The Bavarian city of Munich charms its visitors. This German city always deserves a visit for its elegant, beautiful and stylish views that encompass many landmarks from the Nymphenburg Palace to Residenz, Bavaria Filmstadt to the Museum Quarter.
It is a winter day when the sun manages to peek between the clouds, and I am walking around the Nymphenburg Palace’s garden that feels endless. Wearing hats and gloves, many others walk along the pool like me. The Canada geese and swans dozing off by the water are enjoying their share of the winter sun –just as I enjoyed the beauty of art and the magnificence of the Nymphenburg Palace an hour earlier! Built between 1664 and 1674, the palace was joined by new annexes later in history. It is a mesmerizing place with its ceiling frescoes that tell mythological stories, colorful murals, halls that display ancient Egyptian and Chinese influences, lovely mansions in its garden, precious wooden ornamentations, and King Ludwig I’s “Gallery of Beauties” which featured paintings of women from the royal family and the higher classes of society. Before leaving the palace garden, I make a note for myself to visit this place once again when flowers bloom in spring. Now, it’s time to delve into the heart of Munich.
Whether they are born here or moved to this city later in life, the people in Munich have something in common: they are proud of being a local here. It is a city that bears significance not only for Germany and Europe, but also for the rest of the world. This is where the headquarters of global companies and financial organizations are located. It’s also at the top in terms of communication and advertisement industries. It has a reputation in fashion, insurance, education, and cinema. Having been so perfectly adapted to the modern world, the open-minded locals in Munich have also been very meticulous about preserving the city’s historical texture and cultural customs. Marienplatz is at the heart of this diversity. This pedestrianized square has a place for everyone from street vendors to football fans celebrating the championship of Bayern Munich football club. Alte Rathaus and Neue Rathaus (Old and New Town Halls) are also located in this square. There’s a mechanism at the tower of the New Town Hall in which 32 human figures dance to a melody at 11 a.m. and 12 a.m. (also at 5 p.m. between March and November). This ritual attracts a huge number of tourists to the square. The square is surrounded by a number of churches and the Toy Museum housed in one of the Gothic towers of the Old Town Hall. As an avid music fan, I climb upstairs at the music store Ludwig Beck to browse through CDs and DVDs and lose myself in a magnificent archive ranging from rarely found jazz CDs to opera recordings, unique classical music recordings to concert DVDs. What’s even better is that you can listen to the CDs before you decide to buy them.
To save time, I have lunch at one of the restaurants near the Food Market (Viktualienmarkt). I then visit Residenzstrasse which runs past Germany’s largest palace in the urban center. Inhabited by the Wittelsbach family between the 14th and 19th centuries, the palace is an impressive complex of 112 rooms. I am so hypnotized by the ceiling paintings of the 69-meter-long Antiquarium Hall that I almost fall down! After seeing the precious exhibits of the treasury inside the Residenz, each more beautiful than the other, I sit in one of the seats of Cuvilliés Theater. It says, “I am one of the world’s most beautiful Rococo theaters,” and I nod to agree. I stop by Hofgarten before finishing my day at Odeonsplatz. Despite the cold, mothers take their babies in strollers on a tour around the garden. Obviously, it is to get them used to the winter weather at a young age. If you visit in spring and crunch along on the gravel path beyond the gate, you can listen to a skilled violinist playing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons beneath the dome of the pavilion at the center of the garden. Another park in the city is Englischer Garten, which is filled with people from spring to autumn.
Next day, I am determined to spend some time with art, but first, I sip my morning coffee on Leopoldstrasse lined with stylish boutiques. The district of Schwabing, where the street is located, has welcomed many artists such as Klee, Kandinsky, and Mann. I look at the passersby and think about the novel Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann who received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Afterwards, I walk through the elegant streets of Maxvorstadt and towards the art district of Kunstareal, home to world-famous art museums.
The works within the Neue Pinakothek (New Painting Museum) include German landscapes from the 19th century. I am impressed by the poetic paintings by Overbeck, The Schmadribach Falls by Koch, and the portrait of Goethe by Stieler. Many visitors spend the lion’s share of their time in the galleries holding renowned Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The museum’s name hints it’s new, but that term is relative. The artworks are indeed “new” when compared to the medieval masterpieces within the Alte Pinakothek, across the other side of Theresienstrasse. Despite Raphael, Leonardo, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Boucher, I think the star of the museum of the self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer. One of my favorite things about museums in general is the museum stores where you can find artistic objects designed in relation to the exhibited works such as postcards, decorative objects, umbrellas, and accessories.
The Pinakothek der Moderne houses contemporary and modern works -including paintings by Salvador Dalí and Max Beckmann- plus an array of design objects, including motor vehicles. Opened in 2002, the museum’s building has a minimalistic façade of concrete and glass. Inside, I admire the white rotunda which allows daylight to filter into the lobby of the museum, creating slowly changing patterns of shadow and light thanks to the concentric circles in its design. Beyond the multicolored façade of the Brandhorst, another museum in the district, there’s the largest collection of Cy Twombly artworks outside of the U.S.
There are many other places I can recommend to those who plan to visit Munich. Deutsches Museum, also home to Zeiss Planetarium, is perfect for those interested in technology and engineering; the Olympic Park for ice-skating to music; the famous Bavaria Filmstadt where you’ll witness the background of the movie industry; the Linderhof Palace; the Heerenchimsee Castle; and Lake Starnberger and its surroundings. If you’re a gourmet looking for the creations of famous chefs, you can opt for restaurants Tantris, Königshof, Ederer, Lenbach, and Vinaiolo. It’s hard for a fashion and shopping enthusiast to say goodbye to Munich! They will be mesmerized by Kaufinger, Neuhauser, Theatiner, Maximilian, Sendlinger, and Leopold streets and the Odeonsplatz which are scattered with stores that sell special design products.
I want to bring my tour around Munich to an end at a fantastic castle! As I board the train bound for the Neuschwanstein Castle, which is fit for a fairytale and only 89 kilometers from the city, a copy of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann I carry with me begs me to pick up reading from where I left off.