Wednesday, 2 July 2008

A few days in Munich

Jenny was invited to speak at the University of Munich, so I went along to do the tourist bit. I'm posting this at work, and will add some photos when I get home. Edit: well I would, but J has taken the camera to work. Maybe tomorrow.

We were supposed to fly out of Stansted at sparrowfart, so had to be up at 04:45 to get there in time. Distressingly, the plane was delayed 2 hours, so all that pain was for nothing. There were various excuses, but the one I liked best was from the Captain as we taxied out. They'd found a small dent in the side of the fuselage and it was obviously necessary to check it out. That had not taken long, but the supporting paperwork...

Anyhow, we were met by Leo, a Dutch biophysicist working at the University, and he and an American colleague, Bruce, pretty much looked after us the whole of the time. Leo is a really nice guy, but is also the fastest walker I've ever known. "So" he says, in his Dutch accent "shall we go?" and with that, disappears rapidly towards the horizon. He was also incredibly well-organised, with Underground and bus times known to the minute. Bruce is a good lad, too.

On the Sunday afternoon we visited the rather disappointing Pinakotech der Moderne, which is a museum of modern art. Sadly, many of it's large rooms were occupied only by arrays of fluorescent tubes, or plywood boxes attached to the walls. Not what I call art, at all.

We started in a section devoted to art on paper, with a narrow gallery of mediæval works, followed by several rooms of more recent stuff. In the gallery we'd look at a couple of pieces on one side, then cross to the other side for a few more, before re-crossing for a couple more, and so on, working our way boustrophedonically (ha ha! got it in!) along the display.

We weren't keen on much of the stuff in the exhibition, so after a while excused ourselves. Sadly, the silversmithing exhibition we had decided to head for was inexplicably closed, so then we went to the design section, with quite a bit of interesting stuff.

BMW are based in or near Munich, so it was no surprise that a number of the exhibits featured their cars and motorcycles, including wooden mock-ups covered with clay as they explored the shape of the final vehicle. Fascinating, but I think the building wasn't really intended to be the Museum of Modern Art I was expecting.

Wandering around central Munich afterwards, we came across this magnificent plastic sponge dragon! The gallery was closed, but I got in the next day and they let me photograph it. Wonderful! There were several other pieces in sponge by the same artist, but this was the only one I really liked.

I also saw, and loved, this amusing water feature in a pedestrian arcade in the centre of Munich, with the bronze boy trying to stop the water coming out of one of the stone figure's jets. Beautifully done, and a very clever idea.

In the evening Jenny and I wanted to eat in a local Bavarian restaurant, but the one Leo recommended was closed on Sunday evenings. We were actually staying in a hotel in a village on the northern outskirts of Munich, so being unable to eat there, we wandered around until we found a Greek restaurant, which served us very acceptable food and wine. And they were kind enough to let us eat around the corner from the TV screen, so we weren't subject to the footie while we ate.

Afterwards, however, Leo had invited us back to his house for a drink, and we arrived to find him and Bruce settled in front of the telly, so we didn't escape it entirely. And curiously, Germany was rather quiet after the game. I wonder why that was.

On Monday, Jenny went to the University with Leo and Bruce, while I went into town. Leo had said I should visit an exhibition of paintings and drawings by a 19th century German artist called Menzel, of whom I'd never heard, but first I wanted to walk in the Hofgarten, which was close by.

To my delight I found a small private gallery (Galerie Henseler) showing African art, specifically art of the Dan people from the Ivory Coast and Liberia. The link is to an online shop selling stuff, but I include it more so you can see the sort of stuff I was looking at, since the Henseler site only has the one photo. The proprietor gave me a price list, but I only needed to look at it once to know there was no way I was going to take any of it away. The prices started at 20 times what I had paid for my Fang masks!

Then I took in some of the Menzel exhibition. He was an exceptional draughtsman, but I found the whole thing altogether too intense. Brilliant little drawings in sketchbooks added a very human touch to the exhibition, but even so, I found I'd reached saturation point by the time I was about half-way through, so gave up. Museum fatigue, Jenny calls it.

After lunch in the main square, I dropped into St Peter's church, which was cool and atmospheric, but with rather a lot of ornate carving and gold. From there, I crossed to the Asamkirche, which Leo had raved about. This was so extraordinarily over the top, I just sat at the back for 5 minutes, astonished that people should do that to a building. Well, there you go.

We met up at 2 at the Munich Palæontological Museum, where we relaxed and looked at some interesting exhibits. I'd read about Precambrian Burgess Shale fossils and also obviously of the Solnhofen lithographic limestone in which Archaeopteryx was found, but never seen either. (No, I lie. I have seen the London Archaeopteryx but wasn't expecting to see one in this rather small museum. ) I was almost as impressed by the Marella specimen as I was by the Archaeopteryx.

Jenny's talk was in the main body of the University, located in the southwest of the city, so we took the U-bahn (Underground) to get there. It was still a fair hike, as the train doesn't actually go all the way yet, but it was warm and pleasant, so not a big deal.

Although this was supposed to be a prestigious event, there appears to have been no publicity at all, and the audience was a disappointingly small. Considering they'd flown Jenny out especially and put her up in a hotel, (we had to pay for my expenses, no surprise), we think somebody had cocked up big time.

After the event, Leo took us to a biergarten he knows, where we drank very good dark wheat beer (dunkel weissbier) and ate a curious local dish called (something) Knödel mit Ochsenfleish, which translates as some sort of dumpling with beef. It also had a bizarre potato component, with a texture somewhere between mashed potato and jelly. The flavour was good, but the strange dumplings and the weirdly-textured spuds made it an 'interesting' experience. Probably not one we'll repeat!

In the morning we caught a bus outside the hotel. It arrived precisely at 9:35 as Leo had predicted, and took us to the nearest S-bahn station (2 underground systems, S-bahn run by the national railway, U-bahn run by a local Munich firm. Both were spotless and absolutely prompt.) The S-bahn took us to the airport and all was perfect until we landed at Stansted, where our bag did not arrive. Fortunately they have phoned to say it has now arrived and they'll send it to me at work.


Anonymous said...

Will you please post the link of the African Gallery in Munich -i'm going to visit there in few weeks.

Rob Clack said...

Done. Don't know why I didn't add the link in the first place.

Jane.Dudman said...

Totally impressed that you managed to get boustrophedonically into your blog!!

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Just running to catch up Rob, and loved your travelogue and all the photos. I particularly liked the sponge dragon (how clever) - and the bronze boy in the fountain, very witty. M xx