Munich is a place I have come to love for reasons far beyond the fact that I have dear friends living there. It’s actually one of the cities overseas I feel most comfortable in and that I’ve spent considerable amount of time alone in, despite the fact that German is one language I hardly can say more than a dozen words in.
After spending a morning wandering the lush and spacious English Gardens (Englischer Garten), I headed towards the city center mid-afternoon. While simultaneously people watching, enjoying a fresh German pretzel, taking a few pictures, and studying architecture, I suddenly stopped when I noticed a man intently looking up at the tower of St. Peter’s Church.
St. Peter’s Church (also called Alter Peter or Old Peter – Peterskirche) was originally the site of a chapel in the 8th century; the city of Munich was built up around it. Burned and eventually rebuilt in 1368, with the tower and steeple added in the 17th century, it now stands 302 feet tall (or about 30 stories).
Unable to make out exactly what captured this man’s attention, I used the zoom on my camera to try to see more clearly.
(Clicking on that photo takes you to a larger version of it)
I realized that there were people up there standing along the fencing over the tower’s steeple.
(Looking near the fencing just below the green dome, one individual is standing just a hair away from 6 o’clock, three are standing at the corner sort of between 7 and 8 o’clock – what almost looks like another in the other corner by 5 o’clock is one of those viewing things that you see on some buildings or places with good views)
For a reason I still cannot possibly even come up with, going up there myself seemed like a good plan.
I never really contemplated exactly how high up there I would wind up, nor exactly how darn many stairs there were to climb in order to get there. And I definitely didn’t being to think about exactly what the ‘flooring’ would be like up at the top!
I suppose that all that crossed my mind was that standing at the top of the tower would be a unique way to gain a new perspective.
These cement stairs were at the bottom of the tower. Any sort of handrail was non-existent for portions of it, and at times, the spiraling stairs didn’t even have a central wall, meaning they opened to the round of stairs below. I found it disorienting, difficult to assess exactly how far I had come or how much further I had to go.
It was a very warm day and the dozens of flights and hundreds of stairs soon had me second guessing my decision to climb up the tower. The corridor got narrower the further up I went. Most of the time it was so narrow that if someone was coming the opposite direction the only option was to flatten yourself against the wall as much as possible and hope the other could pass by. The stairs became more unpredictable – switching between becoming slipperier or more rickety, and closer together or further apart. It was impossible to predict where my foot would next land, let alone was coming around the next bend.
Eventually I reached the top – very hot and very tired. As I was about to step out onto the platform, I stopped before even placing my foot down. What I hadn’t been able to tell from down below was what the bottom of the platform was made of something best described as grating.
Although I wouldn’t say I have a fear of heights, I have a degree of what my mother calls her ‘fear of edges.’ From below, it appeared I could take photos and enjoy the view standing on the inside of the tower platform, essentially keeping my back against the wall. But when I got up to the top of the tower, I realized every step I took out on the platform would force me to see those gratings – essentially putting my fear of edges right in front of me with each step, even if I went with my plan of trying not to look over the edge directly.
Other than a man taking photos for postcards, almost the entire time I was up on the tower platform I was up there alone. Had he not been on his way back down shortly after I made it to the top, I probably would have asked him to take photos with my camera for me. Though I pushed myself enough to walk along the platform to take photos, I couldn’t convince myself that standing at the railing’s edge was a great idea, despite the fact that on clear days it’s possible to even see the Alps from the tower.
Although it was entirely out of my comfort zone, looking down from the tower gave me an entirely different perspective.
Essentially all of the green in the background of this photo is part of the Englischer Garten. In the foreground is part of the Residenz (palace) that was used by many German Dukes and Kings.
The Frauenkirche “Cathedral of our Blessed Lady” is the largest church in Munich. It is primarily a Gothic cathedral with some mixed Renaissance touches. Built around 1500, it replaces an earlier church which stood there.
The next photo is of what is probably the most widely recognized structure in Munich, and built off the main square, Marienplatz, home to both the old and new city hall buildings.
The town hall (the rathaus) building houses the glockenspiel. Although it chimes throughout the day, at 11 am, noon, and 5 pm, a little reenactment occurs, drawing big crowds. For many tourists, I’m sure it’s vaguely reminiscent of Disney’s It’s a Small World.
The glockenspiel has 43 bells and 32 life-size figures housed in the carillon and they reenact two different scenes during a 12-15 minute ‘show’ – the time it runs varies based on which music plays that particular time.
Knowing Munich well enough allows you to plan to get a bite to eat or something to drink at one of the cafes or restaurants in the Marienplatz. Sitting about five stories up allows you to be about eye-level with the glockenspiel for one of the reenactments.
Photo by Dan Nevill – Creative Commons
Although Munich is a city I know well, one I have wandered and explored, and one I feel very at home in, seeing it from above gave me an entirely new perspective. Distances appeared different – places I walk on foot that seem so far apart are actually much closer to one another when looking at them from above. Maze-like streets and neighborhoods weren’t nearly as complicated as it seemed at ground level. From above, it was easier to determine where a series of destinations were in relation to one another, allowing me to gain insight into the most efficient route between them or the most logical order for stops on my next outing.
The view from above gave me a glimpse into the perspective that God sees when He looks at my life.
God knows the bigger picture when I can only discern the next step. The things I perceive as detours or hassles, red lights or caution signs, are there because He sees the sinkhole up ahead. The times it feels as if He has me on a circuitous route and I’m getting nowhere fast may actually be there for my protection, preventing me from coming into danger.
The times it feels as if I’m so far away from my destination, I’m reminded that God sees the bigger picture, reassuring me that my starting point, my current location, and my ultimate destination are all within His view. He is aware of every detail, of every intimate bit of information of where He has me and where He’ll lead me.
I am so thankful for the man who stopped to study the people up on the lookout of St. Peter’s tower and steeple, causing me, in turn, to decide to go to the top myself. The walk up to the top wasn’t particularly fun, and company along the way would have made it more enjoyable. I’m sure I never would have even considered going to the top if I had known being up there meant not only my dislike of edges, but also being forced to see them with each step because of the grating the platform was made of. Still, the perspective it gave me on my beloved Munich was worth it.
More than that, however, the reminder of the view and perspective God has from above made it more than worth the climb to the top!
If you would like to see a (phenomenally clear) 360 degree video someone who doesn’t have a fear of edges took while panning from the top of the tower, it’s available here.