On a warm spring day we’re sitting outside Café Frischhut, blinking in the bright sunshine. We can hear the lively chatter wafting over from the Viktualienmarkt with its colourful fruit and vegetable stands, from our table a yeasty aroma rises from the Schmalznudel accompanied by a strong coffee. That’s the taste of Munich. And there we are, right in the midst of the parallel universe in the capital of the Free State of Bavaria. Where people say “Grüss Gott” instead of “Guten Tag”, where traditional costumes are still worn on special occasions, and where the sky really does seem to be a bit bluer. Clichés and surprises, a touch of tradition and a feeling for the future, international standing and regional eccentricity happily coexist here. Escada or Haferlschuhe (Bavarian brogues)? In Munich both can be seen.
But which is the real Munich? The fashionable atmosphere of Maximilianstrasse with its expensive boutiques, the light-hearted Munich of the sunbathers in the Englischer Garten, the ambitious aura of the two elite universities, the down-to-earth world of the market women, the splendour of its grand buildings, its rural or international character? It seems there is room for all of these in Germany’s third largest city.
The people in Munich effortlessly overcome all of these contrasts with their unshakeable self-assurance – and the pleasure they take in their city. The people of Munich are proud of the place that evolved from a small settlement of monks first recorded in 1158 to one of today’s most successful European cities. Typically Munich.
FC Bayern Munich
When the Allianz Arena glows red like a shimmering spaceship, you know they’re playing a home game: the stars of FC Bayern Munich – a dream team, greatly adored by many: FC Bayern has 2,281 official fan clubs and 11.6 million fans worldwide. It is one of the world’s largest football clubs with 171,000 members. Which other German club can say it has a “Kaiser” as its president in the shape of Franz Beckenbauer, or can boast more successes than FC Bayern? These include 22 German championship titles alone and 15 DFB Cup victories – both of which are records. That’s one reason why the Bavarian team is not really everyone’s favourite. Another thing is that somehow, especially when they’re not playing so well, they always manage to score at the decisive moment after all. Then there are the many seasons when it seems they permanently own first place in the league table. FC Bayern Munich, a red-and-white enigma. Sometimes the Allianz Arena radiates with blue light: that’s when TSV 1860 Munich (the lions) are playing, currently in the second league.
They stand just a few steps apart and offer a journey through seven centuries of art history: you could spend days discovering the contents of the three Munich Pinakotheken. The most recent gallery, Pinakothek der Moderne, opened in 2002 and is Germany’s largest museum of modern art. It unites four major collections from the areas of art, architecture, graphic art and design. The Alte Pinakothek, a treasure trove of art from the Middle Ages to late rococo, contains 80 works by the great Flemish master Rubens alone. All together the Alte Pinakothek has over 700 pictures on show and is ranked as one of the most important galleries in the world. The Neue Pinakothek is devoted to art of the 19th century and was the first museum dedicated to contemporary art when it opened in 1853.
The people of Munich are indebted to the artistic inclinations of the Bavarian monarchs who collected art for over five hundred years. This love of art was then cultivated by the Free State of Bavaria and generous citizens. But Munich’s art experience is created by more than these stunning galleries: Lenbachhaus, Haus der Kunst, Kunsthalle, Antikensammlung (classical antiquity), Glyptothek (sculpture gallery), Villa Stuck – all show collections and exhibitions of a superb standard.
Munich’s green oasis is bigger than New York City’s Central Park or Hyde Park in London: Englischer Garten begins in the city centre and ends beyond the city limits. In summer, if you enter it next to Haus der Kunst from the south, you can watch a technically illegal, but constantly practiced popular sport: beneath a bridge reckless surfers compete to balance on the crest of a permanent, natural river wave in the Eisbach.
Sport options in the Englischer Garten are diverse, fairly harmless and completely relaxed: frisbee and juggling on the meadows, mountain biking and horse riding along special tracks, swimming, rowing, jogging... But a lot of people choose to simply lounge in the sun or take a stroll from the little Greek-style temple Monopteros to the pagoda-style Chinesischer Turm. By the time you arrive here on a sunny day, in summer or in winter, it’s time for a litre of beer (Mass) and a snack (Brotzeit). This is where literally anyone and everyone sits down together beneath the spreading chestnut trees: students from the nearby Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), typical Munich characters in lederhosen, company bosses in grey three-piece suits, tourists from around the globe and completely normal citizens. All this is accompanied by the earthy renderings of a brass band playing on the first level of the Chinesischer Turm.
