Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
The heart of Munich, Marienplatz, is radiant this time of year – with the gold of the 60+ foot Christmas tree radiating off the Rathaus and the stalls of the Christkindl Markt. Known as Munich’s living room, everyone who visits Munich comes through this platz. But that’s not the surprising thing. It’s that the locals love it too. If you are in Munich, be sure to check it out – but like most of Munich – know that it closes early, generally by 9 pm. It doesn’t stop people from coming downtown – for the nightlife, for the restaurants, and for the nearby bars.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I can’t believe I have lived in Munich for more than one year and I have never done a post on the Hofbräuhaus. Well the truth is that it’s not my favorite part of Munich, as you can’t find a more touristy place. But if you stumble into Munich during the 345 days of the year that Octoberfest is not going on, and you need your fix of a Bavarian beer hall, then you can visit the Hofbrau with 1300 (seating capacity) of your best friends from around the world. The haus was founded way back in 1589 by William V, the Duke of Bavaria, and was one of the first public drinking halls in Bavaria. If you want a real beer hall that is a little less touristy, you may want to try some of the following great beer halls: Augistiner Stube or Keller, Lowenbrau Brewery, or Ratskeller – below the Rathaus.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Germany’s leading mobile provider, T-Mobile, is one of the country’s premier brands. A subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, and based in Bonn, T-Mobile has 35% of the market share with more than 37 million subscribers. In recent years they have come under tough competition with the UK’s Vodafone. O2 has also gained significant marketshare as well, and fended off a takeover attempt by T-Mobile, only to be purchased by Spain’s Telefonia in 2006. In fact, the entire European market is a mix of state backed giants, and enterprising upstarts. So T-Mobile has built its international operation with a strong presence in International markets, and has been successful in 11 European markets and the US to total more than 100 million subscribers, and now one of the most well known brands in the world.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Actually, Oberpollinger is quite chic, but not quite a boutique anymore with a space of more than 40,000 sq meters in downtown Munich. With more than 100 years of history in the Altstadt, Oberpollinger is thought of as one of Bavaria’s premier department stores. And now it’s all dressed up for the holidays, with its art florescent tree sculpture outside (I’m not sure I understand that one) and the Christmas shoppers walking by. It’s a great place for shopping, with one of the best toy stores in Munich, top fashions, and a great gathering place on the top floor restaurant. This isn’t meant to be an advertisement, but it’s a great mix of shopping and Munich history – a good combination during the Christmas season.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Recreating the early 20th century in Munich, Bavarian Film Works used the backdrop of the Paleontology Museum and one of the apartment interiors on Richard-Wagner Strasse to showcase the biography of Hope Bridges-Adams lehmann, the first woman in Germany to complete her medical studies. The conclusion of her studies was not recognized in Germany though, so she travelled to Dublin to finally be recognized as a doctor. From 1896, she worked in practice with her second husband, Carl Lehmann of Munich. It wasn’t until 1904 that she was officially recognized as a doctor. The actress Heike Makatsch (the temptress secretary from the movie Love Actually) plays Hope, and the biography airs next year on ZDF.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
All through the Altstadt you will see the wonders of Christmas – in every window, in every advertisement, in every Christkindl booth. But no place is the phenomenon more evident than in the faces of the children as they stare in the department store windows around Marienplatz. Dream scenes come to life with bears, rabbits, cats and dogs acting out everyday winter scenes. I love watching the families stop by. You can see the breath of the kids on the window, they are so close. At the same time, the parents look on with a sense of self-satisfaction, knowing they are passing on the tradition of Christmas.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Usually celebrated on Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day is a festival specifically for children in many European countries, related to surviving legends of the patron saint of sailors. However, Nicholas is usually known for his reputation as a bringer of gifts, which is where the legend of the American Santa Clause came from. In Munich today, you get the best of both worlds as they celebrate on the 6th and 25th, despite the fact that the relationship here is complex – as Martin Luther replaced the St. Nicholas festival (in his protest of organized religion) with the Christkind or Christ Child celebration. On the eve of Dec 5th small children put a boot outside the front door, and St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets.
