That’s the impression you get when you see this photo, with this elderly couple meeting at the fountain at Hohenzollernplatz. You wonder if they had been meeting there for 50 years. They were actually quite cute together, with him drinking his Lowenbrau Pilsner, and her doing her shopping in the surrounding shops. It’s enough to bring out the romantic spirit in all of us. This square, in West Schwabing, in some ways takes on the same character. It is surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants, and bakeries, and in some ways reminds you of that scene in “Back to the Future” where Marty rides his skat board through the square in both eras. Many of the shops, as well as the small market, look like they hadn’t changed much in at least 30-40 years. With that said, it happens to be one of the best connected intersections in town – with the U2, tram, and bus lines meeting there. And having spent an afternoon on this very fountain absorbing the sun when I first moved to Munich, I also recognize that its appeal to those of all ages is…well ageless.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Although there seems to be some believability to Munich locals dancing around naked (they do anyway in parks around town – as I noted a week back) on a deserted farm pasture in celebration to the 40 year anniversary to Woodstock, somehow I don’t see it happening. When I heard about the 40th anniversary, I was a bit surprised to hear that the week-long concert series was happening in the Olympic center Ice arena. Having skated at the arena and watched games by the Munich Ice Hockey team, I don’t see it being quite the same celebration. With that said, they have a long line up of bands to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the “3 days of Peace, Love & Music.” I’m afraid this is one time that Munich is being shown up by Berlin, as the country’s capital is planning a concert at Berlin’s Templehof airport (recently de-commissioned) in August with 200-300,000 attendees. Michael Lang (now 65), the founding producer of the original Woodstock is contracting to Media Consulta to promote the event in Germany. Several bands that played the original Woodstock festival are expected in Berlin, including Santana, The Who, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and the Grateful Dead. Yeah…The Olympic Ice Arena wont quite cut it. Oh well, if that doesn’t work for you there are two additional music festivals this weekend at the Olympic Park – the Spring on Festival – focused on Germany’s diverse rock, punk and hiphop artists - and the Theatron Festival – focused on highlighting local talents in the International rock scene.
Friday, May 29, 2009
An Exhibit 3300 Years in the Making. That’s the King Tut exhibit, now showing in Munich until August 30th. This exhibit has toured the earth for many more years than the young king lived, as I remember seeing it in San Francisco back in the 70s. Apparently the exhibit has been updated several times over, and this tour enables you to walk through the tomb in full scale. Apparently this is the farewell tour before returning to its homeland for good. The exhibit at Olympia park covers 4000 square meters and includes more than 3000 images documenting every aspect of the discovery in 1922, and the following restoration and preservation of thousands of artifacts. Apparently, it’s the closest you can get to Egypt without getting on a plane. Photos of the exhibit and artifacts look stunning.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
And although the puppet stage is quite small, it is not without fanfare and history in Munich. I came across this image in a puppet store located in lower Schwabing. Turns out there is a Munich Art Puppet Theatre, which has been showing traditional Bavarian tales since it was founded in 1858. I understand the puppets are made in the Bavarian and Austrian tradition of wood carvings, and stories often revolve around regional comic folk heroes. The Theatre is located just next to the Sendlinger Gate. If that isn’t enough to satisfy your puppetering fancy, you can try the Munich Puppet Museum, located in the Munich Stadtmuseum or City Museum. It is one of many small exhibits in the city museum, located near the Viktualienmarkt.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
In what used to be the far Northeast corner of the Altstadt is the Alter Hof or Old court. That’s amusing today, as it’s only 200 meters from Marienplatz. But excavations show that the building, often referred as the castle, existed in the 12th century. The castle has had some high profile residents, including Louis IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, as well as Louis II, Duke of Bavaria. It was used as the royal residence until uprisings made it unsafe for the Wittlesbach family and they moved to the Residenz. From the 15th century on, the castle was only as a seat of several governmental departments. The castle has five wings and in addition to the government office, it also houses the nice restaurant and wine celler called Vinorant Alter Hof. It has even returned to its roots, in that several areas house luxury apartments as of the past few years. Because it’s generally pedestrianized, this square sometimes gets overlooked by tourists, who often end up over at the nearby Hofbrau house instead. But it’s definitely worth the visit.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
