Thursday, December 31, 2009

War Zone

New Years in Munich - It's like nothing I've ever seen. I was drawn out of our apartment about 10 min after mid-night by the endless thundering of fireworks. I will note that we live on one of the quietest streets in town. Despite that, the street was crowded with revelers from nearby parties, who spilled out into the streets to see the festivities at nearby Konigsplatz. There were at least 5000 people there, all lighting off fireworks at random. It was tough to determine exactly where you were safe at all. Pictured here is a man with a launching pad strapped to his arm. You can see the fireworks taking off in the frame, along with 5-6 others in the background at the same time. Absolute mayhem. I lasted about 10 minutes before getting the hell out of there.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ice Age

Although this was about a week back, I wanted to share this photo of this very well known fountain in the Altstadt called the Brunnenbuberl. It's one of the few around town that continue to flow year round, and does not get covered up in the Winter, and consequently the sculpture transforms with ice throughout the Winter. The fountain was designed and introduced in 1892 by Matthias Gasteiger, who studied at the Munich Academy of Arts. At the time, it was received as quite a scandel as locals demanded a fig leaf be put over the Satyr boy's privates. Apparently, Gasteiger made 10 copies which are as prominantly placed around the world.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Recreating the Glory of Lubeck

One of my favorite holiday windows is in the Karstadt store half way between Marienplatz and Stachus, where they painstakinly re-created the Holsten Gate of the Northern German city of Lubeck. It took more than 400 man hours to recreate the signiture gate of Germany's largest port city. I'm not sure the significance in Munich for this re-creation, but I'm hoping they somehow used Marzipan, which is rumored to have been invented in Lubeck. The gate was one of only four entry points to the old city, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite origins back to the 1400s, the gate was set to be demolished in 1808 when viewed as an annoying obstacle to an industrialized nation - it interfeared with train traffic. But the tower was later saved by a single vote, and the decision was made to instead extensively restore it. The gate has since become the pride of Lubeck, and is incorporated into many local company logos.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Starting Kids Early

I've mentioned several times before that Christmas Markets in Bavaria are more about standing around and drinking gluhwhein than anything else. And it's no wonder given how early they start kids at the Gluhwhein stand. I couldn't help laughing when I saw all the pre-school kids lining up at the Christmas Market stands to receive their (non-alcoholic) drinks. You can just picture this one boy transforming into a 25-year old with several of his friends. I suppose in the end, it's this comraderie that makes the markets fun and memorable. Well, for now we will have to remember til next year, as all the markets have now closed until advent 2010.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Window Dressing

A common scene at the Karstadt store-front windows in central Munich, which are still decorated for the holidays. An endless number of stuffed bunnies, bears, and foxes in full motion, working in the mines, tending the farms, and of course just being festive for the holidays. The looks on the kids' faces are priceless, as they look on in wonder at this imaginary world come to life.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day

We just returned from a fantastic ski vacaton in Austria, with photos to come, but I wanted to show you a few scenes around Christmas in Munich first. Although Christmas is now over, much of the local spirit (and scenery) is still around. Most stores were closed today, which meant that it was a four day holiday, and consequently I can tell you the supermarket at the airport was a zoo. But back to the subject of this post. Germany does not really celebrate Boxing Day, which is celebrated in most commonwealth states. It is traditionally celebrated on the 26th of December, and because there doesn't seem to be a consistent story on how it originated, I'll give you my own theory and experience. It originated in England, and was created because all the servants had to work on Christmas day. But on the 26th, they were often given a break; so they would collect all the beautiful boxes used by the royal familes and use them to repackage their own gifts. As it plays out today, I think of Christmas is for spending time with family, and Boxing Day is for the people you really want to be around. So it plays out in a super-festive celebration, with poppers, everyone bringing gifts for everyone, and enough spirits to keep the party going until dawn. So for all the Germans who don't recognize Boxing Day, perhaps it's time to start.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas

Or Happy Holidays...or have a nice break, or whatever is politically correct to say these days. I just prefer the good ol Merry Christmas, personally. With this post, I will take a bit of a break of my own. We are going up to the mountains for a ski week over Christmas, and I will unfortunately have no Internet access for the next 7 days, so will not be able to post. We will visit Tirol, in Austria. If you need your fix of Munich while I'm gone , here are few good sights:, Munich Found (check out the world's largest punch bowl at Isar Tor), or Toytown. Merry Christmas and see you after the break!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back at the Markets