Friday, December 5, 2008
As expected, the rain came back to Munich yesterday, but before it took over completely we had this strange transition day that at times was completely black, and next blindingly sunny. At one point, during the evening commute, it appeared someone was shinning a flashlight from the end of a long, dark tunnel. The photos, especially while driving in the car, don’t do it justice – but it was one of the most stunning sunsets we’ve seen since arriving in Munich.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The Apple “Cathedral,” as it was called by the local papers, opened this past week in Munich to much fanfare and huge crowds – all ready to make early Christmas purchases. The 251st Apple store is actually the first in Germany, and is quite the site with two stories of gadgets, computers, music players. It is the first of five stores that will open up in Germany in the coming year. The space will be used over the coming weeks – not only for sales but also for concerts and events to drive traffic to the store. Rumors of a store opening up in Munich circulated for years, and it looks like they got the opening done right; with big cheers from the large crowd, a victory lap by employees to get the crowd pumped up, and the Steve Jobs faithful ready to come back again and again. This shot, of course, lines up Ipod Nanos in the pattern of the Bavarian flag.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Christmas is EVERYWHERE in Munich. If you want to see Munich in its finest, come during the Chriskindlmarkt celebration, where there are 4-5 markets in the Altstadt alone. I went downtown last night, and there were thousands of people, not just in the markets, but shopping, walking around, hanging out in cafes, drinking Gluhwein. It was nice to see such amazing life in downtown. The unseasonably clear weather has certainly helped as well – although I hear we have chance of rain turning to snow beginning today which may liven things up even more. Here you have the tree overlooking the Marienplatz market, which is nice to see but I understand is really only for tourists (see all the price tags) – so expect high prices. One that was particularly festive was the Medieval festival, located in Wittlesbacherplatz. Expect a few scenes from there in the coming weeks as I’m sure to visit again soon.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Only in Europe, and more specifically, only in beer-crazy Munich would you find beer in vending machines. Sure, it’s at a premium (an extra .20), but that’s only because you can buy it during all those non-business hours. Most of Munich shops close by 8 pm, nothing is opened Sunday (with the exception of gas stations) and the local drink markets often close by 2 on Saturdays – which last time I checked was a heavy consumption day. So if you are not one for planning ahead, just make sure you have lots and lots of coins handy.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Back in the heart of the city, for a bit of sunshine and the opening of the Christmas Market Season. Over the next few weeks, you can’t walk through downtown without tripping over a holiday market or two. Of course the center of the Munich Chriskindlmarkt is at Marienplatz, but I’m told that it is generally very expensive and only for the tourists. You can also find markets at Sendlingertor, the Chinese Tower in the English Garden, Wittesbacherplatz (the medieval market), Wienerplatz, and in Schwabing. Even the airport has a market this year. You can find information on all the markets here. I love this photo (thank you guest photographer) because it shows the heart of Munich with its beautiful colors at the Rathaus and the Frauenkirchen, but it also shows an overlay of centuries of history which make up Munich today.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
In the constant design and redesign of the Munich Altstadt, you will find a maze of twisted roads wrapped around the main shopping streets of Neuhauser and Theatinerstrasse. As the center was rebuilt after World War II, I am told that it was painstakingly reconstructed with every detail to the original. If you have travelled around Germany, you will note that many other cities did not follow this same principal. One of the things that Munich had going in its favor was how well it was documented. Supposedly, when the German army realized that it was going to be bombarded by allied forces, it sent Nazi soldiers around the city making use of color photography (not widely available at this time) to document and record nearly every street of central Munich. One of the interesting results is an attempt to re-capture some of the many arcades that existed in the Altstadt. Today they are lined with quite exclusive shops as only those “in the know” would ever be able to find them again amongst the maze.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Munich region has approx 2.4 million inhabitants, and 1.1 million live outside the city limits of Munich – out in the burbs. Not surprisingly, Munich, has had 800+ years of “city planning” but due to the fact that it has few natural physical boundaries (the Isar is about the only one as the Alps are well beyond Munich boundaries), urban growth has remained largely unrestricted. Most of the urban growth occurred between 1871 and the turn of the 19th century, growing from 170,000 to 500,000 inhabitants. but unlike many other European centers, the city has avoided endless sprawl. Instead, parks and forests of the Bavarian kings have been incorporated into the urban fabric, making it one of the greener cities in Europe.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Public transportation in Europe is the great Equalizer. In big cities across Europe, it is a detriment to have a car – tough and expensive to park. In Munich, it’s not that bad – yet the public transportation is so reliable and fast, that just about everyone takes it. In most cities in the US, this is not the same. Short of places like New York, Chicago or San Francisco, if someone can afford a car that is the transport of choice. And on most public transit, you have a lesser socio-economic class outside rush hour. I caught this photo late on Friday night on the S-bahn, where you catch a little bit of everything – Kids hanging out, sophisticates going to the theatre, ordinary people going to meet friends, and those out to the party.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
