Wednesday, March 5, 2003 - My first day in Munich was a sunny spring day. From the Munich Hilton, it was a short walk to Marienplatz, the city's most active and lively square. It's been the center of city life since the 1100s, and even midweek it was full of shoppers and walkers. The heart of Marienplatz is the New Town Hall, famous for its Glockenspiel. At 11am, noon and 5pm, the clock rings out four tunes as court jesters, jousting knights and soldiers parade around the king and queen.

I had a hearty Bavarian meal at the outdoor tables of the Weisses Brauhaus, complete with a large weissbier, of course. Then I wandered the streets north of Marienplatz. A large yellow building caught my eye, the Theatinerkirche. The church began construction in 1659, but took another 200 years before it was completed. It overlooked the small Odeonplatz, and nearby was a small city park, the Hofgarten. Despite the warm day, there was still snow hiding in the shadows of the park. Munich had a late winter, with heavy snows coming at the end of February. I was thankful that for my visit, it was clear skies.

As I walked along a narrow street, I came across a large building with two lions alongside the main doors. As locals passed, they reached out and brushed their right hands along the mouths of the lions. The spots were shiny from constant rubbing. I found out later that this was the Residenz, the former royal palace that now houses a large museum. Alongside Residenz was the Max-Joseph-Platz. Munichers filled every sunny spot, basking in the weather and watching the city go by.

The cobblestone streets led me to the famed Hofbrauhaus, the royal brewery founded in 1589. This large festival beer hall has a lively atmosphere that helps overcome its tourist appeal. I made a point to return later in my visit to sample the nightlife.

I ended up east of Marienplatz at the Viktualienmarkt, a bustling outdoor market with produce, cheeses and of course a bier garden. Entertainment was provided by a local whose parrot had flown into the trees. He managed to lure it down with a cracker poised on the edge of his beer glass.

I wanted to get sense of where I had been walking all day, so I climbed the 300-foot spire of St. Peter's Church. I looked down on the Viktualienmarkt, which seemed so tiny from up above. But nothing could make the Frauenkirche look small - this impressive church dominates its surroundings. The towers were erected in 1477. An elevator was installed in the south tower, but it was closed for Ash Wednesday, which is why I hiked up all the steps of Saint Peter's. The view was definitely worth it.

As evening fell, I walked back to the hotel, passing the quiet Isar River. I met up with my friend Heidi and we went to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner. Our conference began early the next morning, so we skipped the beer hall and took a short walk before returning to the hotel. next>>

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