I just can't seem to stay away from the Munich markets. This time, I visited the Schwabing Munchener Freiheit market, which is one of my favorites as it really shows a variety of local arts and crafts. Apparently, the idea of a Christmas markets dates back to the 14th century in Munich with origins around the Frauenkirche. Amazingly, what is sold today doesn't differ that much from the original - gingerbread, glassware, and bees wax candles. I'm told that the Kripperlmarkt in downtown Munich specializes in nativity scenes and accessories as well, something that has been developed in Munich since the 1500s. It's fun to get so much enjoyment out of a tradition that started centruries ago.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Heads Are Better than One

So I have to admit I've been quite intrigued by the double-headed Eagle all over Germany. This image came form the Schloss Blutenburg (Blood Castle) in Munich, which is also home to the
International Youth Library. You see the double headed Eagle in Munich in everything from Nazi regalia to today's government organizations. Yet it's origins date back to the 13th century BC, with heavy roots in the Holy Roman Empire, Byzantine culture as well as many of the Eastern European cultures. In fact, the double-headed eagle still represents the insignia of the modern day Austrian empire, coat of arms for the German Confederation, as well as the Russian Empire - among many others. As with so many things in history, it represents a fusion between the Roman Empire, the Turkish and Ottoman expansion, and finally the basis of many Eastern countries today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Colors of Christmas

Christmas in Bavaria is about snow and it's about Chriskindl Markets. This year, we are finally getting both - as snow has been falling for the past week. You can find markets set up all over town, in nearly every neighborhood. If there is an open platz, there is a Chriskindl Market. This past weekend, we actually took the train two hours to Salzburg to see the market there, and while it was big and spectacular, it was also overwhelming with what seemed to be millions of people. I understand Nurenburg (2 hours from Munich) is actually the largest and most well known in Germany. But I think we'll skip that one, because there's no shortage to experience around Munich and surrounding villages. In the end, after you've seen the nice ornaments, creatively built wooden toys, and the decorative arts; the Chriskindl markets are really about bundling up, getting together with friends, and sipping Gluwein. You don't have to travel two hours on a train for that. Just pick your neighborhood gathering.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On A Road to Nowhere

Saturday the much anticipated, much hyped new tram line 23 took off on its maiden ride up Leopodstrasse into the Milbertshofen neighborhood. Despite being a tremendous fan of public transportation, I have to say I don't really understand this new tram line. It runs for only 2.5 km from Munchener Freiheit to the middle of a new development just outside the second ring road. The entire trip is expected to take about 8 minutes. What really doesn't make sense is the fact that you need to transfer onto another line to get into the center of the city, that it runs a distance that most Europeans aren't afriad to walk, and it somehow comes up short from reaching Euro Industrial Park, one of the largest shopping centers in and around Munich. One of its only redeaming factors is the interesting "Gaudi-like" tram stop and the very nice renovation of the Munchener Freiheit station. I just wish it didn't shut down traffic for two years to make it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thank God is Friday

The weekend couldn't come soon enough, especially as the days get shorter leading into the Christmas season. We already see good friends leaving back home to be with family for the holidays. I came across this tombstone in the Old South Cemetary, which doubles as one of the largest parks in Munich. The cemetary was actually founded in 1563 outside the city walls for victims of the plague, and also became the main burial ground for those killed in the Sendling Uprising of 1705 in which 1100 people were killed after surrending to troops of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor. Hundreds of notable Munich residents are burried here, and now a 3 year project to restore damaged monuments (as you can see in the photo) is recently completed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Moose is Lose

I love the stunned expressions from the kids, as they hear a wall-mounted moose break into song - Christmas song, of course. At the same time, I'm not sure which was more entertaining, the kids or the expression of the parents. Silent Night just doesn't sound the same when sung in German, especially by a moose. Well, it's a true sign that the Christmas Market season is in full season in Munich, and you will find them all over town and in most of the surrounding villages during the Advent season. I really like this one at the Residenz, as it has an entire section for kids and a masterpiece building surrounding it. Most others are more about adults hanging out with a glass or warm Gluwein, although the Munchener Freiheit market has some nice arts. There is an entertaining midievel market across from Odeonsplatz which is quite entertaining, and the primary market at Marienplatz is much better for the scenery than for buying. Either way, they are definitely worth visiting this time of year for the festive environment alone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

