Munich, called München in German, is the capital of the state of Bavaria. It is situated at the river Isar, about 100 km north of the Alps. It has about 1.3 million inhabitants, making it the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. If you want to go there by GPS, fine, N 48° 07' 48'' E 11° 35' 01'' is the patio of the Deutsches Museum.

So what's so great about Munich?

Munich is a very nice city offering a high quality of life. In the summer you can go bathing in the river Isar or the many lakes around the city, in the winter it's an hour's drive into the Alps for skiing. Even Italy is not that far. Disadvantages? It's pretty darn expensive and the housing shortage is huge. But you sort of expected that, didn't you?

Now for the details!

History and Culture

München was founded in 1158 by Henry the Lion - yes, that's the same one who caused so much trouble for Barbarossa. His reasons were strategic: It was the site of a new bridge over the Isar, and therefore was a major source of income in form of customs on salt trade. Well, at least after he had destroyed the old bridge that belonged the the Archbishop of Freising! The name München is apparently derived from old German forms of  "Mönche" and originally meant something like city of the monks.

The duchy of Bavaria fell to House Wittelsbach after the proscription of Henry the Lion in 1180, and they made Munich their residence and the region's administrative center in 1255. In 1327 a fire destroyed the city, but it was rebuilt by Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig IV ("The Bavarian"). During Reformation times, Munich was center of Catholicism - and it still is, in a way. In the Thirty Years' War the city was captured (without a battle) by Gustav II Adolf of Sweden, and in 1704 it was shortly occupied by the Austrians.

The Wittelsbach dynasty ruled Bavaria from Munich until the end of World War I, and left many architectural monuments. The Residenz was started in 1385, and the city's landmark, the Frauenkirche, in 1468. The Theatinerkirche dates from 1663, Castle Nymphenburg from 1664 and the Residenztheater from 1751, to name just a few. In the beginning of the 19th century the master builders of Ludwig I enlarged the city greatly in a classical style, for example with the Feldherrnhalle, the Siegestor, the Odeonsplatz and the Königsplatz. Ludwig also started the tradition of the Oktoberfest with his wedding celebration in 1810. His son Maximilian II is responsible for the Maximilianeum (would you have guessed?) and the Nationalmuseum. On a side note: Castle Neuschwanstein was built by Ludwig's grandson Ludwig II.

The city also has not only one, but two universities - the Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität (LMU, founded in 1472 in Ingolstadt, moved to Munich in 1826) and the Technische Universität (TU, founded in 1868) - and numerous other educational institutions from more recent times, eg the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater and so on. The great researcher in the field of optics, Joseph von Fraunhofer, worked and lived in Munich, as well as the famous composers Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

Around 1900, Schwabing became an artists' quarter and subsequently, throughout Weimar times, attracted painters like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc, August Macke and Alfred Kubin as well as writers like Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Wedekind, Thomas Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Berthold Brecht and Oskar Maria Graf.

In the turmoil that followed the collapse of the Kaiserreich, the "Münchner Räterepublik" was proclaimed on April 4th, 1919. It was an extremely leftist government, the idea for which they had gotten from Hungary. But anyway, its authority never reached far beyond the borders of the city and lasted only a few weeks. It ended bloodily (all in all around 600 casualties) when the Freikorps retook Munich on May 3rd.

On November 9th, 1923 Adolf Hitler tried his so-called Beer Hall Putsch, but failed. After the Nazis' takeover in 1933 this event was stylized into a myth and Munich was called "the capital of the movement". In 1942 and 1943 the resistance group The White Rose was active in Munich, but their leaders paid with their lives. The city got bombed pretty bad in the war as well, but recovered quickly.

In 1972 Munich hosted the ill-fated Olympic Summer Games in the famous Olympiastadion designed by Günther Benisch. It is now the home arena of the nationally and internationally very successful football club 1. FC Bayern München (by the way, there's also a second club from Munich in the Bundesliga, called 1860 München), and was also the scene of the 2002 European Athletics Championships. A new hi-tech arena will be completed by 2005 to host the opening match for the 2006 Football World Championship.

Other remarkable buildings from recent times include the Neue Pinakothek, which is an art museum, and the Bayrische Staatskanzlei, which is the seat of the Bavarian Prime Minister.

All in all, there are almost 60 theaters in Munich as well as 45 museums, the most famous of them being the Deutsches Museum with more than a million visitors per year.

What's going on in Munich?

First of all, it's the most important city in southern Germany, so there's quite a lot going on. Let's break it down a bit.

Economy

Munich is a major center of industry in areas like mechanical and chemical engineering, vehicle construction, electronics and optics. Global players like Siemens, BMW and Allianz have their headquarters there. Moreover, due to a proactive policy by the government, it has also become a center of "new" industries, like life sciences and IT. It is also the country's second most important finance center after Frankfurt.

