The night’s drizzle has worsened into a steady morning rain, but since I am intent on spending the day in museums, the inclement weather doesn’t concern me in the least. After breakfast, I plan to head first to the Schatzkammer, the treasury in Munich’s grand Residenz, but I can’t resist wandering through the luxury food store of Alois Dallmayr, at 14-15 Dienerstraße along the way to drool over trays of decadent pastries.
The treasury exceeds my wildest expections and I spend my time there happily. On display are countless priceless objects that once belonged to the Bavarian kings, including religious art, orders and insignia, crowns, tableware, and toilet sets. My favorite is the jewel-encrusted statuette of Saint George and the dragon, made in Munich between 1586-1597.
By midday, I’m back on the U-Bahn heading towards the Alte Pinakothek, which has one of the world’s greatest collections of Old Master paintings. In honor of the museum’s 175th anniversary, Johannes Vermeer’s “Woman Holding a Balance” is here on temporary loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In the early 19th century, the painting was part of an exceptional private collection amassed by the first king of Bavaria, Maximillian Joseph, but after his death it was sold at auction in 1826. There is also a special exhibit devoted to Lucas Cranach. I ask the clerk at the desk for a ticket to everything–the permanent galleries, the special exhibitions, and for good measure, the Neue Pinakothek next door. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic afternoon.
After admiring the Vermeer again (I’ve seen it several times in Washington, and it remains one of my favorites), and touring the Cranachs, I stop for a break in the museum café with a cappuccino and a slice of pear tart before heading upstairs. For the next two hours, I wander from to gallery after gallery, immersed in Rubens, Bruegels, and van Dycks. It’s only when I look at my watch that I grow concerned with the time. There are several Van Goghs waiting for me across the street. I’m down in the gift shop when a postcard reminds me that I somehow missed seeing a charming self-portrait of Rubens with his wife, Isabella Brant.
On a whim, I start to jog back up the long staircase, but halfway up I suddenly find myself out of breath. By the time I reach the landing, I’m gasping for air. My heart is pounding and I am shaking like a leaf. I try to walk it off, but when I can’t, I grab my coat from the cloak room lockers and rush outside. The cool mist is a relief on my flushed face, but I feel terribly, horribly, unwell. Nearby, there is a taxi stand. I pace until one arrives, then slump in the backseat as the driver takes me back to my hotel.
I’ve felt tired for days, but dismissed the signs of illness as jet lag or merely the overexertion of travel catching up with me. Now it seems like something more. I call home for reassurance and later ring the front desk for room service when it becomes clear I won’t be going anywhere for dinner. A mug of peppermint tea and a small bag of dry pretzels are all I can handle. It’s not until 10 PM that the waves of nausea finally start to lift and I sink into a much needed sleep, not sure of what will happen in the morning.