Bavarian Christmas Interlude 2018, Saturday: English Garden, Chinese Tower, Bavarian Christmas market, more beer, and just a little bit of food.


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 fifth of seven installments summarizing what we did, saw, ate and drank. They’re being back-dated to the day we were there.

Previously: EuroLeague basketball game between Bayern München and Real Madrid.
Next: Wrapping it up with a visit to Paulaner Nockherberg.

Through the end of our stay, rain was predicted. It held off on Saturday, and so we chose to roam in mechanized fashion, as opposed to Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s long walks. It was decided to enhance our mobility on Saturday by purchasing a day pass on public transit. Until midnight, the two of us would be able to ride to our heart’s content for slightly less than $20.

Boarding a convenient bus, we set off for Englische (or Englischer) Garten, where I’d last set foot in 1989.

The Englische Garten (“English Garden”) is one of the largest urban parks in the world. The layout has undergone constant change throughout the centuries as new buildings and green spaces were added time and again.

It all started in 1789 when Elector Carl Theodor ordered that a public park be established along the Isar River. He put the project in the hands of the Briton Benjamin Thompson, who worked at the time for the Bavarian Army. The park was given the name Englische Garten because it was laid out in the style of an English country park.

Today the Englische Garten offers numerous leisure time activities. Cyclists and joggers train on the 78-kilometer-long (48.5 miles) network of paths, and amateur soccer players meet on the fields for recreational games. A beautiful vista of the city if offered by the Monopteros, which was added to the park landscape along with the hill in 1836.

I remember the beer garden very well, and recall it serving Löwenbräu in those days.

With 7,000 spots, the beer garden in the Englische Garten, right by the Chinese Tower, is Munich’s second largest. This distinctive pagoda is 25 meters (approx. 75 feet) high and is based on a design from 1789. The tower has burned down several times over the years, but each time it has been rebuilt true to the design of the original.

Although we knew there was a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), expectations were low — and yet it was our favorite.

A Munich Christmas Market at the Chinese Tower
, by Helen Page

The Chinesischer Turm Weihnachtsmarkt (Chinese Tower Christmas Market) is an unusual name for a German Christmas Market and it is so called because in the middle of the market grounds stands a giant Chinese pagoda. The 25-metre high wooden Chinese Tower is one of the attractions in Munich’s famous Englischer Garten (English Garden) and, except for the Christmas season, it is also the venue of one of the largest beer gardens in the city …

 … Although the Chinese Tower Christmas Market is not well-known to international visitors, it is very popular with locals and we arrive at the market to see streams of cars queueing to get into the carpark. It is quite a busy market and being Sunday, families come to have their lunch here, catch up with friends and relatives and to do some last minute Christmas shopping.

Here’s the overview.

That’s right: curling.

After an orientation of the market, we walked a 30-minute loop through the garden.

Afterwards, it was lunch time, beginning with a big red bratwurst for me, Currywurst for Diana, and a Hofbräu Hefeweizen each.

Then I noticed the Schupfnudeln.

These are little potato finger dumplings, cooked with sauerkraut and gravy from pork drippings in a enlarged pan, like paella, then topped with grated cheese.

I don’t say “OMG” often, but will in this instance. Sated, we caught another bus and worked our way toward the Maximilianeum, a 19th-century behemoth squatting atop the ridge on the right bank of the Isar.

To the rear of the Maximilianeum on Innere Wiener Strasse lies the Hofbräukeller am Wiener Platz. Generally in Bavarian beer-speak, a “Keller” isn’t specifically intended to imply a cellar of the sort used to age lager beer. Rather, it’s the brewery’s beer garden.

Accordingly, that’s how we approached the inside — from the outside, through the beer garden, where men in a tent with heaters were busy drinking beer outdoors.

I didn’t take their picture.

This classy, traditionalist’s location of the Hofbräu empire is vastly superior to the rowdy, over-touristed Hofbräuhaus nearer the center. My friend Kim Andersen made the recommendation, and he was spot on, as usual. My only regret in this, as with many of the other beer spots we visited, is that it wasn’t ideal “beer garden” weather — because drinking beer outside is one of the undisputed glories of Bavarian beer culture.

Perhaps if we’d brought heaters and a tent.

In due course we made it back to the hotel for afternoon nap time. Later in the evening came the day’s final act, and a session at Augustiner Keller, on Arnulfstrasse near the Hauptbahnhof. There was liver dumpling soup and Münchner Schnitzel, which is made with horseradish and mustard prior to the battering.

The Augustiner was huge, packed and festive. I’ll always remember that.