Munich

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Munich

Third largest city of Germany and capital of Bavaria (Bayern).1,300,000 inhabitants, mostly Catholic. It lies on the fast-flowing river Isar in the high Bavarian plain, at an altitude of 1,700 feet. It is approximately 40 miles north of the Alps.

Some Impressions  Charles De Gaulle Voila une capitale! Now there's a capital!

Thomas Wolfe Der Deutsche Himmel Germany's Heaven

Thomas Mann Munchen leuchtet Munich sparkles

The Tourist Board Die Weltstadt mit Herz The international city with a heart

Ernest Hemingway "Don't bother going anywhere else... nothing can match Munich. Everything else in Germany is a waste of time."

Munich is a legendary city. It is said to be the city in which most Germans given the choice would like to live. Surrounded by lovely countryside, an hour's drive from the Alps, a high standard of living, plenty of jobs, a superb university, great cultural wealth, world-class sporting facilities, a relaxed and fun atmosphere, etc.

Home of the 1972 Olympic Games (see page on Olympiapark).

FC Bayern München is one of the most famous football teams in the history of the sport. At the time of writing (1997/8) they have been Bundesliga champions 13 times. In 1996 they were voted best club in the world.

It's the most beautiful, architecturally distinguished big city in Germany (though you certainly don't get that impression on the way in). Grand, formal set pieces like the Maximilianstrasse, Prinzregentenstrasse and Ludwigstrasse are breathtaking. The onion domes of the Frauenkirche are as instantly recognizable as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or the Sydney Opera House. Munich was also the center of Jugendstil, the German version of Art Nouveau.

Munich is the international home of beer. The Hofbräuhaus is probably the world's best known pub. The Oktoberfest is among the most famous festivals in the international calendar as is Carnival or Fasching. (See page on beer below.)

It rivals Berlin for breadth and quality of its cultural activities. The Deutsches Museum is one of the 2 or 3 biggest science museums in the world, and perhaps the best. The Alte Pinakothek is Germany's finest art museum. At the beginning of the century Munich was the home of the Blaue Reiter movement, one of the formative schools of modern art, a heritage reflected in the wonderful Lenbachhaus collection of Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. Along with Berlin, Munich is the centre of the German film industry (Das Boot, for example, was filmed here). With Düsseldorf it is the centre of the German fashion industry. It has two opera houses and innumerable theatres.

BMW, Munich's flagship, is one of the most prestigious names in motor manufacture. Siemens (electrical and electronic) is Munich's biggest employer, Europe's third largest company and among the world's top 10. Allianz, based in Munich, is Europe's largest insurance company. Munich is the leading city in Germany for manufacturing output.

Of course, not everybody loves Munich. It is commonly agreed that the food is the worst in Germany. And why can you get a glass of Kölsch in Bremen or Leipzig but not in Munich? For Hamburgers or Berliners the Munich obsession with its small-town atmosphere of friendliness and Gemütlichkeit is nauseating. It is sometimes known disparagingly as the Millionendorf. This disease has been wittily diagnosed as mania parochialis. That's enough negativity though...

Beer  N.B. Many teachers and some adult groups have a phobia about even the mention of alcohol so consult first before waxing enthusiastic about the subject.

"The Bavarian people are much given to drink."

Aventinus, C15 Bavarian philosopher

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus
Eins, zwei, Gsufa...

Munchners are the world's biggest beer drinkers. They average annually 190 litres per head. There are six breweries: Hofbräu, Augustinerbräu, Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorrbräu, Matthäserbräu and Paulanerbräu. 110,000,000 gallons of beer are brewed in Munich every year. In Bavaria as a whole, every single small town has its own brewery. As throughout Germany brewing respects a purity law called the Rheinheitsgebot (since 1516) which forbids any artificial or superfluous ingredients. Ideally beer is served in a liter-tankard or Masskrug. Waitresses should be big, carrying many tankards and wearing Dirndl. The current world record for Mass carrying is 27. Oompah music is often a tragic presence, less dreadful is the drunken gesture of camaraderie, arm-linking and swaying, called das Schunkeln. The beer is superb. The Weisswurst that is the traditional accompaniment is horrible. Try a Bretzel instead.

For 16 days in late September and early October (in 1998 from 9/19 to 10/4) in the Theresienwiese under the shadow of the huge Bavaria statue the annual drinking binge of the Oktoberfest is celebrated. They have been doing it since 1810 in celebration and remembrance of the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and the Princess Theresa. A special beer is brewed called Wiesnbier, 5,000,000 tankards of it are drunk (that's 9,000,000 pints). They also sell 720,000 barbecued chickens and 320,000 pairs of pork sausages. About 7,000,000 visitors come to Munich for this, one of the most famous festivals on the international calendar.