End of the Line

Apparently there are lots of changes in store for local commuters in Munich, as prices go up 4.5% on local trains in the coming months. At the same time, the U-bahn is opening up the newly crowned "green" 23 tram from Schwabing's Munchener Freiheit out almost to EuroIndustrial park. Construction for the 23 line has tied up traffic and caused construction all along Leopoldstrasse for at least a year, but now it's coming to an end. Also changing for the trains is the opening of the Hirschgarten station. For me, the local DB needs to first figure out their issues with leaving travellers stranded, as reliability of the trains have dropped significant'y in the past two months.

Monday, December 7, 2009

On the Rocks...Yet Again

For the second time this year, and un-countable times over the past few years, the famous all-purpose Schranne Hall next to the Viktualienmarket, is up for grabs. I've seen this hall being used for everything from Brasilian Salsa parties, to business events, to laid back cafes and bars for the near-by tourists. The bank recently announced that they would not have a planned acution, but instead shortly announce the space's latest investors. Apparently the space has more than 27M euros in bad dept. I think it's unfortunate if Munich loses this important space, as there are few places around the city where you can hear good live music without paying for a large cover. At this point, only time can tell.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Brush With Greatness

It is a tradition on every Dec. 6th that St. Nikolaus visits children and leaves candy, fruit, nuts and small presents in their boots - assuming they've been good. So it's with great fan-fare when he shows up at a local Chriskindl market. Often he makes appearances at schools and play areas, where children sing songs and recite poetry. Apparently, the history of the St. Nikolaus tradition in Germany has changed over the centuries, when in the past he was accompanied with Knecht Ruprecht (Servant Ruprecht) who would threaten to give the kids a beting if they were not good. In Switzerland, where he is called Schmutzli, he would threaten to put bad children in a sack and take them back to the dark forest. Apparently, these traditions were quite rigid in Catholic regions like Bavaria. Fortunately, all of that has changed and now the custom has turned more to what we know in the US as Santa Claus. What is nice, is they've kept all of the traditional dress as you can see here. No Red costum, but rather St. Nikolaus looks more like the pope than Stana Claus.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Life Imitates Art

Sometimes people can't help immitating their surroundings. In this case, three business people walk by the art structure in the middle of the Gasteig entertainment complex, in near perfect form. In addition to performance halls, Gasteig also houses the Munich Adult Learning Center and a large branch of the Munich Library. It sits at the base of the Haidhausen neighborhood, fondly known as the "French Quarter." The district received its nickname when it was formed in 1870, after the Franco-German War. Nearly all the streets are named after French cities, and make up the posh quarter which is filled with cafes, restaurants and chic shops.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Saying "I do" in Style

I came across this wedding party outside the Munich Standesamt Schwabing on Mandlstrasse 14 (also known as Mandl Wedding Hall Road), or the Wedding Registry Office. I'm told that the building is quite the place for nuptuals in Munich, with its Greek columns out front, its storybook street and neighborhood, and its ground lining the English Gardens. I love this area of town, with small winding streets, following the flow of the English Gardens through Schwabing. It seems on every street, you have houses from the late 1800s or early 1900s, many of them cottages or large estates. What's more, even though it's in busy schwabing, the surrounding streets isolate it from any ongoing traffic.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Munich's Trinket Showcase

Although I've shown Munich's Rathaus many times, I don't think I've ever focused in on the Glockenspiel. For most locals, I'm not sure they even notice the famous tourist attraction. You can point them out, moving quickly through the hypnotized crowd of tourist, staring to the skies for a peek at Munich's history being acted out twice per day. In reality, locals report that they ignore because it's a bit dull. The scene on the facade of the Rathaus acts out two stories from the 16th century. The top half tells of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V (founder of Hofbrauhaus) to Renata of Lothringen at Marienplatz, followed by knights on horseback jousting, with the Bavarian knight winning of course. On the bottom level, you see the Schafflerstanz (cooper's dance) which local barrel makers performed to show it was safe to come out after the plague. Apparently, you can still see this dance reenacted every seven years during the Fasching Carnival (the next one in 2012).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bone Dry Dorf