Another area where Munich is big is publishing. In fact, "with (...) 266 publishing houses established in the city, Munich is on a par with New York as the world's leading book publishing center." (http://www.wirtschaft.muenchen.de/fr_wirtschaftsinfos.htm). The city is also home of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the highest-circulation quality German daily. Then there's the media: television, film, music and advertising. Pro7 and several other nationwide TV stations come from Munich. The Bavaria Filmstudios produce several movies a year. The city also hosts an annual Film Festival with more than 100.000 visitors.

And last not least, there's the breweries. Paulaner beer can be found all over the world. Other brands are Spaten or Löwenbräu - all from Munich.

Munich also has a relatively new airport, the old one has been converted into a huge exhibition and congress center; it's for example the venue for the SYSTEMS (IT) and the ISPO (sports equipment and fashion) exhibitions. The Max Planck Society has its headquarters in Munich, as well as the European Patent Office.

Shopping

Well, you have come to the right place. If you want it trendy, take a look into Maxvorstadt, Schwabing or Haidhausen. In case you got cash to spare: The posh places are around Maximilianstraße, Theatinerstraße, Residenzstraße and Briennerstraße. And of course, there's always the huge pedestrian zone and malls like OEZ and PEP.

Getting around in the city is pretty easy by the way, there is a well-developed subway net, furthermore buses and trams. After your shopping spree you'll be hungry and thirsty. So what comes next?

Eating and Drinking

There are countless cafes and restaurants in Munich. Probably there's no country that is not represented in terms of cuisine. But that's not what you came here for, is it?

A place everybody should have been to at least once is the Hofbräuhaus (which is more for the tourists) or the Weisses Bräuhaus (which is more for the locals). Those are "Bavarian" inns, meaning they will happily serve you treats like:
  • Tafelspitz mit Röstkartoffeln: Beef, a special piece from the hip, and roasted potatoes.
  • Weisswurst: Don't miss out on that one! A special kind of sausages, usually eaten for a late breakfast, with sweet mustard and without the skin!
  • Hendl: Roasted chicken.
  • Obazda mit Brezn: Hard to explain ... a yellow mass of camembert and other stuff you dip your pretzel in.
  • Schweinshax'n mit Sauerkraut: A knuckle of pork with ... well, Sauerkraut.
And what do you drink? Clearly there is only one choice: Weissbier! If you don't like that, don't worry, there's plenty of other beer available as well!

Speaking about beer, we're in the world capital of beer here. And there is an institution called Biergarten. What does that mean? Those are outdoor restaurants (though you are allowed to bring your own food!) that people go to in the summer to, well, drink beer! Very nice atmosphere there, and also very family friendly :)

The biggest Biergarten is the Augustiner-Keller, also recommendable is the Aumeister or the Hirschgarten. Another one you should have a look at is the Seehaus, situated at a little lake in the English Garden. Which leads nicely to the next topic!

Places to see

There's definitely plenty of places, so I apologize beforehand in case I forget someone's favorite! /msg me for additions!

Now for the one thing I have so far avoided to mention. The world biggest festival. What's it called again? Oktoberfest! Or, colloquially, "die Wiesn". It takes place every year in the autumn and attracts up to 6 million visitors from all over the world, who drink 5 million liters of beer and eat 200.000 pairs of Bratwürste. It has spawned many imitations in other countries as well, so I guess you know what to expect! Hordes of wasted Aussies, that is :)

Then is also something more serious, which I nevertheless can recommend. The Deutsches Museum. Definitely plan a day, a whole day, for this one, at least of you are only remotely interested in technics. They have airplanes, cars, electronics, physics ... everything! And the best thing is that many demonstrations are interactive. There's also a lightning show every hour or so where you can get the seat in a Faraday cage if you are lucky.

Afterwards you can exit directly into the Isarauen, the floodplains of the river Isar, which are a nice meadow during summer and the perfect place to relax. In the southern area around the Flaucher you can also have a barbecue. To the north is the Englischer Garten, a huge park. Not to be missed is the view from the Monopteros and the surfers on a standing wave in the Eisbach.

Munich also offers many architectural monuments and museums, as mentioned above. Conveniently located in the center are the Marienplatz and the Königsplatz, a bit outlying is Castle Nymphenburg. But that was just a start, there are many many more. If you want to have some nature, you can go to one of the lakes in the hinterland, eg the Chiemsee or the Starnberger See.

Going out

There are countless clubs and pubs and bars and discos ... very famous (and infamous as well) is the Kunstpark Ost, an area dedicated to all forms of amusement and the center of the night. There's something there for everybody! Or take a look around Münchner Freiheit, Sonnenstrasse or Türkenstrasse.

Anything to keep in mind?

Well, no real dangers there. Older people sometimes have quite an accent ... just nod and smile :) And don't drink and drive! Besides the obvious dangers, the police in Munich is omnipresent and you will get in trouble.

There's a tourist information office at the southern exit of the central station, in case you want to get some maps and stuff! Otherwise, I hope, after reading this, you'll need no additional information :)

Resources: http://www.discover-munich.info

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