Maybe there is a name for people’s tendency to travel to cities or even countries distant from the one they’re living in, and there is probably a physiological and psychological explanation for it. Though I know neither the reason nor the name for this inclination, I do know that I’ve also largely adopted the trait. In the year and a half that I’ve been in Germany during this assignment, I’ve really only visited two German cities (Nürnberg and Berlin) — until this October, anyhow, when a friend’s visit finally gave me a reason to explore Munich in a little more detail.
Munich is not new to me, just unexplored. When two other trainees and I drove over in 2011, we probably spent about 24 hours total in the city. I’ve been “in Munich” this year alone maybe a dozen times, but only either to visit friends on a day trip or simply to fly out of the airport en route to some international whim. I started my official familiarization by unknowingly riding the S-Bahn with an invalid ticket — I misread the conditions of my ticket and boarded the train not realizing I could only ride two stops. Oops.
After making sure I had a valid ticket for the next days, the first stop was to the Munich city museum, or Münchner Stadtmuseum. Its five or so levels (I lost track) were a photography-prohibited whirlwind through Munich’s history, beer making, music, and National Socialism. I had thought we’d make it through the museum before lunch, but seven hours after we arrived the announcements for fifteen, ten, and five minutes before closing started. After heading back to Marienplatz, we headed up St. Peter’s Church. I thought there were more tower cranes this year than I had remembered in 2011, but a glance back at photos I took then showed me otherwise. As least the view was as terrific as my memory recalled!
The clouds began to dissipate overnight, basking the next day in full sunlight and making a trip through the English Gardens far more pleasant than images of October in Munich typically depict. The colors were superb for autumn; it reminded me of days back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, now seemingly a world away.
After some wandering around town and a quick lunch, the next stop was the Pinakothek der Moderne, the modern art, architecture, and design branch of the Pinakothek ensemble. The atrium ceiling was massive, but I didn’t find the art quite as inspiring as the collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the weather, the gallery wasn’t super busy, but the works were spaced far enough apart either way not to induce claustrophobia.
There was also a collection of stones on the ground (Das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts by the artist Joseph Beuys), whose interpretation I didn’t immediately grasp. I took a picture of the nameplate, thankfully, and learned afterwards that the material of the work is basalt; each rock has a cone extracted from it that is then lined with felt and clay and reinserted. Now that I know I’ll run out of time at pretty much any museum I go to, I’ll give myself the time to contemplate works I don’t comprehend initially.
Another work was easier to digest mentally. 500 bars of individually-wrapped chocolate were given to Japanese steel workers, who were then asked to create sculptures from the wrappers. Photographing this with only a 16-35 mm lens was a pain — take my word that the origami was nevertheless fascinating to see in person!
As is frequently the case with modern art, two other works left no significant impact on me. I found one chaotic and the other astonishingly simple; this contrast I could understand! With little time left on the museum clock to ponder them I didn’t give it much more thought and headed downstairs to the design area of the museum.
The basement of the museum was a hodgepodge, with one wall seemingly dedicated to Audi products. The taxis in Munich are mostly Daimler, produced in Stuttgart, and now this museum full of Audis!
In my visits to Munich, I never really found a quintessentially-Bavarian restaurant (the shops at the airport, while touristically Bavarian, don’t count as culturally Bavarian!), but after doing a lap around the Olympicapark, Google Maps of all resources found a highly-rated little beer garden. Here, where photography was not banned, I forgot to take a picture. It was nevertheless a fortuitous find on a night where most restaurants were packed solid with soccer fans, and the thoroughly-Bavarian atmosphere made Google’s discovery of the place even more surprising (if alarming). A college friend whom I hadn’t seen since graduation was also in town that weekend for work, so between the good weather, awesome food, and good company my bona fide introduction to Munich was certainly positive.
The final day was spent going out to Neuschwanstein. With the weather looking to be more more favorable in both temperature and precipitation than on past trips, I didn’t mind that this was my fourth or so time back here in the last year.
Or the weather seemed to want to hold up, that is. Later in the day the sunshine waned and the sky turned to grey before the darkness of evening set in.
Out to the west, rain began to fall. The drive back to the Allgäu was largely in a downpour.
The past few times I had been to Neuschwanstein, the Marienbrücke was closed for repairs. It reopened in September, and with it finished for this trip I couldn’t help but take another photo of the castle before heading back to the parking lot. The construction on the west face of the castle also finally finished!
I pulled off the road on the way back to the Allgäu for one last shot of the Schwangau area. As much of a neighbor as this is — without traffic it’s reachable by car in 45 minutes — I still haven’t gotten out here to explore anything beyond the photogenic castle.
It is an odd paradigm, this subconscious urge to travel only to lands farther away than my own backyard. I’m sure sometimes it’s for the sake of flying; indeed, Brian, whom I had met in Geneva and Oslo with other friends and again in Singapore, also looked for routings that maximized his mileage accrual during such trips. Mostly, though, I think it’s a stubborn belief that I’ll manage to check out everything closer “in due time.” But time is running out. Nearly half of my stay is now over, so as tempting as it is to drive to cities for their airports, it may be time to start venturing locally with a more permanent objective.