Travel

Bavaria’s largest city is pep­pered with mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture yet im­mersed deeply in tra­di­tion. Chris Bean­land dis­cov­ers a mul­ti­fac­eted Mu­nich that melts into bu­colic fields and acres of rolling green­ery...

Friday - - Contents -

A mix of the old and new gives Mu­nich char­ac­ter.

There’s some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent about Bavaria, some­thing you can’t quite put your fin­ger on. Maybe it’s the lo­cal di­alect, the strange leather trousers the lo­cals are known to wear, or the sin­gu­lar blue and white flag that seems to sym­bol­ise not just a free state of Fed­eral Ger­many but an­other coun­try?

Bavaria – like the UAE in a way – is also a mix of deeply tra­di­tional and hy­per-mod­ern. There’s a lot of churches and a lot of free­ways and tall build­ings. It’s this in­ter­est­ing mix of old and new that re­ally de­fines Bavaria, and es­pe­cially its cap­i­tal. Mu­nich is a sprawl­ing city, but be­yond it lie bu­colic fields and kilo­me­tres of rolling green­ery.

Bavaria’s big­gest city seems to always be bathed in warm sun­shine. Its cit­i­zens sit on ter­races, sip­ping drinks and eat­ing gourmet food. It’s a rich, clean, safe and friendly place. In Mu­nich’s cen­tre lies the choco­late box Ger­many you’ve al­ready heard about – Marien­platz with its Old and New Town Halls, each dec­o­rated elab­o­rately. The New Town Hall is the most fun be­cause it has a glock­en­spiel that marks 11am ev­ery day with a flour­ish – a me­chan­i­cal dis­play of danc­ing knights and jesters pa­rade around while bells ring and cocks crow.

Marien­platz was also the spot where a less savoury but no less

flam­boy­ant dis­play took place in the run-up to the Se­condWorld War – this was where Hitler tried to stage a coup in 1923. Bavaria, un­der­stand­ably, has tried to for­get that the Nazi party’s ori­gins lay here. But you can’t ig­nore the end re­sults of ter­ror, and nor should you. A quick ride out of Mu­nich by the S-Bahn brings you to Dachau, one of the first con­cen­tra­tion camps. Walk­ing around in eerie si­lence is as sober­ing as it is ter­ri­fy­ing – con­tem­plat­ing evil is es­sen­tial to ex­tin­guish­ing it.

Mod­ern Mu­nich is thank­fully a much more tol­er­ant place, though a num­ber of tragedies have stalked it too. You can pay homage to the Busby Babes – the great gen­er­a­tion of Manch­ester United foot­ball play­ers who per­ished in the Mu­nich Air Crash of 1958 – at Manch­ester­platz, where a me­mo­rial sits. And in the Olympic Park there’s a me­mo­rial to the ath­letes killed dur­ing the 1972 Olympic hostage cri­sis. The Park is one of Mu­nich’s great­est spa­ces – it’s all public. A huge space you can just ex­plore at will. The Olympiaturm, the huge tower at its cen­tre, looms up. Go to the top and you can get a mar­vel­lous view over the city.

One of the build­ings you can spy on from up there in the sky is the BMWHead­quar­ters. BMWis a Mu­nich com­pany through and through (the BMW­car badges wear Bavaria’s blue and white colours). And petrol­heads will en­joy the BMWWelt and com­pany mu­seum next to the HQ. It’s all very 70s – the dystopian movie

Roller­ball was shot here – per­haps be­cause, as well as look­ing cool and fu­tur­is­tic, there’s also some­thing a bit sin­is­ter and dom­i­neer­ing about some of th­ese cor­po­rate build­ings – like BMWWelt, which is cast as the HQ of the all-pow­er­ful En­ergy Cor­po­ra­tion in the film.

Cars went on to de­fine mod­ern Ger­many, and nowhere has more au­to­bahns filled with more BMWs than Mu­nich. This is the Ger­man Al­phav­ille, its streets filled with Teutonic cars that are always clean and never dented. And sim­i­lar to the

Plush restau­rants cater to af­flu­ent young things who head out on Fri­day nights af­ter a hard week at work

pre­ci­sion BMWs are de­signed with, Mu­nich loves its good de­sign too.

In the new breed of de­sign ho­tels such as the Cor­ti­ina and the Louis, sober and taste­ful mod­ern decor cre­ates a lux­u­ri­ous back­drop. It’s all com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the wood-pan­elled stereo­types you might imag­ine. Mod­ern Mu­nich is flush with cash – in­comes here are high. Plush restau­rants such as the Bren­ner cater to af­flu­ent young things who head out on Fri­day nights af­ter a hard week at the of­fice.

Mu­nich likes to re­lax – whether it’s play­ing sport at the Olympic Park or strolling through the English Gar­den – one of the largest ur­ban parks I’ve ever ex­plored – or splash­ing around at the Therme Erd­ing wa­ter­park and spa on the city’s out­skirts (one of the largest such wa­tery king­doms in the world).

