Thursday, April 30, 2009

Always Remembering

In the heart of what was Nazi Germany, where it all started as Adolf Hitler came to power, is a platz paying tribute to the victims of the concentration camps during WWII. It is surprising to see as the Germans are so conflicted by their role (good and bad) in the effort that ended up killing more than 6 million Jews, and they certainly don’t share their perspective openly with outsiders. In the square stands an everlasting flame of hope and a constant reminder that hovers at the entry of the Maxvorstadt neighborhood. The flame is part of the 2.5 meter high basalt Tele as a symbolic prison in a dish of an eternal light.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fields of Gold

The Mustard Seeds have returned in and around Munich. As you get to the city boundary of Munich, the terrain quickly turns to farmland all around the city. And in many of the fields through Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland you will find fields of gold, mustard gold or senf gold as it is known in German. Munich has its own flavor called Munich Mustard, a unique blend of mixing mustard seeds with water, vinegar, etc, to turn this plant into the condiment that is loved throughout Bavaria. The seeds can also be pressed to make mustard oil and the edible leaves can be eaten as mustard greens. They all end up on wurst or pretzels, and the locals can’t seem to get enough of it. As much as Americans love Ketchup, the Bavarians love mustard.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Opera in the Afternoon

Steep in the tradition of great composers such as Wagner and Strauss, the National Theater in Munich today is home of the Bayerische Staatsoper and Staatsballett or Bavarian State Opera and Ballet. The original construction was actually built to Wagner’s specifications in 1750, and described as a Rococo gem. I ended up catching this shot during a break in one of the afternoon performances, where theatergoers spilled out into the streets in their finest wares. The theater that stands today is the third on this location, reconstructing after it burned down in 1823, and then after the bombing of WWII. Architect Gerhard Graubner recreated the builing in 1963 based upon the original neo-classical 2100 seat theater.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Purple Power

I came across this stylish store awning in Schwabing the other day. Schwabing packs in the most versatile shops and restaurants in town, and this is only one example. I say it’s versatile because you go from the cheap cafes and restaurants along Leopoldstrasse to the friendly neighborhood restaurants and shops on the side streets. The district is home to more of the ethnic restaurants than any other part of town. You will find good Thai, Indian, Afgani, Lebonese and many more. The shops are the same way, going from cheap trinket shops to designer clothes. Schwabing is also where you will find the highest number of galleries in town.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Studying the Classics

A quick glance at Munich’s Wilhelmgymnasium, a well-known secondary school just outside the Altstadt. A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in many parts of Europe, where students study classics like Latin, English and Ancient Greek. The word gymnasium was used in ancient Greece, meaning the combination of both physical and intellectual education of young men. Today the gymnasium prepares pupils to enter University for advanced academic study. The Wilhelmgymnasium is the oldest grammar school in Munich, and has had many famous graduates, and has been rated the best of all schools in Bavaria. I actually knew little of this when I took the photo. I just liked how this classic image fit into the urban scene.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You Look Marvelous!

Although I think the claim is easily debated, I’m told that Munich is the second largest publishing or “Verlag” center outside New York. There are more than 250 publishing companies with offices in Munich. This includes giants like IDG, Burda, and CMP. In fact, Bogenhausen has been labeled Munich’s Publishing District. With so many publishing houses, it’s not uncommon to see photo shoots going on around town on just about any sunny day. I’m not sure what this particular photo shoot was for, but sometimes I think it’s more interesting to watch the crew than the models. This entire group was speaking English and moving throughout the Maxvorstadt neighborhood.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oh Brother, Where art thou?

In Lehel, of course. One of the brothers at St. Anna’s monastic church walks from the church to the Kloisters across the street. The scene seemed just a little out of place, but it turns out the church has a long history within Bavaria, as it was the first Roccoco church in old Bavaria (from it’s pre-1803 boundaries), built in 1727. Like many things in Munich, it was badly damaged during WWII, and the reconstruction was lengthy. However, in the course of the work, the church’s beautiful Roccoco façade, which was concealed since 1853 by a Neo-Romanesque faced built over it, was re-discovered. Although this neighborhood is small, it’s a great side of Munich with the community coming together in front of the church square – with lots of cafes and restaurants that spill out across the sidewalks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Color Coded

Northeast of Munich is a suburb called Freising. I’ve mentioned it several times as the seat of power in Bavaria until about 1100 when the only bridge crossing the Isar was moved to Munich. In Freising, you will find a very special park at the city’s highest point, which looks back to the city of Munich from several hundred meters above the city. It is at the location of the Weinstephan brewery and the Munich University of Technology’s Life Sciences school. Despite the traffic from both well known institutions, there is a certain peacefulness you wont find in many other places – from the incredible view, the extensive gardens, and the exotic plants (like this pictured) that fill the park.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