No. This is not a forgotten sign from an old car plant from another era – one where Rolls Royce, Jaguar, and Range Rover were all owned by the same British owned car manufacturer. It’s actually the home of a high end body shop and repair shop for some of the top British cars made. If you own a Rolls Royce, you can’t just take your car anywhere – you take it to the specialists like this shop, which happend to be located in the shadow of the local BMW manufacturing plant. In Munich, you find no shortage of British expats with vintage cars, which should keep this place very busy. Oddly enough, it looked quite shut on the Wednesday morning when I drove by. Perhaps I overestimated the value of the British pound, and the influence of the British presence in Munich. Opened or closed – does anyone know? Their website still seems active.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Four bike riders pass by the stately Glyptotek museum in Munich’s Maxvorstadt neighborhood in the cool Winter air. The building looks like it was carved out of marble, and in fact it was – with 16 Ionic columns and its 18 statues that encircle the building. In fact, every bit of the museum was built out of marble, but World War II took its toll on the building and you can see the bricks that now line the interior. The extensive frescoes that used to line the walls also did not make it through the war. At the same time, much of the artwork was spared (or more likely hidden), but the museum didn’t open again until 1972 (for the Olympics, of course). Inside, you will find frescoes from the Greek Temple of Aegina. That might not sound familiar to you, but the temple made up part of the Ancient triangle in Greece, which was made up of the Acropolis in Athens, the Greek temple of Poseidon in Sounion (south of Athens along the peninsula), and the Temple of Aegina. They were among the most cherished temples in all of Greece. And somehow (we won’t go into that) they ended up in Munich, behind these bikers, on a cold Winter night.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
North of Munich is a large community of apartments just west of Allianz Arena, which is sometimes called Hydepark. I came across it as I noticed the perfectly formed semi-circle line of apartments from an airplane on its approach to Munich airport. But I can tell you that it looks much better from a 5000-foot vantage point. The vast expanse of apartments, built likely in the early 70s as a concept style of living, has not aged well. The structure is set so the cars are pulled underneath or into only a few car parks, and the apartment living surface intermingles with the parkland at the edge of the city. It all sounds nice, but walking through you felt an amazing feeling of isolation, as the apartment and nearby parks were amazingly empty for the middle of the day. And each of the apartment buildings were stapled with satellite dishes, highlighting the urge for any contact with the outside world. This was the neighborhood North of the popular Euro Industrial Shopping center, but it could have been a world away from Munich. The property is run by Igewo GmbH, which manages more than 1800 apartments in Munich, much of them public funded. Of course this is off the Munich Tourist map, but even If you’re looking for inside Munich experiences, I don’t think this is it. My advice, stay inside the ring road for real Munich, and leave these rings for someone else.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Munich has no shortage of news sources, and this photo shows a traditional newsstand where you can buy newspapers, magazines and even a snack on the go. Traditionally you find these newsstands around the center of the city, and in heavily trafficked areas like Schwabing. However, this kiosk was actually way out in the North end of Munich, just past the BMW factory and offices. Advertised on top of the kiosk are Munich’s top newspapers – Munchner Merkur, Munchen TZ, and Sueddeutsche. If your German is not so strong, then no problem. Just punch their addresses into Windows Live Translator. To see what’s going on in Munich, your best bet is Munich Found.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
You are looking at the sunset through one of the most prominent Renaissance halls north of the Alps, the banquet hall in the Schloss Dachau – just Northwest of Munich. The 575 seat hall makes up one of the four wings that was not destroyed by Napoleonic troops. When the palace was created in the 16th century, it became a favorite of the Bavarian dukes, and became the Royal summer home for some time. Just beyond the windows lies a terraced baroque palace gardens with pavilion and lime avenue – filled with Linden plants.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We tried to hold off Winter as long as possible, but it finally blanketed Munich today with our first snow. Temperatures dropped below freezing, and even during the couple hours of sun today, you could tell the season had changed. By this time last year, Munich already had about a month of snow, so we are thankful for a bit of an Indian Summer. But the good news, is that we are so much closer to the ski season. An ice rink just opened up in Karlsplatz, and most of the local Christmas Markets open next weekend. You can get the latest on Munich Winter reports at Munich.de or at the Bayern Tourist site
