[ 3 days in ... ]

At the lively outdoor Viktualienmarkt in the center of town, a huge central beer garden is surrounded by food stands.

Drink up the sites and suds of Munich

The eclectic capital of Bavaria offers
culture amid a rowdy good time

If you go...

By Dennis Callan
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Beer, sausages, oompah music, high-tech, more beer, and lots of culture. Where else in the world could you be but Munich?

This capital of Bavaria is probably Germany's most interesting city, with its mix of old and new, efficiency and soul, museums and shops, fine dining and casual cafes.

Did we mention beer? The natives drink an average of 300 quarts of beer per capita, twice as much as the rest of Germany. This makes them brew champions of the world, as you will see in the beer gardens filled at all hours with enthusiastic imbibers. If you prefer wine or -- gulp -- soft drinks, there are also many excellent local choices.

Oktoberfest is the world's largest public festival, when Munich's population jumps from 1.3 to 6 million people for a party that consumes 1.5 million gallons of beer over two weeks. (In Honolulu, Oktoberfest runs Tuesday through Oct. 13 at the Ala Moana Hotel.)

This unique city, midway in spirit between Germany and Italy, occupies a special cultural niche. Elements of both nations join in a unique mix of order and passion, offering the efficiency of Germany with the easy-going lifestyle of southern Europe, served up in a city that knows how to have fun. Italy is just two hours south, and its influence can be seen everywhere, from the pasta trattoria to the miles of buildings that are faithful copies of Florence landmarks.

In the early 19th century, King Ludwig I was so enamored with Italian and Greek culture that he commissioned buildings in the Classical and Renaissance styles that grace the boulevards of Munich.

Numerous high-tech, media and industrial firms, such as BMW and Siemens have facilities here, generating a high standard of living for Germany's third biggest city, which boasts 80,000 firms, 900,000 jobs for 1.25 million residents, a 4 percent unemployment rate and 80,000 students in 10 universities. Munich's cultural institutions include 45 theaters, two opera houses, three orchestras and 25 museums. The result is a beautiful, well-kept city, a sophisticated cultural center with many attractions -- opera, art, symphony, smart shops and museums.

Marienplatz, Pedestrian Zone, Max Joseph Square, and the Royal Palace (Residenz), now open as a museum, including crowns (shown).


Marienplatz, Pedestrian Zone, Max Joseph Square, and the Royal Palace (Residenz)

>> Marienplatz: Begin in the center of town at Marienplatz, in front of the Neues Rathaus (City Hall), the city's most famous building and the symbol of Munich. The Rathaus looks medieval because of its Gothic spires, statues and arches, but it was built in the neo-Gothic style during the late 19th century, then rebuilt after being destroyed by American bombers during WWII.

This plaza is the crossroads of town. The largest metro station is here, and there is always free entertainment, perhaps a juggler, unicyclist, a mime, or a string quartet in the sheltered arcade of the Old City Hall. At 11 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. the famous Glockenspiel puts on the most elaborate show you have ever seen a clock perform, with jousting knights on horseback and spinning dancers on parade.

There are excellent eating spots all around, including the Ratskeller in the Rathaus basement. It's a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

>> Pedestrian Zone: The town's main pedestrian mall extends about a half mile from Marienplatz to Karlsplatz, lined with shops, cafes and side alleys.

The first landmark you'll encounter is the Frauenkirche, or Dom, the cathedral of Munich, one of the city's signature sights, with onion domes reaching 325 feet. Built as a Gothic church in the 15th century, it was bombed out in WWII and rebuilt. One of the few outstanding items inside is the bronze tomb of Kaiser Wilhelm IV, built in the 17th century. Ride an elevator to the top of the tower for a panoramic view. Another nice view from a steeple can be found near the Rathaus at Munich's oldest church, St. Peter's, but there is no elevator alternative to the 294 steps.

Two blocks down, you will come to St. Michael's Church, the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. It is noted for its barrel-vaulted ceiling -- the second largest of any church after St. Peters in Rome -- and the baroque stucco reliefs.