That was the look on the little boy’s face as his kite finally took flight. Like a jack-rabbit, he darted between the sun worshipers on the lawn of the Alte Pinakothek as temperatures reached into the 90s Fahrenheit. The same could be said for the building behind the boy. The museum was commissioned by architect Leo von Klenze and opened in 1835. Klenze was the court architect for Bavarian King Ludwig I and is also responsible for the Residenz, Glyptothek museum, and much of Ludwigstrasse. The museum was heavily damaged during WWII, and when rebuilt in 1957, the missing parts were replaced with bare brickwork, in order for the damage to be visible as lasting “wounds.” To see the building now is amazing, as you recognize just how little of the building was standing after the war. Today, it houses more than 800 paintings, many of them European masterpieces of the 14th to 18th century. For anything newer, you have to go across the street to the New Pinakothek, but please give the kite runners enough room to maneuver as you pass by.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Yesterday I told you about the longest Castle in Europe, the Burghausen castle stretching more than 1 KM over the village. Today, I wanted to tell you of the village of Burghausen, which is no less impressive. The old town center is exactly what you would imagine in picturesque Bavaria…the buildings all painted unique bright colors. Highlights around town include St. Jakob’s church built in 1140,the Holy Spirit Church from 1325, the townhall with its classical façade originating from the 14th and 15th century, and the ancient government building constructed in the 16th century. Walking through the town is like walking through a storybook, not least because of the imposing castle above - running the entire length of the town. Excavations show the city has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. More recently, the town gained prominence as the second residence of the Lower Bavarian dukes, but suffered 300 years of commercial decline because of heavy casualties in the Thirty Years War, War of Spanish Succession, War of Bavarian Succession, and the French Revolutionary Wars – and finally with only 2500 inhabitants it lost its garrison in 1891. But for the past 100 years, the town has seen steady upturn with the establishment of the Wacker Chemical company, as well as the Deutsche Marathon refinery, and has gained regional fame thorugh the SV wacker Burhausen FC, and the International Jazz Festival. From Munich, Burghausen makes a great day trip combined with Wasserburg (see 9/28/08 post), two of the most colorful towns in Bavaria.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Sometimes you just need to get out of town. And I must say that every time we do, we are really amazed at the beauty of Bavaria. Today we visited the longest castle in Europe. Now consider that Europe seems to have a castle on nearly every street corner, so that’s saying a lot. Burghausen Castle is located just over 100 KM East of Munich, and is a great day trip combined with Wasserburg (another amazing city with a Sunday market). The castle stretches more than a full kilometer, is divided into six courtyards, and its first buildings date back to 600 AD. Each courtyard had its own fortified gate, moat, wooden drawbridge and history. Nearly all of its wealth came from the lucrative salt trade funneling out of Salzburg. Although the castle, which is built on a narrow hillside overlooking the beautiful town of Burghausen, has had many lives – most of what you see today is part of the fortifications in the late 1400s in fear of attacks from Turkey. Ironically, Turkish is the largest minority in Munich today. You can see views of the castle at night, and a panoramic view across the entire grounds. These particular crests show the Bavarian (left) and the Polish crest in honor of the marriage of Duke Georg the Rich with Hedwig from Poland, which took place in Landshut in 1475.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
They say one man’s junk is another’s treasure. That being the case, there was a lot to treasure at Maxvorstadt neighborhood’s annual Flee Market. 60-70 residents displayed their most un-needed items such as vintage advertisements, toy Lufthansa airplanes, Mozart records, or old copies of Struwwelpeter (a German children’s version of Edward Scissorhands – of sorts). Also seen at the market were traditional marionette puppets, dirndl dresses, Bayern FC trading cards, and this Love van pictured here. Volkswagen cars and vans have reached cult status in Germany, and this has spread throughout the world. This picture shows what’s known as a T3 Volkswagen – the T1 was the beetle and the T2 was the original van with rounded corners – which was produced from 1979 to 1991. The key innovation in the T3, aside from its square corners, was expanded interior space by lowering the engine compartment. Then in 1981, Volkswagon phased out their air-cooled engine for water-cooled versions.
