naming the castle after a character in one of Wagner's operas—the Swan Knight.
Construction was halted on the castle and King Ludwig II was removed by power due to intrigue within his own cabinet. The King himself was rarely concerned with matters of state and was sometimes thought to suffer from hallucinations. However, what frightened the cabinet were the rumors of their possible removal. Under Bavarian law, a King could be removed from power if he was found unfit to rule. The cabinet produced this report and deposed of the King. However, Ludwig's mysterious death—ruled a suicide at the time—suggests that the cabinet was not content to merely remove him from power. This bit of mystery makes the atmosphere of Neuschwanstein one of the most intriguing of the castles in Germany.

Unfortunately, many of the rooms in the enchanting castle remained bare. Only fourteen rooms were finished before Ludwig's death. Yet the beauty of this famous German castle cannot be denied. Inside, the throne room is the picture of opulence. Intricate frescos of angels and other Christian depictions can be found. There is no throne, only a raised dais at the end of the room, as the King was removed from power before a throne could be built.

The castle was initially known as New Hohenschwangau Castle. It was only after the death of Ludwig II that it was re-named Neuschwanstein.  He only spent 170 days in the castle before his death.

The castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castles.  More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer.

The castle has appeared prominently in several movies, such as "The Great Escape", "Around the World in 80 Days", "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" and was Baron Bomburst’s castle in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

A view of the road that leads to the castle.  It was about a 30 minute walk from the parking lot to the castle.  

The next few pictures are of the interior of the castle.

The Entrance Hall
The hall is divided into two aisles. Groined vaults (which are produced by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults) are adorned with decorative paintings.  The floor is covered with beautiful tiles from Mettlach (an area about 290 miles northwest of the castle).

This room was created as the Grail-Hall of Parsifal (from the opera, Parsifal, by Richard Wagner, based on the 13th century poem of the Arthurian knight Percival and his quest for the Holy Grail).  It was designed in elaborate Byzantine style. The 2-story Throne Room with its series of pillars of imitation porphyry and lapis lazuli (a relatively rare semi-precious stone that is prized for its intense blue color), was completed in the year of the king's death, 1886. 

Set in half-domed, golden alcove, the throne platform is approached by a flight of white marble steps. The throne itself, designed in gold and ivory, was never made. The platform is flanked by paintings of the 12 Apostles, and behind the platform is a pattern of golden lions, the symbol of Bavaria.

In contrast to the other rooms, this room is sumptuously carved in the Neo-Gothic style. 14 woodcarvers are said to have worked 4½ years to create this room. The Monarch's bed is covered with richly embroidered draperies. 

Adjoining the bedroom is the small chapel, dedicated to the Patron Saint of the King - Louis IX of France (St. Louis). The richly carved winged-altar is set into the decorated wall, and the altar paintings show scenes from the life of St. Louis. The stained glass windows to the right show St. Louis receiving the last sacraments.

Singer's Hall
This room occupies the entire 4th floor of the castle. The room is decorated as tribute specifically to one of Richard Wagner's operatic heroes, Parsifal. The room was specially constructed for Wagner, where he wrote, as well as performed his works.  Today it serves as the castle's venue for public musical performances as well as the staging of theatrical performances.

The completely intact kitchen shows how modern technology was allowed to take its place with in the atmosphere of the middle ages.  The elaborate equipment includes hot and cold running water and automatic spit roasters.

A view of Marienbrucke (Mary's Bridge) from the Castle.

The bridge was  named after Marie of Prussia, Queen of Bavaria and wife of King Maximilian II and mother of King Ludwig II.

The bridge is 115 ft long and sits 295 ft above the Pollat Gorge, with steep cliffs on both sides. Underneath runs a water fall, from the surrounding mountains, which drains into the valley below.

In 1845 Maximilian II had a wooden bridge built over the Gorge, within a few years it had to be replaced.  In 1866 Ludwig II ordered an iron constructed bridge to be built in its place.

Tourists flock to this bridge because it offers a unique and stunning view of the castle.  As typical tourists, we also headed for the bridge once our tour of the castle was over.

Paula and Patty on their way to the bridge.

A view of the castle from the trail to the bridge.

Part of our group on the bridge.  Taking the picture of her 3 children (from left to right - Roman, Karissa and Nicolas) is Laura.

A magical view of the castle from the bridge.  

On our walk down to the parking lot, we passed this horse drawn carriage, that took people from the parking lot to the castle, about a 15 minute ride.

On our drive back to Vevey it snowed part of the way.  This is truly a beautiful and magical part of the world when it snows.

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