This month’s theme for A Festival of Postcards is “Main Street”. My entry is connected to my family history in a different way than last month’s entry, which featured a card from a grand-uncle sent to my great-grandparents.
This postcard is from the mid 1990’s, but it shows a vintage photograph of a main street in Munich, Germany. Unfortunately, the card does not indicate the date of this old photograph. Judging by the automobiles in the photo, I’d estimate that it was taken between 1900-1920. This main street is the square known as the Karlsplatz. Although that has been the square’s official name since 1797, it is often referred to as Stachus after a pub that was torn down due to the construction of the square. The gate-like structure in the center-rear of the photo is the Karlstor, the gate that remains of the city’s medieval fortification. If you walk through that gate, you are on a pedestrian-only street that leads directly to the famous Marienplatz, Munich’s central square. The twin steeples you see in the rear of the photo belong to the Frauenkirche , the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.
The postcard reads as follows:
Misson accomplished! I think I’ll send 2 though. Guess what! The Goethe Institut isn’t as backward as I thought! I have e-mail capabilities, so you’ll prob. have heard from me before you receive this postcard! Gene Kelly is HUGE here; in every music store! Take care, Rachel P.S. Goethe Ins. attracts MANY HOT GUYS. More later…
Rachel was an e-friend; we bonded over our mutual love for Gene Kelly. She was attending the Goethe Institute to study German, and I told her about my Bergmeister family. In her free time, she took the time to visit my great-grandparents’ home town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, about a half hour north of Munich. She sent me photographs of the town, which I had just “discovered” as their place of origin, two years before I was able to travel there myself. But her mission in Munich was to visit the Karlsplatz that is pictured in this postcard – it was the one place in Munich that I knew my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister had probably visited. I knew this from his military photograph (featured in this post). The photographer was F.X. Ostermayr with an address on the Karlsplatz. I knew it was likely that Joseph spent his two years of military service in Munich itself, and he and his family possibly lived there immediately prior to immigrating to the U.S. However, I had no proof – except that one day back in 1893 he strolled into a photographer’s studio right on Munich’s main street. There, with his classmates, he had his official military portrait taken. It is the only surviving photo of him that I have discovered.
As I searched through my boxes of “memories” for this new monthly postcard festival, I knew that this was a winner for the “Main Street” category. Not only is it a vintage portrait of a main street – one that looks remarkably the same when I finally saw it, but it is also a street on which my ancestor walked. Perhaps he also stood before the Karlstor and was amazed at how long it had been there and all of the history it had seen. I wonder if, while he was in Munich, he sent a postcard to his family in Puch and Pfaffenhofen? (Lieber freund, the Infanterie Leib Regiment isn’t as backward as I thought… I doubt he would write about the MANY HOT MÄDCHEN he found there though!)
But this postcard was also special because it reminded me of what postcards are all about – friends connecting and keeping in touch while sharing their travel experiences. I had never met Rachel before she took this trip to Germany, but we were friends all the same and she took photos of places that she knew meant something to my history. I did get to meet her when she returned, and it was nice to thank her in person. I can’t remember when we lost touch, but it would be nice to find her again and catch up.
As a side note, in trying to date the above photograph I found two old public domain photos (one is actually a postcard) of the same square. This view is in nearly the same direction as the above postcard:
Perhaps my attempt to date the postcard photograph was incorrect – in 1902 only horse carts are parked on the square! Here is a view in the opposite direction – what you would see as you walked through the Karlstor into the square:
This would have been a postcard for sale at the time my great-grandfather was in Munich! I did make a visit to Munich myself in 1998 and 2006. While fashions and transportation have changed since that time, many of the buildings remain (or, as in the case of the Frauenkirche, were re-built exactly as before they were destroyed in World War II). What does the Karlsplatz look like today? Take a look at this 360° view!
[Written for the 2nd edition of A Festival of Postcards: Main Street]