Friday, November 21, 2008
Down in the South of Munich, just beyond the Southern Railway station is one of many “approved” graffiti walls within Munich. It’s 100M on each side of the street absolutely covered with tags and outlandish images. For years, this has contained graffiti artists to a few locations around Munich, but lately the taggers have grown bigger than their city approved imposed limits, and have been tagging entire S-bahn trains – a la New York style. By the looks in the station, locals are amazed and offended that anyone would do so. Perhaps someone reminded them that taggers aren’t supposed to follow the rules. I was shocked as well when I saw it. It seemed so un-Munich like. But walls like this one on Tumblinger Strasse, are quite amazing – a mix of local color, breakthrough artistic skills, and just plain expressionism. Some tell stories, some are meant to shock people, and others are just plain fun.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Well…Red Light District is certainly a stretch but perhaps it got your attention. After all, the brothels (yes they really have them) are outside of Munich, according to the dialogue on Toytown. Keeping with yesterday’s theme, here’s a bit more of Munich’s naughty side – one of its best well known strip clubs – Sexyland. It’s located just south of the Central Train Station on Schillerstrasse, and you can likely find 20 or so within 3 blocks of the station. Some are a little more inconspicuous, going by the name of cellar bars and without a lot of advertisement. But there’s no mistaking this, and many others around town. I like this photo because you see the well dressed couple walking in perfect unison, yet he seems just a bit more interested in the photos than she is.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So I’ve been accused of only showing the nice side of Munich. In my own defense it’s easy. As an example, Toytown, the website for English speaking Germans was started in Munich. And it was so named because Munich was considered a Toy Town – one without any serious crime, without any garbage on the streets, and one without great vices (aside from Octoberfest, of course). But it’s safe to say that all cities have their darker side, and Munich is no different. And if this costume and sex shop in the South end seems a bit low for you, you can try something a bit more upscale at the Agent Provacateur, which recently took over the spa section of the high end department store, Ludwig Beck. They claim to be the home to naughty knickers and pricey pants. Like I’ve said many times, Munich is conservative on just about everything except nudity. I have never been there, but I am told that you can pick up your fluffy marabou slippers, paddles, nipple tassles, stockings – or perhaps a dressing gown to cover up when the postman rings. It may be worth the visit just to see the salesgirls in their charming pink 50s frocks.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
You know that funny sounding German word you say when people sneeze? Well it happens to mean health or blessing, and in Munich it’s the name for anything from a health clinic, to a spa, to a mental hospital, to a gymnasium or fitness center. I came across this Gesundheits Haus on Dachau Strasse, close to the Lowenbraukeller, but have come across four or so more around Munich since this. And the word that most Americans think is an anomaly is actually quite well engrained in the German language. “Wie geht es ihnen gesundheitlich” is another way to say how are you. So the next time you say Gesundheit, know that it’s a real German word, spoken by real German people in Munich every day.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Finding an apartment in Munich is one of the more difficult things you may try to do in your lifetime. After several years in a row with more than 50,000 newcomers each year, Munich has finally kicked off several aggressive development projects to change this situation. More than 16,000 new apartments are being built along the S-bahn lines leading west from the central station. Smaller projects are taking place around the city, but they struggle to keep up. The issue is that Munich is a city in high demand, and is constantly ranked Germany’s most livable major city. In addition, international firms continue to set up shops in town, and there is a very strict urban boundary, where one minute you are in a traffic jam and the next you are driving through farmland. The same is true for hotels, by the way. Don’t even think of coming to Munich anywhere near Octoberfest, unless you want to stay in Regensburg, 130 KM to the North. So when I came across this fourth floor walk up (historic building – no elevator), I had to share it as it’s fairly common in central Munich.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
In words that can only be compared to the birth of a child, BMW buyers cherish “the handover” at the BMW Cathedral – BMW World. “The most wonderful day in your world” as BMW calls it, is when you receive your new BMW on one of 30 individual platforms. I showed you the double cone structure of the building a week ago, and I thought I would show the amazing interior of BMW World. If the photo is not enough, be sure to take a 360 degree tour. BMW suggests scheduling two full days, to explore every corner of the BMW world – the museum, the plant tour, the showroom restaurant and bar, the Premium Lounge...and down to the gallery for “The Big Moment”. I’m told that highway 9 next to the BMW plant goes very quickly to unlimited speed limit for test drives and new car owners. And as they send you off, your personal handler telling you to “Say hello to the road for us.”
