Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Hold Out

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

A Wing And A Prayer

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

Baby Puma in a Big Boy’s Market

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

The Family that Bikes Together…

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

Oh Where Have We Gone Wrong

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

Long Night of Museums

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

The Palace Pagoda

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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Little Tikes

Last year 13,652 children were born in Munch, a near record number. Of those, 6632 children were male and 7020 were female, which bodes well for the boys in about 16 years. For boys, the most popular name was Maximilians, perhaps a tribute to Maximillian, the first king of Bavaria. It is also the name of the major University in Munich – Ludwig Maximillian University. The most common female name, Anna, had much less local significance. Just wait til all of those kids experience the great swimming pools, play areas, and mountains nearby.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pressure to Conform

Why do you suppose there is such a pressure to conform in Germany? It seems to be engrained into the German history. There are indications that the pressure to conform played an enormous role in forming protestant and Catholic German religions in Germany. And the pressure to conform was a central theme in the rise of power of the Nazi party, with its Ideological view on acceptable art, culture, and even race. Some even say that the love of travel across the globe for Germans is an underlying desire to seek release and freedom from these day to day pressures. Germany’s Christian Democrats, which should be by no means mistaken for a moderate political group, gained lots of news coverage over the years with their message to immigrants – Conform or leave! And today, you see this pressure everywhere – in the desire for order, the willingness to tell you when you do things against the rules, and the reluctance to stand out in a crowd. I don’t know the answer to this. You certainly see these traits in other countries, but I’m curious why it seems so strong in Germany? Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hang in There

Everyone rides bikes around Munich, but it’s not every day you find one hinged to a fence – several feet off the ground. It is located next to the Academy of Art in Schwabing, in an area surrounded by the Universities in Munich. So I can’t decide if it’s meant to be a prank or a work of art (it is quite colorful). The street is called Turkenstrasse, and it’s one of the more funky café streets you will find in Munich. The street also intersects what know in Munich as the Art Quarter, where visitors can admire masterpieces from every artistic period and take a journey through the history of art. The quarter includes all three Pinakothek galleries (alte, neue, modern), and is closely linked to the Glyptothek and Lenbach house. Take my word for it, you’ll see more than hanging bicycles in this neighborhood.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn Accents

All over Munich you will find the amazing scenes of autumn. Nearly every street is a mix of greens, oranges, yellows, and amazing reds. It’s important to show off Munich during this time, because this is when so many around the world experience the Bavarian capital – generally on their way to or from Octoberfest. For me, a trip to Munich now is so much more interesting; because you see Munich in its true colors. Maybe it’s too late for you to hop on a flight, so instead target next Spring. You will see a whole different set of experiences. My suggestion, rent a bike at the central station, ride and explore parts of Munich you’ve never been to. When you get tired, pull over a the closest beer garden (usually within a few hundred meters), and taste the local brew. That’s Munich, and that’s beautiful.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tree Huggers

Continuing on this theme of love in Munich, I thought I would take a slightly different angle. The photo shows off what seems to be mother nature’s love for trees, found in the vast parks of Schloss Schleisheim. But it started me thinking, what is it that people love so much about Munich. Here are a few, right off the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität website. “Skip classes on a Thursday afternoon in May and have a beer at the Chinesischer Turm. Hike through autumn-painted hills around Starnberg Lake. Inhale the chill, sugar-roasted almond, bratwurst, mulled wine air at Marienplatz at Christmas. Explore and discover the city and its surroundings on your own.” For me, it’s always the same. Beer culture. English Gardens. Riding bikes safely all over town, the Viktualien Market, kid friendly, and the amazingly dependable transportation. If you want to check it out for yourself, take a look at the many webcams around town.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Your Sexy Island

I came across this mini yesterday, and was obviously curious what the El Cuban logo was for, and it turns out it’s for some sort of dating service – but not one for normal people, only the sexy ones (whatever that means). With more than 50,000 “chicas” and “chicos” throughout Germany as they call them, apparently it’s quite popular. Given the current theme, I thought it would be interesting to share. Perhaps dating is the same everywhere in the world.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Romantic Enters the World

And for those more sincere love interests, there’s a shop way out on Belgrade Strasse that enables you to make customizable chocolate bars. In the window, they have chocolate bars for corporate events, those for family reunions, and those for that special someone. I liked this particular design because it reminded me of a children’s book, called Bunny, my Honey, which is a fantastic book for little kids. I also like it because it reminds me of these images by Richard Stine that became very popular in the US in the 90s of "a romantic enters the world" showing a man walking off a cliff with a rose in hand, and a pack of hungry wolves awaiting his fall. Bottom line, I guess, is that no matter where you are in the world, everyone is looking for someone.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Love is the Air

