After a good German breakfast at our hotel in Brannenburg which included pickled gherkins, lunch meats, eggs, fine choices of bread as well as yogurts and pastries — and after we said goodbye to the cows — we were in the car for the easy hour’s drive to Munich.
Kelly and Wendy’s hotel was centrally located and fortunately, though not planned, within walking distance of the train station from where I would be departing late in the evening. Leaving our belongings at the hotel, we set off on foot to explore the city.
Once again we had warm sunshine and blue skies.
Kelly had been to Munich several times and Wendy had read up on her travel guidebook, which I had meant to do but hadn’t, so once again, as in Venice, I happily followed.
I liked Munich; it was a pleasant surprise. It is a modern city in touch with its past, open, cheery and busy in a good way — a city ‘on the move’, yet still relaxed. In Italy, France and the U.K. sidewalk cafes are not necessarily deep, but in Munich the seating outside the restaurants is more communal and can commonly seat up to a hundred people, creating a buzzy, hearty atmosphere.
After checking out some athletic shoe stores — a hazard of travelling with a sporting rep — Kelly began to lead us toward the Hofbrauhaus, one of Munich’s most famous and historic beergardens. On the way we walked through the largest outdoor food market I have ever seen — the Viktualienmarkt. I could have spent hours there. We skimmed through it, but it is a very worthy destination.
At the Hofbrauhaus — and the beergarden party begins ….
One could easily stay all day at the Hofbrauhaus, sitting in the shade of flowering chestnuts surrounded by conviviality, beer, pork hocks and sausage. But Wendy and I each wanted to see the mechanical Glockenspiel perform at the Marienplatz in the late afternoon and Kelly wanted to show us another beergarden at the Englischer Garten.
On the way, we passed through to a large square, the Odeonsplatz, where there was a yellow church which we entered. We had seen several churches in Venice, and I have seen magnificent cathedrals, such as St. Paul’s in London, but this church, the Theatinerkirche, took my breath away. Inside it was all white rococo carvings, flowers and flowers covered every inch and it was as if you were on the inside of a fantastical stucco wedding cake. Unforgettably beautiful.
Off to one side of the Odeonsplatz greenery beckoned and we entered the Hofgarten, passing a lovely cafe and drinking in open parkland on our trek to Englischergarten.
Not far past the striking glass-covered State Chancellory building we crossed the road into another park and in the distance across an open field you could see our destination, a Greek-styled monument, the Monopteros. As happens when one does the tourist thing and you try to be in two places at once, we found ourselves running out of time to get back across town for the Glockenspiel. We knew we had to turn back. As luck, or something would have it, the large green field of grass in front of us was Munich’s nude sunbathing area. We couldn’t turn back before we crossed it. There weren’t very many people enjoying this freedom from clothing — only a handful of men. The sun too had been doing a disappearing act as the afternoon wore on.
It is undeniably strange to see naked men sitting on the grass in a public park. I’m not sure why they were doing it — it seemed more a male-on-male enticement. There was a man of mature years looking comfortable, but not becoming. There was a young blonde man in his early twenties who looked uncomfortable and too self-conscious. All of them were at least twenty to thirty yards from each other. Then, as we readied to cross the field to return back to the city centre a young man stood up proud as could be and strode away from us towards some bushes. He reached them and turned back, loping the field in long strides, his manhood swinging from thigh to thigh. It is an image burned on my retina.
We crossed the field without stepping on any sunbathers and then did an Olympic speedwalk back to the Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel show. Unbelievably, we made it in time. We probably should have ended our day there with a sitdown in a beergarden, but I had wanted to see the River Isar and actually believed there would be a beergarden there. I apologize to Kelly and Wendy for this extra effort — we never came across one and by the time we reached the river we were exhausted. And, of course, then we had another long walk back to the hotel.
Upon all of us collapsing at the hotel, I packed some food for the next day’s breakfast on the sleeper train to Paris. Even though I know they were exhausted, Kelly and Wendy walked me to the train station where we all grabbed a bite to eat and Kelly began to fall asleep. I was glad they saw me onto the train as my ticket was in German and I had no idea where I was going, on to which carriage, which bunk. An English-speaking train assistant translated it for me and Kelly and Wendy waved me away to finish my journey back to Wales as they continued on to Mannheim the next day to see a Pink concert and visit with friends from back home in Michigan.
I do most of my travelling on my own and I am ever grateful for the company of my brother and sister-in-law on this three-day European jaunt. Or, I should say, I am ever grateful for them letting me tag along on their European jaunt. It was a pleasure shared and treasured.