Some people may find this hard to believe but until recently I never had much interest in visiting Germany (slightly odd since a significant amount of my ancestral heritage is German). Some of it I suppose had to do with the language (I’m a Romance language person all the way), the rest, who knows.
When it came time to pairing a city to visit with Prague, Munich ended up being the perfect choice. It is only a four hour drive from Prague, there are ample direct flights from American cities, and unlike other German cities, when it rebuilt following the devastation of World War II, it chose to rebuild its historic look, not just go the modern route like Frankfurt and Berlin. Although I (now) do have interest in visiting the German capital, I’m still a historic city kind of person and so the older the architecture is, the better.
Like all trips, my stay in Munich was much too brief but taking into account the limited time I had, I still think I saw and did quite a bit. So here are my first impressions of this Bavarian beauty.
Munich reminded me so much of Seville, Spain
I know what you’re thinking, a German city reminded you of a southern Spanish one?? Well, yes actually. You see, Munich and Seville are more alike than you’d think (excluding the big fact that the latter was never heavily bombed like the former was). Both cities are not the largest in their countries (those honors go to Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany and Madrid and Barcelona in Spain). And yet, they’re still big, they’re still replete with scores of tourists. Also, regional pride is quite important in both countries as I would discover. The stereotypical Spain one envisions (women in flamenco dresses, bullfighting, arid landscapes) is so evocative of Andalusia, the region that Seville is located in. Well, stereotypical Germany is definitely found in the region of Bavaria, where dirndl and lederhosen, pretzels and those big heart-shaped gingerbread cookies are as common a sight as a pint of beer. But what truly exemplified the whole similarities thing were the squares-plätze is the German word, plazas is the Spanish word. In both cities, you can turn a corner and there is a platz in front of you. Some may be filled with people while others are peacefully quiet.
The past is ever so alive here
One of the things I was most interested in doing was going on a walking tour of Hitler’s Third Reich (full post on that will be coming). Berlin is always the place one equates with Hitler and his Nazis and yet as I would discover, the Nazi party’s origins happened right here in Munich. You can’t walk down a Munich street without there being some reminder of the country’s and city’s recent past, whether it was the house of the owners of the company that published Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf or the bank that’s located where the city’s former Gestapo headquarters used to be. While I’m sure this applies to most of Germany, even 71 years after the end of World War II, in a city like Munich, the birthplace of the Nazi regime, it’s felt all the more.
It has somewhat of a sedate feel to it
Excluding perhaps the Marienplatz (especially when the Glockenspiel would go off) and the outdoor food market Viktualienmarkt, Munich, at least in the city center, didn’t seem overrun with tourists as it was in Prague. Sure, the streets were crowded in some sections, but you could move about easily enough, not be packed in when walking. I also found it interesting that in the city center of Munich you definitely encountered locals, whereas in Prague it seemed like in areas like the Old Town Square, there was nothing but tourists representing a slew of different nationalities, presumably because locals avoid it. Munich is a huge city (its population is over 1.5 million people), but it didn’t feel as big as that. And even in the late morning, the streets were still relatively empty (perhaps a sign of too many dunkels the previous evening…).
It truly is a beautiful city
While pictures I had seen of Munich looked nothing less than impressive, in person the city wowed me all the more. Whether it was the striking architecture of the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) or the more simple yet still charming Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus) or even just the row of random buildings whose window baskets were brimming with colorful flowers, Munich was stunning and a gem to photograph.
My time in Munich reinforced the fact that sometimes the destinations that are never on your travel radar are the ones that completely exceed your expectations and even blow you away.