Saturday, November 15, 2008
You may see a lot of mopeds in the photo, but everyone in Munich knows that Munich on two wheels equals BMW bikes. Like the cars, BMW provides a full line of motorcycles, which they argue are the best in the world – everything from urban, sport, endurance, touring and high performance. You can see the bikes on tour in Eurosport, but at the same time see locals (all dressed in Leather of course) out and about around town. The bikes are made by BMW motorad, which at one time was a airplane engine manufacturer. And it’s legacy shows in the speed of the bikes, ranging from 450 to 1300 cc. Although most are made in their Berlin plant, the motorcycle still has a strong pedigree in Munich. Which is evident with titles in nearly every large motorcycle race.
Friday, November 14, 2008
With more than 200 acres of parkland surrounding the Nymphenburg place, the gardens have had an Italian (1671), French and finally English (19th century) appearance. Yet the latest garden architect Friedrich Ludwig Von Sckell left the baroque garden in tact for us to enjoy today. Extending the park grounds are both the long canal, which has become a local favorite for walking or biking, and the garden which regenerates itself every three months. And within the park are a broad number of pavilions, including the Badenburg, which contains banqueting hall and very large tiled bath, the Mgdalenenklause, a faux ruin for retreat and meditation, the Amalienburg, a hunting lodge considered a rocococo masterpiece, and finally the Apollotemple, a neoclassical temble.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Germany has a long and complex relationship with its Turkish population. With more than 16 million (out of a total 82 million) people living in Germany of non-German descent, by far the largest ethnic group is Turkish. Since the 1960s, West, and later reunified Germany, has been attracting migrations, many of which acquired citizenship along the way. The East to west migrations has roots in the 19th century, starting with the Ostflucht or “flight from the East” where residents of former Eastern territories of Germany, such as Prussia began moving to the more industrialized Western German provinces. In Munch, there is a vibrant Turkish community centered around the West End and south of the central station. Although this community lives amongst the long-time Germans, I’m told they struggle to become integrated – the plight of many European countries today. One Turkish-German told me, “I’m German. I was born here. I grew up here. And yet, they see me as different.” As an outsider, it’s fascinating to watch this delicate balance, as it plays out in government policy, the shopping centers, and the neighborhoods of Munich.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The signature “double cone” at the BMW World, a twist of glass and steel, may look like it floats above the ring road and Olympic Park. But the construction of the building required more than 4000 tons of steel, and covers a space larger than St. Mark’s square in Venice. The structure serves first and foremost as a showroom for buyers of new BMWs, but doubles as a meeting place, gallery, exhibition facility, and performance hall. As BMW puts it, this is where the corporation goes into dialogue with its customers, friends and visitors from all over the world – a place of meeting and of change. It definitely has a feel of design meets function.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Munich held its 23 annual Forum Vini, or Wine Festival, this weekend, and not surprisingly the mood was quite festive around the MOC convention center. We had attended two such events per year while in Paris, and the concept is quite nice. For a small entry fee you get a glass and walk around trying wines from around the world. If you like them, you buy – and if not, you walk on. We certainly didn’t go home empty handed, but not without noticing some pretty distinct cultural differences from the experiences we had in Paris. For one, some of the booths were self-serve, like this extremely popular Rioja booth (pictured here) – where you could try more than 50 different Rioja wines. Second, the entry price was 17 euros versus 7 (and often free) in Paris. (I realize that these first two points could be related.) And finally to complete the picture, unlike its French counterpart, this wine fest was a touch of Octoberfest – so quite a few people there to get drunk. They were there to try, try, and try more wines. Needless to say, the scene became quite colorful near closing time.