You may well have an optional dinner at the Hofbräuhaus. This takes place upstairs in a huge hall away from the real people in the 1,000-seater Bierschwemme downstairs. The food is okay, the drink generous and the atmosphere and folklore show (followed by dancing) is as dire or as entertaining as these things always are. The Hofbräuhaus is the oldest and best known of the Munich beer halls dating from 1589. Every day about 10,000 tankards are served. (The beer is no longer brewed on the premises but in Haidhausen in the suburbs.)

Otherwise the Augustinerkeller is probably the nicest beer hall with the best beer, the Matthäser is the world's largest, the Hackerkeller the most shamelessly touristic and the Lowenbraukelier the most distinguished architecturally. More enjoyable than all of them is the Chinese beer garden in the Englischer Garten with room for nearly 7,000 people.

(Incidentally, it's not just beer. In Aventinus' day, Bavaria was actually better known for its wines. There are still a couple of lovely, understated wine halls in Munich which offer another less exuberant and more sophisticated side of Bavarian drinking culture.)

If you need to know more, Munich University has a Faculty of Beer.

A Brief History of Munich  (For the story of Ludwig II, see pages on Linderhof and Neuschwanstein.)

In 1156, the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa ceded a small area of land on the river Isar in Bavaria to Henry the Lion, Duke of Brunswick. The area which consisted of a monastery and a few scattered houses was called appropriately Bei den Mönichen or "Where the monks live." (A little hunched black monk, the Münchner Kindl, is still the emblem of the city, to be seen for example on the sides of city buses or trams.) Henry built a new bridge over the river forcing all trade, for the most part salt from the Berchtesgadener Land, through his territory and thus securing customs duties. This was the birth of the city of Munich. In 1180, Henry rose up against Barbarossa and was defeated. The Emperor gave his Bavarian lands to Graf Otto von Wittelsbach, from the family who ruled the Rheinland-Pfalz in Heidelberg. Munich and Bavaria were subsequently ruled by this same family for nearly 750 years until WW I.

Munich grew quickly in the Middle Ages on the back of the profits of the salt trade (see Austria notes). In the C16 it was made sole capital of Bavaria. In the Thirty Years' War, Munich was the standard-bearer of German Catholicism. By the C19, embellished with prestigious projects under three successive kings, Maximilian I, Ludwig I and Maximilian II, it had become one of the grandest, wealthiest and most elegant cities in Europe.

The Twentieth Century  As all over Germany, the glory days were brought to an abrupt end by the First World War. With the abdication of King Ludwig III in 1918, Bavaria ceased to be an independent state (or more correctly a semi-independent one under the overall control of the Prussian Empire). Munich suffered appallingly from the unemployment, inflation and civil strife that characterized post-war German society. In the 1920's, to Munich's shame, it was here that the Nazis found their readiest audience. It became known as die Hauptstadt der Bewegung, the "capital of the movement." Mass rallies were held in the Marienplatz. The aims of the Nazi party were set out in meetings in the Hofbräuhaus. In 1923 Hitler was confident enough to stage a coup d'etat, the so-called Munich Putsch, declared from the steps of the Feldherrnhalle on the Odeonsplatz. It failed, Hitler was arrested but he served only a year of his sentence (during which time he wrote Mein Kampf before returning to the city.

On September 30, 1938 by the Munich Agreement, Hitler persuaded Britain and France to validate the annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, came back to London proclaiming that he had secured "peace in our time." Within a year, the world was at war.

At the end of the war Munich was captured by the U. S. 7th Army on April 29-30, 1945. By comparison with Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden or Cologne, Munich escaped relatively lightly during WW II. It was approximately 45% destroyed. Some new buildings show the dull ugliness of work hastily and cheaply done but for the most part Munich was reconstructed well. The fillip of the Olympics and the vibrant post-war economy have completed Munich's renaissance.

Some other famous Munchners:
Heinrich Himmler Commander-in-chief of the SS (Schutzstaffel).
Carl Orff Composer, 1898-1982, wrote Carmina Burana here.
Albert Einstein Born in Ulm 1879, lived here until moving to Switzerland in 1901.
Thomas Mann Nobel Laureate for Literature 1929, wrote Death in Venice here from 1900-02.
Hendrik Ibsen Playwright, wrote Hedda Gabler here, lived in Munich from 1875-91.
Richard Strauss Musical director here, 1886-98, composer of eg. Der Rosenkavalier.