Friday, May 22, 2009
More than 400 Munich schools, day cares and churches staged a one-day walk out, with additional walk outs planned to support workers health benefits as well as protection for children with special needs. In addition to the 2700 workers throughout Bavaria, more than 15,000 people participated to show their support. It is reported that parents were informed and found alternate options for care as most supported the proposed changes. If a collective agreement for health is not approved nationwide, future strikes could impact the 200,000 members of the Union of Education and sciences – leading to many more scenes like this empty nursery in the Isarvorstadt neighborhood.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
May 21st in Germany is not only Ascension Thursday, it’s also Father’s Day. So father’s throughout Deutschland were treated like kings – even if only for the day. In general, Father’s Day is celebrated with family activities, and this one was no different. This father spent his holiday at the Hirschau beergarden in the English Garden. In Germany, and in Munich in particular – they’ve really figured something out, and that is beer gardens. Hirschau (which is a fantastic beer garden with much fewer tourist than the more popular See Haus) for example, has a wonderful play park for the kids that is situated right next to the beer garden with really only one entrance & exit. Much like the French have figured out bread, cheese, and wine; in Munich they’ve figured out fried food, amazing amounts of beer, and the casual dining experience with kids that we’ve come to know and love.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Despite my assumption that this was some sort of evangelical church (because of its reference to holy ideas), it turns out that St. Elmo’s is creative agency and advertising firm. I came across it in lower Schwabing, just behind the US consulate. The firm, which was created in 2001, does work for Allianz, BMW, Conde Nast, Lufthansa, and Ludwig Beck. All in all, not a bad client list. This area of town I find fascinating, as you go into these back roads and off the main road of Ludwigstrasse. All of a sudden, it’s quiet and peaceful. There are only about 100-500 meters between the English Gardens and Ludwigstrasse, but it’s amazing how far you are away from the city streets in here. The streets are a strange mix of embassies, art nouveau apartments, university campus facilities, and quiet hideaways.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
In the picturesque Nymphenburg gardens, you will find a collection of Mythical statues that add to the Italian garden’s epic appearance. The Greek messenger of the sea is usually represented as a merman, although this statue shows him in human form. Much like his mythical home, Triton lived in a beautiful garden setting under the sea. Although stories conflict on the actual location of Triton’s home under the sea (most believe off the coast of Lybia), they are consistent on his family order. He was the father of the goddesses Pallas and foster parent of Athena, the goddess of heroic endeavor - who became the patron of Athens where they built the Parthenon to worship her. Back in Munich with this Triton, the 500 acre park is quite a place to explore this time of year – either for the Rococo palace built in the 1600s as a summer residence or for the multiple pavilions that line the park.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I’ve posted several times about the Greek influence in Munich – buildings like the Glyptotek, the Archeological Museum, and Konigsplatz. Most of these references have a history leading back to King Otto of Bavaria, who during the 19th century created very important ties between Bavaria and Greece through the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (pictured are the horses that flank the entrance). Apparently, after the Ottoman occupation of Greece which ended in 1830, Greek artist had very few opportunities in Greece – so studying abroad was critical to their creative and commercial success. Munich became an important artistic center for Greek artists, as they passed up the opportunity to study in Paris for the Royal Academy in Munich. This gave birth to the Greek “Munich School” or the “Athens on the Isar.” Some artists stayed in Munich, and others returned to Athens to retrain local artists and define the 19th century artistic movement in Greece. From that connection, the Athens artists formed the Athens School of Fine Arts – the premier art school in Greece.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I wanted to share this photo with you because it reveals so much about life in Munich. First of all, you have the nudity in public. Of course, I had to cover up the details to get this posted on Blogger, but you can see that Germans (especially German men) love to be naked (see story here) – on the seashore, along the rivers, and in the parks. Apparently there was a man who gained fame as “The Hammer” who regularly walked naked the English Gardens shocking uptight tourists. But after a while, you just start to get used to it. Actually Germans see nudity quite differently than most Americans. They view it as getting much closer to nature, which this person certainly does. The other thing that this photo teaches you about Munich is that the English Garden is amazing. It’s one of the best city parks I’ve ever seen, with endless trails, views of the river, and of course, beer gardens. And finally, this photo teaches you that Munich residents and visitors have a love affair with their English Gardens. As the heat rose on Sunday, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a sea of humanity in all parts of the park. Needless to say, there were traffic jams throughout the park as walkers, joggers, and bikers enjoyed the interesting views.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
