Bavaria is a devout Catholic state. Berlin has two huge churches, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche and Berliner Dom, as its landmarks, but Munich has a much stronger presence of religion and traditions of faith that can be seen, heard, and felt at every corner of the city.
I tried to visit as many cathedrals in Munich as possible, and here are some of the pictures I took in the cathedrals I visited.
Although I am not a Catholic, I truly appreciate the sheer beauty of the design of the cathedrals and innumerable works of religious art in them. Every sculpture, painting, and stained glass conveys a unique story and adds to the significance of the place of worship it belongs to. I find it quite impressive that the artworks do not remain simply as artifacts from the past, but form the spiritual experiences and constitute the culture of present day, therefore continuing Bavaria’s strong Catholic identity. I am looking forward to coming back to Germany next spring for a semester abroad in Heidelberg and looking at the local places of worship and comparing them to those in Munich and other places in Germany.
Despite the unsuccessful World Cup campaign in Russia this summer, Germany remains as one of the greatest national teams in football history, having won four World Cup trophies and three European Championships.
The driving force behind the success of the German national team has always been FC Bayern Munich, who produced an endless list of legendary players over last four decades from Franz Beckenbauer to as recently as Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller.
FC Bayern Munich’s 28 Bundesliga titles, 18 cup titles, and 5 Champions League titles (including the historic treble in 2013) give their fans all the right to be proud of Stern des Südens (stars of the South). When Bayern win any of the three competitions mentioned, the players and coaching staff are invited to the city hall in Marienplatz in May to present their trophy and celebrate their successful season with the fans.
2017/18 season was no exception, as Bayern won their sixth Bundesliga title in a row. Although they lost to Frankfurt in the Pokal final the night before, Marienplatz was crowded with Bayern fans hours before the players arrived at the city hall.
This year’s Meisterfeier was quite special, as the 2017/18 season marked the last season of Jupp Heynckes, Bayern’s legendary coach who won the treble in 2013 and came out of retirement last fall to manage Bayern again when they were struggling.
A couple weeks later, I visited FC Bayern’s home stadium, Allianz Arena.
During the stadium tour, I could visit not only the field, but also the locker room, press conference room, and players’ entrance, which was all a very exciting experience for a soccer fanatic like me.
After the tour, I spent an hour in the FC Bayern museum.
The most interesting section was the one on Bayern’s Bavarian roots, particularly the one explaining the origin of Mia San Mia, a phrase that can be found everywhere in Munich.
Mia San Mia is a perfect example of Bavaria’s strong regional pride shown through FC Bayern Munich. I think it is a quite healthy (and economically productive) way to express regional pride, especially in a country like Germany where any expression of national pride has been frowned upon ever since World War II. In fact, at the Meisterfeier a TV screen sponsored by FC Bayern was showing an advertisement of the club initiating Mia San Mia projects in the home countries of their foreign players, through which local youth soccer facilities and clubs for underprivileged children are funded. Munich’s continued support and love of FC Bayern, their growing international fan base, and their immense commercial success, combined with Bayern’s superiority on pitch, show the value of rich history and tradition and how they can help both local and international communities in the present day.
How could one go to Munich and not talk about food!
First, the breakfast.
Frau Frommholz, my host-mother, prepared breakfast every day. A typical breakfast would consist of different sorts of ham and cheese, bread with butter and jam, cherry tomatoes or bell peppers, a cup of juice and tea each, and some sweets. The outward appearance might not look particularly special or strikingly different from American breakfast. However, the uniquely German way of eating breakfast that the picture above does not capture is that one always lays ham (and/or cheese, boiled eggs, and vegetables,) on top of a piece of bread, cut them into smaller pieces, and eat them together.
Frau Frommholz also made really delicious blueberry cakes!
For lunch, I often went to Viktualienmarkt, which is located right next to Marienplatz and is always crowded with both locals and tourists.
My favorite place to get lunch in Viktualienmarkt is a beer garden in the middle of the marketplace and serves varieties of pork dishes and beers. I ordered the same dish every time I went, which is shown in the picture above: knödel (potato dumpling), sauerkraut, and schweinsbraten (roast pork).
Next to the garden is a soup place.
Chicken noodle soup and pumpkin soup were always quite good.
My favorite kind of soup, however, was asparagus soup, which I ordered often at the soup place in Viktualienmarkt and also at another go-to restaurant of mine called Steinheil 16.
To my surprise, asparagus is the most beloved vegetable in Germany. In fact, the asparagus season in Germany is from mid-April to June 24th (St. John’s Day), so Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt were always crowded with vegetable stands selling asparagus.
And of course how could I say no to a good wiener schnitzel!
One of the strongest memories of my time in Munich this summer is that of my visit to the Dachau concentration camp. The concentration camp lies just outside the city of Munich and next to the Dachau Schloss, the beauty of which is unfortunately often overshadowed by the presence of the Nazi concentration camp.
I participated in a group tour led by a German tour guide, and we arrived at the entrance of the Dachau concentration camp after an hour-long train and bus ride from Marienplatz. Dachau was the first concentration camp the Nazi regime built and at first held political prisoners as captives. Dachau was not an extermination camp like Auschwitz. However, the words on the gate welcoming the new victims hinted at a no better future:
“Arbeit macht frei,” or “Labor will free you.” These delusory words gave the prisoners entering Dachau a false hope that they may be released if they work hard. In reality, the words meant that death by labor was the only way of escape, and the painful irony was only followed by the desolate landscape of the camp.
Walking through the Dachau facilities preserved from the time of World War II, the tour guide explained to us that as Dachau began to imprison a broader range of population – including Jews, Jehovah’s witnesses, Catholic priests, and homosexuals – the Nazi officers developed a very intricate system of labels to categorize and assign to every prisoner.
The 20-minute documentary film we watched gave us a more detailed look into the atrocities done at Dachau The prisoners were subject to absurdly strict or haphazard rules by the Nazi officers and, as a result, received harsh punishments that often lead to death. Not unreasonably, many prisoners chose to commit suicide by throwing themselves to electric fences or deliberately crossing the boundaries of the Dachau, which forced the guards to shoot them.
Lastly, we visited the crematorium, which was used to burn all the corpses in the camp. The guide told us that towards the end of the war, Dachau did not have enough coal to burn all the corpses, so endless piles of corpses just lay outside of the crematorium for weeks.
The visit to Dachau was full of intense emotions. It is quite remarkable and commendable that a visit to a concentration camp is a requirement for all German schools – a show of the culture of remembrance, die Erinnerungskultur, in Germany. The reason must be that Dachau is not simply a historical artifact. Rather, in this age of ever-increasing hatred and discrimination where the geist of National Socialism still lurks around and haunts us, Dachau sends a strong message to us that is summed up in this epitaph of this statue: