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Happy Birthday, Munich

We had a six hour halt in the city of Munich on our way to the Bavarian Alps. We reached Munich at about 6 am on the morning of Saturday June 19. Munchen is the capital city of the state of Bavaria, Germany. We decided to start our Munich sightseeing at the very heart of the city and made our way to the Marienplatz, the popular and always crowded central public square of Munich. In the center of the Marienplatz is a tall marble St. Mary’s column in whose honor the square gets its name (Marian=St. Mary, Platz= Square). The neo-gothic Neues Rathaus or the New Town Hall, forms one edge of Marienplatz. The central tower of the Rathaus is home to the famous GlockenSpiel, a musical clock which plays thrice times a day. From one end of the square we can see the old Town house, painted in bright red and blue looking like a tower from a fairy tale. We reached Marienplatz at the early hour of 7 am, expecting to find the square empty and deserted. However when we reached there we found it teeming with activity with a horde of people bustling about the place. It turned out that the birthday celebrations for the city of Munich was to kick off in a couple of hours from the Marienplatz that very day.

The Old Town Hall at Munich
The new Townhall Neus Rathaus

St. Mary’s column at the Marienplatz in the backdrop of the cathedral
The famous Glockenspiel at the Neus Rathaus

While waiting for the celebrations to begin, Seejo and I decided to take an early morning stroll in the famous Englischer gardens. These gardens, (in)famous for the its nude sunbathers, is in fact the largest city park in the world, right in the heart of Munich . We strolled along a scenic walking trail around the beautiful park along with early morning bikers and joggers and other fresh air enthusiasts. The landscape design of the Englischer garten seemed to have encompassed it all…a tiny stream running through the park, huge grassy meadows on either side, a Greek Parthenon like structure on the small hillock, a beautiful lake on one end as well as a Chinese Pagoda with a nearby beer-garten. We walked for a couple of hours through the garden, admiring the greenery and the sheer vast area that made up the park.

Photographs of the Englicher Garten

The Pagoda at the Englishcher Gartens

We made our way back to the Marienplatz where by this time the birthday celebrations of Munich were in full swing. There were several locals dressed in traditional costumes, men in the uniform of the Bavarian soldiers and women in the traditional outfits complete with embroidered aprons. At the center of the square with its back to the Rathaus, there was a makeshift stage with a few musicians and entertainers playing folk and jazz music. Opposite the Town hall , there were tiny makeshift shops where the vendors sold bratwurst and weisswurst, the traditional German sausage best eaten with mustard. From the center of Marienplatz, slowly spreading out in all directions, street vendors and shopkeepers had displayed their wares, setting up a huge marketplace. Tourists catching huge mugs of beer, sampling bratwursts and clicking photographs were all over the square. To complete the carnival atmosphere, dancers on stilts with their bodies painted green and clothed in outlandish costumes were dancing around the stage.

The famous bratwurst at Marienplatz
Dancers and Entertainers performing at Marienplatz

People in the native dresses of Bavaria

The crowd was reaching its peak, and was craning their necks looking at the Glockenspiel for the musical routine to start. The street musicians obediently lowered their volume allowing the music of the carillon to dominate. The tiny enamel plated copper figures of the carillon perform a slow mechanical dance called the Dance of the Coopers whirling and swaying to the music for about 10 minutes. When the mechanism is activated, as it is thrice daily, the brightly colored figures in the lower half of the Glockenspiel also perform a mock jousting duel.

Just as the last notes of the bell tower died away and the rooster on the top of the tower crowed signaling the end of the performance, the street musicians increased the volume of their music and the whole Marienplatz resembled another noisy busy bustling square. We made our way back to the railway station to retrieve our luggage and rent a car to the Bavarian Alps, feeling glad that in spite of the short time we had in Munich , we managed to be part of the city’s 845 th birthday celebrations.

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