An Afternoon in Marienplatz

Munich: What a city! Beautiful, clean and orderly, and friendly. We both readily chose it over London. The good weather in April definitely worked in its favor as well as ours. On our way here, in a train trip with two long delays and more train changes than we had planned, time passed quite pleasantly in interesting conversations with German businessmen on their way home for the weekend.

So, what’s to like about Munich? Plenty. There was an ease to life here in the abundance not only of basic necessities but also of the stuff that made life gracious and fun. Navigating the city was easy, bakeries with breads and yummy pastries were everywhere, and beer gardens were great fun and very German (at least according to our own stereotypes). And there was definitely no lack of interesting historical buildings nearly everywhere one goes.

Entertainment without spending a cent. On most days, fun and action awaited us at Marienplatz and Odeonplatz, within five minutes’ walk of each other. At Marienplatz, we witnessed impromptu performances by someone or some group playing Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. This, after all, was the land that produced at least two of these three composers and the quality of these performances could be quite good.

On one visit, a chorus of young people from Connecticut sang songs to entertain everyone impatiently waiting for the Glockenspiel. If you preferred to just laze around reading a good book or gazing at trees and blue skies, you could easily happen upon a quiet and lush well-tended park or garden. Somewhere in the distance, you’d likely hear music.

Eating healthy food cheaply. For us, the Viktualienmarkt next to the Marienplatz was a big draw, though it was also dead on Sundays like most commercial venues.

The Viktualienmarkt is among the largest open-air markets in Europe with virtually every kind of produce imaginable. It could put Parisian and Italian markets to shame with its variety. You can blend in with the crowd, enjoying big mugs of beer and sausages around tables under trees, or have a tasty, healthy meal noshing at its many food stands. Here, as at the Augustiner Biergarten, German families easily mix in with tourists.

We had 8-ounce glasses of carrot juice and apple juice, both freshly-squeezed, for less than you’d pay in the US. You could, of course, spend more if you wished and that would have been easy, too. My one splurge was on a plate of white asparagus at a restaurant in the courtyard of the Neues Rathaus (not a house for rats, but a government complex that includes the famous Glockenspiel). Asparagus was not on the menu but it was being sold everywhere and I couldn’t resist asking if the restaurant would prepare it for me.

On a Friday and in the short span of 6 hours at the Marienplatz, we not only went through the usual sightseeing routine but also watched several performances, feasted our senses at Viktualienmarkt, sat in a café overlooking the large square, and stood around among protesters as someone belted out an impassioned speech calling for Israel to leave Gaza. It was the sort of day that we followed with a quiet contemplative romp through the museums the following day.

Sunday was free museum day. We went to the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne. Munich has museums that rival those in London. Its Pinakothek der Moderne offered more to us than the Tate Modern. It had, as might be expected, the largest collection of German expressionist paintings anywhere. But it also had a good number of Picassos, Braques, their contemporaries as well as modern American masters.

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