The Flight A Boeing Dreamliner has one notable advantage over other planes. The windows have no shades. Instead, one can change the glass transparency from clear to opaque in five steps. That turns out to be a particularly cool feature if you have ever been annoyed at one passenger who keeps opening a window shade while others are trying to sleep or watch a movie—the controls can be centrally disabled, foiling a passenger’s attempt to flood the fuselage with bright light. How did I discover this? No comment.
Orderly From the air one can see that Germany is orderly. Farmland on the outskirts of Munich is divided in neat rectangles of varying crops, distinguish only by the different shades of green in adjacent rectangles. Houses are huddled together with charm; sprawl is unknown.
From the ground, it seems that the roadside vegetation is also well-maintained, but it is easier to discern from the air at what felt like a slower groundspeed. Fortunately, German cars and roads are designed to reduce commute times with white-knuckle effectiveness, carving a 45 minute ride by other standards into a rather thrilling 20 minutes.
We lodged by one of the ancient gates, a defense that proved useless against the angry allies, technically before my time, but city construction barriers proved less penetrable than pre-flight walls. Barriers flower everywhere, like speed bumps with an effective German insistence. An inviting metro entrance was a fortuitous discovery. The underground is teaming with shops and restaurants lining the wide concourses that lead from generously distanced escalators, providing substantial shelter from the varied Bavarian weather—chill winds and irregular showers in late April. At major stops, one can travel in shelter for two city blocks, oblivious to the construction overhead.
Schlockinspiel There is little doubt that the Germans have a history of great music (Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, just to mention the Bs) and philosophy (Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Goethe) but in the fine arts (painting, sculpture, fashion) they lean a little harder on kitsch than inspiration.
The craftwork is admirable and worthy of compliment, if not sincerity, but how many times do we need to see George slay the dragon? Themes are limited. Lederhosen is to fashion as a sledge hammer is to the sculptor’s chisel.
I concede that I enjoyed both the oompah music and the beer.
You might expect Munich, nestled as it is in Bavarian Prealps (a summit cum laude term), to be a hilly city, but such an expectation would prove you to be as ill informed as I. To keep a good-natured diet of liter beer and pretzels unchallenged, the early settlers of München found a flat spot, modestly elevated above the Isar river. As to my personal favorite, I give it to the pretzels. Beer is taken seriously everywhere, but fresh German pretzels, always with salt, sometime with added cheese, or stuffed with a small salad, or filled with what appeared to be a young goat, are unavailable in San Francisco to my knowledge, though I could do without the goat.
The flat streets make bicycles exceptionally popular. Just as in Amsterdam, the bike paths are a lane in the sidewalks, slightly depressed, giving safety from errant vehicles to riders, but that gain is the pedestrian’s loss.
Whether due to the narrow streets or door widths fixed in leaner times, vegetarian options have sprouted on most menus below the attractive photos of slaughtered pigs. I recounted for Rod the claim that the schnitzel’s wiener is flat and tender because the cooks have to hammer the piss out of it. The apocryphal story is a vegetarian’s revenge.
In a small city park, beneath the elevated bronze of the forgotten composer Orlande de Lassus (obviously, not entirely forgotten), the people of Munich have allowed the fans of Michael Jackson to monumentalize their admired singer with a tribute of photos, flowers, and hand-written notes. To HBO watchers, the conviction of someone by profiteers is more convincing than acquittal by a jury of twelve. Perhaps the Germans have seen this movie too many times. Americans have gotten used to the discrediting of of a dead man, like John McCain for instance, by a corporateer, when dead and defenseless.
The Deutsches Museum is remarkable in a few ways. First, it is comprehensive in technology and history, from mining to astrophysics. Many things are put into elaborate settings that give a sense of realism to the unfamiliar, particularly mining. The huge museum keeps a wide array of children and adults interested. I liked the windmills, perhaps because they reminded me of being stoned in The Netherlands.
We visited a fine arts museum (see kitsch above) and the Residenz of prior monarchs. Long after they were disposed, the capitulation of the city to allied bombing and pillage left the extensive, rambling palace without much of the original charm, such as it was. The rooms are littered with apologies for inauthentic replicas and make-dos.
We liked Munich enough to forgive its chilly April weather and hope one day to return.