Harper and I got little sleep on the train. A dense porridge of excitement, noisiness, and an inability to get comfortable left us sleepless. Luckily, the simple joy of traveling and seeing a new place kept us going. We were cars running on gas fumes – we’d have enough to get to the next gas station.
We gathered up our things as the train pulled into Hauptbahnhof, the central train station.
We’d arrived – München. Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
What brought me to the capital of Bavaria is not typical, although my reasons for traveling to certain places rarely categorize under typical. The Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy Symphonic Concert was premiering in Germany for the first time, ever. I have seen the concert once before with my best friend, Amanda, at the Boston Opera House. But now, to go to Germany? At once it was an excuse and reason to travel. Once I shared the music with Harper (so called because she is a harpist at the Conversavotirum van Amsterdam), she eagerly agreed to accompany me to Munich. Using music to convince a musician to join you usually works; I was pleased to have a good friend journey with me.
We arrived at 7:30am, March 2nd – a Saturday — and we seemed to be the only ones awake. Munich was quiet and grey. Europe, it seems, values its sleep (as do I). We walked without true aim, only following the growth of grand architecture and heading towards a gothic spire that pierced the distance. We stumbled upon Karlsplatz and walked down the plaza of shops, marveling at it and soaking in the reality of being in Germany. Soon, Karlsplatz gave way to Marienplatz, and we gasped.
The Glockenspiel – a masterful piece of gothic architecture and just…breathtaking, in the true sense that its sight inspires your brain so that, for a moment, it forgets to communicate with the lungs. Best of all, we were the only two souls in Marienplatz.
A young couple later came over, and wished to get their picture taken in front of a fountain. I drudged up what scraps of German I learned in my elementary courses I had taken my Freshman year of college.
“Ein, twei, drei…kaas!” I said, a bit softly, bashful of my hack-and-slap German.
They thanked me, and then, surprisingly, broke out in rapid Dutch! Even so, an impasse was still reached, and the apparently stupid expression on my face made that much clear.
“Oh, so sorry; we thought you were Dutch!”
Harper and I grinned ear-to-ear at each other. Our Dutch assimilation was a success!
Our stomachs growled, and Harper led us to a cute café she noticed on Marienplatz. We sat down, a decent view of the Glockenspiel in our sights. We ordered a traditional German breakfast, plus tea and fruit salad. A platter of breads, butter, jam, croissant, cheese, ham, and boiled egg came out, placed like an art installation. The sheer amount of food surprised us, pleasantly so. Gezellig was found in Munich.
Refueled and armed with Lonely Planet’s guide to Munich, we went out once more but were surely no longer alone.
The Glockenspiel itself is like a very, very, very large cuckoo clock (which originated in the region). At 10am, 11am, noon, and 5pm, it rings out its some forty bells. The central tower has many painted, wooden figures, and comes to life as the bells chime. The figures tell a true tale of a medieval jousting match. The top ring shows the merriment and joy, and the knights pass one another unscathed – but upon the second turn, one knight falls back, defeated. Beneath, men dance jovially holding garland, reminiscent of the festivities of May Day. All the while, the gorgeous bells ring, chiming and dinging a soundtrack to accompany an enchantment such as this.
My spine tingled, I did not breathe, and I smiled. With each turn, movement, and song, I found myself in disbelief. This building was centuries old, centuries old, and still sang, still turned, to the delight of natives and foreigners alike. Still in a stupor of the magic (for truly, I find no word more suitable for what I watched), we stumbled across Frauenplatz, where we found a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was a gorgeous place, and indeed, it was the spire of this Church we had followed to find the city center in the first place.
“If this is what they mean by staying in a ‘woman’s place’, I’m cool with it!” I joked, as Frauenplatz loosely translates to “Woman’s Place”. We snapped photos and such in the Church before adventuring to find the Philharmonie am Gasteig where the concert would take place that night. We crossed over the Isar river and walked through a quiet park. We passed a garden beer house – sleeping in the day, waiting for summer and waiting even more for Oktoberfest. It is that week that the city gains 600,000 people, every beer hall, bar, and pub filled to the brim with travelers thirsty for a stein of Germany’s best beverage.
Just a little staircase up, and we found the Philharmonie. The doors were unlocked; we took a look inside. As with all things, we found it quiet – only to know it would not be the next we saw it. Each place that day, we saw first undisturbed. I could hear a trumpet in the concert hall, and muffled voices; musicians were warming up and practicing, while technicians tuned the technology needed for the evening. The hall was very modern, but still warm – a difficult blend for contemporary designs at times. We glanced at the concert hall itself, the seating staggered in segments so no seat was a bad seat. Wooden panels provided great acoustics, and a screen was hung for the video that would play to accompany the orchestra and choir that evening. I could feel the excitement flutter in my stomach.
From there, we got a bit lost – the scrap of a map I had did not help. With a double-back and deep map interpretation, we managed to get to the Viktualimarkt. The large, outdoor market bloomed with color and wafted with delectable scents of cheeses and meats. Meat, by the way, is a revered substance in Bavaria. In my short time, I had noticed two boar statues, a carving of a butcher slicing meat, and a painting of a pig.