Monday, November 10, 2008
About 20 km north-west of Munich along the S-bahn train lines, lies yet another city of contrasts in Bavaria – Dachau. From the photo, you see the view from the Schloss Dachau atop the Altstadt, a village with roots extending back to the 8th century. Now the city is home to about 40,000 residents, and is a popular area for Munich commuters. Of course, the world knows this little sleepy village as the location of the prototype Nazi concentration camp where more than 600,000 visitors come per year seeking answers to the atrocities of WWII. The city will perhaps always try to rebrand itself. With it’s slogan “More than you would expect,” it attempts to attract people to the village through its wide ranging cultural events, like the Dachau Palace Concerts and Dachau Music and Folk Festival. I found the old town amazingly charming and quaint, but have been unable to visit the concentration camp – which I can’t help think would forever hang a dark cloud over this town
Sunday, November 9, 2008
If you have bought any consumer electronics or household appliances in Munich, you probably know Saturn. It is a German-wide chain that is ever present in Munich, especially to those just moving to town – as they sell everything from dish washers to DVDs, from computers to coffee makers. And they are known around town for their “in-your-face” advertisings, like this one, and their aggressive sales. With more than 20+ years in Munich and 5 or so stores, they serve the majority of the Munich market. So to get your tech fix, check out Saturn – but whatever you do, never do it on a Saturday. The lines are out the door.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
I couldn’t help laughing when I saw this image. Munich is so organized, even its bird houses have numbers. How did they ever teach the birds to count? Well it’s no surprise that Munich is quite a haven for bird lovers, with its vast amount of parks and forestry, and the seamless integration of woodland leading from the center of downtown out to the surrounding forests. There is actually a group of bird enthusiasts in Munich. The group is called Bird Munich, and they have annual gatherings for learning, community building, and viewing the latest in photo and binoculars to appreciate the birds.
Friday, November 7, 2008
The new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, opened in Munich Thursday, and the movie reportedly earned more than $146 million worldwide during the first weekend. It was second biggest showing of the year, after Indiana Jones, but does not yet include the US box offices, as the film doesn’t open stateside til Nov. 17th. I never understood this approach, given that it will probably show on 500 screens in Germany, but 2500 in the US. Quantum marks the 22nd James Bond Feature Film, which is based upon the original 10 novels by Ian Fleming. There’s an interesting breakdown on the costs/profits of the Bond series here, but it’s easily one of the most recognized and most profitable film series of al times.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
And now back to non-political topics. We went back to the museums because the lines were way too long to get into the Lenbach House and Kandinsky exhibit during the Long Night of the Museums. And I have to say that of the 12 museums we’ve seen in Munich, this is by far the best exhibit we’ve come across. A single admission gets you into both Lenbach and the special Kandinsky show which is in, of all places, the entry of the Konigsplatz U-bahn station. It seemed like a strange venue (as commuters get a glance as they walk into the station), until you walked into the door and the 90 or so prints of Kandinsky that chronicled his life were quite amazing. I’m a fan of his early work which often looks like it could have been pulled from an amazing children’s book with its bold colors, but it’s fun to see the progression. It’s also fun to see the camaraderie he had with fellow Blue Rider artists - Gabriele Münter, Paul Klee, August Macke, and others. This picture, of course, is not a Kandinsky, but I figured since I showed him twice before, I would choose another provocative image from the Lenbach House.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Munich woke up today like any other day in November. The early morning fog blanketed the chilly town. The trains ran on schedule with no hang ups in the wide network of U and S-bahn trains, and the bakeries opened their doors by 6 am to get the day started. But in the offices, on the streets, and in the entry ways of buildings everywhere – people were talking about the American presidential election. Munich went to sleep not knowing who would be the 44th American president, but this felt like a local election with high stakes all around. Obama is amazingly popular in Europe, especially since his trip earlier in the year when he drew crowds of over one hundred thousand in Berlin. Now that Obama has been elected, it seems Europe is celebrating. So the conversation now turns to one big question – is this good for Europe. And I believe it will boil down to two factors for Europe: Can Obama build back up the strong alliances that once existed between the US and Europe, and can he fix what’s wrong with the American Economy – as this has a ripple effect around the world. Yes, Mr President, you have a bit to repair.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Tonight we make history. Regardless of which way you vote, our only hope is for change. We have watched half of the Bush reign from Europe, and have been amazed at how the image, stature, and strength of the US has descended in the world. Take any topic you like – the US dollar is at unimaginable lows (even with the latest surge), the approval rate of Bush is 23% which is the lowest of any president of all time, local costs of gas and food are the highest in memory, and the war in Iraq looks to be worse and worse every day. Yes, change would do some good. So if you are an American, I hope you voted. If you aren’t, grab a smoke here, and for that matter a drink (a few of them), and watch the results while hoping for change throughout the night.