Another interesting church, five blocks from the mall, is the Asamkirche. One could easily miss its small façade, but when you enter, your eyes will pop at the sight of elaborate baroque sculpture and ornamentation. Throughout Bavaria you will find village churches decorated in an elaborate baroque and rococo style, but perhaps nothing as ornate as this. Every square inch is decorated.

At the end of the mall you will pass through a medieval gateway, the Karlstor, one of only three surviving from the ancient wall that once surrounded the city. A circular fountain overlooks a busy street, Sonnenstrasse, including double tracks for the trolleys. The main cluster of hotels is across this boulevard near the train station, but it is more convenient to stay at a hotel closer to Marienplatz.

Head back toward the old town center, to Max Josephplatz, by way of Promenadeplatz. The main attraction of the Promenadeplatz garden square is the ultra-deluxe Bayerische Hof Hotel. A couple of restaurants under this hotel are worth considering: Trader Vic's, with its pseudo-Polynesian kitsch décor, including Hawaiian tikis; and the Palais Keller, a gem with traditional cuisine in a quiet beer cellar. They even serve fresh horseradish to go with your goulash or sausage.

>> Max Joseph Square: The next block is one of Munich's major squares, Max Josephplatz, surrounded by the Opera, Residenz Palace, cafes and neoclassical arcades. This dramatic scene is as good as it gets in Europe.

Many Munich locals wear traditional Bavarian outfits, part of the cultural identity of this unique and beautiful city, where old and new come together seamlessly.

In the center sits a grand statue of Max Joseph, crowned the first King of Bavaria in 1806. On one side, the National Theater opera house resembles a Greek temple, with a majestic row of Corinthian columns supporting a triangular pediment containing classical statues, and a second pediment with a golden mosaic depicting ancient spirits of music. The opera is famous for its ideal acoustics and for presenting nearly 300 performances each year. Renowned conductor Zubin Mehta became music director of the Bavarian State Opera in 1998.

>> Royal Palace: Adjacent to the opera is the Residenz, the grand palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty that ruled the area from 1255, when they built their first Residenz, up through 1918 and the end of the Great War that swept away Europe's ancient regimes. The façade facing the square is almost an exact copy of the Pitti Palace in Florence. With seven courtyards and hundreds of rooms, this sprawling complex contains three museums and various architectural styles.

The Residenz Museum takes you into rooms full of fabulous furniture, chandeliers, murals and family portraits. It is so large that only half the rooms are open in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. However, the courtyards and main rooms are open all day, so you won't miss the beautiful Ancestral Gallery and the largest and oldest of surviving rooms, the Antiquarium, a magnificent barrel-vaulted chamber encrusted with stucco reliefs, frescos and classical statues.

The Residenz contains examples of Renaissance, baroque, rococo and neoclassical architecture and embellishments. Like Versailles, it is a major attraction for those interested in history and art. The other two museums are less important, but one, the Cuvillies Theater, has a magnificent masterpiece of rococo art, and the other, the Treasury, has jewelry and small works in gold, gems and silver.

Two other attractions will catch your eye on Max Joseph Platz: a post office with a grand row of columns and arcades, once part of a private palace; and a terrace restaurant, Spatenhaus, one of the legendary eating establishments of Munich. The Bavarian Sampler plate, a huge platter with duck, two sausages, veal and pork, potatoes and vegetables, is about $20. Or, come back for twilight dining for a view of the grand square and a constant parade of bicycles and skaters.

The most expensive retail street is the Maximilianstrasse, which begins at Max Joseph Platz and continues for five blocks of designer fashion and jewelry boutiques. You'll also pass the Kempinski Four Seasons Hotel, one of Munich's best.

>> Odeonplatz: Returning to the Residenz, walk around the palace and continue a block to this charming square. On one side of the plaza is the large arcade of the Feldherrnhalle, copied from a loggia in Florence, and next to it is the beautiful golden façade of Theatinerkirche, the first baroque church in Bavaria, built in the Italian style in the late 1600s. Inside is an elaborate display of stucco decorations, including many Corinthian columns wrapped with garlands and angels.

