Saturday, November 5, 2011

Three Chirps (Germany #14)

MUNICH--It’s about 8:30 in the morning (Fri., Oct. 7), and I’m in my tiny hotel room at Hotel Carat getting ready for another busy day of touring. Beige walls with blue gray trim, wine-red dotted carpet, unusual shower with round glass doors that seal when pulled closed (to fit the small space). Put a band aid on my finger this morning after cutting it while ineptly using scissors to un-knot clothesline in the shower (traveling light means frequent cold water washing).
          The weather here is “variable.” After carrying a jacket and umbrella around all day yesterday, I opted to leave them at the hotel when I went out to dinner. Naturally, it rained and turned windy on the walk back. As I passed through the very contemporary railroad station, I still felt that I was entering a time warp since train stations are practically extinct in most American cities.
          I also met the only unpleasant German I’ve encountered since arriving a week ago: an aggressive panhandler who kept shaking a plastic cup at me and insisting even after I firmly and repeatedly told him no. At the point where I was about to really lose it, he gave up and started bothering someone else.
Today, after a history lecture, it’s off to the museums again. (The level of activity makes the time pass quickly; this trip is already half over.) My lecturer/guide is a dark-haired woman named Jessica, whom I judge to be in her late thirties. She’s smartly dressed in a tailored beige top with an olive skirt, black tights, and black ankle boots. As part of her talk on Munich and Bavarian history (a fairly complicated topic), she tells of the significance of traditional Bavarian folk dress: a knot at the waist can mean anything from married to unmarried to virgin! She says Germans from different regions often have a difficult time understanding other dialects.
          After a short bus ride, it’s time for a walking tour of picturesque downtown Munich, which is full of impressive baroque churches and massive construction projects (often disguised by faux fronts). The city's high altitude and proximity to the northern edge of the Alps mean that precipitation is high; rainstorms often come violently and unexpectedly--as I discovered last night. So today, I’m carrying my umbrella again. The range of temperature between day and night can be extreme, as well, so packing for this trip was tricky; before it’s over I’ll probably be wishing for another sweater.
At 11 o’clock, a huge crowd gathers in a sprawling square, craning their necks toward a high City Hall tower, where two 16th century stories are performed daily on a huge, ornate clock (the Rathaus-Glockenspiel). As 43 bells chime, 32 mechanical figures re-enact the first story: Duke Wilhelm V’s marriage to Renata of Lorraine, including a joust with life-sized knights on horseback. In the second story, similar figures representing the city’s coopers dance to provide hope during the plague years. Nobody in the crowd leaves until a very small golden bird chirps three times, signaling the wonderful 12-15 minute show is over.

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