Friday, January 16, 2015

Munich, Germany: History, museums, Oktoberfest and, best of all, beer

Munich's famous Glockenspiel chimes daily at 11 am   (Taylor)
MUNICH, GERMANY Of all of Germany’s many faces, Bavaria may just be the happiest, and Munich is the ideal place to experience that joy.

Munich, or Munchen in German, is the capital of Bavaria and its largest city. It is also the third largest city in the country.

Munich derives its name from the Benedictine order who ran a monastery at the site that later became the old town. When translated from the old high German, Munchen means “by the monks.“

Munich is famous for beer  (wikipedia)
For travelers, Munich is a perfect base. With superb rail service to surrounding areas, it is easy to explore the city and environs and do day trips to other parts of Bavaria without changing hotels.

Allow at least two full days to experience the charms of Munich which include architecture, history, museums, parks and, of course, beer gardens.

Munich is known for its beer, thanks in large part to the world famous Oktoberfest which was first held in October of 1810 to honor the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig. Oddly enough, today the festival now takes place mostly in September and finishes on the first Sunday in October. The only exception is when October 3rd, the national holiday known as German Unity Day, falls on a Monday or Tuesday. When that happens Oktoberfest is extended for those days.
Oktoberfest fairgrounds, the world's most famous beer festival  (wikipedia)
Though Oktoberfest is a magical time for Munich, it is possible to have a same type of experience any time of year in one of the numerous beer gardens throughout the city.

The Hofbrauhaus is a favorite attraction  (Taylor)
Arguably the most famous beer hall in the world is the Hofbrauhaus am Platzl. It is certainly one of Munich’s most famous attractions.

If beer is not your cup of tea, a glass of “radler“ might be a good substitute. Radler is half beer and half lemonade. The citrus addition cuts the beer taste enough to make a refreshing alternative to its more hoppy cousin.

The pedestrian-only Marienplatz is the heart of the city where locals and visitors alike gather for shopping, eating and socializing. The main event takes place each day at 11 a.m. when the Glockenspiel chimes at the New Town Hall with its re-enactment of two 16th century stories.
Depending upon which tune is played  performances last between 12 and 15 minutes. When the small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps three times, the show is over.

Munich suffered massive bombing damage during World War II, but it has been lovingly and meticulously restored to its previous splendor. Nowhere is that better witnessed than Marienplatz, or Mary’s Square, where it transforms at night into a fairy-tale atmosphere with its softly glowing amber and lime colored lights.

Munich before and after rebuilding  (wikipedia)
The city’s comprehensive transportation system, which incorporates the underground U-Bahn and suburban S-Bahn trains, was extensively modernized for the 1972 Summer Olympics. As a result, more than three decades later, getting around Munich is still a traveler’s dream.

The Olympic village and many of the sports facilities remain active, and, have become a major attraction, largely because they were the site of the Munich massacre when Palestinian gunmen known as “Black September“ kidnapped and later assassinated 11 Israeli athletes.

History comes alive in Munich where much of the past blends with the present to create a living museum.
The majestic Schloss Nymphenburg, birthplace of "Mad" King Ludwig II   (wikipedia)
Schloss Nympehnburg, or Nymphenburg Palace, for example, was the summer resident of the former rulers of Bavaria. The Baroque German version of Versailles is majestically situated on the outskirts of the city. It was the birthplace of “Mad“ King Ludwig II who was renowned for his luxurious castles and extravagant lifestyle.

Ludwig II's fairy tale Castle of Neuschwanstein near Fussen  (Taylor)
Ludwig’s appetite for opulence has evolved into some of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions with the Castle of Neuschwanstein in southwestern Bavaria, along with Hohenschwangau Castle and Linderhof Palace.

King's Square in Munich with three Greek buildings  (wikipedia)
The King’s Square, or Konigplatz, in Munich is the only plaza in the world that features buildings constructed in the three styles of Greek architecture; Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.

During the World War II era, King’s Square was a major gathering spot for the mass rallies of the Nazi Party, and the national headquarters of the party is located at Brienner Strasse near the square.

Munich is also a city of parks and museums. Among the best is the Alte Pinakothek which is one of the oldest galleries in the world featuring a vast collection of Old Master paintings.

Munich's English Garden is especially popular in warm weather  (wikipedia)
The English Garden, one of the world’s largest urban parks, is bigger than Central Park in New York. Englishman Lancelot Brown, better known as “Capability“ Brown, had so much input in the project that it made him world famous as a landscape architect.

These are just a few of Munich’s countless treasures. It’s charm is obvious. It is a city that beckons travelers with its friendly ambiance, but it is also deceptive for it is a place that must be absorbed through the pores.

Seek and discover the magic of Munich and she will not disappoint.