Facing the Theatinerkirche is the long wall of the Residenz palace, interesting for painted decorations that look like columns, medallions and stone blocks -- a trompe-l'oeil motif that extends to large interior courtyards. Behind the Residenz, you will find the Hofgarten ("palace garden"), a lovely place to stroll and have a snack. For a typical lunch, try the classic sausages, sauerkraut, potatoes and beer. In the middle is a gazebo called the Hofgarten Temple, built in 1615.

>> Beer Hall: Before the day is done, visit the Hofbrauhaus, one of the world's most famous bars. The house's fresh draught beer is served in giant liter mugs, accompanied by oompah music from a live brass band, sausages and delicious pig knuckles, one of Munich's staples. There's music from 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily, with up to 1,000 customers enjoying every bit of it. Sit outside in the garden or upstairs in the banquet hall, but the most popular spot is in the big room on the ground floor, with the communal tables.

Nymphenburg Palace, a pretty pond in front of the royal summer home makes a great place to admire the swans (shown), Museum Quarter


Nymphenburg Palace, a pretty pond in front of the royal summer home makes a great place to admire the swans (shown), Museum Quarter

Take a bus tour in the morning, then visit a couple of museums in the afternoon. For 11 euro ($11) you could take a one-hour tour -- with narration in German and English -- that gives you a quick overview of town. A more substantial experience is offered on a three-hour tour that passes the 1972 Olympic Games grounds and includes a guided visit to Nymphenburg Palace.

>> Nymphenburg Palace: It takes an hour to walk through this suburban palace originally built as a small royal lodge to celebrate the birth of Max Emanuel. It was been expanded over the years into a small version of Versailles. Most of the decoration was added in the mid-18th century, with lots of gold-trimmed baroque and rococo stucco reliefs covering the walls and ceiling frescoes. There are two rooms that will command your attention: the grand Stone Hall -- the final masterpiece by Johann Baptist Zimmermann, regarded as the most famous baroque artist of Bavaria -- and the main attraction, the Gallery of Beauties, with paintings of women who caught the eye of King Ludwig I. The beauties include Lola Montez, whose scandalous affair with the king led to his removal from office and gave birth to the phrase, "whatever Lola want, Lola gets."

A formal tour will clue you in to these historical nuggets, but you could also get here on your own to have more time to explore the gardens and peek inside the Amalienburg, an early 18th century hunting lodge with a spectacular Hall of Mirrors decorated in yellow and blue rococo designs, also created by Zimmermann.

Bus tours generally return you to the Bahnhofplatz and the multi-floor department store, Hertie, with a bright, mirrored interior and clerks who speak English.

>> Museum Quarter: Munich has more museums than any other German city, and most are clustered in a four-block neighborhood near the Old Town.

The most important art museum is the Alte Pinakothek ("Old Picture Gallery"), famous for its grand display of Old Masters built up over the centuries by the continuing commitment of various branches of the Wittelsbach royal family, especially Ludwig I who brought the collections together under one roof in the early 19th century. It is especially noted for paintings by Durer, and other artists featured are: Cranach, Titian, Tiepolo, Fragonard and Holbein.

You will notice the depth of Italian Renaissance work by artists such as Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Lippi, Raphael, Botticelli, del Sarto and Ghirlandaio. Paintings of the Netherlands are also here, reflecting the "Golden Age" of Holland, with works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Frans Hals and the world's largest Reubens collection, with 72 paintings. The Spanish collection is the finest in Germany, with all the major artists represented, including Murillo, El Greco and Velazquez.

Have a look at Altdorfers "Battle of Alexander the Great" to see the thousands of soldiers in this miniaturist masterpiece. A favorite is the satiric piece by Pieter Brueghel, mocking gluttons and idlers.

The building was heavily damaged during WWII, and fell into further disrepair in the following decades. The entire museum was shuttered for several years in the late 1990s for a comprehensive reconstruction, completed in 1998.