What should we daydream about today? Perhaps it’s an ice cold Weissbeer at one of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of beer gardens throughout town. Maybe it’s a long bike ride along the Isar river, to the point where you seamlessly blend from city to forrest. How about a short drive up to Garmish or one of the many Alpine villages nearby for a hike on trails that were only a month ago covered with snow. Not your speed, then think about trying one of the local pools and instead of taking a dip stop by the spa for a message and some quiet time. Then meet a friend at one of the many outdoor cafés in Munich for a bite and great conversation. What do you think she is daydreaming about? I came across her on the Isar near the Deutsches Museum and it certainly made me wonder. Spring has arrived in Munich, and the possibilities are endless.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I have to say that one of the best things about living in Munich are the amazing swimming pools. Growing up in the US, pools were quite one dimensional – think of a box with water in them. Yet the pools in Munich are like water wonderlands. Most facilities have approximately 5 different pools, one for babies, another for those just learning to swim, one with a river current, one for swimming laps, and another as a hot tub. I profiled the art nouveau Volksbad a few weeks ago, and every time I arrive at a new pool, I’m amazed at how well they are built. Pictured, you have the Dante bad, an outdoor complex that reopened last year after several years of renovation. There are two kids pools, water slides, one for diving, and even one for nudists (which Munich is full of – by the way.) Some people say it’s even better during the Winter when outdoor pools are warmed to 30 degrees. After having visited the Nord, Volks, West, and Dante – I’ve been blown away by all of them. Many of the outdoor facilities, you can arrive in the morning, spread out your towel, and stay all day long. Swim, sleep, whatever you like.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Bakeries throughout Munich are filled with all sorts of hearty breads and sweet pastries. One of the local specialties is Kartoffelbrot or potato bread. It is made by replacing a portion of the regular wheat flour, and then either baked or cooked on a hot griddle or pan in an oven. The potato ingredients can range from mashed to potato flakes. Sharing shelf space in the bakeries are a mix of blechkuchen (sheet cake), Kasekuchen (cheesecake), kuchen (every day cake), torte, Mazipan (almond paste cake or cookies), and krappel (doughnuts). Of course, no bakery experience would be complete without a Bavarian pretzel , and this site suggests that they’ve found the top bakeries in Munich for pretzel making - Discount Bäckerei und SB-Café, Hofpfisterei, Rischart, Die Backstube, Brezelbäckerei Ditsch, and Woerner’s Confiserie und Café am Dom.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The worldwide leader in soft drink sales, Coca Cola, has a strong presence in beer frenzied Munich. Here you see one of its many coin-operated soda machines with an image of a spire from the Frauenkirche and the gold Angel of Peace. The creative use of local images is only part of a restructuring of Coca Cola operations throughout Germany to try and recoup much of the market share it lost between 2000 and 2005. European Coke operations have traditionally been hampered by Germany, where Coca Cola refused to change its bottling to support a new deposit/recycling law, which led to negative public impact. In addition, they were accused in 2003 of blocking efforts to unionize, which led to boycotts in Munich. But Coke has had a major marketing push and revamped its distribution to maintain about 55% of the market – down from its 65% share in the 90s.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
During the 19th century in Munich, there was an appreciation for classical antiquity and you see it in architecture throughout the city. A good example of this is Lenbachplatz (see panorama here), on the Northwest side of the Alstadt. If you walk by quickly, you may miss it all together. It’s a busy intersection on the ring road, with tram lines twisting through. But if you stop and look around, you see an amazing mix of classic buildings, two small city parks, and the Wittlesbach Fountain (pictured here). The fountain commemorates the completion of the city water supply system, leveraging the springs in the nearby alps, and is generally what is used today throughout Munich. Built in 1893, its theme focuses on the power of Water and is build by Hildebrand, one of five fountains he designed. When it was damaged in WWII, it was rebuild and designed by Hildebrand students. The fountain is surrounded by elegant buildings, grouped with a view to picturesque effect, without any precise plan or close relation to one another – buildings like the Bavarian Stock Exxchange,Lenbach Palais, the old law courts, the Artists House, the old botanical garden, and even the ultra modern BMW Pavilion Showroom
