Bavarian Christmas Interlude 2018, Wednesday: A sensory overload of Munich history and beer.


Diana and I visited Bavaria (Munich and Bamberg) just before Christmas. Prior to departure, there was a series entitled Munich Tales 2018. This is the second of seven installments summarizing what we did, saw, ate and drank. They’re being back-dated to the day we were there.

Previously: Arrival and ample Christmas marketeering.
Next: An excursion to my beloved Bamberg.

Wednesday began with a walk, and somehow the walk lasted almost the entire day with two beer stops in between. In effect, we were viewing Munich’s centuries prior to World War I, which prompts a useful reminder: Bavaria was an independent kingdom until German unification circa 1871, and even after this, the Bavarian royal family remained intact until 1918.

The Kingdom of Bavaria (German: Königreich Bayern; Austro-Bavarian: Kinereich Bayern) was a German state that succeeded the former Electorate of Bavaria in 1805 and continued to exist until 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1805 as Maximilian I Joseph. The crown would go on being held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom came to an end in 1918.

Our walk went something like this.

1. Hotel to Hauptbahnhof to Königsplatz, or King’s Square, built in the 19th-century according to neoclassical design. Munich’s arts and museum quarter begins here.

2. To Odeonsplatz via Briennerstrasse, stopping first at the Christmas market at Wittelsbacherplatz (the equestrian statue is Maximilian I).

Odeonsplatz was built in the early 19th century on the site of the Schwabing Gate, to serve as the starting point of a royal route along what is now Briennerstrase, from the Residenz (winter palace) to Schloss Nymphenburg (the summer palace).

When World War I began in 1914, huge crowds gathered at Odeonsplatz to hear the announcement. Much later, historians examining photos of the occasion found Adolf Hitler in the crowd.

3. Next, Hofgarten Park and the adjacent Residenz (and another Christmas market in the courtyard there). Of personal importance to me is the building to the rear of the Hofgarten, now called the Bayerische Staatskanzlei. The domed section in the middle originally was part of the Bavarian army museum, constructed in 1905 and largely destroyed during World War II. In 1985, when I visited Munich for the first time, it was a ruin, and I was absolutely fascinated by it. The new building dates from 1989-1993; the central dome was preserved, and modern glass and steel wings added on both sides.

The Christmas market tucked into the Residenz was a delight. Observe the cow’s udder method of applying mustard and ketchup to delectable grilled sausages.

4. To Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt and a second round of perusing the Christmas markets there.

5. For lunch, to the amazing Schneider Bräuhaus restaurant. Prior to the war, the wheat ale specialist brewer Schneider was one of the major players in the Munich brewing scene. It was destroyed by bombs, and production moved to Kelheim on the Danube, where the family owned an intact brewery. The restaurant was rebuilt, and I’d just as soon patronize it as any of the other Munich brewery restaurants.

6. To Isartorplatz, then the Deutsche Museum, then a brief walk along the Isar River. The reconstructed Isartor (Isar Gate) was one of the main gates to the city in medieval times. The nearby Isar River rises in the Tyrolean Alps and flows through Munich in route to its junction with the Danube. In recent years, substantial progress has been made toward restoring the Isar’s natural condition, and making it suitable for bathing in summer.

7. To the Platzl, a small square disproportionately famous (infamous?) for the presence of the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl.

The Hofbräu brewery is an anachronism. It began as the royal court brewery, and to this very day is an arm of Bavarian government. We took a walk-through of the Hofbräuhaus, which was a veritable zoo of humanity; we might have gone upstairs to the more civilized dining area, but Ayinger has maintained a presence on the Platzl for many years, and the Wirtshaus Ayinger am Platzl was a far safer haven for contemplative beers and snacks.

Devotees of the Public House will recognize the concept of the Anstich keg, hauled atop the counter, tap applied with mallet, and poured by gravity feed. Of course this was the way it was done every day for centuries, and remains the daily custom at places like Schlenkerla in Bamberg. At Ayinger am Platzl, as at numerous other establishments in Munich nowadays, there’s a daily 5:00 p.m. tapping, with the unfiltered golden lager being poured into the stoneware.

It was delicious.

8. Now well after dark, we concluded the day’s eight-hour, seven-mile hike by ambling back to the Hauptbahnhof, cutting through it and south to the hotel.

I remember sleeping very, very well.