King Max Overlooks St. Lukas

Maximilian II, who was born in 1662, was known as Max Emanuel and was a Wittlesback ruler of Bavaria. He inherited the seat of power while still a minor and shortly after embarked on a military career. Shown here in this statue at the center of Maximilian strasse, he led the defense of Vienna against the Ottoman Empire, as well as the capture of Belgrade from the Turks. In the background is Munich’s St. Lukas Church, one of the most dominant church images along the Isar river. With its multiple domes overlooking the Isar, it has become a dominant piece of the Munich skyline.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Along for the Ride

Oh what a difference a few weeks makes. Everything in Munich is now in full bloom, and nearly every park you go to is filled with people these days. Everyone living in Munich was coupled up for a long and cold winter, and now they are ready to thaw out in the endless greenery, waterways, and nearby mountains. Today it hit 72 degrees in Munich, and the parks lining the Isar (like in this photo) were stunning. My suggestion is to grab your bicycle, ride for an hour or so, and then stop in a beer garden you’ve never heard of. It’s a great way to see new sides of Munich.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The British Are Coming

Even though this is the call from Paul Revere during the US revolution versus the British, perhaps it may fit on days in Munich. British Expats make up the highest population of English speaking foreigners in Munich, tied with Americans. There are 1.27 million people living in Munich, and Brits make up about 5000, or .4%. This is relatively low compared to other major cities in Europe, but ranks high among other English speaking expats, which include Irish (.07%), Canadian (.06%), and Australian (.05%). However there are plenty of other non-English speaking foreigners in Munich. The largest minority are the Turkish with 43,000 residents or 3.4% of the population. Croatians come in next with 25,104 or 2% of the population. Then comes a mix of Serbian, Greek, Italian and Polish.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cafe Culture

With hundreds of cafes throughout Munich (I’ve seen a total of 364 listed), there’s no shortage of outdoor spots to enjoy the newly discovered sunshine. This couple stopped for a coffee after walking the dog, and they picked one of Munich’s better known cafes. It’s the Café Luigi Tambosi in the hofgarten, which is one of the better places around Munich to see and be seen. It’s on the intersection of Ludwig Strasse, Brienner Strasse, Odeonsplatz, and the Hofgarten. I came across the “Mycitymate” website that claims that Munich has no more decent cafes, but I don’t buy it. You’ll find all kinds of variety throughout the city. For a complete list of cafes by neighborhood, look here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Seat of Power

Through the arch remains of the former Bavarian Army Museum, now sits the ultimate seat of power – the 8000 square meters State Chancellery or Bayerische Staatskanzlei. This is the seat of the Bavarian governor – a national authority – and support to the Prime Minister. The key focus of the chancellery, is to represent the state of Bavaria outwards. The building was badly damaged during WWII and was later converted to the Chancellery. It holds a prominent position at the East end of the Hofgarten. What immediately catches your eye is the keen combination of new and old architecture. However, when the building was constructed, it was met with much criticism as locals created an initiative called “Save the Hofgarten.” Eventually, they’ve come to terms with this building as the developers agreed to a smaller design..

Friday, April 17, 2009

Selling the Residence

Of course, Munich’s Royal Residence isn’t really for sale, but that doesn’t stop a little old-fashioned capitalism. You now see this all over Europe. As renovations are done on some of the most historic sites, you generally see a canopy placed over the sight with a picture of the building, and then an advertisement slapped on top of it. I’m no traditionalists, and honestly it doesn’t bother me at all – but the most blatant form of capitalism I’ve seen around Europe was Kylie Minogue in her H&M Bikini on the Salzburg Cathedral. Only 29.99 for a limited time. This particular advertisement for LavAzza Espresso seems so much more fitting – with a sensual embrace in evening attire, above the Grand Canal in Venice - for those entering the National Theatre (which is right next to the Residence). We are in the Northernmost Italian City, afterall. LavAzza has made a name for the company with trendy advertising, but this is by far the best I’ve seen and I’m thankful that it surfaced in Munich.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mary's Column

