A Glimpse Of Munich
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"I WILL make Munich such a city that no one can say he has seen Germany if he has not seen Munich."
Then Ludwig I. promptly carried out his word and reared buildings, and beautiful statues, and triumphal arches that still show what thought and expense he lavished upon them. Artists flocked to his court and he kept them all occupied carrying out his ideas, and whoever thinks of Munich today, that great paintings, big and little, merry and sad, do not come to mind?
He commanded Schnorr to do those wonderful Niebelungen frescoes for the palace, and Stieler executed for him the exquisite porcelains of the beauties of the Bavarian court. Cornelius embellished his buildings with renowned decorations and Schwanthaler adorned them with imperishable marble.
The Royal Palace is divided into three great parts. The oldest, called the Alte Residenz, contains rooms sumptuously fitted up in the style of the seventeenth century, and here one sees the Pope's rooms, so-called because Pius VI. occupied them for some time. They are furnished in a manner befitting the head of Christendom and are dazzlingly gorgeous. The Treasury contains among other things the Bavarian blue diamond, the great half black pearl of the Palatinate, and the Bohemian crown of the Winter King of Bohemia, Frederick V. In the Reiche Capelle are costly objects in gold and silver, some the work of the master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, and a tiny little pocket altar exquisitely enameled, formerly in the possession of Mary Queen of Scots.
A newer part of the palace is called the Festsaalbau, as it contains a series of great festive halls. Here are the mural paintings from the Odyssey and in the card-rooms are hung the thirty-six portraits of beautiful women, the greatest work of Stieler. The frescoes and historical paintings add to the richness of these apartments, and in the throne-room are twelve gilded bronze statues over life-size, of the ancestors of the House of Wittelsbach.
The part called the Konigsbau is now occupied by the Regent, and on the ground floor are the frescoes illustrating the old Niebelungen legends, which are so famous no sightseer can afford to miss them. It was Ludwig I. who added so extensively to this palace, and then with a kingly grace he gave the new part for which he paid from h?.s own privy purse, to the city of Munich. The people loved him for it, but when the fascinating Lola Montez, an actress, cast her charms over him, that was a very different matter, and the honest old Bavarians, having no patience with such nonsense, vociferously insisted that she leave town, until the foolish old King felt he must suggest to her the pleasures of traveling. However, when he died in 1868, they overlooked his weaknesses, and remembering only he had made Munich rank with the foremost cities of Europe, they buried him in a worthy tomb in the Basilica.
Munich is different from other places. It has the advantages of a city, yet retains the quiet of a town; and there is so little activity in the broad streets a blind man could cross safely without even his indefatigable dog. The frank, open-hearted Tyroleans in their old green felt hats, into which, like Yankee Doodle, they have stuck a feather, stroll along the side-walks, always gazing into art-store windows, and everyone has a "Guten Tag" and friendly feeling for everyone else. The weather-beaten old cabmen would not cheat any one out of a pfennig, and the trades people take down willingly everything in their shops to show, without even the least suggestion that you should buy; they tell you how Munich used to be when they were young, and all seem to have leisure to enjoy an old-time visit at any hour of the day.
One never knows economy until he sees Germany. There is absolutely no waste; with the hausfrau thrift the clothes are patched and darned until they could be used as checker-boards, and when one sees these sturdy peasant women cleaning the streets and raking leaves in the parks, Hercules himself would have saluted their strength and endurance, but to watch them crushing stones for the road-bed makes one see the need of Woman's Rights in Germany!
Munchen takes its name from the German for monks, because they formerly owned the land, but the monk has now given way to the soldier, for every other man is in shining uniform, and the military bands play so entrancingly crowds always gather in the squares at noon to hear them, dreaming of the wonderful things they cannot do when the music is over.
There is no place in the world where Wagner's operas are better given than in Munich, and even the most bored American who yawns when Wagner's name is mentioned could not be insensible to the beauty of such magnificent presentations. The singers live their parts, it is not acting, and they have such wonderful voices that no matter how high or with what force they sing, there is always a feeling that there is still more voice in reserve that could be called upon. The staging is sumptuous, the orchestra perfect, and the whole performance is so engrossing, it is a surprise at the end to discover that there were other people in the audience tc.o for one completely loses his bearings and is carried along with the exquisite harmony.
The opera begins at six-thirty or seven and always ends by ten o'clock. Ices, fruits, and light refreshments are passed through the aisles between acts, so the palate may not be envious of the food for the soul. Even when the Court is present the audience is not a brilliant sight; of course, the uniforms add color, but the Bavarian women always look as if they had had last year's gown made over in the house by a sewing girl who missed her calling when she took up the needle. However, though the people may not understand dress, they do under-stand music, and insist upon the best, and at the end of each act their pent-up enthusiasm bursts forth into a veritable tornado of applause, and they clap, and stamp, and shout, and yell until one fears some of these stout, florid little gentlemen will have apoplexy, or turn inside out with sheer delight!
