19 September 2012

Residenz Museum Munich

Day Three in Munich was a little damp, verging on wet, and having seen the main sights on the first two days it seemed sensible to find a museum or gallery.

I had passed the Residenz Museum in the city centre on my first day and the trams go near by so that was the decision made.

From the outside you can tell that the Residenz is large but there is no indication of how much of it is open to the public or of what to expect inside.

The alternative was walking in the rain so I paid my 7 euro and in I went.

The marked route started with a small hall and then a courtyard (the Residenz has many of them) before I hit the first "wow" room, the Fountain Court. This ticks all the palace buttons in that it is vast and beautifully decorated.

The red arrows took me through a bewildering collection of rooms, halls and corridors.

The layout of the palace is confusing because of the way it has expanded over the many years that it was in use. It is (basically) rectangular with rectangular courtyards in the centre but a few diagonal corridors have been added to mess things up.

There are also parallel corridors, presumably to allow servants to move around unseen, and various stairs with some rooms open to the public on the ground and first floors. If not for the guided route I think that I would still be walking around, lost but happy.

All sorts of rooms are open from the largest halls, through the formal state rooms and down the the living spaces for some of the lesser royals who lived there. One amazing suite was just for visiting Emperors.

A lot of the rooms are furnished in the style of the time and there are lots of paintings, tapestries, porcelain and even a dinner service.

I spent a lot of time looking up as the ceilings were consistently magnificent both in shape and decoration. It is no coincidence that ceilings feature prominently in four of these photos, including two of the large one.

The halls also impressed. Even the simpler ones had the scale and proportions to make you draw breath.

Even an hour in to the tour I was still being surprised by the grandeur of each new room.

And after an hour I was only about a third of the way along the tour. It takes so long simply because it is a long walk all the way around and there is so much to stop and see along the way.

A little allowance is made for those less able to walk that far and one part of the tour is optional, i.e. you can take a short cut that misses one of the corridors.

There are plenty of seats so the weary can rest and there is always something to look at as they do so.

Each room has a notice that tells you the history of the room, typically who commissioned it, who designed it and what use it was put too.

In some cases this also includes a description of the damage caused by bombing during the last war.

Without these notices, and the contemporary photographs with them, you would never know that it had been damaged at all, such is the extent and quality of the repairs.

Of course this raises the issue of the genuine article versus substantially restored one or even a modern copy. As with the old-look new buildings elsewhere in the city, I am in favour of repairing and replacing the old with the new provided it is done sympathetically and honesty.

The purpose of the Residenz Museum is to show you what the palace was like when the Bavarian Royalty lived there, not as it was after it was bombed. There are other museums for that sort of thing.

This statue of Perseus beheading Medusa is not necessarily typical of the few statues on display but you cannot argue with a severed head for dramatic effect.

The Residenz Museum took me about three hours to get around, and there are other museums in the same building, notably the Treasury. Three hours was enough for me though and I was perfectly delighted with just the one museum.

I said that Fountain Court was the first "wow" room and the tour finished with another.

This court is not as wide as the first and it compensates for this with its seriously over the top gold decoration. It is an astonishing end to a fascinating journey.

Outside the rain had slipped away leaving a cold grey day in its wake. That is ideal weather for walking through a strange city and I set off in search of a pint.

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