Jewish Danube day 8: Post-cruise Munich tour - 8 September 2015


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Europe » Germany » Bavaria » Munich
September 8th 2015
Published: January 20th 2016
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Up with the lark the next day, we went to breakfast during which time we docked at Passau Germany, back where we had begun our riverboat cruise. Then one last time onto the bus which took us to Munich airport. There our Danube River cruise ended and a small private tour began.

Three couples were met at the airport by Paul Smith who was born in the UK but who had lived in Munich for many years and was a tour guide. He picked us up in his van which was equipped with many, many tour books for us to look at as we didn’t have enough time to stop and look at the many sights of Munich. The first piece of information that Paul gave to us was that the airport was built by Franz Josef Strauss. Strauss was a very controversial Bavarian politician from the 1950s to 1988 when he died. He was a pilot and is said to have played a role in the development of the Airbus.

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Munich is in SE Germany and is the capital of Bavaria. The Wittlesbach family was the ruling family from 1180 and the family provided kings, dukes and even two popes until 1918. Many members of the family married into other European monarchies including Albert Saxe-Coburg from the Northern Bavarian branch of the family, who married Queen Victoria. In 1715 George I became the Havoverian king of England. He was appointed as he was a Protestant and not a Catholic. In 1805 Elector Duke Max Joseph made a deal with Napolean and the duke’s daughter married Napoleon’s son. In 1870 the Prussian Ludwig II inherited the throne at the age of 18 and from then on all power ceded to the Prussians. In 1914 the monarchy was abolished. Paul gave us a very simplistic root cause of WW1: Germany had no colonies and Kaiser Frederick II was jealous of the English navy, the French wanted land back from Germany and the Russians wanted control of the Baltic States from Austria. The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the catalyst for the fighting to begin.

Bavaria is the largest state in Germany. The main religion is Catholicism. It was traditionally a conservative state but Munich was more liberal. In the period 1919 - 1923 Munich was the birth place of the Nazi party.

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Before 1850 Munich was not a big city. There were less than 50,000 inhabitants and it was a city of religion and learning. With the birth of the railways 175 years ago the population of the city rose to 600,000. The rivers were not navigable and so the railways were very important. Today there is a population of approximately 1.5 million in the city, and the Metropolitan area of Munich has a population of approximately 5.8 million.

Munich was also the site of the 1972 summer Olympics and the hostage crisis which resulted in the death of the Israeli athletes. The only memorial to them is a small plaque on what is now a block of flats. The Olympic village and the Olympic Park are still tourist sights.

Skyscrapers are not allowed within the centre of the town and so there is a contrast between those buildings in the centre of the city and those on the outskirts of the city.

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The symbol of Munich is the lion and and the colours are blue and white. The name Munich means little monk. This possibly relates to the fact that before the Wittlesbach family became the rulers of the town, it was then the monks who were dominant. 500 meters above sea level are mounts which contain salt. It is said that the monks charged a toll to allow salt to enter the town. The symbol of a monk can be seen on the ancient city seals. The monk as the city symbol was replaced by the eagle in the early 1300s and then by a lion. The Nazis replaced the lion with the eagle which in turn was replaced by the lion after WW2. The symbol of the BMW automotive business, visible on BMW cars, is the blue and white Munich symbol with an embedded propeller of an aeroplane. The reason for the propeller is that BMW made aeroplane engines before the wars, when they had not yet made cars or motorcycles. BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works) because they originally made engines (motors) rather than vehicles. There is a large BMW museum in Munich, as it is the most famous business in Bavaria - well along with beer ...

We drove past the Nymphenburg Palace with its ornamental canals. This was the summer palace of the royal family. Today it is owned by the Bavarian state. The doors and paintwork are all painted in dark green. This is because the people were illiterate and if they saw a green building they would know that it was a official government building. Ludwig II was born there. His father Ludwig I wanted to build up Munich to become a great city. The palace park is in the French style. In contrast, at that time the rich of Munich owned houses with landscaped gardens done in the English style. Ludwig I wanted to make Munich a great cultural city and built many museums.

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As we drove along we could see the beer tents for the October-Fest being erected. This festival has been popular since 1810 when Ludwig I married Theresa and they wanted the people to be able to celebrate their wedding and so they had a beer festival. Munich is also the home to Loewenbrau beer and as we drove around the city we could see the big copper vats at the Loewenbrau brewery. We passed the Italian museum for which Richard Rodgers designed and built an extension. In all there are 53 art galleries in the city. It was interesting to see that the bullet holes and war damage have never been repaired. This is a reminder to the people of Munich of the war. The Nazi Party HQ building was built in the design of the city and is also extant. This is where Neville Chamberlain signed the Sudetenland agreement in 1938. Also there is a very large university in the city, the Ludwig Maximillian university which surrounds a square with the fountains called Professor Huber Platz. The university was home to the White Rose Resistance Group, a left wing group. In 1943 a janitor found their pamphlets and gave the group away to the SS who barged into the offices of the left leaning newspapers and smashed up the offices and the printing presses. The SS murdered their own people, they carried out euthanasia. Political prisoners were sent first to political camps and then to Dachau as were the work shy and beggars who were condemned there without a trial. The SS stirred up widespread hatred of foreigners and Jews.

We were told that before the war there were about 10,000 Jews living in Munich; about 4,000 managed to emigrate and the rest were sent to the concentration camps. After the war there were about 100 Jews left. Today there is a synagogue and a Jewish Heritage Center but no kosher restaurants. We visited the memorial to Jews which was built in a street that had originally housed a large department store owned by a Jew.

We stopped at the victory arch which was built in 1843 and was built to celebrate the victories of the Bavarian army. It has three arches and shows the lions of Munich pulling a chariot. Today it is a monument to peace. After WW2 it was due to be demolished but instead it was cleaned up and rededicated with the simple inscription “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, urging peace”.

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There are many, many museums and art galleries in the city centre - too many to name, and no time to visit on this quick day tour.. The guide dropped off one couple at their hotel in the city; they met us again the next morning in the terminal. Then it was back to the airport to drop off the couple leaving for the UK later that day, and finally to our hotel which was located very close to the airport. When we checked into the hotel we were surprised to see various people from the tour who couldn’t get home to other countries (especially USA) as they were booked on Lufthansa Airlines which had gone on strike. There was a degree of panic as it was only three days before Rosh Hashannah. Fortunately they all eventually managed to get a flight the following day.

The next morning (Wednesday 9 September 2015) we were up bright and early to fly home. Since we were on El Al as usual, the Lufthansa strike did not affect us. We found one of the couples from our brief Munich tour in the same gate area awaiting our flight to Israel. We asked at the little food counter whether they had anything kosher to eat along with some coffee we desperately needed. They sold us a packet of Bam-Bams - yum that was just what we wanted for breakfast. Oh well at least we did get a snack on the plane.

The flight was fairly short and we were happy to arrive home. The cruise week and its extra day comprised another very full tour with a lovely group of people and some very inspirational learning.

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