Munich is the capital of Bavaria with a population of almost 1.5 million people. When I arrived I expected the city to have a large downtown area with towering buildings. Come to think of it, Europe really doesn’t build up as much as Americans or Asians do. Above are two photos from the outskirts of the city which doesn’t look much different from the city center from this viewpoint. The city center was visible from where I was, but you’d have to know what you’re looking for as it doesn’t stand out.
Above is probably the most iconic building in Munich, the new city hall called Neues Rathaus which dominates Marienplatz. The new city hall took nearly 40 years to finish between 1867 and 1908. Something else famous about the city hall is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel photographed on the upper right. At certain hours during the day, these life sized figures rotate and retell a 16th century story which goes on for about 10 minutes. The only sound is chimes from the city hall, so if you’re a tourist like me, the life sized figures appear to rotate at random and you won’t even realize there is a story behind them.
Above is the old city hall which is also located in Marineplatz. This building has been around as early as the 1300s! I’m not too sure the use of the building in modern times other than it is still owned by the German government. Around the corner from the old city hall is the Heiliggeistkirche church photographed on the upper right. The Heiliggeistkirche is also called the Holy Ghost Church and is one of the most beautiful in the city. There are much larger churches and cathedrals in Munich, but they all seemed to be under renovations or closed! Below are two photo from the inside of the church.
Downtown Munich has plenty of traditional items for sale at various souvenir stores. Even though I didn’t by any, my favorites were these German cuckoo clocks on the left and beer mugs on the right.
It seems few countries I visit still wear traditional clothing. In Germany I’d see people dressed up in traditional clothing often in restaurants and bars, or other times in groups walking down the streets. I came across these two stores in the city streets which had traditional clothing for sale on display.
Most bars and restaurants have their own unique sign above their establishment along the downtown areas of Munich. Of course it just wouldn’t feel authentic without a Burger King in there!
Munich has lots of nice outdoor cafes and restaurants, and plenty of wealthy citizens. Like all countries though, the major cities still had a fair share of homeless. Unlike other places I’ve been to, the ones here didn’t really seem to beg and mostly kept to themselves.
One of the most famous places in Munich is the Hofbrauhaus beer hall. Here you’ll find great food, traditional live music, and of course what Germany is famous for, beer! Munich is often called the beer capital of the world and is where the famous beer drinking Oktoberfest is held. The place was pretty packed when I visited on a Saturday night and as a seat yourself restaurant you’ll need to have good luck finding a table! On the upper left is the Hofbrauhaus emblem with the inside of the beer hall on the right with the musicians below.
While on the subject of the Hofbrauhaus, I’d like to get into Munich’s history regarding the Nazis. Hitler and the Nazi party actually rose to power in Munich. The history of Hitler is pretty interesting, with his youth largely undocumented since he was rather a poor Austrian kid with nothing special about him. His career choice in life was surprisingly art, with Hitler attempting to paint and attend art universities in Austria. He had little luck with this field and instead found himself a low level soldier serving in World War I. After the war he was somehow recognized for his leadership abilities, and was given an intelligence officer position despite his low rank at the time. His role was to investigate the German Workers Party which Hitler greatly admired. The party eventually dissolved with its former members joining the similar Nationalist Social Party which is abbreviated as Nazi in English. Hitler became a major player in the Nazi party and was soon giving speeches. As a matter of fact, the Nazis first meeting was here in the Hofbrauhaus, with Hitler giving his first of many powerful speeches that captivated his audiences.
This building above was actually once the Nazi Party Headquarters. The outside of the building originally had large Nazi flags hanging down as well as the German cross above the door. The right photo shows the inside of the building, where Hitler once worked from an office up these set of stairs.
This street in Munich was right before a Nazi memorial to those who died in the famous Beer Hall Putsch. It was a law that everyone had to do the Nazi salute to the memorial, and those who didn’t risked trouble with authorities. By walking down this street called Viscardigasse, you could bypass the memorial and therefore not have to salute. This actually became a common practice for those who didn’t approve of the Nazi party, and so the street became nicknamed Dodger’s Alley.
For those interested in World War II history and how the Nazi’s came to power, Munich is probably the best place in Germany to start. There’s an infinite amount of history here in Munich but it’s not always that noticeable. This writing above is actually on the new city hall and gives thanks to the US troops who helped liberate the city in 1945. On the right is a victims memorial for all those who were killed by the Nazis. This isn’t just limited by Jews, but the memorial also remembers gays, cripples, and others who were executed by the regime.
