Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Shop of your Own

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

Out in the Burbs

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

Downtown Train

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

British Royalty in Munich

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

Strangers in the Night

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

Vicious Circles

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

News & Nibbles

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

Tequila Sunset

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

Hazy Shade of Winter

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 or at the Bayern Tourist site

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Other Side of the Tracks

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

Munich's Red Light District

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

Naughty & Nice

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

Gesundheits Haus

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

Fourth Floor Walk Up

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

Special Delivery

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

Motorcycle Gang

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

Welcome to my Summer Palace

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

Turkish Delight

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

Design meets function

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

The Quaint Side of Dachau

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

Tech Talk

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

Bird's Eye View

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

Bond is Back in Munich

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

Let Yourself Go

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

Good Morning Mr. President

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

A Vote & A Smoke

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

Tearing it up in South Munich

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

Four on the (Fl)oar

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

All Saints Day

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.