Therme Erd­ing is re­mark­able for be­ing a huge mis­take – oil com­pa­nies thought they’d found a new source of black gold out­side the cutesy lit­tle town of Erd­ing, but in­stead hit a min­eral spring – and this hugely pop­u­lar water­world opened up. With its glass domes it looks like a space sta­tion im­plau­si­bly perched among mead­ows filled with moo­ing cows.

You might no­tice a theme re­gard­ing size re­cur­ring here too – Mu­nich likes it big. New sky­scrapers are dot­ted all around the city, and the U-Bahn sys­tem, cre­ated from scratch in the 1960s, is one of the most sprawl­ing on earth. Mu­nich has mus­cle – and self-be­lief. Maybe that comes from its feel­ing that it should re­ally be a cap­i­tal city of its own coun­try?

And if it was a cap­i­tal city then what of its coun­try? The out­skirts of Mu­nich blend so gen­tly into the Bavar­ian land­scape – the green coun­try warmly em­braces the city. The gap between ur­ban and ru­ral gen­tly merges. It’s very pleas­ant to stroll or cy­cle along paths and lanes at this cross­over point, and even to travel on the S-Bahn trains that ply between city and coun­try, of­fer­ing views of rail yards one sec­ond, small towns squares the next, and then rolling green vis­tas.

The emer­ald fields and the low golden hills are joy­ous on sum­mer days when the light is good. This lim­i­nal hin­ter­land doesn’t have the ro­mance of Provence or the bravado of the Alps, which lie just away to the south, but in its own way it is a pleas­ing and very com­fort­ing land­scape of flow­ers and trees.

The Mu­seum für Konkrete Kunst in a for­mer army bar­racks in In­gold­stadt is one of Ger­many’s most

re­mark­able mu­seum and gallery spa­ces – ded­i­cated to the much­ma­ligned in­flu­ence of con­crete on artists. There’s video art, a sculp­ture gar­den and ar­chi­tec­tural ex­hibits that will blow your mind. At the mo­ment this place is hardly vis­ited, but that will all change when Vi­enna’s Querkraft Ar­chitek­ten builds a new ex­ten­sion to the mu­seum, which is sched­uled to open in 2017.

Back in Mu­nich there’s more eye-open­ing ar­chi­tec­ture to keep your senses sharp. The Al­lianz Arena, home to foot­balling pow­er­house Bay­ern Mu­nich, is so fu­tur­is­tic it could be a space­ship – es­pe­cially when it lights up at night in dif­fer­ent colours. And yet Her­zog and de Meu­ron’s de­sign, on closer in­spec­tion, is or­ganic. It’s a liv­ing thing. Na­ture and tech­nol­ogy united again – Bavaria’s call­ing card.

On the north­ern out­skirts of the city, Mu­nich’s huge air­port, which was opened only in the 1990s, also fuses those two things. They may have had to erase a cou­ple of un­lucky Bavar­ian vil­lages to build the thing, but the air­port sits neatly in its land­scap­ing. It seems quiet and re­laxed – you can sit on the primped and preened lawns out­side the Kempinksi – one of the nicest air­port ho­tels you could ask for – and have a pic­nic. At the spot­ter’s park there’s a huge man-made hill the like of which I’ve never seen at an air­port any­where on earth. And from the top of this mini-moun­tain ea­ger young plane spot­ters can watch the traf­fic.

The best bit ofMu­nich’s air­port is Lufthansa’s Ter­mi­nal 2 – an ex­ten­sion to which is be­ing built. The ter­mi­nal is one of the sleek­est and calmest there is. The beauty, clean­li­ness, light and swag­ger is noth­ing spe­cial for Asia, but among Euro­pean air­port ter­mi­nals, this is the bee’s knees. Any­one lucky enough to be fly­ing on good old Lufthansa – the ter­mi­nal is the air­line’s sec­ondary hub af­ter Frank­furt – will also be lucky enough to wait for their flight in the ut­most com­fort, en­joy­ing free cups of cof­fee and news­pa­pers to boot.

As you fly away above Mu­nich the city forms into shapes that re­call the leaves on trees – the streets as the veins. It looks like it all just hap­pened by chance rather than by the hand of man. Which is funny in this most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced city.

It’s not easy to mix nat­u­ral and man-made, tra­di­tional and mod­ern. But Bavaria – and es­pe­cially Mu­nich – pulls off this trick with style.

Nym­phen­burg Palace is a tourist hotspot

The Olympiaturm of­fers glo­ri­ous views of the city

Al­lianz Arena is an ex­am­ple of a foot­ball sta­dium of the future

The ghostly con­cen­tra­tion camp at Dachau

This plac­ard hon­ours the vic­tims of the Mu­nich air crash of 1958

Petrol­heads will love the mag­nif­i­cent BMWWelt

The Bren­ner restau­rant caters to the elite trav­eller

The mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture of the metro sta­tion is stun­ning

Grand build­ings such as Bay­erische Staatskan­zlei con­trast with the more fu­tur­is­tic ar­chi­tec­ture

The Old Town Hall in Mu­nich has an event­ful his­tory

The Chi­nese Tower is a venue for food, par­ties and Christ­mas mar­kets

The New Town Hall houses Mu­nich’s fa­mous glock­en­spiel

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