Since most of Munich was destroyed during World War II, the city today is modern with few buildings left from the centuries before. There are few signs of the war itself around Munich, but if you look carefully you can still see them. If you notice the building on the left has a cement first floor that turns into brick on the floor above. This is because the building was bombed during the war, and was repaired with bricks instead of being demolished and rebuilt. The building on the right still shows bullet holes and damage from the war.
Munich has long since recovered from the war and is home to several large companies and high tech industries. Until I made it to Munich I never realized the BMW headquarters was located in this city. I saw the headquarters from the ground while walking around and got this photo on the left from the Olympic Tower. There is a BMW museum here as well as an open area with some of their hottest and latest models on display. I didn’t do the museum but I found seeing their showroom was more than enough for me. Almost all of the cars that are on display inside are unlocked and you’re free to sit inside, but no joy riding!
Right across the street from the BMW headquarters on the north side of Munich you’ll find Olympic Park. I had never been to any former Olympic park until I went to Atlanta’s a few months prior to coming to Germany. Honestly, there isn’t too much going on here other than seeing the former stadiums and other competition areas. Whenever there is a game taking place I imagine it would be much more exciting to visit. On the left is a photo looking over Olympic Park from the Olympic Tower. On the right is the Olympic Pool that was used in 1972. It was in these same waters that American Mark Spitz received 7 gold medals, a record held until it was broken by Michael Phelps in 2008.
The best thing to do in Olympic Park is to go to the top of their Olympic Tower, called the Olympiaturm in German. The top floor is 597 feet (182 meters) while the top of the antenna is just shy of 1,000 feet at 955 (291 meters). The ride to the upper floor of the tower is reasonably cheap and gives you some great views. On a perfectly clear day, it’s said that you can even see the mountains in the background! The Olympic Tower is what I used to take the first two photos at the top of this page. The view of the city center itself isn’t all that impressive from here to be honest! The top of the tower also has a large wall that is covered in graffiti. At first I wasn’t sure how so many people got away with this, but then I realized this was encouraged and the wall is basically used as a logbook.
Places like Olympic Park are pretty far from the city center. Since I spent a good amount of time in the city I often used public transportation. I never really understood their subway or bus payment system. No one actually checks your ticket anywhere so it seems to operate on an honor code system. The tickets aren’t too much anyway, but with no one there to check I was sometimes confused on if I was even paying the right amount. The trains were always busy but never too crowded so it’s an easy way to see the city.
A great place to visit in Munich, at least during the warmer months, is the English Gardens. The English Gardens are an sprawling city park with plenty of open fields for sports and picnics as well as some restaurants, cafes who all of course serve beer as well. This was one of my favorite places in Munich, and is a perfect place to go for a walk or jog and grab some lunch. There are also lots of people doing stunts out or weird tricks such as this guy below making giant bubbles. I visited in March when the weather was warmer than usual. One German felt it was so hot that he had to get naked.
One of the most entertaining things I saw while at the English garden was this dog on a mission to catch a duck. The dog was swimming around the water and at first I thought he was enjoying himself rather than trying to go after the ducks. He swam straight towards this wood duck here and even though it constantly flew away and landed nearby the dog kept trying. Finally after about 15 minutes the dog came back to shore and received a big cheer and applause from the crowd he had gathered!
Something I definitely wasn’t expecting to see in the English Garden was surfers! There are several small rivers and streams that traverse the English Gardens. Most of these rivers seem to be fairly fast but calm, while this one above had something on the bed that caused a large wave to stay in place. Lots of surfers here lined up along the shore to take their turn. Most surfed for only about a minute before falling into the water and getting back in line. I’ve never surfed before but after watching these guys I can see why it’s fun!
One place that I had dinner at with my friend while roaming around Munich was this Burger Boss restaurant. The restaurant was small but nicely decorated with plenty of American food. Of course the hamburger seemed to be their most popular dish, but they actually had a wide selection of real American food such as Tex-Mex or even soul food! If you’re from the United States and find yourself in Munich I’d definitely recommend trying this place out.
Near the neighborhood that I was staying in was this large cemetery. My friend who was staying with me found it while exploring the area and recommended I go to it. When I decided I wanted to go for a run I figured this would be a perfect place to go to. I planned to only run for 30 minutes, but I actually ended up getting lost and ran for 45 minutes! The cemetery is called the Munich Waldfriedhof, and is one of the largest in the city with close to 60,000 graves.