Day 45: BMW Welt (BMW World)

After driving our friend to the airport and saying our good-byes, we headed to BMW Welt; welt is the German word for “World”. Truthfully, I was expecting a glorified showroom of Beamers and enough time left in the day to visit another sight. Not so.

BMW Welt is one of the top sights in Munich – who knew! With four separate areas, each with different gift shops and cafes, et al. Think amusement park type of “world” with well dressed, good-looking, multi-lingual German salespeople in slick, modern, shiny surroundings.

The headquarters are in the tall building and not open to the public.

The factory is tourable with advance reservations only (we were not that organized). In the showroom and “customer car pick up area” there were at least 6 to 8 shiny new BMWs continuously rolling out the ramp to be presented to their new owners as onlookers stared. The showroom building (below) was the glass and steel architectural masterpiece.

The last building was the BMW museum in a cloud-shaped structure. We all enjoyed the history, the cars, bikes, engines, and the modern art exhibits at the end. The only slight disappointment was that all the “Junior Camps” where in German.

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After a short rest we were off to try another of Munich’s famous biergartens.

All of today’s photos.

Sara

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Day 44: No Kids in Munich

We took Tania up on her offer to look after the kids today, and after seeing them off to the Deutsches Museum (sorta science and tech and aerospace in one), Sara and I were off on our own.  Unfortunately, it being Monday, many things are closed, in particular most galleries.  However, we did visit another church and the cathedral (where the current Pope, Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, used to be archbishop before moving on to cardinalship at the Vatican), and then we did get into see then Neue Pinakothek.  Neue (new) here is all relative, it simply houses pieces newer than the Alte (old) Pinakothek.  Then there is the Pinakothek der Moderne, which holds yet newer, modern works, but not the most modern which are housed in the Brandhorst which we saw yesterday with the kids.  Anyways, the Neue has a few nice Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, and Rodin pieces.  And lots of, to us, more obscure German paintings that while impressive we have little context for.

I had forgotten how interesting Rodin’s scupture is.  We saw a lot of it 15 years or so ago last time we were in Europe…

We also went to the local market, called the Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market).  This is a large space just off the main square whose real estate must be worth a fortune, but the city only charges the vendors a small fee to be there rather than leasing the space to the highest bidder.  The result of which is that the space has always been filled with smaller, local producers and shops, and is not filled with larger commercial stores.  It was probably the best and most interesting open air market we have seen to date.  This may have to do with the biergarten in the center of it, whose beer counter is shared by all 5 local Munich breweries.  Every couple days they switch it up.

Today I also took the chance to buy a beer stein for myself.  Now I can drink properly like the locals!

The rest of the day’s photos can be found here.

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Day 43: Munich in the rain

Let me begin by saying that several times today, Sara would turn to everyone and exclaim of Tania “I can’t believe you are here in Munich!”

After a lovely breakfast buffet, we headed out on the U-Bahn (subway) and transfered (with the help of some locals flagged down by Tania) to an aboveground rail tram — another city with an efficient, clean, and comprehensive mass transit system. We were on and off all day. Why can’t we in Ottawa get our act together in terms of mass transit?

This got us started at the Museum Brandhorst, a modern art museum with a 1 € admission on Sundays. Again, the boys did better than I was expecting, especially with the help of the audio-guides.  They have an extensive collection of Andy Warhol, an artist that the boys were introduced to in their 4Cats art classes.  Michael couldn’t find any Campbell soup cans, but there was lots of other nice pieces, including several Hammer and Sickle silkscreens.  Again and again on this trip, we comment on the value of reading “Asterix and Obelix” comics to the kids, in this case so that the kids are well aware of what a sickle is (the druid, Getafix (Panoramix en francais) uses one all the time).  Other times it is an obelisk, a centurion, roman numerals, gladiator, milestones, a “circus”, etc.

After the museum, we hopped back on the U-Bahn to Marienplatz, the historical main square in Munich for a look about, lunch and the climb up St. Peter’s tower (300 and some odd steps).  It was pretty rainy and dreary at this point, but still enjoyable.

From there we did more walking, finishing the sightseeing for the day at Assam’s Church.  This is an over-the-top Rococo extravaganza that was privately built by the Assam brothers in the early 1700’s.  They were builders who specialized in churches, and this was a showpiece for their work (their office was next door).  Rococo is particularily fiddly and ornate, but this place was ridiculously over the top.

 

 

Dinner was a classic biergarden experience at one of Munich’s oldest establishments, Hofbräuhaus.  Traditionally the biergardens have been places where groups would meet to talk and discuss.  Hitler made one of his original speeches to the public here.  We sat in an upper indoor section, both as it was raining and far, far less boisterous.  It is a strange mix of super touristy and full of locals.  Very strange to see tables of Japanese tourists with 1L glasses of beer, mixing it up with the locals singing German drinking songs (I suppose that is what they were).  The kids were only just able to drag themselves home at 10pm and flop onto the bed.

All of today’s photos.

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Day 42: Big Surprise in Munich

We started the day in Zagreb, with ultimate destination being Munich for the beginning of the German phase of our trip (also our last country, sigh…)  On the way we pass through Slovenia and Austria, it was our longest planned driving day.

The route happens to take us right by Bled and the nearby hospital in Jecenice, where Michael had his cast originally put on.  We stopped there to have him looked at, and unfortunately his arm is not yet ready to go castless.  At this point it looks like he will have something on until we get home.  It is now a 1/2 cast and can be removed for bathing.

Austria was a blur of highway and mountains, and then we arrived with no trouble in Munich, only to find our friend Tania waiting to surprise us there!  She says we have been away too long and she misses us, and will look after the kids for a couple days while we are here in Munich.  We will definitely take advantage of this offer!

So much for David’s plans of what can and cannot be easily seen in Munich.  The lack of kids makes certain museum visits much easier.

On a lesser note, TomTom’s suggestion of an alternate route to avoid traffic was enjoyed by all.

Here are today’s photos.

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Day 41: Zagreb on Holiday

Our only full day in Zagreb, today, happens to be a national holiday called “Victory Day“, or more completely “Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders”.  While it is a holiday and many businesses (and museums) are closed, most of the celebration and ceremony seems to be in the south around the city of Knin, where a succesful battle took place against the Serbs on this day in 1995.  We saw one march by of few soldiers and horses, stepping to the beat of a single drummer.

Perhaps on a related note, while running out this evening to take a bag out to the car to make tomorrow morning’s checkout easier, I heard some gunshots, probably a couple clips from a pistol being fired off in the rather dubious park nearby where we parked the car.  This didn’t seem to bother the various people walking about, in some cases pushing their babies along in strollers, so I suppose it is normal for this day.

Croatia, and Zagreb in particular, is mad for its cafés. Every street of every size is lined with places to sit and have table service for drinks, either coffee or alcohol.  On a wide street, such as shown below, they line both sides, often on the opposite side from the bar that services them.  But ridiculously narrow medieval cobbled streets on a 10% grade are just as likely to have tables and chairs.

Judging by what I have seen, every citizen of Zagreb probably has their own personal reserved café chair, somewhere in the city.   The guy who runs our current apartment, and some buddy of his, have been seated in one spot just nearby our room for the past 2 days every time I walk by when coming and going.

I will check again when we leave tomorrow early at around 7:30 am.  If they are still there I think my 1 citizen 1 café chair observation must be true.

The day’s photos can be found here.

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Day 40: Zagreb and a jolt back to big-city travel

We are in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and it’s a jolt back to big-city travel. We have high-speed wireless Internet access. We had to drive around a bit to find free parking for the car. And we had to remember how to behave in a museum — how easily kids forget, sigh.

Today’s photos.

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Day 39: Krka National Park

We are in small town Skradin for two reasons: to visit Krka National Park and it’s a good stop in the middle of Croatia to break-up the drive. To our delight, it’s a fabulous day and the cast protector was worth it – even just for this one day.

So beautiful, again we could have spent a few days here. The boys loved playing in the waterfall and rocks. Must come back here someday.

Today’s photos.

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Day 38: small towns and good eats

Korčula is one of the places, I could easily return to. I could even spend a whole vacation here. It’s a lovely, lovely little island with just enough tourism that it’s charming, but not overrun.

Around midday, we found ourselves near the village of Ston, with a very impressive wall. This was the Republic of Dubrovnik’s northern boundary. Our plan was to have lunch, climb the wall then drive-on. However, we ended-up ordering a feast of fish and wine and deciding it was too hot in the midday sun to actually do any serious walking, so we settled for ice cream and more great views of the wall.


After making a detour back to Dubrovnik to pick-up Michael’s waterproof cast protector, we arrived in Skradin, another small town with great food. We drove into the parking lot just as the leg of lamb was coming off the spit. Yummy!

Two unfortunate aspects of small town Croatia: for the first time, we found ourselves without easy internet access and Croatia is building some great new roads, unfortunately for us, the new highways in the south are still under construction.

Here’s all of today’s photos.

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Day 37: relaxing in Korčula

You can pretty much “do” Korčula in a few hours. The rest of our time here has been relaxing, playing on the rocks, walking about, eating, drinking and having ice cream.

We’re off again tomorrow.

All of today’s photos.

Sara

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Day 36: Korčula Island

We have driven up the coast today to the island of Korčula, a quick ferry ride out from the mainland. Korčula’s main town, also named Korčula, is an interesting place as it was a planned medieval town. It is on a round peninsula pointing north, with a straight road down its centre and straight (to the west) and slightly curved (to the east) roads off of that. The effect is that it looks like the bones of a fish from above. The straight side roads allow the more pleasant easterly winds to blow through the town, whereas the curved roads block the harsher westerly winds.

We walked about a bit, it is not too large a town but very picturesque, as normal. There are high stone wall surrounding it, but they used to be twice as high as after they had become obsolete the top half was salvaged for building material inside of town.

Korčula is supposedly the birthplace of Marco Polo, or at least a place where he lived a good portion of his life. There is little evidence, really, of either of these facts, but nearly everything here has adopted his name — the Marco Polo Bakery, Ice Cream Stand, Shoe Shine Store, everything.

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We were lucky enough to be here on a Sunday evening when they do a performance of the Moreska, a sword dance which used to be performed all over the Mediterranean but now only survives in Korčula. It was pretty neat. The basic story is a moorish king (in black) kidnaps the beloved of another king (in red), then the soldiers of the two kings exchange a verbal repartee and then battle it out in the form of the dance. They “fight” with metal swords, about 18″ long or so, and really have at it, whacking each other’s swords hard enough that sparks can sometime fly, the blades bend, and sometimes even break. Various extras off on the side are quickly proffered by other dancers who are waiting to relieve those that are performing.

Here is a short clip. There are, I believe, 7 different dances that are performed, generally all in a moving circle like this one.

Today’s photos

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