Celebrating 850 Years of Bavarian Delights
By Marilyn Heimburger
Photos by Don Heimburger and courtesy Munich Tourist Office
I have always liked Munich. Actually, it’s more than just liking the city. I feel moved by its vibrant life, its stimulating nature and its friendly people. Apparently many more feel the way I do, since it is Germany’s most-visited city.
Last year, during Munich’s 850th birthday, the city of 1.3 million hosted the following:
- City Foundation Festival in June in the heart of the city, featuring traditional Bavarian culture and international folk culture. A highlight of the fest was a Gaufest, or regional festival, of the many associations for folk culture where dancing and costumes from the Isargau region were prominent. As many as 10,000 participants were involved in this. A group of 100 rafters from the Oberland region showed how to build a raft. Dance masters showed how to learn the “Munich-Francaise” dance.
- In July, the Old Town Ring, which was free from automobile traffic, served as the center for a celebration of theater, music, dance, games and sports on many stages. Scenes from peasant life in Munich with markets, street theater and beer gardens were staged. There also was music from international bands and more.
- In August, the three-day Isar Bridges Festival, centered around the Cornelius, Ludwig and Maximilian bridges, highlighted the Isar River (which flows through the city) as the city’s life-giving artery. There was music under the bridge, dancing along its banks, glittering lights on the water, and with this came Munich’s famous culinary delights. An action theater group, which encouraged audience participation, also presented skits. There were also night-time water and laser shows
- Additional highlights included the world premier of a work commissioned from composer Victoria Borisova-Ollas especially for the 850th anniversary. In June the Cuvillies Theater, one of German’s most elegant Rococo theaters, reopened after a spectacular renovation. In the newly re-designed St. Jakobs-Platz, many of the local museums and community organizations held programs of music ranging from classical to klezmer (a musical genre), dancing and creative street theater, exhibitions, tours and more.
- Many of Munich museums featured exhibits of famous Munich artists, writers and Munich’s cultural heritage.
As Munich’s Lord Mayor Christian Ude said, “(Munich’s) celebrating its 850th foundation day…is nothing exceptional. What is remarkable is the city’s rapid growth from a monastery on a hill to a European metropolis with over a million inhabitants and a high-tech hub.”
As Ude says, the city is special because of its enduring and much-praised flair as a place with a zest for life.
The settlement of Munichen was originally granted the right to market goods and mint coins in June of 1158. In 1214 it was granted status as a town, and in 1255 it became the seat of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Under Kind Ludwig I, many famous buildings were erected, making Munich a major cultural center, and in 1918 the Free State of Bavaria was formed.
For travelers, the city offers 355 hotels and pensions with 45,500 hotel beds available. In 2006, 4.4. million tourists booked nearly nine million overnight stays, with 47% of them from overseas, with the USA bringing in the most, followed by Italy, Great Britain, Austria and Switzerland.
The city boasts three universities and eight colleges, 60 theaters and an opera house, 45 major museums, three symphony orchestras—and it hosts the famous 16-day Octoberfest beginning on the Saturday two weeks before October.
Favorites for visitors to see in Munich include:
- The city’s twin onion-domed towers of the Frauenkirche, Church of our Lady, Frauenplatz 1, is the city’s best-known landmark.
- Marienplatz and the glockenspiel on the Marienplatz in the city center displays the mechanical dancers in the tower of the Rathaus (Town Hall) at 11 a.m. and noon (and 5 p.m. in the summer).
- Schloss Nymphenburg is the impressive Baroque palace built as the summer residence for the Bavarian Electors. Today the main building houses a museum.
- The Viktualienmarkt is Munich’s oldest market, originally begun as a farmer’s market and now a favorite place for a wide range of produce, Bavarian specialties and more.
- The Hofbrauhaus deserves a visit, as its one of Munich’s best-known restaurant-breweries at Am Platz 9. Great dining is available, or just casual drinking and listening to oom-pah music. For information on the Hofbrauhaus, visit www.hofbraeuhaus.de.
- There are many churches to visit, including the Asamkirche built by the Asam brothers in the 18th century with its spectacular interior at Sendlinger Strasse 62; Church of the Sacred Heart, a cubed-shaped structure with an innovative facade at Romanstrasse 6; and Saint Peter’s, Munich’s oldest parish at Rindermarkt 1.
- The Deutsches Museum at Museumsinsel 1 houses sailboats, windmills, space probes, robots, ships, trains, planes and much more. Allot a whole day for this attraction.
- Octoberfest Museum, at Sterneckerstrasse 2, will tell you all about the history of beer including how it started as a drink at monasteries, and all about the city’s famous Octoberfest celebration.
- The expanded BMW Museum is a must-see if you are fascinated with automobiles and engineering. Tours are available.
Munich is waiting to wow you.
IF YOU GO…
You can arrive at Munich’s Airport, which is like a city within itself. Flights from numerous major hubs arrive and depart from here daily. Train is another good option if you are coming from another European city.
If you’ll be in town for at least a day, pick up the City Tour Card (one- and three-day tickets are available), which is good not only for all public transportation, but also includes discounts of up to 50% on more than 30 attractions such as sights, bike rentals, museums, theaters and restaurants. www.citytourcard.com.
A close-in, convenient four-star hotel is the Platzl Hotel at Sparkassenstrasse 10. It is located near the Hofbrauhaus and is within a a couple of minutes walk of the Marienplatz. Visit www.platzl.de.
Guided tours of Munich are available. Visit www.muenchen.de for more information. The tourism office is located in the Rathaus, first floor, at Marienplatz.