In the middle of Marienplatz is a lone column built in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years War. The war fought in 1618-48 was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. It was fought for the most part on German soil, and involved most of the countries of Europe. Initially the war was fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestant and Catholics, but eventually involved most of the powers of Europe and in some ways was a continuation of the Bourbon-Habsburg rivalry between France and the largely German Habsburg powers. The war weighed heavily on Germany as the foraging armies led to destruction of entire regions with episodes of famine and disease driving down the population of Germany. The column is topped by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon as the Queen of Heaven, a figure that was originally located in the Frauenkirche. Crowds meet at Mary’s Column every day around 10 am to take a series of walking tours around Europe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Abbey on the Isar

About 15 KM south of Munich’s center is a stunning Benedictine Cloister, Schaftlarn, that has roots all the way back to 762. The Benedictine monks had a strong presence in Bavaria as several monasteries and Cloisters were founded around Munich at this time. In fact, the first priests to Schaftlarn came from Freising, where they formed the world’s first brewery at Weinstephan. For a long period between 1140 and 1803, as Germany was reduced to an array of small independent states, the abbey was passed to the Premonstratensian Order – a young order founded only 20 years earlier. By the middle of the 14th century, this order included 1300 monasteries for men and 400 for women across Europe. The Premonstratensian order actually built the current structure (pictured here) in 1707. But then in 1866, King Ludwig I restored possession to the Benedictines. Today, and for the past 100 years, the Monastery has become well known for its school.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Independent Brewing in Munich

Taking a slice out of Munich History, the Augustiner brewery is Munich’s oldest still independent brewery. I actually thought it was the only remaining independent brewery in Munich, as it seems all the others had been gobbled up by InBev, but it turns out that Hofbrau, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr are still 50.1% locally owned. As for Augustiner, it dates back to 1294 when the bishop of Freising (you remember Freising was the powerhouse city at that time) established a monastery just outside the gates of Munich. In 1328 the brewery gained rights to sell beer on its premises, which still exists today. The monastery was taken over in 1803 as part of Napoleons reforms, and the monks walked out in protest. Soon after, the brewery was denationalized and moved to Neuhauser Strasse in 1817 (where the restaurant pictured here still exists). In 1884 it relocated to its present location of Landsbergerstrasse in Munich’s West end. The brewery still maintains its own tavern, the Braustuberl, on Lansberger Strasse, which is subsidized by the brewery so the prices are extremely low. After visiting what seems like hundreds of beer gardens throughout Munich, I can tell you that the Augustiner Braustuberl is by far the most authentic of the beer halls I’ve seen. Very few tourists, and lots of great (and cheap) beer and food.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Munich - Simplified

I really like this photo because it wraps so much of Munich into it. In the foreground you have the beat up Vespa, highlighting Munich’s proximity to Italy and all the wonderful cultural flavors that adds to the Bavarian landscape. Although this bike is a bit beat up (definitely not German), you still get the sense you can hop on and ride from Schwabing café to café. Of course it is chained to a pole with absolutely no shortage of “guidance” (read regulation) about where to and where not to park on this street. Even the No Parking side of the sign has endless detail on when you can and cannot park there. And then finally you have the elegant window frame with a single heart of color sprouting out of the plants. You see scenes like this a lot in Munich’s Haidhausen neighborhood (where this photo was taken). Because of that, it remains one of my favorite neighborhoods of town.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Frohe Ostern

Spring is particularly beautiful in Munich, and Easter brings a lot of that beauty to the forefront. Many of the traditions are much like you would see in other Christian countries. I’ve seen it described as the same “fertility and Spring-related icons – eggs, bunnies and flowers.” The primary German speaking countries are Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; and they are largely Christian countries. Thus, Easter is an important holiday and most people have both the Friday prior and the Monday after off of work. Most Bavarians have raised the art of decorating hollowed out eggs to a fine art. On Easter day, families generally get together for an Easter meal, and afterwards the children search for eggs the Easter Bunny (Osterhase) left for them. Many families go out together in the afternoon for a relaxing Easter Walk. That’s the traditional holiday. Now a days, I think more and more people are simply getting away for a four-day weekend, as the city is quite empty these days.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Don't Have a Cow...Man

In a page out of the famous American Simpsons cartoon, the SWM plants stand over Munich like the ever-shaky nuclear plant stands over the imaginary city of Springfield. Of course, Springfield was coined “America’s Worst City” by Time Magazine and “America’s Crud Bucket” by Newsweek. Homer Simpson once said, “I think Smithers picked me because of my motivational skills. Everyone says they have to work a lot harder when I’m around.” The difference, of course, is that Munich runs and it runs well. And honestly, the city runs well because of SWM. Your energy, water, transport – all run by SWM. 3.6 million people visited more than 18 swimming pools run by SWM last year. More than half of all Munich’s domestic homes receive heating and hot water by SWMs relationship with M-Erdgas, while 1.4 million receive water purification. Finally the Munich Public Transportation company, is also managed by SWM. Almost every household lies within 400 meters of an underground station, tram station or bus stop leading to 450 million passengers per year. SWM makes the city run.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Contenplating the Classics

