I had always heard great reports about Munich as a fun city to visit so I was very excited to spend a few days there. I was not disappointed and was struck with how modern, diverse, and walkable it was. It is the third largest city in Germany with about 6 million living in the greater metro area. It is considered the capital of Bavaria and sits just a few hours from the Austrian border. The city is a major center of art, business, technology, and education. It felt young and vibrant in comparison to other major European cities we have visited, and it was apparent how much of an impact the university system had on its culture. It is considered to have the highest standard of living in Germany and in the top five globally. Widely considered the most culturally diverse city in Germany, people from all over the world live in Munich because of its economic and cultural draw.
Munich by comparison to the rest of the country is highly Catholic and was at the center of the Catholic reformation movement. This revolutionary attitude later translated into it being one of the first strongholds of the Nazi party very early on. As early as 1923, Nazi governmental factions in Munich moved to take over the German government. After the Nazi’s took power the city was dubbed “the capital of the movement”. Munich was heavily bombed during the war, resulting in the destruction of about half of the city and almost all of the historic center. Today, the city displays and eclectic mix of historic and modern architecture.
Within the first few hours, it was immediately apparent how walkable the city was. A lot of Munich is bisected by rivers and streams with accompanying walking paths and nearby parks. The center of the city was home to its citizens enjoying the fresh air and summer sun while walking to daily destinations. We even spotted people lying on banks of the river in bathing suits soaking up the sun. It was funny to watch as the weather seemed more appropriate for a sweater than a speedo, but I guess everything is relative. Given the size and population of Munich, I was surprised not to see the crazy traffic jams and congestion of other European cities. The density was on the lower side with mostly three to four story buildings of all architectural styles lining the streets.
We walked some of the neighborhoods until we got to the main square where we climbed the tallest cathedral in the city which provided sweeping 360-degree views. We later headed to Munich’s famed Hofbrauhaus for a beer and pretzel. The Hofbrauhaus is arguably the most famous beer hall in the world. In the German culture, the beer hall was the center of the city social scene both for daily visits and large celebrations. Every year during Oktoberfest the Hofbrauhaus holds one of the largest beer gardens in the city. The beer hall is huge in scale and one of the largest bars I have ever set foot in. The beer hall scale is eclipsed by the gargantuan beers and pretzels. The beer mug is so huge it is difficult to lift when full and the pretzel’s served were larger than my head. The Hofbrauhaus was originally built in 1589 by a local Duke, and opened to the public in 1828. All the rooms except the beer hall itself were destroyed by Allied bombs during WWII. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in the city but also a draw for locals who have special arrangements to store their personal mugs in the hall.
The second day in the city was mostly spent walking the neighborhoods and exploring the Museum of Modern Art. The museum was a large building with a spiral walkway that led you into the exhibits and up the floors, creating an architectural art piece of its own. Mandy was particularly struck with the art installation of giant Matryoshka dolls as many were larger than her and it made for a particularly good photo op. We ended our tour of the museum with a very in-depth exhibit on chairs which was of particular interest to Mandy. We finished the day exploring the other amazing sculptures and art installations throughout.
I was sad to leave Munich for Berlin as it had so much more to offer us that we could not fully experience. Its history and infamous past clashes with its diverse present much like the old buildings huddled beside the modern apartments on every block. Its destruction brought rise not only to a new city but new ideas and attitudes about the world and how to live within it. This revised outlook led to a rebirth that can be felt in the bustle and diversity of the city. Out of the ruins emerged a great economic, political, and cultural engine in Germany. // Jeff