This view from the Dom, the Cathedral of Munich, with its towering onion domes, looks toward the main pedestrian mall.

The Neue Pinakothek is a smaller museum with paintings from the 19th century. One room has works by Cezanne, van Gogh and Gauguin, plus other 20th century artists, such as Max Klinger, Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt. There are also paintings by Goya, Gainsborough, David, Gericault, Corot, Courbet and Delacroix.

Across the street is the State Gallery of Modern Art. Adolf Hitler did not approve of modern art, so he got rid of most of the collection, but some works have been added since, for a total of 400 paintings and sculptures. Important artists include Picasso, Braque, Leger, Chagall, Kandinsky, Klee, Miro and Magritte. There are strong works of German Expressionism by Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and some works in cubism and surrealism. Contemporary works in new media are displayed on a rotating basis, along with recent Americans including Warhol, Stella, Segal, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg.

Visit the Glyptothek, two blocks away, with its collection of 160 ancient statues in marble and bronze. The most important selections are the sculptures from the pediment of a Greek temple at Aegina, dating to 450 B.C. Watch out for the seductive naked satyr, sprawling across the floor. There are also Roman mosaics, using colored chips of stone taken from ancient palaces.

The Lenbachhaus Municipal Museum will complete your tour of this neighborhood. It houses the world's largest collection of Kandinsky, the first painter to create purely abstract images. The Russian-born genius did his most important work in Munich early in the 20th century. Artists like Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso were getting loose with interpretations of reality, but it was Kandinsky who took the big leap and discarded notions of reality.

>> Second Evening: When the museums close, it's time for food. You could head back to the town's center, but a fun alternative is to eat at the outdoor food market, the Viktualienmarkt, two blocks southeast of Marienplatz. The prime attraction is a huge central beer garden surrounded by food stands. The custom is to bring your own food into the beer garden and walk up to the self-service bar for refills.

Later, you could head to Schwabing, the Latin Quarter or student center of Munich, filled with cafes, art galleries and clubs. It became famous because the Academy of Fine Arts was transferred here from Munich. This is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town, so the price of housing is one of the highest in the city. A new center of young hip culture is the Haidhausen neighborhood, across the river, where many restaurants and art galleries have recently opened.

Deutsches Museum, Neuschwanstein, Rothenburg, Dachau, and more beer at a place such as the Chinese Tower beer garden, the largest in town, seating more than 2,000 people (shown).


Deutsches Museum, Neuschwanstein, Rothenburg, Dachau, and more beer

Today you can choose between spending another day in Munich, or taking a bus tour out of town for an all-day excursion into the mountains. One of the major sites left to see in town is the world's biggest museum of science and technology. Or take a day trip to see a couple of Mad King Ludwig's fantasy castles in the Bavarian Alps, including the famous Neuschwanstein. Another option is a half-day trip to Dachau.

>> Deutsches Museum: This is an amazing collection, similar to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., but on a larger scale, with machines, instruments and devices of every imaginable type, including airplanes, chemical laboratories, bicycles, automobiles, printing presses, boats, textiles, computers, maps, rockets, violins -- 18,000 objects in a six-level building that covers an entire city block.

The museum presents objects in their historical perspective, showing how technology has evolved. It houses the first automobile ever built, a three-wheel masterpiece by Carl Benz, accompanied by 55 more cars ranging from Henry Ford's Model T to modern racing machines.

One of the most popular areas is the Department of Aeronautics, starting with the early balloons that lifted man off the ground 200 years ago, ending with satellites, including dozens of full-sized aircraft and rockets in between. They have a replica of the first glider, built in 1891 by a German, Otto Lilienthal, who made more than 2,000 flights before dying in a crash in 1896, seven years before the Wright brothers flew. An early Wright flyer, based in part on Lilienthal's designs, is also on display

Many of the exhibits are interactive, and there are usually 40 demonstrations and films throughout the day, covering such subjects as glass blowing, paper making, metal casting, model railways and marine navigation. A display of boats dominates the ground floor, with scale models showing the evolution from the ancient Egyptian vessels to modern cruise liners, and many actual sailboats.