Is it a call to the love of their life, or a desperate cry for companion ship? Are they in love or lost? I’m not sure what to make of this bit of graffiti, but I’d start by asking the people who work at Take 2 Interactive, as it looks like the artists left a tag. If Take 2 sounds familiar, it should. It produces some of the best known video games on the planet, including its flagship Grand Theft Auto, as well as a mix of lesser known titles like Sid Meier’s Civilization, Midnight Club, Manhunt and Top Spin for PSP, Xbox, Nintendo, and Wii. This office is focused on sales and is based in Schwabing, but the company is headquartered in New York and internationally in Windsor. Hmmm...Looking for love in Munich. Sounds like a bit of a theme coming up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Night at the Theatre

When it comes to evenings out, there is no place more elegant in Munich than the National Theatre. Home of the Bavarian State Opera and the Bavarian State Ballet, was made famous long ago with performances by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Strauss went on to become principal conductor from 1894 to 1898 and played out a successful career at the National Theatre. The architect Gerhard Moritz Graubner created the neo-classical 2100 seat theatre. The theatre brings back memories of the Theatre de L’Odeion in Paris. The U-shaped auditorium showcases the splendor of architecture of the craftsman who designed the amphitheatre.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Old Bavarian Ladies

At the West end of town, overlooking the remains of what was Octoberfest, lie some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in the city, possibly even Germany given Munich’s popularity during the rising of the Art Nouveau movement throughout Europe. The buildings, most of which were built in the late 1800s, are imposing yet find a way to fit into the Munich skyline. Because of their location outside the altstadt, many of these gems escaped bombing during WWII. Over the past 10-15 years, many of these buildings have been split up into apartment buildings and high end legal offices. If you get the chance, now that Octoberfest has moved on, take a walk along these quiet gentle giants.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Schwabing Hideouts

Sure, Schwabing is known as the area of town where the cool kids hang out. It is known as the old bohemian quarter of Munich, where Art Nouveu entered Germany. It’s also known for having the largest city park in Europe, with the English Garden. It’s also the art of the restaurant and café culture across Munich. What you may have not known is that there are endless courtyards like this one, where you can walk in and never want to leave. You can get lost in the colors, the peace, and the feeling of being so far out of the city – despite the fact that some of the hottest bars are 100m away. I think the primary thing that separates Schwabing from all other parts of Munich – is this contrast between being all alone and being at the center of the universe.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Give Peace a Chance

It’s only appropriate that the 11,000 runners from 64 nations who participated in the Munich Marathon today passed by the Victory Gate. Anyone who manages to run 26 miles deserves some sort of victory in my book, and one of those awards may have been a chilly but beautiful day. The Victory Arch or Siegestor is ironically, a peace arch, at least today. It originally was dedicated to the glory of the Bavarian army, but then was partially destroyed in WWII bombing. The inscription on the back side reads, “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, reminding of peace.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

English Oasis

You could be right here! Just use this Deutsche Bahn call-a-bike and you can get anywhere in the city. This rent-a-bike concept is quite popular throughout Germany. You register in advance, and then you can pick up bikes at set points all over town just by making a quick call. The website states that the bikes are high tech, but after seeing them I believe it’s only the call in system that is all that high tech. Although they do come with a spare seat for friends. It will run you about 9 euros a day, or you can rent much nicer bikes in Schwabing or at the Central Train Station for about 5 euros more per day. Either way, I don’t think there was any better place to be today than in the English Gardens, as the beautiful Fall weather continued in Munich. In the background, you see the Monopteros, which was created in 1832 on a hill constructed using left over building material from work on the Munich Residence.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Free Wheelin

Fall appeared in Munich over the past few days. One minute we thought we were entering deep winter, and the next the sun came out and everyone in town was fighting for a table at the outdoor cafes. This time of year, you never know what you’ll get in Munich – so when you get the chance you have to take advantage of it. The parks were filled, people riding bikes over town, and the altstadt was blanketed with people. Quite a weekend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

East Meets West

At the Munich Residence you will find some of the best of oriental and European porcelain. What is the connection between the two? Porcelain was produced in China ever since the 10th century, but was exported throughout Europe and in the 17th century was perfected throughout much of Germany. It was at that time a production facility was built specifically for this purpose at Neudeck Castle, which was in the then suburb of Au, and then eventually moved to the northern section of the crescent in front of Nymphenburg Palace, where it still stands todays. The energy-generating and transmission plants are today regarded as engineering monuments, which nevertheless are up-to-date and function extremely well. The historical three-storey round kiln is still in working order. The factory is owned by the Bavarian State and is today run by the family foundation, the Wittelsbach Equalisation Fund. It is usually not available to the public, but I understand the manufacture offers every Wednesday at 10 a.m. a guided tour through the studio at a price of € 25. Call 179197-0, an early reservation is recommended as the number of participants is strictly limited.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Swing Kids

For kids of all ages, Munich is the place to be. Most people know that Munich is quite laid back and has a good lifestyle. Most families focus on a few major sites – the English Garden, or Schloss Nympenburg. I’m a big fan of several other hotspots for kids. My favorites are the many swimming pools around town (if you are used to US boxes with water in them, you’re in for an amazing surprise), the Olympic Park, Oberschleisheim, and the Hellabrunn Zoo. For a good guide of things to do around town with Kids, check out Funtado.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Release the Hundes