For the first time in my short Munich residence, the city of Munich has drained the lake that streams around the Olympic Center. I'm not sure what the story is, as I have found very little news on it, but it appears they are doing some constructions or cleaning of the man-made lake. The lake, of course, is one of the most visible features of the Olympic park, filled with paddle boats including the highly visible car and swanboat. It's uncertain how long the work will last, but hopefully Munich's second largest park will have its lake backs soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Palm Sunday

The butler is in...sort of speak. It's not really Palm Sunday as you know, but it is Sunday and this is a pic of the Palm Garden on the grounds of Nympenburg. Inside, it's a slice out of the 1800s, with its rot-iron detailing, palm trees, and ceiling fans. The building was one of three former greenhouses during the court of King Ludwig II, and claims to have had Germany's first hot-water heating system. It was built in 1820 as a modern marvel, and contributed to the increased interest of the early 19th century botany, which Ludwig had a special interest in.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Munich's Fairy Tale Theatre

Located in the heart of Schwabing, Munich's Schauburg theater is the only children's and young people's theatre in Western Germany with its own dedicated space and performers. Originally called "Munchner Marchenbuhne" the Munich Fairy Tale Theatre, it was founded in 1953, but taken over by the city in 1969 and later transformed from a movie house to a full-functioning stage for performances. Now the theatre's young cast & crew puts on more than 300 performances per year, some brought out into classes & kindergartens. The auditorium itself can be transformed as well into large or small stages, which are used even as a circus arena for special events.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Color Coding

Not all of Munich's students were out protesting and taking over campus facilities (see posts over the past several weeks.) It's great to see some students just flat out studying together, albeit in Munich style with a beer in hand. These students gathered next to the Museum Bandhorst, which opened earlier this year. If you haven't had the opportunity to see the museum, now is a good time as the initial crowds have begun to die down - especially during the week. The musuem, which was nearly all comprised by a gift from the Brandhorst family, includes nearly the entire work (112 original editions) of illustrated books that Picasso completed; 60 works by Cy Twombly, encompasing paintings, sculptures, and drawings; as well as paintings by the American pop art icon, Andy Warhol. The Brandhorst collection comprises more than 700 different works, and it's the breadth and variety of art that will strike you at this museum. That is, if you are not already blown away by the building's colorful exterior.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lady in Waiting

I caught this beautiful image of a woman awaiting the arrival of a friend in the midst of the chaos of the Hauptbahnhof. I love this area because there is so much going on, and it's wonderful to see people in the midst of their journey. In some ways, it reminds me of the loneliness that one can feel in a big city, even when surrounded by others. When we lived in Paris, we were constantly reminded of how anonymous the city could feel, despite being surrounded by 12 million people every day. I think this is true of any city, and it certainly comes across in this photo.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sh*# Bahn!

A line streams around the corner at a DB service point, as they try to field questions during a recent outage. As you likely know, the "S" in S-bahn stands for Schnelle or fast, but I've coined my own phrase for the S-bahn after being personally left stranded 5 times in the last 5 weeks. I've now paid more in taxi fares than I have for my entire monthly pass, thanks to the complete breakdown of the S1 line and sometimes the entire network. Sometimes there are emergency busses put in place, other times absolutely nothing - just a lot of chaos. In all, thousands of travellers were stranded, at least once because of an electrical outage to the central system, and several times because of a train breaking down and clogging the rest of the system. I read in the news that they believe the problems are fixed, but I won't be holding my breath anytime soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Inside the New Rathaus

With the millions of photos taken of the New Rathaus in Munich, it's seldom you see views from the inside. The building, as the town City Hall, is actually quite open and accessible, and parts of its interior are as exquisite as its intricate facade. Tourists flock here to see the Glockenspiel every day, but few ever see the endless caverns inside. Actually, given the massive layout of the building, many of the corridors seem deserted. But don't let that stop you from seeing the amazing stained glass history of Bavaria that lines the walls, and the stunning views of the inner courtyard.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reflections on the Residenz