We wound through the market, noses massaged with great scents in the mild winter day. At the center of the market rose a Maypole, and I wondered what the market looked like in the spring. I bought a delicious dry rub (I hope to grill some steak with the rub when the weather improves; a great-looking grill sits on the roof terrace of Funenpark). We tried a native Munich cheese at a popular stall, marveled at the hundreds of tea tins at another, and smiled at a little boy who was petting a painted cow statue.
The sun was setting, and the air started to nip us moodily. That’s when I noticed the soup stall, and floated towards it delightfully. I am soup obsessed, and miss no opportunities to try new soups. I recognized few words in the soups, but noticed one that had beef. The young woman taking orders first spoke in German, then switched to elementary English when she noticed my German was rather poor.
“What else would you like in the soup?” She asked.
“Uh, I, uh…don’t know. What do you recommend? What’s good? You know best!” I said.
“How about the beef soup with pancakes?”
“Pancakes? …sure!” I said, surprised. Harper and I settled with our German pancake and beef soup at a wooden bar outside the little shop. The steam soothed our chilled faces. At first glance, I wouldn’t have even thought there were pancakes in it – they were cut as noodles, and had the same golden color. One bite of the soup, and I was spun dizzily into delicious heaven.
Warmed by the soup, we went to St. Peter’s Church. A little boy put a coin in the donation box, and watched as the little church model inside came to life with moving people. He donated again to watch the show. As we wandered around the Church, quietly, I suddenly stifled a yelp. In one section of the Church, a skeleton lies in a glass case, garbed in gold and gems, with glass eyes staring out from empty sockets. I knew the relic was here, but it surprised me. Here was Saint Munditia, an obscure martyr, brought here from the catacombs of Rome in the 17th century. Seeing a real human skeleton, decked out in jewels and clothing, was nothing short of unnerving. She intrigued me, despite my initial shock.
With one euro each, Harper and I then ascended the tower of the Church – all those steps. I huffed and puffed, climbing and climbing and climbing and…climbing. But it was worth it once we reached the top. Munich spread out before us, just as the Glockenspiel chimed once more. I could see hordes of people watching the clock from Marienplatz. The sun was setting, giving a glow and fire to the orange tiles of the roofs. I noticed that the cage around us, preventing us from plummeting to our death (would I be decked out in gold and jewels then, too?), had locks on them. Padlocks. Some with initials, or hearts, or dates. Why were they there?
Then I realized – people proposed here. The dates and initials were engagements. The locks changed meaning completely, then. I smiled. As we started moving back towards the entrance to go back down, down, down, we stumbled across a bachelorette party, each bridesmaid and bride adorned with colored veils. It was their “hen’s night”, as they call it. I thought to the locks on the cage. As we moved back, the bells of St.Peter began to ring. The entire tower shook and swayed. I was terrified and elated. The vibrations of the great bells were in my bones, and I could feel the power of history, of faith, of the city – and most of all, the power of people.
One delicious German meal and city run later, we were back at the Philharmonie, settling into our seats with no time to spare. Minutes after we found our seats, the Munich orchestra and choir came out, soon followed by the conductor and coordinator of the travelling worldwide symphonic Distant Worlds concert, Arnie Roth.
They opened with Liberi Fatali, an intense and dramatic song from Final Fantasy VIII. I remembered the same song performed by the Boston Symphonic Orchestra, and was excited to see another orchestra perform. Similar jokes, same songs, but also new ones – new arrangements, performances I had never seen. Susan Calloway was a guest singer, who was the one the composer of all this music, Nobuo Uematsu, had chosen himself. I laughed and smiled at the Chocobo Medley, and cried during the powerful new song, Answers, which had the weight and emotion of a great hymn.
A standing ovation brought about the famed song that ends all concerts – One-Winged Angel, from Final Fantasy VII, reminiscent of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana. The Munich choir was good, but the entire night was made by the voice of Susan Calloway and the brilliant orchestra. Drunk on impeccable music, I escort Harper back to Hauptbahnhof – she had to take the train back to Amsterdam in order to practice for an upcoming recital. We embraced, and I made sure she didn’t accidentally board the train to Paris.
Alone now, music fading from my ears but being cemented in my memory, I took a taxi to the hostel and melted into the top bunk bed. I had another day, another concert.
“Gute nacht, München,” I said softly, nestled under blankets in the center of the city.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I'm Kaylie Crawford, a tea-drinking writer with a desire for travel and poor coordination skills. I hail from the small town of Dracut, Massachusetts, and study writing at the gorgeous Ithaca College in New York. Besides doodling, snapping photos, and reading, I love adventuring with friends (or just staying in with a home-cooked meal and a movie). I plan to see the world and meet the many beautiful people in it, and share my shenanigans with others in hopes to spread some smiles.</span></p>