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Phespirit goes to Germany
Munich     May 2004

With all due respect to Munich, it was only Phespirit's seventh choice destination for a brief holiday at the end of May. He was unable to find any suitable flight and/or hotel availability for Budapest, Berlin, Bruges, Nice, Dublin or Hamburg, so Munich is where he ended up - which was no bad thing as it turned out. This initial subdued enthusiasm was solely the result of one dimensional reviews from others who have been to the city, almost exclusively for lager-fuelled stag weekends or the Oktoberfest. In such circumstances the place is reduced to a mere venue, where the existence of local character and culture is strictly incidental. Phespirit drank no lager and was rewarded with a diverse and sophisticated European metropolis.

After pitching up and dropping his bags off at the Hotel Mark, Phespirit started out with a unscripted early evening orientation stroll around the centre of town. This would take in more territory than a glance at the map had led Phespirit to believe possible. Staring at the Hauptbahnhof (central station) his route covered: Karlsplatz, Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, Max-Joseph Platz, Maximilianbrücke, Friedensengel, a kilometer around the Englischer Garten, the Hofgarten, the Karolinenplatz obelisk, and finally back via Karlsplatz to the Hauptbahnhof. All in just a couple of hours.

For a full overview of the city, Phespirit ascended the towers of Frauenkirche, Alter Peter, Neues Rathaus and Olympiaturm. The view from these vantage points confirms that the heart of all activity is Marienplatz, with the Neues Rathaus and its glockenspiel clock. It is reassuring, in these days of high technology and low attention spans, that hundreds of people can patiently stand together in a mediæval town square, still captivated by the wooden figures of a century old glockenspiel clock on a Bavarian town hall; still ooh-ing and aah-ing as the gold knight strikes the silver knight in a jousting contest; still finding simple pleasures in the novelty and craft of an bygone time.

At the outskirts of the city is the vastly splendid summer palace of Schloss Nymphenburg. Here Phespirit lowered the tone in Die Schönheitengalerie König Ludwig I, otherwise known as King Ludwig I's Gallery of Beauties. This collection of portraits, painted by Joseph Stieler between 1826 and 1850, was intended to preserve the likenesses of those whom the King considered the purest examples of contemporary female beauty. Phespirit wasn't inclined to agree with Ludwig's somewhat hackneyed German vision of idealised womanhood. Nonetheless, he rated the top three as: (1) Lola Montez, (2) Wilhelmine Sulzer, (3) Auguste Strobl. Lola, the re-branded Irish dancer, was one fling too many for His Majesty .....

Still further afield, he visited the village of Oberammergau, along with Schloss Linderhof (under scaffolding) and Schloss Neuschwanstein (overawing), the sumptuous castle retreats of King Ludwig II. Having initially underestimated the city and its outlying sights, Phespirit inevitably found he lacked the necessary time to absorb all it had to offer. So he'll just have to come back some day, that's all.

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