People in Munich love their dogs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Paris love for your dogs, where you have a guinea pig sized dog and you feel compelled to bring it to every restaurant you go into and let it poop on any street. No, people in Munich like the Frisbee catching, hang out on the train, look like your best friend kind of white Labrador dogs. I saw this sign and thought it was only one example of this canine connection. As a coincidence, one of Munich’s film festivals, the Independent short film festival, shows off this love for dogs. Bunter Hund, which I think is loosely translated as the “Famous Dog” film fest, is coming to Munich in about a week. From Oct. 16-19. Apparently, the film festival is playing at the legendary Werkstattkino. I haven’t been there, but I understand it’s an amazing place to see old films. Like a step back in time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Twin Towers

Not sure I planned this photo this way, but I like the result. In fact, there was a store called Angels on this little side street, which seemed to fit with the Frauenkirchen in the background. But instead of the sign showing up, the entire street lit up. This section of small alley ways wrapped around the Frauenplatz is a lovely maze of restaurants, bars, and small boutique shops. So even after the main pedestrian zone streets like Kaufingerstrasse go to sleep, you can usually find a crowd of people around places like Killian’s Pub. On the other hand, you can walk one block over and see the Promenadeplatz, which meets the façade of the Bayernischer Hof, one of the nicer hotels in Munich.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

So What’s Next?

Two tourists stand at Konigsplatz and contemplate a post-Octoberfest Munich. What was there before Octoberfest? Oh yeah. There were those great museums – Glyptotek, pinakothek, Deutsches, Lenbach. There was that great altstadt opened to pedestrians only. There were those great lakes and mountains a stone’s throw away. And, oh yeah, a beer garden on nearly every corner in town. Yes. Octoberfest goes year round, and likely even better without the 6 million visitors. I’ve always argued that Octoberfest isn’t the best side of Munich. My suggestion, now that they are packing up the tents…rent a bike down at the central station. Ride through the English Garden or along the Isar, stop by for a visit in Schwabing or ride over to Olympic Park. Whenever you get tired, pull over and try the next beer garden. Each one has its own character and personality. You’ll find friendly people at every one. That’s our Munich!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hang Time

On one of the last nights of Octoberfest 2008, you see the maze of rides that cover the Theresienwiese . 16 days have passed since the first keg was tapped, and an estimated 6 million litres of beer have flowed since. Of course, you can’t serve that much beer without creating quite a dark side, one that includes more than 220 tons of garbage, 3000+ medical injuries, and the creation of the term beer corpses. You will also find your share of violence as the night goes along. There is talk of reform every year, but Octoberfest is so much in the fabric of Munich, based so heavily in tradition, and an event that is loved by locals and tourists alike. With many large events around the world, you see a mass exodus of locals, renting out their homes. Not so much in Munich. Dark side or not, the locals wouldn’t miss Octoberfest for the world. It's been an incredible adventure...until next year.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Friends You Meet Along the Way

Octoberfest has this strange way of bringing total strangers together. If you go to Octoberfest without reservations in a tent, it’s always difficult to get in. However, most tents open their doors around 10 pm as those who have been holding court all day long run out of steam. We went the other night and enjoyed a beer in the outside beer gardens before the doors flung open. Once inside, we went directly to the stage and found a spot on one of the benches right in front. Rather than get territorial, the people around us (mostly German) welcomed us with signs of Prost! This particular group, after only about 15 minutes, adopted us and invited us to an Apres Wiesen party. This was one of 3-4 similar experiences we had that night. In the end, it’s all about the people you meet along the way.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hansel & Gretel

One of the many Octoberfest traditions, is the making of lebkuchen hearts. They are sold at most kiosks, and they are regularly given away as promotional gifts from large companies like BMW. You can even customize your own. The cookie decorating dates back to medieval Germany, where lebkuchen was crafted into fancy shapes and decorated with sugar – prompting the folk story Hansel and Gretel. The cookies became world famous as some of the first that were shaped, but you would be hard pressed to find one today without its famous “royal” icing. But I assure you that these lovely hearts are better to gaze at than to bite into – as the sugar content is amazingly high. For most people, it’s the sweetest think they’ve ever tasted.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Munich Schmuck Shops

OK. I think I’m about ready to go back to Octoberfest tomorrow for that grande finale. Octoberfest ends Sunday, Oct. 5th, so we will only have four days left. It has been good on detox these past few days. So to warm up for the last few days, I thought I would share a photo of scantily dressed women – albeit not in dirndls this time around. This is from a window of one of the upscale schmuck shops (that’s not Smut Shops but rather jewelry shops) in Munich. In the center of the altstadt, you can find shops like these down little alley ways, and in little known corridors between blocks. I generally don’t see a whole lot of people in these stores, so I wonder how they survive – but I believe they have a small, loyal customer base – unlike Octoberfest that attracts people from around the world.