To move you away from yesterday's hard rock/pop theatre post, I thought I would bring you something more in Munich's sweet spot - the classical concerts at the Munich Residenz. Between the Gastieg and the Residenz, you could easily have 5-10 performances per night to choose from. The Residenz has 12 different performance venues, and judging by the lines they had at least 3-4 in action last night. I've looked all over, and it's nearly impossible to find a single site that shows all the listings, but here are just a few coming up in the ramp up for Christmas. Master pianist Piotr Anderszewski will perform works by Bach, Schumann, and Beethoven, and Stefan Moser, the cembalo organist, will play a series of concerts with the ensemble Serenata Concertante. Or the one that sounds the most interesting to me, is the Schubecks Vino Klassic, that incorporates music, wine tasting, and a gourmet meal. After the one-hour concert, there will be a romantic promenade through the old city to the mansion of the famous Munich composer Orlando di Lasso, where you will enjoy wine with connoisseur Thomas Riedel, and be served a gourmet dinner by chef Alfons Schubeck.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Were They Thinking?

I mentioned last week that Munich has some of the worst signage of any city I've ever been to, and this example just solidifies it. I'm not sure who the heck put these two acts together, but they couldn't be targeted to any more divergent audience. Slayer, the California based hard rock band, with CD covers including topics of serial killer, satanism, and warfare. Then you have Abba, The Show - the clean cut theatre musical, which reached 100,000 viewers during their last tour. And despite playing in very different arenas in town, some how the two are plastered together all over town.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Big Man On Campus

With 80,000 University students in Munich, Monday means it's back to school for a large percent of the population. There are two major universities in Munich - LMU, founded in 1472 in Ingolstadt and is now a leading research center in Germany; and the Technical University of Munich, specializing in architecture, engineering, economics and medicine. Then you have the University of Applied Sciences, voted the best practical university by the German Centre of University development, which focuses on applying sciences to practice. Or you will also find the Royal Academy of Arts, which was founded in 1770, focusing on painting, graphics, sculpture, and architecture. But then there are hundreds of smaller shcools around town - everything from film, to art, to theatre. Thanks to Luca for pointing out that the protests around Universties in Munich and Germany continue to intensify, with the students demanding "Education for All," asking for better conditions in classrooms. 5000-7000 students marched around the city and continue to ocuppy several campus buildings around Munich, and at schools around Germany and Austria.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Geeky Chicy at the Muffatwerk

We caught the opening night of Ingrid Michaelson's European tour in Munich last night. The American singer will hit four German cities in four nights with her mix of music and comedy during her acoustic tour for Everybody, her latest CD release. The show was at the Muffatwerk Ampere, a club on the backside of the Volksbad, and just across from the Gasteig and Deutsches Museum. It was an interesting club, and great for an intimate show, with no more than 500 people attending. And the wide format of the hall, meant you were never more than 30 feet from the stage. Apparently when they are not running concerts there, it's quite the place for disco lovers. When the weather is nice, there is an exceptional beer garden outside, surrounded by parkland at the base of the Isar.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Olympic Deja Vu

This past month Munich took its first major step to hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics. Partnered with Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berchtesgaden, Munich submitted their bid and launched the process for becoming the first city to ever host both the Summer & Winter Olympic games. The bid includes a two-cluster approach, with a set of ice sports in Munich, snow sports in Garmisch, and bobsled sports near Berchtesgaden. Some of the facilities already exist for these events, including the track at Schonau am Konigssee for bobsledding, luge and skeleton - where the 2011 championships will be hosted. Likewise, Garmisch will be hosting the World Alpine Championship in 2011. Munich facilities like the Aliance Arena can also be used possibly for opening/closing ceremonies. Either way, the road to the Olympics is a long one - with the deadline for the mini bid book submission in March 2010, and the final round of candidates selected in July, 2010. The final decision will be made in July of 2011. But with strong backing from BMW and Finanzgroup, we're sure to see a good bid.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sign Language

I have to say that Munich has some of the worst signage I've seen in any city. Even for the biggest shows that come to town, you see these little florescent signs, which look more like something on a college campus that an ad for U2, Coldplay, or the Rolling Stones. Seriously, every European city from Belgrade to Brussels to Budapest - all have great billboards and postings for upcoming bands. So why not in Munich? It must have something to do with its desire for order - there are places for posting billboards and there are places for not posting billboards.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf

And a new season in Munich. This is a great time in Bavaria. The days are cold and crisp with the sun low in the sky casting long shadows over the tree-lined streets. The is the scene on a quiet street in Neuhausen. This part of town is a little off the beaten path for many who get caught up in the Schloss of the Nymphenburg neighborhood. However, Neuhausen has Munich's largest beer garden, the Hirsch Garden with a capacity of 7000 seats. At the center of Neuhausen is Rotkreuzplatz or Red Cross Place, an interesting mix between open market, 70s block city, and chic boutiques. It embodies much of the contrast of Munich - old yet modern, traditional yet innovative, reserved yet friendly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Winter Wear

As Winter approaches in Munich, every year they do an amazing thing. They cover up all of the statues around town with custom-made boxes to prevent freezing and cracking of the marble or stone. It's amazing because all of the box cases are custom made for each statue. Even on some of the largest fountains in the city, you will find custom-made boxing to protect it throught he harsh Bavarian Winter. I thought an interesting way to tell about that, is to show this cute little Box Top climbing above one of the casings on the grounds of the Nymphenburg palace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Munich's Mystic Side

So what do you suppose happens at an Esoteric tradeshow? I came across this billboard in the Schwabing neighborhood, and I'm not sure I get it. Which I guess is no surprise when you look at the definition, and it says "that which is available only to a narrow circle of enlightened, initiated, or specially educated people." I guess I'm not that person, but with over 150 vendors coming to Munich, it's quite clear that many of the Munich locals do in deed get it. In fact, I've seen quite a few organization focused on the esoteric around Munich. Apparently there is no shortage of Munich locals who slant to the slightly mystical.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Higher Learning

So this is one of those situations where the translation of German news doesn't quite give the entire story, but as far as I can tell students have taken over the Academy of Arts in Munich. I don't think it was a hostile takeover in the form of the riots that took place in Paris several years ago (that's just not Munich style), but here's what I can put together from the news. It was a movement that came out of Vienna, Austria, focused on cheap or free education for all students as a God-given right. Whenever students start talking about God-given rights or having the same protection as their parents, I know we are in Europe. There have been banners of "Burn the University" outside (see additional items in the photo), which would be a real shame as the building and the school was founded in 1808 by Maximilian I of Bavaria, and is one of the oldest and most signifincant art academies in Germany and certainly at the heart of the Art Nouveu movement that was so influential in Munich. If you know more details, please share.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Apollo’s auf Wiedersehen

One of the most popular spots in the English Garden is Apollo's Temple or Monopteros, the iconic temple atop a hill overlooking downtown. Last night at sunset, it was crowded as nice weather brought people out from around Munich. Despite the crowds, this couple was able to capture a moment of solace to watch the sunset (I mean aside from me taking the photo). The Greek style temple was designed by Leo Von Klenze, the court architect to Bavarian King Ludwig I, responsible for most of the Greek rivival buildings around Munich - the Ruhmeshalle overlooking the Octoberfest grounds, the Glyptothek and Alte Pinakotethek museums, Ludwigstrasse, and the Residenz. The 15m hill that the temple is built upon was actually man-made in 1832, using leftover building materials from the recent work on the Residenz.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

An American in Munich

This weekend, Munich is hosting the four nations hockey championships, including Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, and the US. We attended the first night of action of the Deutsches Cup, with the US beating Germany 3-2 in a shootout at Olympiahalle. The locals were not so pleased, but we couldn't stop waving the American flag and singing the National Anthem (they sing it after the game for the winning team.) The level of play was quite good as the American team pulled many of their best players from European hockey teams to compete in the tournament. Games continue through the weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Smoken Stroll in Lehel

Just across from the great Hofgartenkaserne building, the old military facility built in 1801 that sits at the edge of the Hofgarten, is the neighborhood of Lehel. It's one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town, as it's literally a stone's throw from the Altstadt, English Garden, and the Isar River. I caught this picture on a little side street called Pilotystrasse, which has a line of old but remodeled apartments. I remember viewing one when we first moved to Munich, and it was a renovated attic on the 6th floor with views overlooking the residence and just about every spire in downtown. Spectacular. Non functional, as the attic was literally pieced together, but spectacular all the same. Despite a roar of traffic that surrounds Lehel on Franz-Joseph-Strass-Ring, Prinzregentenstrasse, and Widenmeyerstrasse (three of the busiest in Munich), once you are 100 meters into the winding streets of Lehel, it's quiet and peaceful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Going Postal