Munich locals stand among the classic Greeks. At the Munich Glyptotek, from the Greek root glyphein to sculpt, is the restoration of the top of the Temple of Aegina. Aegina is a short boat ride from Athens, and makes up part of what’s known as the Sacred Triangle. That Triangle makes up three of the most important temples in Greece, the Parthenon in Athens, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, and the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina. The museum, albeit small, was designed in 1830 to present the Greek treasures of the Bavarian King Ludwig I. Actually, the museum presents sculptures dating from the archaic age (650 BC) to the Roman era (550 AD). Having visited Aegina, it’s amazing to see such a well preserved temple, and even more interesting to wonder how the remains of one of the three most well known temples ended up in Munich. But that is another story.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

BMW Road Warriors

A slick overhead view of one of the roadsters at the BMW Museum. I have written many times about the BMW World, the architectural wonder that hangs over the second ring road. But across the street is the “soup bowl” museum that tracks the company from its founding moments early in the 20th century, to its heavy aircraft production leading up to WWII, to defending a possible take over from Diamler-Benz in the 50s, to the global expansion of the 90s that included the acquisition of the Rover group (later sold again) as well as Rolls Royce. Today, the company successfully markets and sells the Mini brand of cars as well as BMW. The museum is broken into 7 distinct areas: the house of design, the company, motorcycle, technology, motor sport, brand, and series of cars. Next time you are in Munich, be sure to stop by the BMW World (which is free and has all the latest releases), but don’t forget to see where the “ultimate driving machines” came from as well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oh We’ll Miss Those Blue Riders

After the amazingly successful Kandinsky exhibit, the coolest museum in Munich (the Lenbach Haus) is closing for two years for renovation. The Italian Villa in Maxvorstadt will go through a $56 million renovation to update basic infrastructure of the building. The building was created in 1891, but was built up based upon multiple acquisitions of surrounding buildings. Then it suffered extensive damage during WWII, and in the end is ill equipped to support the dramatic increases in attendance. Although the museum was made for a capacity of 30-40,000 visitors per year, during peak times (like this past year with the Kandinsky exhibit) the museum can see more than 400,000 visitors per year. Although the Lenbach Haus will close, the Kuntsbau will remain open, which is an additional exhibit space at the entry of the Konigsplatz U-bahn. The current exhibit profiles Dan Flavin, an American artist focused on the use of neon lighting as art.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Munich’s Hells Angels

That’s exactly the image that Body Motorcycle Club (this is their logo) has tried to avoid. Tagged as criminals or trouble makers, the largest biker club in Germany has become very well known with more than 63 chapters in Germany, as well as 42 in Italy, Poland, Canary Islands, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Spain, Venezuela and Thailand. It was founded in Mannheim in 1972, but their linkages to the Hells Angels have apparently given the motorcycle club a bad name. Of course like many things in Germany, there is lots of Irony (Speaking of ironic, when I first saw this sign, I thought it was a union logo. Go Teamsters!). For example, the rebellious days of the Hells Angels in the US is long gone. In fact, the only people who can afford a Harley Davidson motorcycle today are yuppies who like to show their rebellious side on the weekends. But in Germany, travel is a way of life. There are three times the numbers of cars in Germany than when you cross the border into France, Switzerland or Austria. And travel anywhere in the world, you are bound to come across a number of Germans on the road – in mobile homes, fast German cars, or even BMW mortorcycles.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Neo Classic Munich

At one point in the early 20th century, all of Brienner Strasse looked like this, with its neoclassical architecture. The street, one of the original four royal avenues in Munich, runs past some of the most important monuments and best architecture of Munich. It starts at the Munich Residence, and Odeonsplatz on the northern side of the old town. It immediately reaches Wittlesbacher Platz, which is home to the Ludwig Ferdinand Palais. Then past the circular Carolina platz, as well as the famous Brown House, which was the headquarters of the Nazi party. Next up is Konigsplatz and home of the Glyptothek and Classical Museum of Art. The street ends at the beautiful Lowenbrau Beer garden. Given the streets importance to Munich, it’s a bit ironic that the street is named after the Battle of Brienne in which Napoleon defeated the Russian and Prussian forces. I say Ironic because there are fewer examples of German and French forces being aligned today. However, German (and specifically Bavaria) was well aligned with the French at the time, and the street commemorates the contribution Bavaria made in the victory.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Take a Walk on the Mild Side

