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.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blazin Saddles

As temperatures plunged nearly 40 degrees Farenheit over the past week or so, you can see Munich go directly from Summer to Winter. With temperatures in the high 30s this week, bikes from no fewer than 5 tour companies around town are getting locked up for the Winter. It's hard to believe that we've had three days of snow in Munich this past week, and the week before everyone was sitting out in the parks for their last glimpse of sun. Well, if you ever come to Munich at a warmer time, a bike is a great way to see the city. But i say lose the tour and the guide, and go out adventuring on your own - through the English Garden, Schwabing, and the Olympic Park. You'll love it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Night Rider

As if surfing on the Eisbad was not crazy enough. If you've read this post before, you know the story. A perfect wave is created as a leg of the Isar River enters the English Garden, making a perfect ampitheatre for the surfers, and onlookers above. The downside is it's incredibly dangerous, as there are rocks only milimeters below the water surface at some points. Add to this the craziness of surfing at night. We walked by to find the surf illumiated by floodlights and a generator last weekend, with no shortage of surfers. Are these guys mad? Maybe. They disregard the "danger of death" signs posted near by and so do the cops. This is a signature of Munich, and I hope it stays this way. Stay safe out there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Munich Marathon

First of all, sorry for my delay in posting. I've been absolutely hijacked by T-Mobile, and have lost my internet access. Not a good scene. I'm posting this over the cellular netowrk. Also not a good thing. But let me let you know what you've been missing in Munich. First of all, we had the 24th annual Munich Marathon, where over 10,000 runners pound the pavement - in this case the cobblestone pavement in front of the Glyptotek Museum. This shot was taken at the KM post 35, and the band was out in full force, rooting the runners on. I'm not sure who this band is, but I see them all over Munich, and they are an absolute blast. So much so, that this character caught me looking in between drum beats, and in the end stole the show.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Residenz Week

Now that we are finished with that Oktoberfest madness, it's time to get to some of Munich's more refined cultural side. Specifically, today kicks off the week celebrating one of Munich's most important addresses - the Munich Residence. This this the downtown Schloss that was the set of government and residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors, and knings from 1508 to 1918. And despite being demolished during WWII, it's still one of the coolest spots in Munich. There are literally 10 events scheduled each day. So we went to a concert on opening night, and it was an amazing choir that certainly lifted our spirits. What was most amazing about the event though, was the setting. The concert took place in the Hall of Antiquities (Antiquarium), which was built in 1568 for the art collection of Albert V. It is said to be the largest Ranaissance hall north of the Alps, and was later remodeled into a banquet hall. Although this picture doesn't do the hall justice, it's by far the most stunning in the Residence.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Grand Finale

Well after 3 weeks, I think I (and most of the locals in Munich) have had their fill of Oktoberfest. it's one of those strange things that you can't wait for, but then once you are there it becomes a bit overwhelming. I really wanted to end Oktoberfest with this image though, because it represents a lot of what I love about Oktoberfest. Even if you don't know the people at your table, everyone is stiff and reserved at the beginning of the night. But it's not long before it seems like everyone is friends. So farewell to all of our new firends for this year, and now onto other things aorund Munich.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Stars of München TV

I don't know the whole story here, but this couple are absolute stars of the Oktoberfest. If you haven't seen them before, then you've never watched Munchen TV. Because during Oktoberfest, they are on the TV around the clock. I'm talking 24-hours a day, they seem to be hosting a show live from the Hofbrau tent. So when we came across this unique pairing, I knew I had to share them with you. And when they started interviewing our crew, it got even better. Theyr'e actually quite quirky, as they ramble on and on with 5000 revelers screaming in the background. I have to say that I have not seen them on any other coverage, so perhaps they work around the clock for 2.5 weeks, but then get the rest of the year off. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Here's the view at Oktoberfest looking up form the carousel. From this vantage point, the little moving horses of the carousel seem overwhelmingly safe, while this contraption is one of the festivals highest points. I took pictures of this same ride on day 5 or so of Oktoberfest, and most of the seats were empty. Most people say that this was a down year for Oktoberfest, with attendance significantly down from years past because of the threat of terrorism and a down economy kept people from travelling. I will try to find some real stats from the local news. But having been at the world's biggest beer garden on the final days, I'm not sure how they could have packed any additional people into the Wiesn grounds. So perhaps in the end, it was just a bit less hairy and crazy than in previous years.

Monday, October 5, 2009

One More Round

Oktoberfest may be finishing today, but we certainly are not. Oktoberfest officially ends today, but I may stretch it out a few more days because we have plenty of impressions to share, stories to tell, and photos to post. Here's one from the Paulaner tent, which I would describe as crunchy on the outside, but juicy in the middle. The outside rows of the tent were filled with company sponsorships, where everyone was festive, and enjoying the novelty of being at Oktoberfest. On the other hand, they were all quite reserved (at least for the first few hours) as they knew there would be stoires for years among their co-workers. With nenough beer though, even the largest barriers are forgotten and everyone was soon toasting wiht all the tables aorund them. In the middle of the tent though, near the band, that's what I lovingly call the Mosh Pit. With everyone standing on the benches and tables, it was like walking sown a narrow hallway, with revelers hanging over each side. It was simply amazing. This couple was clearly leading by example.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Smashing Saturday

The Oktoberfest capped off two weeks of good weather with a blowout Saturday. This was the scene by 11 am with rides full, and by noon all the tents were closed due to over capacity. There were points where it was difficult to walk through the hoards of people. And you see the impact all over Munich, as many restaurants run at low or no capacity. One hostess mentioned that when the weather is good, everyone stays at Oktoberfest because they can sit at the outdoor beer gardens. Lots of locals said this was the first dry (meaning weather, and certainly not alcohol consumption) Oktoberfest they could remember. The word on the stree tis that attendance is down this year, but you would have not known it yesterday. Either way, we had to escape by about noon, to where esle, a beer garde - at least one that was not quite so busy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apres Wiesn Party

Just because Oktoberfest shuts down at 11 pm each night, doesn't mean the party stops around Munich. All over the city, you will find Apres Wiesn parties lasting into the wee hours of the morning. Many of the local bars take a big hit as residents and guests stay at Oktoberfest, and this is one of the ways the bars keep Oktoberfest profitable. This was the scene at one of our favorite beer gardens, the Park Cafe. A local DJ was guest starring, but it was the two go-go girls who seemed to steal the show. The Park Cafe is one of those places that doubles as a Sunday brunch location with live Jazz music, and as a lively club at night. It's proximity to the central station and the Wiesn, meant it was packed every night after Oktoberfest, and this night was no exception with about 500 people there.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Love is in the Air

Oh yes, love is everywhere at least in the form of thousands of gingerbread hearts, decorated with amazingly sweet and colorful icing. The ginerbread (like) hearts are actually called Lebkuchen, and it is a mainstay at German festivals. Despite having origins dating back to the Egyptions, the modern day Lebkuchen dates back to 1296 where it was made in Ulm and Nurnberg. Today Nurnberg is the number one producer and exporter of the product, and it's become known as the Nurnberger Lebkuchen. The tradition started when Nurnberg emperor Friedrich III invited more than 4000 children of the city for a Lebkuchen bearing his printed portrait. Now Oktoberfest is reaping the benefits, with inscriptions of everything from names, to famous Bavarian greetings, to sophmoric beer drinking statements - all in the fun of Oktoberfest.