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I spent the day exploring the Sendling neighborhood of Munich, which is on the South end bordering the ring road. I actually know little about this neighborhood, but was surprised with the amount of activity going on – people walking in the park, shopping at the stores, and, of course, participating in sport. Here you see a couple of the local kid’s teams having at it (the blue team had about a foot height and lots of scoring power over the red). But next to the field, which is the home field of Wacker Munchen, were athletes playing tennis on clay court, and on the open field were a group of foreigners who looked liked they met on this field for 10 years. Without question, the young ladies on the real field would have whipped the older men.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Just outside Munich in the suburb of Oberschleissheim is a fascinating rowing facility built for the 1972 Olympic Games. The 2KM long/135M across Olympia Regatta lake creates perfect conditions for rowing, and hosts some of the largest regattas in the world. For the World Rowing Campionships in 2007 in Munich, more than 181M viewers worldwide tuned in for the competition on TV, and more than 62,000 visitors watched from the bleachers, as it established Munich as one of the premier regatta sites in the world. During non-competition days, which are most this time of year, you can find countless crews training. And surrounding the regatta is a 5-KM, well paved, flat trail, providing a gem for joggers, bikers and rollerbladers.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Much more visible than Halloween in Munich, was all Saints Day. As a national holiday, just about all businesses were closed. Many of the grave stones, were decorated with flowers or red candles to honor the dead. All Saints Day customs differ dramatically from region to region. In the East, for example, All Saints Sunday falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost. In Portugal and Mexico offerings are often made. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In English speaking countries, a festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn for all saints. The day was actually significantly quieter than last year though, when the Catholic church objected to MTV hosting the Music Awards on All Saints Day.
Friday, October 31, 2008
About the only party for Halloween in Munich is the one for adults; this one, for example, pulling in well known DJs to rock the house. Halloween is largely missed in Munich. You really see very few signs of it, and if you want the kids to go trick-or-treating, you have to find some international organizations that are hosting events. Halloween is most often associated with the United States, but if you want to see the biggest Halloween celebration in the world, you go to the town of Derry in Northern Ireland. It’s their own version of Carnival, but in the Halloween spirit. I actually didn’t realize that Halloween has its origins as an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. It’s the celebration of the end of the harvest season, and is sometimes regarded as Celtic New Year.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with approximately 60M members (representing about 75% of the population), although less than 10% participate in Sunday church services. Of those Christians, Protestants make up about 30%, while Roman Catholics make up 31% - most of whom are based in Bavaria. Roman Catholicism was the sole established religion in the 15th century, but the reformation change that and in 1517, Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church with corruption and thus establish the Protestant church. Now, you can see traces of Christianity all over Munich, including this decorative statue in Haidhausen.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Puma has struggled to remain relevant in a two horse sportswear race with front-runners Nike and Adidas. Likewise, most people don’t know that the sneaker war has been largely fought out between two little known worldwide cities – Portland, Oregon (USA), which is the home of Nike and now Adidas US HQ, and Herzogenaurach (just outside of Nuremberg or 195 KM North of Munich), Germany, which is home to both Adidas and Puma. Such is the life of the little brother, I suppose as Puma (pictured here in the Altstadt) was created by the little brother of Adidas founder. Traditionally, Puma has carved out a niche as more of a fashion than sports apparel player. And today the sports apparel battle is fought out at every major sporting event worldwide. Adidas sponsored the Beijing Olympics at a cost of $80M, opening an average two stores a day in China leading up to the Olympics. At the same time, Nike is sponsoring 22 of 28 competing Chinese federations. Puma, on the other hand, may have made the biggest impact at the Olympics as sole sponsor of Jamaican World Record breaker Usain Bolt. So I suppose the moral of the story is don’t write off the little guy.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I came across this cute family taking a break from a city bike tour. In many large cities around the world, parents are reluctant to put their kids on bikes, especially beyond the local parks. Concerns about safety are paramount. This is where Munich differs. Bicycles are a major means of transportation – a way to tour and see the city, but also a daily means of getting around. Bikes have the right of way everywhere, and if you’re anywhere around a bike lane than watch yourself – as you’re likely to get run over by speeding commuters. I love how the parents are engrossed in their next destination, while the kids enjoy a snack break. It represents some of the simplicity of living in Munich.