The Hof and Prinz Regenten theatres are admirably arranged buildings for such elaborate performances and all crowding is avoided. It is remarkable how few carriages are in line after an opera, and these sturdy music lovers trudge through the streets homeward, or try to hurry for a car, as best they can, for all Germans make haste slowly. A Wagner and a Mozart festival are to be given again this summer, and seats are always taken months in advance by people from all over the world, for it is an annual treat greatly anticipated.
The Bavarian Museum awakens interest in the most blase traveler. The building itself is new, and every room is in the style of a different period, with the works of that time suitably arranged in it, and the furniture is so representative, decorators and people wishing to furnish artistic houses would do well to come here to see such a collection. Costumes from early days are also on exhibition. King Ludwig's resplendent light blue velvet bed with coverlet and curtains on which the gold embroidery stands an inch above the background, old carved ivories, a few of Bismarck's possessions,' and Schiller's writing-table are conspicious among the relics.
The Old and New Pinakothek are the great unrivaled galleries filled with paintings well known by their copies to every child in school, the Glyptothek contains the old statuary, and the large Maximilianeutn has splendid historical pictures illustrating the lives of many heroes. The Ruhmeshalle is the hall of fame where Munich's great men are immortalized in marble, and the mammoth bronze statue of Bavaria stands out in front, keeping, with the lion beside her, a never-ending watch over the town. At the end of Ludwigstrasse is. the Siegesthor, a triumphal arch erected by Ludwig I. to the Bavarian army, and on top is another figure of Bavaria drawn by great bronze lions. The new Rathhaus in Gothic style has fine carving on the exterior, and great paintings in the interior, while the municipal offices are unusually rich in their appointments, and the Rathskeller below, intended for the city officials, is patronized by hundreds of other hungry and thirsty mortals. The Palace of Justice too is worthy of its star in the guide-books.
Munich does not lack for churches. In the Ludwigkirche are Cornelius' best frescoes, and in the Fraucnkirche old Ludwig the Bavarian is pompously interred, for Munich is proud to think one of her own once reigned over the Holy Roman Empire, even though he had such epithets as the "foolish wise one," and the "dallying eager .one." Everyone stops too in St. Michael's to see the resting place of Empress Josephine's son, Eugene Beauharnais, who was buried here because he had married the daughter of the King of Bavaria, and nearby lies Ludwig II., the castle builder, who took his own life in 1886. His brother Otto, who succeeded him, has always been too insane to reign; though King in name, he is strictly guarded, and his uncle, the beloved old Regent Luitpold, presides over the Kingdom of Bavaria in his place. He is now eighty-five years old, but has a son, a grandson, and a great-grandson living, so after King Otto's death there will be no anxiety about the royal succession as in so many other countries. The Regent, of course, moved in the royal palace, but his son and heir, Prince Ludwig and his wife, occupy the Wittelsbach Palace, a large red brick building several blocks distant.
When Napoleon stayed in the Alte Residenz, he found the state bed too big and uncomfortable for real rest, and sent for his own camp cot in preference. This is very descriptive of the size of this lofty piece of furniture, for Napoleon had tried, and had been able to sleep in almost every other state bed in Europe. In. the midst of the royal carriages that make such a bewildering sight, is the coach he used during his stay, richly painted and gilded, but undoubtedly had King Ludwig II.'s graceful little blue velvet sleigh with the gold embroidery and the ermine robe then been in existence, the mighty Conqueror would have tried that also.
Brewing beer is not the least among Munich's arts, and after you take a stein to the pump in the Hofbrauhaus, wash it and hand it over the counter to be filled, you taste the best beer in the world, and many a German motto says: "If any one has not sat in a Munich wine cellar with a i glass full of beer, he cannot know what a good thing God has given to the Bavarians." The beer-gardens are too numerous to mention; there the people congregate night after night, quietly drinking their pure beer, discussing the latest paintings and hearing selections from grand opera, played as only German souls can interpret them, and such a treat is within reach of all.
Their park, the English Garden, may not have expensive flower-beds, but it has abundant foliage, left just as Nature planned, with no "keep off the grass" signs, and there are lakes to row on, and merry-go-rounds for the children, and beer-gardens to refresh the weary walkers through such a rural spot. When birds sing, the people hear them, for the Tyrolese have not grown tired yet of such a commonplace thing as the sweet song of a bird, and when they find a wild flower, it has a meaning for them, for
"There was never mystery
But 'tis figured in the flowers, Was never secret history
But birds tell it in the bowers,"
and they would all have agreed with Emerson, that when Nero advertised for a new luxury, he should have taken a walk through a wood.
Sentiment never grows old-fashioned in Bavaria; unchanging loyalty to a friend is more than in their creed, it becomes a part of their life. Indeed there is an indescribable something about these honest, unpretentious people that attracts one to them, and any one who has really known Munich must have ever after a love for it lingering in the memory, just as the sea shells always sing of the sea.