“In other cities, you are forced to live, in Munich you can live” as Anton Sailer once said. The question remains: is Munich, with its continental charm, a metropolis, or just a somewhat bigger Bavarian village? And which would be better? Have a look and decide for yourself.
CITY CENTRE: Munich’s historic city-centre lies between the Karls, Isar and Sendlinger City gates and the ‘Odeonsplatz’. This is where splendid buildings and concrete constructions stand side by side. For an excellent view of the city, climb to the top of St Peter’s Church, which the natives affectionately call ‘Alter Peter’ (‘Old Peter’). The old town actually has numerous churches, such as the Asam and Theatiner Churches, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche and the landmark two domed towers of the Frauenkirche. On the Marienplatz, street performers entertain the crowds, but as soon as it’s time for the Town Halls’ chimes to ring through the city, no one pays them any attention! The ‘Odeonsplatz’ is where the city’s pearl, the ‘Residenz’, former seat of court, lies and it’s always nice to walk through its lovely gardens. In the mornings, the curious Virkualienmarkt is a pleasure to stroll across.
SCHWABING: The Countess of Reventlow once claimed that “Schwabing isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind”. And when you’re ‘schwabing’, you put on a few more airs and graces than those around you and hold your head up that bit higher! But don’t be fooled, this part of town has many faces. The Ludwigstraße reveals the city’s 19th Century royal magnificence. This boulevard’s buildings today house University departments and Ministries. Behind the Siegestor (‘Victory Gate’), you can appreciate the scale of the city. If you want to strutt your stuff, then head off to Leopoldstrasse, which is lined with cinemas and restaurants. This is the place to see and be seen in! In the side-streets architecture fans can savour the area’s many delights. Around the turn of the century, Schwabing was much favoured by revolutionaries and artists – the atmosphere they once generated has been kept alive, especially around the ‘Münchener Freiheit’. If you fancy visiting a museum, then look no further, this is where most of them are!
BOGENHAUSEN: Munich’s Mayfair. This is where the rich and beautiful live, well, the former at least. The walk from the ‘Friedensengel’, the ‘angel of peace’ leads you straight into this district. Everywhere here, elegant streets branch off the main road. Glimpse through the hedges and you’ll see villas galore. The area simply oozes wealth. In Arabella park, in the north of Bogenhausen, you could be forgiven for feeling a touch Liliputian: the size of the buildings, which look like something from a sci-fi movie, make you feel positively dwarfed.
HAIDHAUSEN: Or should we say ‘the French district’? The motto here is definitely ‘savoir vivre!’. With its distinct style and multicultural inhabitants, you can always be sure to find a great mixture of people in this area. Haidhausen is popular with artists and different ethnic groups alike. This makes it one of the most creative parts of the city and the perfect place to enjoy a culinary world-trip! Don’t overlook the ‘Müllerschen Volksbad’, a beautiful old Roman-Style swimming pool.
ENGLISCHER GARTEN: If you haven’t fallen in love with Munich yet, then you will have done by the time you leave the ‘English Gardens’, one of the biggest city-parks on the Continent. With its lush meadows, quiet corners and beer gardens, it offers something for people of all ages. At the ‘Eisbach’, and other parts of the River Isar that run through here, you can perfect your all-over tan, you certainly won’t be on your own! In the Japanese Garden, you can watch a traditional tea ceremony and in the beer garden around the Chinese Tower, you can savour that ‘Munich feeling’ with the locals. The Monopterus, former haunt of the flower power generation, is also a sight worth seeing. This place is truly the perfect oasis.
NYMPHENBURG: Tired of the hustle and bustle of city-life? Time to visit ‘Schloß Nymphenburg’ with its Versailles-style gardens and ponds with their well-fed swans. Is this where time has stood still? The castle dominates this picturesque area, which is a favourite meeting place for lovers and families alike.
SENDLING: Only for early birds? This former industrial area also contains the belly of Munich, a grand wholesale fruit and veg market. If a hard night on the town hasn’t let you peek into this world, which comes to life at five every morning, then head off to the unique Israelite Cemetery, which houses graves spanning eight centuries. You won’t be able to sleep too long in Sendling, because the traffic will wake you up!
THERESIENWIESE: Not just for natives! Under the watchful gaze of the ‘Bavaria’ Statue, this is where the world-famous ‘Oktoberfest’ or ‘Die Wies’n’ takes place. Every year, the autumn air is filled with the aroma of freshly-baked pretzels, sausages and of course – BEER! This is unmissable, there is certain unifying force created by beer, people from all walks of life rub shoulders: tourists and Bavarians, punks and businessmen, all swaying to the beat of the Oompah bands and dancing on tables. Quench your thirst with a quart of beer and flaunt your ‘Dirndl’ and ‘Lederhosen’…
OLYMPIC VILLAGE: Built for the 1972 Olympics, the youngest part of the city has 9,000 inhabitants who are mainly students. Even though some of its architecture initially aroused a great deal of controversy, it is now an integral part of Munich’s landscape – basically, you either love it or hate it. Either way, it’s the recreation and leisure mecca. Take in a concert, watch Bayern-München play footie in the Olympia Stadion watch the seven-day cycle race, the possibilities are endless.
