Spring has given way to Summer here in Munich during the past few days, with sunny skies and temperatures reaching 80 degrees by mid-afternoon. This past Friday, we took a day off from sightseeing, opting to relax after attending to some domestic chores.
Yesterday we were invited to lunch by our friends Peter and Rosita at their home, a beautiful apartment located about 3 miles west of the Old Town. Peter was kind enough to make the trip to our place by bus, so he could familiarize us with the bus route, and to provide us with some tickets.
Munich's extensive public transportation system is as elaborate as it is impressive--with subways, street trams and buses--and, like everything else here in Germany, it appears to operate like a well-oiled machine.
We arrived at their apartment to find Rosita in her kitchen preparing a meal of fresh spargel (white asparagus), ham, boiled potatoes and a delicious rhubarb, strawberry parfait for dessert. Wow, what a special treat for us to enjoy an authentic, home-cooked German meal like this one!
We shared some great conversation, while admiring the beautiful rose gardens of nearby neighbors, before our hosts offered to accompany
Rosita's luncheon feast
White asparagus, ham and boiled potatoes--alles war ausgezeichnet!
us into the Old Town to see some sights we had missed on our visit earlier in the week, including the Frauenkirche not far from the Marienplatz.
Today our friends escorted us on a tour of the Nymphenburg Palace, the principal summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria from the House of Wittelsbach, and the birthplace of "Mad" King Ludwig II. This palace, together with its extensive park, is now one of the most famous sights of Munich. Built between 1664 and 1675, its magnificent, baroque facades comprise an overall width of about 2,100 feet.
We began our tour in the Steinerner Saal ("Stone Hall"), also referred to as the "Great Hall", which occupies over three floors of the central pavilion of the palace. The sheer size of this grandiose space, with its ceiling frescoes of gods cavorting in the heavens and other lavish decorations, easily make it the most stunning feature of the palace.
Next, we breezed through the 16 or so rooms in two wings that spread out north and south of the Great Hall, including antechambers, audience chambers, bedrooms and private living quarters. Perhaps the most interesting of these rooms was the so-called
"Gallery of Beauties", where the walls are filled with portraits of 36 different women whom King Ludwig I ("Mad" King Ludwig's grandfather) found appealing. Apparently Ludwig I had a reputation of being a skirt-chaser, which ultimately cost him his throne.
The king's public behavior with one of his most notorious mistresses, Lola Montez, a 29-year-old dancer from Ireland (he was 60), became so scandalous that he was forced to abdicate. Her portrait, with a red flower in her hair, is among those displayed in the gallery. Noticeably absent from the gallery is the king's wife, Queen Therese, whose portrait is displayed in the elegant Queen's Study.
After exiting the rear of the main palace, we enjoyed marvelous views of the park and gardens that are part of the extensive grounds surrounding the palace property. The 490-acre park, once an Italian garden (1671), which was enlarged and rearranged in French style, was finally redone in the English style during the early 19th-century. The park is bisected by the long western Grand Canal along the principal axis which leads from the palace to the marble cascade (decorated with stone figures of Greek and Roman gods) in the west.
View from the Main Palace toward the park and gardens.
park is dotted with statues, small ponds and lakes, riding and jogging paths and several pavilions (mini-palaces) built as diversions for the royal residents, who by all accounts loved to commune with nature when they stayed here. Peter and Rosita told us that, over the years, they have walked or ridden bikes through most of the park, as it is only a short distance from their home. However, without a Segway, golf cart or bicycle, there was no way we could do justice to this much acreage on our gimpy legs!
After a quick stop in the palace's gift shop, we drove to the Hirschgarten for a fabulous lunch experience. This amazing biergarten and restaurant, in a gorgeous setting of greenery, is capable of seating 8,000 people under shady chestnut trees or numerous umbrellas. There is a game reserve located directly next to the biergarten, which is home to about 30 deer that approach the chain link perimeter of their pen to accept handouts from patrons.
A variety of foods are available, from rotisserie chicken and all manner of sausages and spare ribs, to whole trout grilled on a stick and freshly baked pretzels. We grabbed a table
Hirschgarten (photo by Peter Zue)
for four, spread out a tablecloth brought by Peter and Rosita, and then lined up at the various windows to make our selections. Of course, the beer was something special--the very famous Augustiner beer, served directly from huge wooden casks into liter-size mugs which, by tradition, must be washed by the patrons themselves.
What an experience! Hundreds of people gathered on a gorgeous day (often many thousands) to enjoy the great outdoors, while feasting on traditional Bavarian food and hoisting huge mugs of beer--without the slightest hint of rowdiness or sloppy drunks staggering around. We witnessed nothing but conviviality, shared by friends and families with children throughout the afternoon, while a brass band played background music! Neither Dee nor I could imagine a scene like this back home; nothing even comparable.
Around 4:30 we walked along one of the pathways in the park, passing many locals with blankets spread out on the grass, or under a shade tree, enjoying the beautiful weather on this Sunday afternoon. Peter and Rosita walked with us to a bus stop where we caught the bus that would deliver us back to our apartment in 30 minutes. All in all, a wonderful day
Great Hall, Nymphenburg Palace
was had by everyone, and our friends deserve a round of applause for their efforts--thanks, guys! Dee's Comments:
On Saturday, after some confusion about where we would meet Peter, we finally made it to their apartment where Rosita was preparing lunch for us. What a lovely time we had with them, and our lunch was wonderful. Afterwards, we made another trip into the Old Town to see some more sights, and had drinks on the Marienplatz before walking back home.
Yesterday we were surprised when Peter and Rosita, who are more like family now, met us in their car for the ride to Nymphenburg Palace. It was a beautiful morning, with sunshine and blue skies, and the views of the palace--inside and out--were like a picture post card.
Then on to the biergarten, where the food was delicious; plus it was so much fun watching the deer, and seeing people consume so much beer from those huge glass mugs! The food, music and company was so enjoyable, and I loved it that our friends brought a tablecloth along--what a nice touch! Thanks to Peter's bus training, we managed to get home by ourselves.
Rosita and Dee
Great Hall, Nymphenburg Palace
have to say about this day is "Wunderbar"!
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