|Situated to the north
of the Bavarian Alps, on the River Isar, Munich
is a city that combines proud provincialism with international glamour.
Founded by Duke Henry the Lion, in 1158, within a century, the city
had become the seat of the Wittelsbach dynasty, who ruled the duchy,
electorate and kingdom of Bavaria until the end of World War I.
Their influence is evident in the concentration of grand Gothic,
Renaissance, Baroque and neo-classical architecture adorning Munich’s
streets. Perhaps most importantly, the Wittelsbach’s patronage
of the arts and extensive collections provided the basis for Munich’s
world-class galleries and museums.
The city acquired the name München from its
first monastery, founded in the eighth century. Monasteries have
since played an important role in the history of the city, not least
by starting the beer brewing traditions for which the city has received
worldwide renown. Successive rulers, detecting a profitable source
of tax revenue, actively encouraged beer production as a means both
of raising money and keeping the populace happy at the same time.
Following recent mergers, the city’s 6 breweries have been
reduced to 4 – Augustiner, Hofbräuhaus, Paulaner
and the merged Spaten-Löwenbräu. Beer
quality is still based on the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Edict), introduced
by the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm IV, in 1516, which forbids the use
of anything other than the core ingredients of barley, hops and
water in the brewing process. Drinking a foaming Mass of beer in
one of the city’s beer halls or gardens is an essential part
of the Munich experience.
The period between the wars represents the low point in Munich’s
history and tends to be glossed over by tourist brochures. The city
was the cradle of the Nazi movement after World War I and was the
scene of Hitler’s first attempt to seize power, the infamous
‘Beer Hall Putsch’ on 8 November 1923.
Moreover, in 1938, the treaty that surrendered a large portion of
Czechoslovakia to the Nazis was signed by Germany, Great Britain,
France and Italy in Munich – an act of appeasement that started
the slide towards World War II. The city suffered intensive bombing
damage during Allied air raids at the end of the war but the economic
success of the post-war years has supported a comprehensive rebuilding
and restoration programme, making the city the one of the most popular
tourist destinations in Germany.
The citizens of Munich demonstrate a cosmopolitan refinement as
well as genuine passion for the region’s many traditions and
tourists flock to the city for the world famous Oktoberfest,
to indulge in an orgy of beer and revelry. The stereotypical images
of lederhosen-clad Bavarians quaffing vast portions of beer and
sausage might apply at this time, however, with a strong cultural
scene, richly endowed art collections and excellent shopping, the
city certainly has more to offer than just light entertainment.
With warm summers accommodating lovely garden restaurants and open-air
stages and snowy winters with romantic Christmas markets,
Munich is a place to visit all year round.