Liquid Gold, and other Munich History

After sleeping in and taking the morning off, it was high time for an authentic Bavarian meal so I headed to Augustina in Marianplatz, the city centre square. I had just enough time for a hearty potato soup and an open-faced ham sandwich. Pork is the plat du jour just about every day, at every meal. But the flavour is superior to our pork at home, it seems to me artisanal, probably local farm-raised animals and more art put into the smoking.

I joined a large group in an excellent walking tour of the city centre learning much about Munich’s history along the way. The city has suffered much. When the plague swept through Munich 24 times, the city, willing to try anything, thought perhaps the cats were the problem and they exterminated every cat in the city. When they learned later that no, it was the rats that were the problem, they sent missions to Italy to kidnap hundreds of cats to restore the city’s feline population.

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The empire has a long dynastic history in the Wittelsbach family, but for much of their middle history they had only the status of Elector under the Holy Roman Empire ruled by the Hapsburgs of Austria. Eventually they were empowered with their own king, and they had five kings in succession named either Ludwig or Max.

Liquid Gold, or beer as it is known elsewhere, has played a central role in Munich for centuries. They have six breweries. Apparently the Hofbrauhaus was at one time a place women did not visit, particularly no MSE’s, because a trough and drain system was installed under the massive tables men sat at, achieving maximal efficiency, profits and satisfaction in that the men could actually continue drinking beer even as they rid themselves of their previous litres.

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In 1632, during the Thirty Years War when the Swedes occupied Munich, they struck a deal with the city: in exchange for not pillaging and plundering the city they were given 1,000 buckets of beer from the Hofbräuhaus, including 361 buckets of Maibock. Since then, Munchens call their beer “liquid gold.”

In World War I, although the war was triggered by the assassination of heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie of Austria and resulted from a complex series of alliances and treaties, Germany was blamed for the war and Munich was severely bombed and damaged. Bavaria was dissolved and merged with Prussia. In 1933, Munich became the cradle for the Nazi party and the rise of Hitler’s National Social German Workers’ Party. In fact the constitution of that party was drafted and signed by Hitler in the Hofbrauhaus. Munich was once again heavily bombed during WWII.

Munich has taken steps similar to those in Berlin, memorializing various locations where Nazi cruelty occurred in order to educate the young and prevent radicalization. They do not use words, plaques or posters to explain these memorials. For example, there was a central location where armed SS guards enforced a law that required citizens to make the famous salute as they passed the flag of the Nazi party. Many people resisted by ducking down an alley to avoid passing the flag. This has been commemmorated by a line of gold bricks replacing stone cobbles, demarcating the path. The hope is that citizens now will be curious about the line of gold bricks, do some research, and educate themselves about some of the city’s dark history.

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Another tragic Munich event was the terrorist attack on the 1972 summer Olympics, in which nine Olympians were assassinated.

We toured many churches in the downtown core, all of which are Catholic, as Bavaria was the heart of the Catholic Church in otherwise Protestant Germany. The city held a referendum on its reconstruction, and the citizens of Munich opted to rebuild their city in the manner of the original instead of building modern buildings as Berlin has done. As much original walls or fragments were used as possible, and one cannon that was at one time fired at one of the churches remains embedded in the church wall to this day.

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The tour ended in a charming market area with a biergarten and many stands and little shops carrying crafts, cheeses, meats, wine, pastries and just about any Bavarian-style food you can imagine.

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We were warned that the famed Glockenspiel Clock in Marienplatz is the second-most over-rated tourist attraction in Europe, after the astronomical clock in Prague’s central square. Nonetheless, I had to wait in the square for the 5pm carillon accompanied by dancing puppets and a papier mache re-enactment of a battle between knights of Bavaria vs. knights of Prussia. Guess who won?

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A little local colour:

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Jan

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