In Munich there are fewer more well known brands than Deutsche Post - present all over Germany. Little did I know that they were present all over the world. In fact, they are the world's largest logistics group. Headquartered in Bonn, Deutsche Post has 470,000 employees in 220 countries. It has leveraged its monopoly business as the only German mail carrier (70 million letters delivered per day), and has expanded agressively since privitization in 1995. Since then, it has acquited industry giants DHL and Airborne Express, among many others. Now the company manages three distinct brands: Deutsche Post, DHL, and Postbank, their financial division. But back to the title of my post...our experience has been a bit of a nightmare when it comes to everyday engagements with the Deutsche Post. I'm afriad the local post is the same everywhere in the world.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Backpacking Through Europe

This site brings new meaning to this pop-culture term. The view is part of an exhibit at the Haus der Kunst at the base of the English Gardens. You may remember this museum as the one made famous by Adolf Hitler for his showcase of German "approved" art and today is made famous for beinging anything but nationalistic art. Instead, it stays on the cutting edge of showing some of the more innovative modern art travelling through Munich. The current exhibit from Chinese artist, Al Weiwei, is no exception. For the facade of the museum, he collected 9000 backpacks in five different colors to represent the number of children who were killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The design makes up the sentence in Chinese, "...for seven years she lived happily on this earth." - a sentence in which a mother of one of the earthquake victims commemorated her daughter.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Headless Horsemen

Happy Halloween! Of course, they don't really celebrate Halloween in Munich or anywhere in Germany, but I just couldn't help sharing this photo of dad and his two trusty side kicks. How they became headless, no one will tell. But it's just not every day you see such a scene in the regularly up & up Munich. I've searched far and near, and the only Halloween celebrations I can come up with are a few under-30 parties and some ex-pats hosting parties. But to be forewarned, Germans think of Haloween as something very different than Americans. Little kids dressed up in fun outfits, are replaced with gore, gore, gore. Not sure why this difference, but it's a bit of a shock if you are expecting anything but vampires and demons.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Neptune's Garden

On the other side, you have the Nymphenburg gardens, with the close-by botanical gardens, this represents one of the largest inner-city parks in Europe. More than a 200-hectacre park, this space has seen its side of personality renewals - Italian, French, German & English - all within the past 300 years and expanding with each redesign.. At one point it was desinged by an apprentice of the same designer who created Versailles. From this picture, you can see the large 900 meter canal that bisects the park and extends from the palace all the way to the S1 train line. At points, the canal is lined with statues of Greek gods. Apparently, there have been few changes tot he gardens since about 1800, which you can enjoy on any given day in Munich.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Swan Song

The two sides of Nymphenburg Palace. One one side, you have a rare glimpse into Bavarian royalty, as the great Baroque palace was built in 1675 (the two ousdie pavallions were added in 1701) as the Summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria. This was also the site where King Ludwig II was born in 1845. The palace was then extended over time to reach its current length of about 700 meters long, and it is still lived in today by the chancery for the head of the house of Wittlesbach, currently Franz, Duke of Bavaria. A small amount of the Palace is open to the public today, with its extensive ceiling frescos, Nymphenburg porcelain workshop, and one of the most important ancient carriage museums. Today, Nymphenburg is one of the most visited cultural sites in Bavaria, with more than 300,000 visitors annually, even more than the Munich Residence in the center of town. And unlike the Residence, Nymphenburg palace does not appear to have been destroyed during WWII, maintaining much of its original decor and charm.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the Heart of Art Nouveau