The lingering sun has illuminated all sorts of amazing sides of Munich, many of which we have not seen for months. I caught this great glimpse of the late afternoon sun at the grounds of Nymphenburg Palace, a great place to get lost in Munich. The 490-acre Palace grounds cover a large section of Northwest Munich. Inside you find stunning stone figures of Greek Gods, which are just coming out of hibernation. Amazingly, most statues in Munich are covered throughout the Winter in custom-made wooden cases, and these are no exception. The statues are at the base of a canal that splits the grounds in two. At one time, a menagerie served as an attraction for the children of Maximilian IV Joseph. In addition, the Dressage Facility was used for Equestrian riding during the 1972 Olympics. 300,000 people visit Nymphenburg Palace each year, but only a fortunate few find their ways to the amazing grounds that surround the Palace.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

…And then it was Spring

A beautiful swan looks after its new flock or cygnini at the entry of the English Gardens. Only 100 meters from the surfing paradise (at least by Munich standards) of the Munich Eisbach, the US consulate, the Haus der Kunst, and the busy street of Prinzregentenstrasse begins the peaceful streams that run the length of the English Gardens. Over the past week the mood around Munich has really changed. It is a city transformed. All of as sudden, it’s not just the swans that are coming out of hibernation. It’s the Munich locals that are coming out of hibernation, and they are met with beautiful days and beautiful evenings where it’s light until past 8 pm. In only a dress shirt, I enjoyed a beer on the terrace tonight. That’s the way Munich is supposed to be, and we’ve missed it during the endless Winter.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Duchess & Duke of Bavaria

I caught this photo as the snow subsided, and the sun started shining for the first time this Spring. Munich has had the “never-ending Winter” which fortunately has come to an end this week. I love the colors in the background, which have become so common in Munich. The building in the background is the Arcade of the Hofgarden, which is the garden of the Royal Residence. Can you imagine this place in its hey-day from the 13th to the beginning of the 20th century? The grounds of the Royal Palace is where all the royal court strolled through the Spring afternoon. This was the home of the aristocratic class in the Holy Roman Empire which today is Germany. In Germany, all legitimate children of a nobleman became nobles themselves, and most titles pass onto all the children. Not all children became kings, but did become princesses, dukes and duchesses. All of that came to an end in 1919 with the Weimar constitution, when all Germans were made equal and any right or privileges due to nobility ceased to exist. Yet the German nobility continues to play an important role in the various European nations that have not abolished the nobility. In fact, most of the European royal families are descendants of the German nobility.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Neighborhood Naves

The beauty of being in Europe is finding average, ordinary, every-day churches that are extraordinary. I don’t think Europeans even notice it. When you have amazing churches on every other corner, what’s another one. But when you are an American and not accustomed to such beautiful architecture, such spiritual centers, each and every one blows you away. I’m not talking about St. Peters in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, or even the Frauenkirchen in Munich. I’m talking about the churches in the neighborhood that are used as parish churches and have been a central part of the community for 100 years. A good example of that is St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the North end of the Maxvorstadt neighborhood. It was built in 1898 in a neo-baroque style (buildings that display Baroque style but are not built in the Baroque period of 17th and 18th centuries) with one single tower. The entire nave was destroyed in WWII, reconstructed in 1950, and stabilized in the late 80s. That tower looks more than 200 feet above Jospehsplatz, the North Cemetery, and the shopping street of Agustenstrasse.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Foot-Long Fever

Why is it that the things that get exported from your home country are rarely the things you are generally proud of. Think about the most visible exports from the US – McDonalds, Budweiser, Marlboro. Subway is another one. It’s clearly not the best sandwiches, yet it’s super successful. Subway has 24 stores in Munich (this one on Gabelsbergerstrasse), more than 700 in Germany and more than 30,000 worldwide, covering more than 89 countries. Most are operated as franchises. Subway first ventured outside of North America in 1984, and now has more than 10,000 restaurants internationally. So know that you can pick up your foot long turkey sub in 31 locations in Saudi Arabia, 135 in Venezuela, 20 in Iraq, or 8 in Hong Kong. Of course, Munich is no stranger to investment from American companies. You can find the following companies with large offices in Munich – Amazon, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Kraft, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Sun, Texas Instruments, Wrigley, yahoo and many more..