Monday, May 11, 2009
From the early 1800s to WWI, Art Nouvou appeared in many major cities throughout Europe. One of its European centers was Munich, by far the German leader in this movement known as Jugendstil, or youth style. The term Jugendstill came from the weekly Munich art and lifestyle magaizine, Jugend. Art nouveau embraced all forms of art and design: architecture, furniture, glassware, graphic design, jewellery, painting, pottery, metalwork, and textiles. And today, you can find remnants of it scattered around the Altstadt and places like Schwabing. The style is characterized by organic, floral and high stylized curving forms. The artform is considered an important bridge between Neoclasicism and modernism, despite going out of fashion around the beginning of the 20th-century. Ironically, throughout most of the world you are more likely to see art nouveau influences in the psychedelic art movement of the 60s and 70s. But in Munich, you can see it everyday – just walking down the street.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Although I’ve seen a lot of accolades for the DB rent a bike and generally I think it’s a great concept – they are kind of dumpy bikes. They are described as high tech, but in the end they don’t look all that appealing and I hear of issues with how they run. Contrast that with the cool Velib program that runs through many of the cities in France and has literally transformed them into bike-friendly meccas. I think Deutche Bahn, which runs the program, just needs to put a little coolness into their fleet. Afterall, 15% of journeys within the city of Munich are done by bicycle. That is nowhere near Amsterdam’s 40%, but it is high compared to other German cities. I have a bike of my own, and before that I’ve liked the convenience of picking up rentals from the central station. Let me know if you have tried them. I’d rather get some direct feedback from real riders. If you are seeking any information on how they work, take a look at this site.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
When I first arrived in Munich, I thought the city mascot was the bear. I was completely misled by the bronze bear statue in the center strip of the A9 Motorway, which was actually revealed in 1962. Of course, I never slowed down enough to realize that it was a monument to the friendly relationship with Berlin. It turns out, this is one of several bears across town (this photo at the Elisabethmarket) that show the strong relationship between Munich and Berlin. I later learned that the official animal for Munich is the Lion, named after Henry the Lion, who founded the city of Munich in the 1100s. Ironically, Berlin’s relationship with its Bears has been strained over the past several years. In 2007, the central zoo in Berlin delivered one of its first baby cubs named Knut, which has reached celebrity status. But over the past couple years several people have jumped into the bear enclosure and have been mauled by some of the bears.
Friday, May 8, 2009
If this looks like the outline of a dead body, it’s because it’s a monument commemorating exactly that. This is the location where Kurt Eisner was murdered on Novemeber 8, 1918, just around the corner from the Bayershirhof Hotel on Kardinal-Faulhaber Strasse. Karl Eisner was a Bavarian Politician and journalist who organized the Socialist Revolution, which overthrew the Wittlesbach monarchy in Bavaira. Eisner was no stranger to confrontation, having been convicted of treason at the height of World War I for inciting a strike of munitions workers. He spent 9 months in Munich’s largest prison (to this day) – Stadelheim, which is in Munich’s Giesing district- 3 miles South East of the city center. Once released, he declared Bavaria a free state and incited the German revolution.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
And sometimes you have to go back to the old favorites. We had family in town recently, and paid a visit to one of Bavaria’s treasures – the Neuschwanstein Palace. The only thing I can say is it’s more beautiful than the photos. What would King Ludwig II think as he built the castle to withdrawal from public life? Afterall, more than 50 million people have visited the castle since his death. The castle opened to the public 7 weeks after his death, in part to help pay for his tremendous debts that he incurred in building this and other castles across Bavaria. Built as an homage to Richard Wagner, it is known as the fairy tale castle and was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle of Disney fame. The name, literally means the New Swan Stone Castle, and I believe it lives up to its name.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