Sightseeing in Munich  All the catalogue tours spend just one full day in Munich of which at least 3 hours will be spent getting to and visiting the Dachau concentration camp (see description below). This means that you are very pressed for time. Your guided tour should aim to end at Marienplatz for the Glockenspiel at 11:00 a.m. so that the group can then have a couple of hours for shopping, eating and wandering before you set off for Dachau around 2:00 p.m. (Do try to leave before 2:30 p.m. or you may arrive too late for the 3:30 film at Dachau.) You should have the bus pick you up by the steps of the theatre on Max-Josef-Platz where it dropped you off just before 11:00 a.m. so as to maximise your time in the city centre. On the way to or from Dachau you can pass by the Olympiapark and BMW Museum (confirm this with your driver - it is certainly no detour) so it is not necessary to go up there as part of the guided tour. When you get back into town around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., all the shops and sights will be closed.

The Guided Tour  Because of their inclusion in the guided tour these streets, monuments and sights are not described in detail below.

Leave promptly and be prepared to spend the whole day in town. The principal elements in the coach tour are as follows: the Theresienwiese, Schloss Nymphenburg with the Amalienburg, the Königsplatz, the Alte Pinakothek, Ludwigstrasse and the University, the Haus Moderner Kunst and Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, the river Isar, the Maximilianeum, the Deutsches Museum, Maximilianstrasse and Max-Josef-Platz in front of the Residenz.

(It is generally recommended to visit the Amalienburg rather than Nymphenburg itself. It is a Rococo hunting lodge by Cuvillies, small, unusual and utterly charming. Nymphenburg by comparison is just another Baroque palace. The visit is also shorter which is a good thing. It involves a 5 or 10 minute walk through the gardens.)

From Max-Josef-Platz you continue on foot for a couple of minutes to the Marienplatz to hear the Glockenspiel of the Neues Rathaus at 11:00 a.m. After explaining what the performance is about - the Schäfflertanz (Coopers' Dance) and the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renate von Lothringen - the guide will leave you.

Free Time in Munich  You now have about 3 hours before rejoining the coach to go to Dachau. There is plenty to entertain you in the vicinity. The Viktualienmarkt is very picturesque and ideal for Brotzeit, grabbing something to eat. Otherwise there are many restaurants and snack bars dotted around the pedestrian zone. If the weather is good you will have a marvellous view from the tower of the Peterskirche (294 steps) over the domes, towers and rooftops of Munich and even possibly over the Alps. For shopping, the pedestrian zone (Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauserstrasse) has everything. Close by you can find the more famous and expensive specialist shops such as Loden-Frey or Dallmayr. The really posh shops are on Maximilian-, Theatiner- and Perusasstrasse. The C15 and C16 Frauenkirche with its onion dome towers, the symbol of Munich, is well worth a visit. So is the glorious Schatzkammer, the treasury of the Wittelsbachs, in the Residenz. Anyone who wishes has plenty of time to take the U-Bahn towards the Englischer Garten to hire a bike and ride around there for an hour or so (U-Bahn station Universität, corner of Königinstrasse and Veterinarstrasse). This is a typical Munich way to spend the afternoon, is not expensive and is highly recommended. Many people are enchanted by the collection of Bavarian Christmas cribs in the basement of the impressive Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. The great treasures of the Alte Pinakothek or the Deutsches Museum are realistically out of bounds for reasons of time.

Dachau via the Olympiapark  When you head out towards Dachau (or on the way home), ask the driver to pass by the Olympiapark on the Mittlerer Ring. Dachau is only 12 miles from Munich city centre but you need to allow about 50 to 45 minutes to get there. It is closed on Mondays. You need probably two hours once there if you intend to watch the film and tour the whole grounds. If you don't wish to see the film then one hour is enough.

At Petuelring 130 the extraordinary futuristic-looking building on the right is the BMW Museum. It is designed in the shape of four cylinders. Behind it is the BMW factory. The famous logo in the white and blue colours of the Bavarian flag is clearly visible. BMW stands for Bayerische Motor Werken. Just ahead on the left you can see the Olympic complex.

Munich was host to the XX Olympic Games in 1972. This was when the pedestrian zone in the centre of town was created, the U-Bahn was built and the superb Olympiapark laid out on the site of the former Royal Bavarian Parade Ground. It covers an area of 1.1 square miles and is the biggest sports complex in Germany. All the facilities are still used. The Olympiastadion is used by FC Bayern München. The Olympiahalle is used for sporting events and conferences. One of the swimming pools (not the one where Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals), a running track, two gymnasia, the cycling circuit and ice rink are all open for municipal use. The artificial lake Olympiasee — you don't see it from the road — has all recreational facilities. In the middle of the lake is the Theatron, a floating stage used in summer for free pop concerts.