Monday, October 27, 2008
With a €500 billion bailout package for Germany banks, a lot of Germans are asking is it too much. For sure, that’s a constant question at the Riemerschmid Graduate School of Economics in Munich. Although located near the Isartor, the school is an extension of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, and reportedly ranked among the top economic educational institutions in Europe with a specific focus on relevant policy issues. Oh what heated discussions they must be having today. 58% of Germans believe the bailout package was necessary. At the same time, 25% of Germans worry about their own bank accounts not being secure. So the economic unrest is worldwide. The economic school is actually named after a prominent architect and artist in Munich, Richard Riemerschmid, who was a major figure in the creation of Art Nouveau in Germany and a member of the Deutscher Werkbund. The Werkbund, was a German association focused on connecting product manufacturers with design professionals to improve competitiveness of German companies in global markets. It was less an artistic movement than a state-sponsored effort to integrate traditional crafts and industrial mass-production techniques, to put Germany on a competitive footing with England and the United States. Perhaps it was successful, as the German bailout ranks right up with the US and UK financial packages of the economic crisis.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
More than 40,000 people spent Saturday night out around Munich, participating in the annual Long Night of Museums. More than 90 of the city’s museums and galleries stayed open until 2 am, and a 15 euro ticket got you into any museum you liked as well as transportation around town. Of the more popular venues, were the Pinakothek (new, old, and Modern), as well as the Deutsches technical museum. Some of the smaller favorites (certainly our picks) included Lenbach Haus and Villa Stuck, the early 20th century mansions that testify to the city’s role as home of the avant garde in painting. Lenbach Haus just introduced a special exhibit highlighting the work of Kandinsky, and at times the line to enter was a block long. And for those, who wanted a slightly different take on Museums, they drove directly to the BMW World and Museum, which blared techno music into the early hours of the morning. Oddly enough, one museum that becomes a cultural favorite on the Long Night, is the Paleontology Museum (pictured here) for its dramatic lighting, its three floor atrium, and its party atmosphere. For those who want to take their time and enjoy the artwork, you may be better off on a different day, but because Munich museums generally close by 6 pm – for many this is your only chance to see the cultural treasures around town.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
One more image from the Long Night of Museums. One of the founding members of the famous Blue Riders, Wassily Kandinsky was one of the more popular exhibits during the Long Night of Museums. Hundreds of people waited in line for the opening of the temporary exhibit, which was sponsored by Lenbach Hause – where many of the Blue Rider paintings are exhibited. Kandinsky, who was born in Moscow, settled in Munich originally in Munich in 1896. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, taught at the Bauhaus school of Art, and is credited with painting the first modern abstract works. Despite trips back to Moscow for World War I, he remained in and became famous in Munich until 1933, when the Nazis closed the Bauhaus School. Then he moved to France, where he lived the rest of his life in the Paris Suburb of Neuilly-sur-Siene in 1944. With more than 90 paintings from different periods of his live (which have never been shown together before), Kandinsky is one of the most talked about exhibits around town, so check it out before it leaves in Feb, 2009 for the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Centre Pomidou in Paris.
Friday, October 24, 2008
It had been a while since we visited Nymphenburg Palace, the one-time summer home of the Wittlesbach family; and we were stunned by how beautiful it was today. It was cold, yet sunny and the grounds were covered with fields of gold from fallen leaves. Fortunately, we arrived just before they boxed up all the statues (all statues in Munich are covered with custom made wooden cases each Winter to prevent damage). We stopped by the Octagon shaped Pagodenburg, where four locals met for coffee before continuing their trek along the extensive grounds. I always wonder if these little structures in the middle of the palace grounds were actually places for rendezvous with mistresses and other partners. Either way, it made for a beautiful setting today, as it sits on a small lake and next to one of the many beautiful canals. The interior, although we didn’t see it because it closes in early October, is decorated with pseudo Chinese motifs, often using Dutch tiles in place of Chinese ones. Other highlights of the Nymphenburg grounds include the Amalienburg (hall of mirrors), the Badenburg bathing room, and the botanical gardens nearby.