This post is the third in a series documenting our travels through the Central Europe. I had woken up early morning and walked around the old town.( See previous post – Walking in & around Marienplatz – The Heart of Munich) We now had a heavy and satisfying breakfast at the Hotel am Viktulienmarkt and then left to see the Residenz, the city palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty which was right in the old town area. As we had walked the same route through Marienplatz twice before the day before we decided to change the route and go to the Residenz via a different route.
We first came across the most famous beer hall in all of Munich, the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. It was still 8 am, at this early hour even this usually noisy beer house bore a deserted look. I had the beer they brewed elsewhere but didn’t go to this touristy beer hall itself. Maybe next time!
We soon reached the Max Joseph Platz which is one of the biggest squares in Munich. This huge square has the impressive building of the National Theatre next to the underwhelming exterior of the Residenz itself. Sitting in the middle of the square is the statue of King Maximillian I Joseph after whom the square is named. The square itself was almost completely empty except for a handful of tourists taking selfies with the king!
The Residenz was not yet open so we decided to walk a bit further down to the next big square. The Odeonsplatz is the place where Hitler’s first unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch took place. The beer hall is long gone as is the statue memorial to the Nazis killed that day. Today the square is dominated by the Theatine Church and the Feldherrnhalle ( A structure very reminiscent of a similar one in Florence – Later I read that it was a copy of the Florentine original)
We then saw that the Royal gardens behind the Residenz, known as the Hofgarten. As with most of old town Munich, this too was bombed to smithereens in World war II and has been reconstructed in the original design post the war. I really admire the decision of the people of Munich to reconstruct everything as per the prewar design rather than become a generic modern city.
The Hofgarten is always open to the public and is a small but beautifully manicured garden. The central structure, the pavilion for Goddess Diana was under restoration. Inspite of that the gardens were as photogenic as possible.
We strolled through the gardens till it was time for the Residenz to open. I even got the chance to photograph a pair of Common blackbirds/ Thrush having their breakfast in the lawns.
As the Residenz opened we were one of the first people to enter. This was very important to me because I wanted the only room I really wanted to take photos of, the antiquarium doesn’t look the same if the floor is packed with tourists.
But first came the amazing Grotto fountain in the first courtyard. Made with shells and with a beautiful golden statue of Mercury in the centre. An amazing piece of art lovingly reconstructed post it’s destruction in the war with freshwater shells collected by the citizens themselves.
The next room was the highly anticipated ” Antiquarium”. I walked through the door to the oldest room in the Residenz and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it. The long hall meant to showcase the antiques owned by the royals was as spectacular, if not more than the antique statues it held. Symmetry and colour of the hall was a feast for the eyes. Photos can never do such structures any justice, but I had to try!
I paced the hall having it almost to myself. Admired the painted ceiling, gawked at the amazing collection of statues and tried to take photos which would do it some justice. This hall alone is worth the price of entrance to the Residenz in my opinion.
Reluctantly we moved on from the hall, the Residenz had a lot of rooms of the Royal palace on display & I didn’t want to spend the whole day here. The Residenz also suffered huge damage during the World war. Thankfully most of the art had been moved to safer locales & Hitler had taken meticulous photos of the rooms making reconstruction possible.
There are many wings to the Residenz added by each successive King, each with its own distinctive touch. The furniture of the rooms sourced from different palaces all over Germany to demonstrate the lives led by the Wittelsbach dynasty is in perfect sync with the wall hangings and paintings of the room.
The Wittelsbach’s also had a penchant for collecting porcelain from Asia and have a beautiful collection of porcelain from various eras sourced from different countries in the far east.
There were rooms designed for papal visits, elaborate halls for banquets, royal bedrooms with relatively small beds, room after room filled with art, royal portraits and furniture that was too pretty to use. The free audio guide provided brought the rooms to life and made us spend more time in each room than we would have without it. If not for the audioguide I would have tired of the Residenz in no time.
We visited the reconstructed Royal Chapel which is nowadays an hall for live events. Most of it was barricaded off so I didn’t feel like taking photos from awkward angles that won’t do it any justice.
We finally moved into the massive Ancestral Gallery which holds the portraits of all the members of the Wittelsbach dynasty. These portraits were hurriedly hacked from their frames in the war just in time before the room was bombed. So thanks to that the art survives and has been restored to its former glory.
After spending almost 3 hours reliving the life and times of the Wittelsbach dynasty of Bavaria. A long but interesting lesson in history, but more importantly of the pride and effort of the German people to restore their heritage to its former glory inspite of the reverses of the World war. It would have been far to easy to sit and mope about the loss, but Germany rebuilt and is a powerhouse that most of Europe tries to emulate today. The reconstructed & restored Residenz of Munich in all its royal glory is proof of that.
We moved out of the Residenz and towards the English Garden which was the next place on the agenda for the day. The bleak cloudy morning had given way to a sunny afternoon. Ideal for roaming the huge gardens. But that is topic for another post , another day.