The Wiesn – Oktoberfest
Bavarians have lots of expressions known only within their borders: a Gaudi, for instance, is a fun event, and that’s something the people of Munich enjoy sharing every year with six-and-a-half million visitors from around the world – at the Oktoberfest. But Munich’s inhabitants call it simply “Wiesn”, because the world’s biggest popular festival is staged on the Theresienwiese.
In September, the festival opens when the Mayor of Munich officially taps the first keg of beer and declares “O`zapft is” (it’s tapped). Then the fun begins: 16 days in a “state of emergency” which vary from daytime family outings to night-time collective inebriation. Hundreds of oxen are roasted, some 70,000 hectolitres of beer are quaffed, there’s arm-in-arm singing, swinging, bellowing, dancing. The regional essentials include: the right outfit – dirndl, lederhosen, loden jacket.
Many people have tried to fathom what lies behind this annual revelry: is it simply a popular festival, a rustic tribal ritual, the urge to let go of oneself in the crowd? The truth is: it all began with a prince’s wedding in 1810, and the event is celebrated to this day. So, it might be wiser for people of a more delicate nature to steer clear of the Wiesn during the Oktoberfest.
Research and Science
Munich’s economic development agency can rely on several superlatives when advertising the city’s status in the knowledge society: companies in the Munich area employ more people in research and development than anywhere else in Europe. The region of Munich/Upper Bavaria is one of the most frequent applicants for patents at the European Patent Office, and one in every three employees works in knowledge-based services. Many research institutes have their headquarters in Munich: for instance, the Fraunhofer Society, the largest organization in Europe for applied research. The Max Planck Society, the German Nobel Prize generator, has its head office in Munich. The German Aerospace Center and the ifo Institute for Economic Research also have Munich addresses.
The city has seven colleges and three universities making it the second largest seat of learning in Germany. Munich has two elite universities chosen within the framework of the Initiative for Excellence: the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) and the Technische Universität München (TUM). Munich is also a leader in forward-looking sciences such as nanotechnology and biotechnology. Martinsried (medicine and biotechnology) and Garching (physics, mechanical engineering) rank among the world’s most important research clusters.
Livable Big City
How is quality of living measured? Mercer Human Resource Consulting took into account 39 political, social, economic and ecological factors in its international comparison of cities. In 2007 Munich was ranked eighth out of 215 major cities. It will annoy people in Munich that Düsseldorf and Frankfurt am Main were the two German cities with a higher ranking. Munich is accustomed to enjoying first place in Germany when it comes to such rankings: in 2007 a real estate magazine ranked it the German city with the highest quality of life for the eighth time in succession. And in March 2008 Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants jointly established that Munich is Germany’s most attractive city for the “creative class”.
As the poet Heinrich Heine wrote over 150 years ago: “Munich nestles between art and beer like a village between hills.” And his comment still applies today. Visitors to Munich are quick to sense what constitutes the city’s quality of life. It starts with a relaxed coziness, at least compared to the hectic atmosphere in other cities with populations of over one million. It continues with the high concentration of historical buildings and churches, such as the massive Frauenkirche or the yellow Italian Baroque-style Theatinerkirche. Then there are the palaces, museums, cultural events, parks and street cafés, plus the unusually attractive surrounding countryside: just an hour to the south lie the first Alpine elevations, Munich’s “local mountains”. This is where people from Munich enjoy hiking or biking in their leisure time. In winter the hiking boots and the bikes are stowed away in exchange for skis. Just half an hour away from the city is the Starnberger See, Bavaria’s second largest lake. From here non-climbers have a fantastic panorama of the Alps whilst avoiding aching muscles. The people of Munich also like to mention how quickly they can be in Verona, Venice or on the Mediterranean coast, despite the fact that they love their city so dearly.
Maybe it’s the proximity of art and nature, the dual existence as a village and a big city that gives Munich its special atmosphere. But maybe it’s much more poetic. In Thomas Mann’s words: “Munich shines.”
Monocle, the trend magazine, chose Munich Airport as the “best international airport”. The winning features were its architecture, location and views. The airport, which began operating in 1992, is the second largest in Germany.
Active worldwide, the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany stands for exciting and open-minded cultural work and modern German language courses. With 147 institutes, it is at home all over the globe, but the head office of this foreign cultural policy organization is located in Munich.
Some 90 theatres compete for audiences in Munich. The Cuvilliés Theatre in the Munich Residenz is a Rococo jewel. The Free State of Bavaria is financing the renovation of the theatre as a present to its capital on its 850th jubilee. High standards of music theatre are set by the Bavarian State Opera, which is led by star conductor Kent Nagano.
Some 100 companies have their headquarters in Munich, including 8 DAX 30-listed global players: Allianz, BMW, Hypo Real Estate, Infineon, Linde, MAN, Munich Re Group and Siemens.