The most dramatic display is the underground descent into a full-sized mine, which requires walking through nearly a mile of tunnels depicting different periods, and mining technology that evolved over 100 years.

Deutsches Museum houses an amazing collection, including the first automobile ever built, many airplanes, space exhibits, boats, printing presses, musical instruments, and a full-sized mine that requires walking through a mile of tunnels.

>> Neuschwanstein: This is such a picturesque castle that it has become the centerpiece of Disneyland, but you can see the real thing on a bus tour into the Bavarian Alps. King Ludwig II was a friend of Richard Wagner, and he planned his castles based partly on the Nordic sagas that flowed through the great composer's operas. Murals and designs in Neuschwanstein recall many of the scenes in the Tannhauser saga, but you don't have to be an opera fan to enjoy this fantastic castle.

>> Rothenburg: You could take a daylong bus tour along what is called the Romantic Road, visiting Rothenburg, a perfectly preserved medieval village, with traditional half-timbered buildings and original fortification walls.

>> Dachau: Dachau is about 30 minutes from Munich and infamous for having been the site of the first Nazi-era concentration camp. About 35,000 died within its walls. A significant portion of the main camp was restored and now serves as a memorial to atrocities committed under Nazi rule.

With all these great activities to pick from, you can be sure of having a wonderful time in Munich, a city with much to discover. It has the exciting atmosphere of a big city, mellowed by rustic charm. The vast pedestrian zone in the historic center makes this one of Europe's nicer cities to stroll through, with its stimulating mix of museums, shops, delicious regional cuisine, and, never forget, plenty of beer.

Dennis Callan is the president of the Hawaii Geographic Society and produces the "World Traveler" TV series, airing at 8 p.m. Mondays on 'Olelo, channel 52. He frequently leads tours through Europe, and writes "Three Days in ..." the first Sunday each month explaining how to get the most out of three days in the world's great places.


If you go ...

Here is a guide to Munich's hotels, restaurants and attractions. When calling from the United States, use the prefix 011-49.


>> Platzl Hotel: My favorite, at 10 Sparkassenstrasse; call 89-237-030
>> An der Oper Hotel, 10 Falkenturmstrasse; call 89-290-0270; fax 89-290-02729
>> Bayerischer Hof Hotel, 2-6 Promenadeplatz; call 89-21200
>> Cortiina Hotel, 8 Ledererstraase; call 89-242-2490; fax 89-242-249100
>> Kempinski Four Seasons, 17 Maximillianstrasse; call 89-21250; fax 89-212-52000
>> Schlicker Hotel, 8 Tal; call 89-242-8870; fax 89-296-059
>> Torbrau Hotel, 41 Tal; call 89-242-340; fax 89-242-34235


>> Donisl, 1 Weinstrasse
>> Haxnbauer, Sparkassenstrasse
>> Hofbräuhaus, Am Platzl
>> Hofer, 5 Burgstrasse
>> Orlando, 4 Platzl
>> Palais Keller, 2 Promenadeplatz
>> Pfistermuhle, 4 Pfisterstrasse
>> Ratskeller, Marienplatz
>> Spatenhaus, 12 Residenzstrasse
>> Weisses Brauhaus, 7 Tal


>> Alte Pinakothek: Barer Strasse 27; open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays
>> Deutsches Museum: Museumsinsel 1, Ludwigsbrücke; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, museum of science and technology
>> Glyptothek: Königsplatz 3 80333 Munich; open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through Sundays; and noon to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays
>> Lenbachhaus: Luisenstrasse 33; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
>> Neue Pinakothek: Barer Strasse 29, 80799 Munich; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Mondays, and until 10 p.m. Thursdays
>> Schloss Nymphenburg: Open 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays


>> Autobus Oberbayern
>> Insight City Events
>> Mike's Bike Tours
>> Munich Tourist Office
>> Radius Tours & Bikes
>> TaxiGuide München



E-mail to Travel Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --