Marienplatz, in the centre of Munich, is busy and vibrant at all times of the day and into the night. The shops and cafes are brimming with people. The square is a pedestrian only zone and tourists wander at will, enjoying the sights and sounds of the old city. The Mariensӓule or Marien column stands in pride of place in the centre of the square. The magnificent golden Virgin Mary is represented as the Queen of Heaven, and she stands regally on a crescent moon. The column is the geographic centre of Munich and houses are numbered and distances measured from here.
Marienplatz has been the main square of the city since 1158 and both the Altes Rathaus and Neues Rathaus, the old and new City Halls, are located here. So which was which? We were puzzled until we found out that the Altes Rathaus, constructed in the 14th century in the Gothic style, was rebuilt after being damaged during World War 2, and looks new, while the Neues Rathaus, built in the 19th century looks ancient in comparison.
The Glockenspiel in the tower of the Neues Rathaus plays to the audience gathered in Marienplatz every day at 11 am and 12 pm. We stood, like everyone else, with our heads tipped back and eyes skyward in order to see the life size figures telling the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V, and then performing the Schӓfflertanz, a dance first done by the Coopers of the city in the 16th century to tell the citizens that the plague was over. The dancers were accompanied by the carillon, its pretty, chiming music filling the square. Later in the week, when we climbed the tower of the Peterskirche, we found ourselves almost at eye level with the Glockenspiel – perfectly timed, just as the performance started.
To the right of the altes Rathaus is the Fischbrunnen or Fish Fountain, so called because it marks the site where the Fish Market once stood. Tradition says that dipping your purse in the fountain on Ash Wednesday guarantees riches in the coming year. I wondered if it would have the same effect in June – maybe I would be able to indulge in those shops and cafes after all.