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Charming Munich

Munich woos you with its relaxed life, old-world feel, and lively beer halls.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2011 01:28 IST
Geetika Jain

“Munich is very similar to Boston” observed our host Paul, a Munchner, who has lived in several cities. “They are both university towns settled on the banks of a river, have low rise, charming architecture, a strong focus on the tech industry, a pace of life which tends to be slower than New York and Berlin by comparison and both have a profusion of drinking dens.”

Munich the famous city in Germany has connections to drinking that are perhaps stronger than the one professed by the Irish immigrants’ pubs in Boston. Before it was settled as a city, this area was the abode of fasting monks who sustained themselves on home brewed beer. The Wittelsbach Dukes, who ruled this part of Bavaria for centuries, thrived on the business of brewing and Oktoberfest is perhaps the world’s best known festival devoted to the business of imbibing beer.

Fittingly, my guide Richard Hartmann started our walk the next afternoon at Hofbrauhaus, a cavernous and lively beer hall in the heart of Old Munich. It was packed with visitors and locals. An Oompah band competed with the loud chatter. The feminine traditional dirndl dresses worn by the waitresses disguised what must be very masculine biceps from carrying multiple steins of beer all day long.

Old-world charm
Although Munich was bombed in the Second World War, it has been reconstructed preserving the integrity of the pre-war architecture. The Platzl, or little square just outside Hofbrauhaus remains a charm infused nook, with its “houses with ears”. The curious spaces on the top floors of some of the old houses were earmarked for storing wooden logs for the winter fires and they looked exactly like Spock’s pointy ears. The architects must have had a thing for facial features, for the façade of Alter Hof or Old Court, a few steps away, has a window-like embellishment called an erker, or nose. I noticed that pet dogs were welcome everywhere — on the fanciest shop carpets, brushing against Karl Lagerfeld and Jill Sanders’s spring collection. We stopped at Marien Platz, the large, central square, to take in the Gothic stone tower and its famous Glockenspeil.

Museum brandhorst
We’d set out to see the Pinacotec der Moderne or the Modern Art Museum, but the colourful ceramic strips of Museum Brandhorst next to it caught my eye, and we switched to exploring the dynamic new building by Sauerbruch Hutton architects. The rectangular façade of cut-out windows and multicoloured louvres is an imaginative creation and the interiors of white walls, and Danish oak are a fitting setting for oversized works by artists such as Cy Tombly, Andy Warhol and Sigmar Polke.

Beginner's guide
Eat at:
Spatenhaus An Der Opera
Drink at: Hofbrauhaus, a lively, traditional beer hall with an outdoor beer garden.
Explore: Museum Brandhorst, a newcomer on the arts scene for the collection as well as the building’s unique architecture.
Guide: Richard Hartmann
Tel: +49 893 800 1876
Shop: Munich’s designs can be explored at Galerie Isabella Hund (jewellery), Kunst + Handwerk (crafts) and Magazin (interiors)