History of Munich
Munich is a young town! Its founding is attributed to the Guelph Duke, Henry of the Lions, who gained the title Duke of Bavaria in 1156. Now a town of approximately 1,4 million inhabitants, the site was at this time only a small settlement characterised by a Benedictine monastery. A few kilometres away, the salt road wound past. This was a route along which the salt traders transported their goods. Their white gold was carried to Augsburg and further inland from the salt mines in Bad Reichenhall and Hallein. However, to follow such a route necessitated crossing the river Isar. The only possibility was a bridge, which was subject to tolling and lay in the territory of the Bishop of Freising. In order to reap the benefits of this toll system, Duke Henry demanded in 1158 that the old bridge near Oberföhring (today a part of the city of Munich) be destroyed and that a new bridge over the Isar be built on the site of the present Ludwigsbrücke. In the same year Emperor Frederick Barbarossa officially opened this new trade passage. The market and traditional currency of Freising was then transferred to the area: Munichen that was later to be Munich was born! The town Apud Munichen derived its name from the then existing monastery: Bei den Mönchen (meaning literally ‘amongst the monks’). At the site of this monastery today Munich’s oldest parish church ‘Der alte Peter’ is to be found. The salt road became the central axis on which the new town boundaries were to be based. It follows the course of the valley from the Isar Gate to Marienplatz.
On Duke Henry’s refusal to lead the army for the Emperor he was placed under an imperial ban and subsequently lost his entire estate in 1180. Munich was placed in the hands of the Wittelbacher family. It is said that this family forged the city’s history for the following 700 years (until 1918) and finally provided the region with rulers.
In 1214 Munich was for the first time described as a ‘town’ – within the still small town walls (erected circa. 1175) there lived at that time approximately 2000 people. In 1239, the future town symbol first appeared: ‘das Münchener Kindl’ (the child of Munich). This in fact depicted a young monk and later formed the basis of the Munich coat of arms. The town colours, gold and black, were conceived a century later. From 1324-1350 the so-called decorations of state, the insignia of power, were held at Munich and then the town was permitted to adopt the colours of the Empire.
In 1255, Munich became the official town of residence of the Duchy of Bavaria-Munich and the Alter Hof had to be expanded in order to accommodate this. A further town wall became necessary (built ca. 1255-1290). Finally in 1271, the blossoming town was divided into two parishes, those of St Peter and St Maria.
Fires destroyed a large part of the town in both 1310 and 1327 and neither was it spared the wrath of epidemics (between 1349 and 1495 the people of Munich suffered twelve outbreaks of the black plague). As was the case in many other towns, the Jewish population was blamed for this misfortune. The first terrible anti-Semitic hate campaign followed. The string of fires meanwhile did not reach an end until well into the 15th Century.
Munich nevertheless succeeded in becoming a great centre of trade and culture. The trade routes (not only trading in salt, but also fabric and wine) defined Munich life by prompting the opening of a daily market on the Schrannenplatz (today the Marienplatz) as well as the salt market, held at the Kreuzplatz (today the Promenadeplatz). After 1468, Jörg von Halsenbach built the Frauenkirche (the Ladies’ church) which as a result of the architecture resembling two Swiss-French ladies’ bonnets, became a symbol of Munich.
In 1505, Munich was named the capital city of Bavaria. Under the orchestration of Duke Albrecht V, the new official residence was built. His descendants were to continue this construction into the 19th Century and King Ludwig the First finished of the palace, which was modelled after the Florentine Palazzo Pitti.
From 1563 onwards, Munich developed into a hotbed of anti-reformation agitation. The Jesuits moved into Munich and the Michaeliskirche was built. The town stood next to Augsburg and Prague as a cultural centre of the region. In 1623, Bavaria became an electorate. The town was occupied in 1632 by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty years war. As a mark of gratitude for the ensuing liberation the Mariensäule (pillar of Mary) was built.
In the 18th Century electoral Prince Karl Albrecht commissioned the artist of Rococo. The Amalienburg in Nymphenburg subsequently emerged in 1734.
In 1806, Napoleon declared Bavaria part of the Empire and as part of this train of thought dubbed Munich the main town of imperial residence. When crowned Prince Ludwig married in 1810, the first Oktoberfest was held. The town expanded out of its previous boundaries and Maxvorstadt arose.
The 19th Century brought Munich much that shaped its unique character: In 1826 it became a university town and in 1857 the first Weisswürst (white sausage, a Bavarian speciality) were eaten and the new town hall was built. The population increased rapidly: in 1945 there were ca. 100,000 inhabitants. This had grown to almost half a million by 1900. Munich was as a result the third largest town in Germany.
In the confusion that followed the First World War the Munich Räterepublik (Soviet Republic) was exclaimed in 1919. Shortly after, the first meeting of the Nazi party took place. In 1923 Hitler ordered the march on the Feldherrnhalle. Between 1935-45 Munich stood as the main town of the Nazi movement.
On the 30th of April 1945 American troops marched into a town that had been nearly 70% destroyed. As part of the reconstruction program, a special effort was made to preserve the historical areas, whilst the building a new and modern Munich began. The visitors to the Olympic games in 1972 were welcomed by newly built underground transport and ringroads. In the following year Munich had become one of the most desirable cities in Germany. It still serves as a center of the publishing industry and home of many big international corporations. Furthermore, it counts as a very welcoming and safe town and thanks to its large tourist and leisure facilities has been referred to as the “most northern town in Italy”.