A few weeks ago I shared with you a photo of one of the monks from St. Anne’s Church in the neighborhood of Lehel. I found myself back there recently, and I have to say it’s one of the most relaxing centers of Munich. Where the church meets the main road (which is an overstatement, as it’s barely one lane each direction), you have a mix of cafes and restaurants and people coming about. However, you can find a seat next to the church and chill there all day. There are kids playing in the plaza. People riding their bikes through the neighborhood. And friends chatting over a coffee. I came across this interesting sculpture just outside the cloisters, which are across the street from the church. I looked all over for a plaque explaining who it was dedicated to, but there was no description. Like the monks who find themselves in anonymous prayer, this monk stature was meant to represent the many monks who have made St. Anne’s their home. The Cloister was built in 1727, and like the church was destroyed during WWII. For the church, only the façade remained standing. Both were rebuilt in the early 50s, and renovated once since then. Stop by some time when you get the chance.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
We spent the evening out and came across a restaurant that completely blew us away. The only reason we noticed it is that we went to Killian’s Irish Pub at the back side of the Frauenkirche, just blocks off of Marienplatz. It’s kind of a hole in the wall, as it’s in the cellar next to the Austrailian Bar, but it’s fun and often has live music. And oh yeah, it happens to be an English speaking oasis. Well, they’ve brought tables/chairs into the courtyard because of the good weather, and we enjoyed a good pint or two outside. Just next to Killian’s is a restaurant called Guido al Duomo. Now I made a point when I started this blog that I WOULD NOT endorse restaurants. But this one was so surprising – one for the incredible seafood, two for the fantastic staff, and three for the host who also manages the wine shop next door. Whatever you do. Don’t let him talk you into a 60 euro bottle of wine. There’s an amazing amount of good wine around town that can be had on the cheap. But definitely take his advice on food, as the specials are often amazing.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The warm weather has brought everyone out to the parks, including the University students – even those still in class. This park south of the central station makes for a great setting for studies. With two major universities in Munich, there’s an estimated 86,000 students around when term is in, or about 6% of the Munich population. That may not seem like much, but with the schools centered around Maxvorstadt and Schwabing, the entire neighborhood is transformed during the school year – apartments, restaurants, cafes, and parks. It’s almost time for the end of the year, where these parts of town will seem just a little lonely without them.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
This lovely looking logo is the crest for the pension offices in Munich. You can think of the pension system like the US Social Security System. And like the US version, the German system has come under lots of criticism of barrowing from today’s workers to pay for today’s retirees. With low birth rates and increasing life expectancy in Germany, there are fewer workers financing and more retirees receiving. There is a famous saying by a German minister “Die Renten sind sicher” (the pensions are secured) which is met with much skepticism. Most economists today believe, like in the us, that the current generation will only see a small portion of what they put into the system.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Just beyond the Ostbahnhof is an indoor/outdoor play area for kids that is simply fantastic – Jogoli’s Fantastic Kinderworld. We showed up at 11 am on a Sunday and we seemed to be the only ones there. They have all the usual suspects for kids – ball room, three floors of climbing structure, lots of toys to play with, and plenty of hands-on games. We have been to others around town, like Lollihop which is much more extensive, but this was great as there was only one way in/out; so you could drop off your kids and let them run wild. They even have a business lounge with wireless access so you can do a post or two while you are watching the kids through their multiple video surveillance system. This particular spot includes a castle, a pool, and an Alice in Wonderland theme area. If you’re not toting around kids, then try The Beach, a bar that has multiple beach volleyball courts.
Friday, May 1, 2009
When I stopped to take a phone of Munich’s one Gucci store on the extravagant Maximillian strasse, how appropriate it was that a woman walks by wearing a sequent dress and carrying a bag that could have been bought by the Italian luxury retailer. Gucci opened its Munich store in December of 2008 to much glitz and glamour. You can see photos of the event here. Many German actors, models and celebrities showed up for the party. Despite all the cheap imitation bags, Gucci sure has figured this image thing out. It’s the largest selling Italian brand in the world generated $8.2 billion worldwide in 2008, and the 45th most recognized brand in the world, according to Business Week. The company was created in 1921 by Cuccio Gucci to the south in Florence, and today operates 425 stores worldwide. It reached its height of stature in the 1960s with stars like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Onassis toting its products, but by the 80s had been labeled a tacky airport brand by Vanity Fair. It was a family shake up in 1983 that for the first time in years left a single person, Marizio Gucci, running the company – and brought the brand back to prominence. And culturally, the product is everywhere and a mainstay in Hollywood, with mentions in Pretty Woman, Main in Manhattan, Legally Blond, the Devil wears Prada, and Sex in the City