The first thing you see is the TV tower called Olympiaturm (951 feet high). Dominating the view is the amazing tent roof that spans both the Olympic Stadium and the Hall. It covers 90,000 square yards, is made of tinted acrylic glass and in its day was the most expensive roof in the world. It cost 168,000,000 DM to build. The stadium holds 78,000 people. (It is much bigger than it looks — the pitch itself lies below ground level.) The hall holds 14,000 spectators. On the other side of the main road is the Olympic village. The low-rise buildings were for the female athletes, the high-rise ones for the men. Most of the village was subsequently converted into university accommodation.

(Incidentally, going swimming or ice-skating here are good options for a free evening. It is easily accessible by U-Bahn, not expensive and open until late. Check times in advance.)

Dachau  In 1933 on the orders of Heinrich Himmler the Nazis built their first concentration camp here on the site of an old munitions factory on the outskirts of the attractive little town of Dachau (you see nothing of the historic centre). It served as a concentration camp until April 29, 1945 when it was liberated by the U.S. Seventh Army. Over that 12 year period, approximately 200,000 prisoners were admitted to the camp. On the day after Reichskristallnacht, November 9, 1938, 20,000 Jews were sent to Dachau. During WW II, 15,000 Gypsies were sent here. It is not known how many prisoners died in Dachau. Some sources say about 32,000 prisoners died here; others talk of as many as 40,000 in 1944/5 alone. What seems certain is that about 80% of those who died were Jews. The rest were Gypsies, communists and homosexuals, and in the early days, political opponents of the Nazis. (Himmler's original intention, which was very quickly lost, was that Dachau should serve as a political prison.) In addition about 6,000 Russian POW's were shot in the nearby SS firing range.

From the bus parking turn left towards the entrance gate. The motto above the gate reads "Arbeit macht Frei." The perimeter wall, watchtowers and barbed wire are original. The half-filled ditch running parallel to the wall was littered with bodies when the U. S. forces arrived in 1945. The building on the left is a reconstruction. This was the old kitchen and laundry complex. It now houses the museum. This contains, among other things, contemporary photographs taken by the liberators, accounts of survivors and eye-witnesses, a model reconstructing the camp in its entirety, maps indicating the location of concentration camps around the Nazi territories. Not all the exhibits have explanations in English. At the end of the museum is an excellent 30-minute film. There are always English screenings at 11:30 and 3:30 but often there are additional ones as well. You should ask what time the next one is showing. Be ready in advance — there is only limited space in the cinema.

On leaving this area you are looking at the Appelplatz or "roll-call square." Straight ahead is the central avenue of the camp. Immediately in front of you is a huge and distressing sculpture of tortured figures extended in agony. To the right on a low wall are the words "Never Again" in English, French, German and Russian. The separate building to the left was the camp commandant's HQ.

Go straight ahead to the two barrack huts either side of the central avenue. These are reconstructions. The liberating U. S. forces destroyed the originals. Each of these huts was built for 208 prisoners, with 2 communal washrooms between them. By 1938 each hut was being used to house 1,600 men. You can see clearly how the beds were turned into triple bunks and crammed together. Continue straight on down the avenue of poplar trees. Note the foundation stones of the remaining 28 barrack huts, all destroyed.

At the end are several religious memorials: a Jewish temple, a Catholic church and a Protestant church. Beyond the far perimeter wall is a Carmelite convent.

Turn left across the little ditch towards the crematoria. You can see the Russian Orthodox memorial church. On the left is a small and very moving statue of a man. It is inscribed "In Honor of the dead, and as a warning to the living." The small complex of buildings in front of you contains the crematoria and the gas chambers. The ovens are reconstructions. The gas chambers were disguised as shower and fumigation rooms. You can still see the holes in the ceiling through which the gas was intended to permeate. These were not in fact used. They were primarily experimental, for testing the killing gas Zykion B developed by Siemens in Munich. Most of those Dachau prisoners selected for gassing were taken by train to Linz in Austria. Between 1942 and 1944 they numbered 3,166.

After the war Dachau was briefly used as a prison for Nazi war criminals. In war crime trials in Dachau town 260 minor SS functionaries were sentenced to death. The major figures were tried in Nuremberg. The former concentration camp became a war memorial in 1965.

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