After World War II most of Germany was bombed to smithereens. Much of the wealth and culture that had made the country unique was buried under rubble, but remained vivid in the memories of the people. In some cities the rubble was buried and modern city was built on top. Many of the memories were bitter and people wanted to move on and forget the tragedies of the war. In other places like Munich some of the buildings in the central area were lovingly rebuilt and preserved and that process goes on to the present day. Today we revisited some of the spots in the central city that Hartmut had first shown us and our students in 1980. The Feldherrnhallen was the spot where Hitler spoke to the masses and people were expected to salute as they passed by to honor the Fuhrer. A back alley provided a quick and easy way for people to avoid this salute without getting into trouble if they were so inclined.
We spent the majority of the tour at the Residence, the downtown palace of the royal family. It reminded us of many similar royal buildings that can be found in every major city in Europe. Keeping up with the Jones was as important five hundred years ago as it is today. Every king demonstrated his power and wealth accumulating stuff and building more places to display it. The residence had a vast porcelain collection, initially brought back from China and Japan and eventually recreated here in porcelain factories that are still creating beautiful products today. Tapestries hung on the walls of many royal chambers and the lights were turned down low in an effort to preserve these works of art. Every item from the mundane to the magnificent was decorated with gold and precious materials. It was fun to see, but there is no way I would ever want to live in such an opulent, but uncomfortable place.
Then we walked to Marienplatz, the downtown Munich spot where every tourist comes at noon to watch the glockenspiel rotate on the New Rathaus, a government building constructed in the 1800's to replace the nearby Old Rathaus originally constructed 500 years before. The building was festooned with red flowers even though it was quite cold today. Most of the tourists spoke German. Americans must be fair weather visitors to Munich for the most part. We went to the basement of the Rathaus where government officials used to gather for lunch to have an authentic German meal. Eating there made us feel like part of history. The traditional German menu leans heavily toward meat. No other country we have visited has so many versions of sausage.
The sky was bright and blue as we returned to the Olympic Village, so we took a detour up the TV tower for a panoramic view of the city. We could see clearly right below us, but a thick layer of smog obscured the nearby Alps.