Munich traces its founding to the year 1158. In 1240 the city would pass to the House of Wittelsbach which would govern Munich (and Bavaria) for the next 700 years. Munich prospered as a salt trading center but would be hit hard by the plague in 1349 and it would persist for the next 150 years. The coopers (barrel makers) initiated a ritualistic dance in an effort to bring an end to the plague since their trade was suffering because people were afraid to leave their houses and therefore were not drinking as much beer. This dance continues to be performed every seven years but it is reenacted 3 times daily by the little figures in the Glockenspiel high up on the main tower of the city hall.
Innsbruck sits in a valley with mountains to its north and south and the Inn River running through it. Just on the other side of those mountains is Germany to the north and Italy to the south. With relatively accessible mountain passes in both directions and a bridge across the Inn River (thus the name “Innsbruck”), this town became a very important trade route. Innsbruck is the capital of the Austrian Federal State of Tirol (or Tyrol). This region was much larger but the area of South Tirol was ceded to Italy at the conclusion of World War I.
The city of Madrid has survived centuries of religious and political turmoil to emerge as a world class destination with beautiful architecture and art. The Inquisition, Communist rule, a civil war and more recently, a deadly terrorist bombing in 2004, are all part of Madrid’s past. Today, world class museums, beautiful parks and some of Europe’s most attractive plazas form a very appealing experience. Clearly the world has noticed. We were shocked by the volume of tourists pouring through the streets.
Many of the interesting sights around London (pics) are scattered across a wide area, mostly along the Thames, from Kensington on the West End to Canary Wharf in the East End. So you do have to be willing to get out and travel a bit. Fortunately, there are good transportation options, bus, underground and boat.