ONE PERFECT DAY Laptops and lederhosen
Leonie Coombes makes a flying visit to Munich
F it were possible to distil the essence of Germany into just one city then it would be Munich. Laptop and lederhosen is the expression the locals use to describe the city’s blend of old and new elements. Flamboyant architecture, hearty hospitality, engrossing history and the best of modern technology make the Bavarian capital an engaging destination.
There is no more amenable place in which to begin a European holiday, thanks to the state-of-the-art-airport. But it is only the beginning. Should you have just 24 hours in this accessible city let the lyrics to that beer hall favourite, the Chicken Dance , be your anthem. With a little bit of this and a little bit of that it is possible to sample the best of Munich.
Best palace: Palaces r’ us could be a regional motto thanks to the industry of Ludwig II, king of Bavaria in the late 19th century. The most convenient and relaxing palace for visitors to Munich, however, is the one in which he was born. Ten minutes from the city is Nymphenburg Palace, the former abode of elector Ferdinand Maria, which was commissioned in 1664. Other rulers added to it over the years until the facade reached a ridiculous 600m in width. It seems no one thought of building a transverse wing.
Its baroque and rococo-style rooms are so ostentatiously gilded they could induce glow blindness. Go outside and let your eyes rest upon the soothing green vistas of the palace’s 80ha garden. Long canals form an axis paralleled by lines of trees and paths. People sit on bench seats, soaking up the serenity and late-afternoon sun. As an antidote to jetlag, it is unbeatable.
Best churches: The beauty of a flying buttress doesn’t bring everyone to a standstill. In mainly Catholic Bavaria, however, where so many churches needed rebuilding after 1945, religious architecture is a topic of interest. The eye-catching twin onion domes of Frauenkirche, built in 1525, feature in most photographs of Munich. But two other churches, one modern and one old, stand out for attention.
Michaelskirche, centrally located at Kaufingerstrasse, is a Renaissance church but glitzy enough to herald the baroque. It is a suitable final resting place for Ludwig II, whose insular lifestyle and predilection for showy castles led many to believe he was mad. Insane or otherwise, he was loved by the people and his tomb is always covered in flowers. This church was heavily bombed during World War II, as was Frauenkirche, and sombre photos of the devastation are displayed inside the entrance.
In dramatic contrast is the ultra-modern and much admired Herz-Jesu-Kirche in the Neuhausen district close to the city. Boxy, glassy and bare, this church built in 2000 has front doors that open out like two giant flaps to create an unusual indoor-outdoor space.
Best tourist attraction: There are many worthy things to see in Munich but the Glockenspiel, centrally located in Marienplatz, is impossible to miss. Adorning the New Town Hall, this amusing clock features medieval figures performing the Schlaffertanz, or coopers’ dance, as they celebrate the end of the plague. Art imitates life; the coopers were indeed the first to venture out in 1517 after the plague passed through, their courage fuelled, perhaps, by a few ales. The Glockenspiel figures perform their dance at 11am, noon and 5pm each day.
Best local food: Weisswurst, or white sausage, may look uninviting but don’t be deterred. Concocted from minced veal and herbs, these pale and flaccid excuses for snags are surprisingly delicious. Consumed by scraping the filling from the casing, and accompanied by potato and sauerkraut, white sausage forms a fortifying meal.
Best restaurant: To reach the culinary heart of a city when time is short, the best restaurant is the one serving reliable local fare in atmospheric surroundings. Ratskeller is not a romantic dinner kind of place. Nor is it overrun by rodents, as the name may suggest to those of
Up and away: Munich airport was voted Europe’s best us without any German. Ratskeller means town hall cellar, its convenient location in Marienplatz. This large hall with its frescoed, vaulted ceilings is substantial. So is the food. Pork knuckles, sausages, beef and duck, sheltering next to veritable alps of carbohydrate, say welcome to Munich. Picky eaters have no place in this city. Drown any fears about cholesterol in beer, also available here. www.ratskeller.com.
Best beer hall: There are many places in Munich to down a litre or two but the Hofbrauhaus, in walking distance of Marienplatz, is an institution. Established more than four centuries ago as a brewery and place
Feel the width: Nymphenburg Castle was added to by a succession of rulers until its facade had expanded to a more than ample 600m
Waiter with a full load at Oktoberfest where the common folk could drink, it was expanded in 1610, knocked down and rebuilt in 1897, almost bombed into oblivion in 1944 and reopened in 1958. An oompah band provides musical accompaniment to drinking while stout frauleins, clutching as many as 10 one-litre steins at a time, keep up supplies of amber fluid to a maximum of 1000 patrons. Plenty of locals drink here but those who find it a bit overwhelming and touristy should have a beer at the relaxed Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten, Munich’s vast city park. www.hofbraeuhaus.de; www.chinaturm.de.
Best shopping: If dirndls and leather shorts are not for you, try the sophisticated boutiques on Maximilianstrasse for designer-label goods galore. Even if you are just a window shopper, this wide avenue is worth promenading. Renaissance, Gothic and neo-classical facades come together here in an architectural accord that can be admired from the many outdoor cafes.
Best museum: There are museums that take you back in history, those that transport you to the future and those that make you hate your car. Munich’s BMW World is all three. The recently renovated museum has a fascinating range of BMW cars and motorbikes selected for their connection to social and engineering history. You don’t need to be a car freak to be entertained, especially when many exhibits are supported by sound and light shows that demonstrate 21stcentury technology.
Separate from the museum is the new futuristic complex called BMW World. Fronted by a swirl of steel and glass known as the Double Cone, its cutting-edge architecture harmonises with the nearby 1972 Olympics Stadium. Though the external appearance of BMW World is dramatic, it hardly compares with the real-life drama inside. Above a shiny showroom floor filled with cars looking for homes is a mezzanine level, where buyers take delivery of their factory-fresh BMW. Mums, dads and cars are introduced and not rushed into leaving. There are things to be learned and the handover takes 40 minutes. The big moment comes when it’s time to leave the security of BMW World and, as these proud owners drive away with their precious new possession, it’s hard not to get a bit choked up. (Why them, not me?)
At this point it’s a good idea to order a consoling cup of coffee or lunch at one of BMW World’s cafes. You can also flick through some brochures and maybe buy a BMW cap or jacket. It’s not the same as driving out in a turbo-charged convertible but we all have to start somewhere. www.bmw-welt.com. Leonie Coombes was a guest of Lufthansa and Munich airport.