Why this Munich palace is a unique treasure trove?

Touring the Residenz in Bavaria’s capital…

Standing at the site of the infamous fatal gun battle site of historic Odeonsplatz in Munich, you would never imagine that 71 allied bombings had razed this whole city to the ground. There are no traces of the tragedy left. German history lives on through its impeccably restored monuments. And that is one of the many good reasons to not skip Munich or treat it as a pitstop for the castles tour down the Romantic Road. Another good reason is the Residenz. Germany’s largest inner city castle and one of the most important castle museums in Europe, gives you the chance to gawk at some of the most mind-boggling treasures of the Bavarian empire. Recommended for fans of extravagance and history buffs alike.

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First, get the royal juices flowing with the Hofgarten. The elaborate and expansive court gardens, once reserved for the sovereigns, are a green sanctuary for the residents of the city. Today you can arrive on foot or on a modest two-wheel drive, instead of a horse-drawn carriage, and still be privy to the luxury of the renaissance-styled pavilions, sculptures, flower beds and borders of tall trees in this city oasis. Times…they change!

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Facing the Hofgarten, stands the magnificent (reconstructed) palace complex of Residenz, consisting of ten large inner courtyards, theatres, concert halls, chapels, treasury and the residential quarters. This was the seat of Bavarian rulers and the Wittelsbach dynasty who made Munich their capital from 1100s and 1900s. Apparently, Hitler was so enraptured by Munich’s legacy, that he continued the tradition and retained it as his capital after being elected as chancellor. Each royal occupant added rooms and object’d art. In effect, the rooms and the vast art collection span a period covering renaissance, baroque, rococo and neo-classicial eras. Even King Ludwig II, the’ fairy tale king’, spent some time in the Residenz as a crown prince and added his own touches similar to the castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof. Art enthusiasts…have a ball!

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The first wide-eyed wonder stop is the Antiquarium, a huge tunnel-like hall with a decorative vaulted ceiling that was once used for banquets and receiving guests. This oldest hall in the entire palace has a large ornate fireplace at one end and antique busts and sculptures lined all along its arched windows. Standing in the middle under the curved ceiling, with your arms outstretched, your head tilted back to survey the paintings above, you realise how tiny you are in the over-sized space. Ah, to turn back the clock and be a honoured guest of the Bavarian imperials…

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Take your time to survey as many of the 130 palace rooms. Each of them is a living fairytale of the life of the kings and queens of Bavaria. Imagine the time of grand balls and parties, as you walk through apartments laden with lavish furniture, oversized paintings, rich tapestries, glittering chandeliers and exquisite sculptures. Doors covered in gold leaf trimmings. Rooms covered with silk damask walls in powder blue, gold, cream, yellow, green, gold, rich red. Opulence overload.

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Lavishness has a whole new meaning in the Rich Chapel…aptly named for its magnificent decor of royal blue and gold inlay work. The domed ceiling inset with dainty stained glass openings is like a piece of jewellery, the workmanship is so detailed and minute. The fine floral ornamentation is designed to raise even the most cynical of eyebrows. Go on, stare all you can.

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Gape over thousands of royal family jewels in the Schatzkammer (Treasury). Gorgeous crowns, medieval jewels, swords, gem-studded tiaras, altar pieces, treasure chests, gold and silver tableware are displayed under muted lighting and carefully focused spotlights. 1,250 items arranged across 10 rooms. Find your favorites. A ruby-diamond statuette (50 cm high) of St. George slaying an emerald-encrusted dragon. A traveling set belonging to Napoleon’s second wife adorned with more precious stones. And the oldest English Imperial crown dated 1370-80. This 7-inch high ‘Bohemian’ crown is made of pure gold, is enamelled and studded with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and pearls. When you leave the palace museum a few hours later, you may be too dazzled for anything else.

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Absorb the overwhelming experience with a leisurely stroll along Maximilianstrasse, Munich’s Bond Street. Expensive boutiques, upmarket art galleries and fabulous government buildings line this wide tree-shaded avenue. Women in fur enjoy wine in lavish restaurants and men in Armani suits step out of limousines. And you settle at a pavement table outside Starbucks with your crushed-ice frappuccino. Sounds of a Beethoven symphony flow into your ears from somewhere. You’re thinking…the charming capital of beautiful Bavaria with its low-key atmosphere is rightly dubbed ‘Millionendorf’ (village of a million people). Strangely though, like its heraldic animal, the Bavarian lion, it still has a certain regal air that stays with you even when you’ve left it behind.

 

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Touring the Residenz in Bavaria’s capital…

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Why Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam is the ultimate retreat?

This royal haven is Germany’s largest world heritage site

If you’re racking your brains for a day-trip idea from Berlin, look no further than Potsdam, an oasis of lakes, lush fields, thick forests and unique cultural landmarks along the Havel River. Boasting of the largest World Heritage Site in Germany, Sanssouci, as its centrepiece, Potsdam is to Germany what Versailles is to France and Windsor to England. And its just a 45-minute drive from the buzzing German capital. So, die-hard lovers of sumptuous palaces and extravagant gardens, zip away on that Autobahn now!

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Taste a slice of tranquil life on the Rhine

And why Cologne city should be on your list…

As the train crosses the Rhine, strain for a view of the iconic twin spires of the mammoth Cathedral towering over the narrow gables and high slated roofs of Germany’s 2000 year-old city, Cologne or Koln. You fight the urge to walk into its hallowed interiors directly from the station that’s just 20 meters away. But the moment your wheeled baggage is out of the way, you’re back. This is ground zero…all roads start and end here.

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The most famous castles of Germany hide dark secrets

Inside Ludwig’s mind and his residences… 

Shy, imaginative, moody teen madly obsessed with classical music composer. Grows to be an eccentric recluse, elusive bachelor and a deeply indulgent patron of the same classical music composer. Harmless. Until you know the full story. That he’s a unwilling regent, hailing from the Wittelbach dynasty, Europe’s longest ruling dynasty. So indifferent to politics, that he ultimately eats into his empire’s financial foundations to fund his larger-than-life castle building projects. Dedicated to his opera god. Richard Wagner. No surprise then, that Ludwig II, (Mad King Ludwig, as he’s nicknamed), takes the crown for being Bavaria’s most controversial historical figure. Ironical, considering his head was perennially uneasy wearing a crown!

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Why Rothenburg is the epitome of German romanticism?

Dollhouse town in Germany…

Factoid: Germany’s second largest city in the middle ages, with 6,000 residents (mammoth for those times) was reduced to poverty during the 30 years war, and virtually faded into oblivion. But life comes full circle. Today it has regained its glory as Germany’s best preserved medieval walled town. Rothenburg ob der Tauber seems like the perfect name for this fairytale place until you translate it into English…red fort on the River Tauber). Mmmm…something less practical, maybe?

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10 tragic Berlin landmarks that will melt your heart

One walk you must take…

Berlin has come a long way from the time Slovenians discovered a marshy, swampy fishing village (ber-lin), way back in the 1500s. Cut to a few centuries later…post WWII and communist era, not only did the city survive, spirit intact, but reinvented itself yet again. There are at least 4000 live construction sites all over the city today…talk about work in progress!

The best way to immerse into the essence of Berlin by taking an escorted walking tour of its historic sights. A fascinating half-day is all it takes to relive the entire gloomy ’40s. And when you’ve walked down this stark, dark memory lane of dictators, war and oppression, you’ll be recommending Berlin to everyone you know too. Here are the unforgettable landmarks from the walk:

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Why Heidelberg castle will make you fall in love?

Poetic perfection in Heidelberg…

Located about 90km south of Frankfurt, is a pretty little town, lucky enough to escape destruction by air raids in World War II, and luckier to have over $125 million invested for further restoration. Heidelberg is one of the hottest destinations in Germany, visited by three million tourists every year. So, if you haven’t been there already, add it to your list. NOW!

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