If you are going to check out art in Munich, there is no time frame that is more relevant to the city than Art Nouveau. Munich was one of the big centers of Art Nouveau development during the backdrop of the industrial revolution. Along with cities like Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and New York, Munich was on the forefront. So it's always exciting when a bit of that type of art comes back through Munich today. Well not since the Kandinsky exhibit inspired lines of people blocks long have I seen a show so strong in Munich as the Alfons Mucha show at the Kunsthalle, just 100m from the Residence.. Mucha was a Czech born artist who spend several years in Munich before landing in Paris, where he received worldwide fame for his poster art, including those for Sarah Bernhardt, the famous theatre actress. Mucha formed a six year contract to produce Bernhardt's promotion posters, and many of those examples are in the show. Also at the exhibit is a recreation of Mucha's designs at the Bosnia-Herzegovina pavillion for the Paris World's Fair in 1900. It's quite impressive to see the walls of this palace rebuilt in downtown Munich. Eventually, Mucha left Paris to return to his hometown of Prague, and many of his local works have been reconstructed for the show. If you ever wanted a good taste of Art Nouveau, this is a good place for it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Speed Demons

About the only thing moving slow on Ludwigstrasse is the planned renovation of the University church, Ludwigskirche. Although the renovation was supposed to complete by now, a discovery of Asbestos, has delayed the reopening until at least Palm Sunday, 2010. The church is an icon along one of Munich's busiest streets, with its neo-romanesque style and two arches. The church also is said to have the largest altar fresco in the world. Like most of this part of the city, it was commissioned by King Ludwig I and built in 1829. The church then became the model for many other churches around the world, including the Alterchenfelder Pfarrkirche in Vienna, the St. George's Episcopal church in New York City, the Bowdoin College Chapel in Brunswick Maine, and the Congregational church of the pilgrims in Brooklyn. I was hoping that the delayed work inside would have prompted the University to white-wash the outside, as the spectacular facade looks quite neglected, but no sign of that as of yet.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kickin it at Karlsplatz

Karlsplatz is the main square between the Hauptbahnhof and Marienplatz, and it is the end of the major pedestrian walkway through the Altstadt, marked by the gothic gate - Karlstor. It was oficially named Karlsplatz in 1791 after the unpopular Elector Karl Theodor, but all the locals know the place as Stachus, named after the innkeeper Eustachius Stachel, who had a popular pub until the time that Theodor laid out Karlsplatz. some also say that Stachus is actually named after the word "Stachel" or prickle to indicate arrow - as the area was was used by marksmen in the middle ages. Today the platz is often one of the busiest in Munich with its enormous water fountain (seen in the background), but its proximity to the central station and the Altstadtring of traffic gives it a very mixed clientele.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Night Out with Ottmar

Not too long ago we spent an amazing evening out at a concert by German-born composer Ottmar Liebert. We had been fans of Liebert for years, but actually assumed that - based upon his music and not his name - that he had a Latin background. He plays amazing Latin guitar, and the show was just us, him and and one of the most inspiring groups of photographs (all his) I've ever seen. No surprise, they fit his music perfectly. It turns out that he makes many passes through Munich, as it's close to his home in Germany. Check him out online, or better yet in person if you get the chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goin on the Cheap

There's no shortage of low cost airlines flying in/out of Munich. Some of the more popular names include Aer Lingus, AirBaltic, and Easy Jet. Or if you are a little more adventurous you can try Clickair or Jet2com. One of the largest all over Germany is Air Berlin, which is recognized at the only low cost German airline. I'm not quite certain if they are focused more on bringing people to or from Munich, but they generally hit all the popular Mediterranean spots, including Athens, Malaga, Milan, and Nice. It appears that Lufthansa is not the only game in town any more, especially because Air Berln is covering many of the Northern German
cities like Berlin, Cologne, and Dusseldorf. I caught this photo at the airport, in the comon space between termanals 1 and 2. I've always enjoyed this space as it has lots of retail, beer gardens, and even skating in the Winter. It's also the location where planes, tranes, and automobils come together.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Well, I suppose if it was the story of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it would be an alternate universe version as the original story takes place in England during WWII. Yet I was really stricken by these two young girls dressed in red at the base of the two Bavarian Lions at Odeonsplatz. The lions mark the entry of the Feldherrnhall, or Field Marshall's Hall at the base of Ludwigstrasse. Odeonsplatz is one of the more beautiful around Munich, at the conjunction between the Hofgarten, the Residenz, the Theatine Church, and the entry into Schwabing and the University District. The platz has no shortage of Munich history wrapped up into it, as it was formed in 1791 as the medieval city wall was was demolished.