Tag Archive | Munich

Discovering Joy

I’ve never really been an avid follower of fashion when it comes to cars. But when we walked through the doors of BMW Welt, the showroom and delivery centre of the BMW brand in Munich, I fell in love. There was my dream car – the sporty, red BMW X6 Coupé. It was one of the latest models on display on the floor of the BMW showroom.

BMW Welt, the BMW Museum and the BMW Plant are all located in a complex in an outer northern suburb of Munich, just a short train ride from the centre of town. The striking architecture of the building caught our attention even before entering. The design by Professor Wolf D. Prix represents a cloud spinning out of a twisted double cone made of steel and glass and emulates the strength and design of BMW.

Inside, we were awed by the immensity of the Plaza which opens up to a huge space dedicated to design and technology, with the entire range of the latest vehicles on show in all their gleaming glory.

Visitors are encouraged to touch and admire these cars close up, maybe in the hope that they will succumb to the allure and buy one. I began to picture myself in that X6, driving along the streets of my hometown and receiving admiring looks from those I passed.

Several guided tours of BMW Welt, the Museum and the BMW Plant take place daily. The English speaking tour of BMW Welt is at 2pm. Before our tour started we were presented with headphone sets which made for easy listening, and allowed us to wander at will.

The first exhibit on our tour was the motorcycle display, where little and not-so-little boys fulfilled their fantasies of a test ride seated on the latest BMW models.  The off road, touring and sports bikes were all presented in mint condition but our guide encouraged everyone to sit on them for as long as it took to get the perfect photo.

We were treated to a stunning display of riding skills by two company employees who rode their G450X bikes along the length of the first floor and managed to navigate the staircases at both ends of the building several times.

Then we went behind the scenes to the area where new vehicles are stored prior to delivery. We saw a car brought from the factory and lifted on a hydraulic roadway to the position in which it would be stored in what resembled a set of giant pigeon holes until the following day when its new owner would come to collect it.

The most fascinating part of our tour was the automobile delivery gallery where those new owners receive their brand new vehicles. We were led along a suspended walkway, which our guide proudly informed us is the longest suspension bridge in the northern hemisphere, to a viewing area overlooking the mezzanine gallery. There we were able to see the magic that is BMW in action. There were six cars each on their own presentation platform. The salesman guided his customers down a large staircase as if they were movie stars at a premiere. They stopped at the half way mark and were greeted by their new car, highlighted with spotlights, headlights flashing, and rotating on its platform. A photographer took several photos of the lucky owners with their vehicle and the salesman explained the features. Finally the owners were presented with their keys and drove a lap of the gallery before exiting down a spiral driveway and out on to the autobahn. About 15000 vehicles are delivered in this way every year. We watched this spectacle repeated several times and it was hard to tear ourselves away and move along to the next part of the tour. The looks on the faces of each new set of owners lived up to the BMW slogan of “Discover Joy.”

The last stop on the tour was the Technology and Design Atelier, an interactive space where visitors can experiment with and experience the technology that goes into the creation of the vehicles of the future. Our favourite was the efficient dynamics machine. We had to pedal up a simulated hill as fast as we could in order to build up enough energy to coast down the other side without using any fuel. Easier said than done!

After experiencing all that is BMW I just couldn’t leave without that dream car, so I gave in to temptation and bought an X6 – sporty, red and in its own collectable box, just the right size to fit in my hand luggage on the trip back home.

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The DOs and DON’Ts of visiting Munich

DO climb to the top of the bell tower of St Peterskirche. The views of the city and the Glockenspiel in the Neues Rathaus opposite are unrivalled.

DO go to Galeria Kaufhof and take the escalator to the basement. The variety of fresh and gourmet food for sale in the food hall is incredible, and it took us a very long time to decide what to buy for dinner. I can recommend the orange rooibos tea -it’s delicious.

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DO eat pretzels, chocolates, strudels and those luscious German tortes with the strawberries and red jelly on top. You will walk it all off anyway.

DO take the time to read your train timetables carefully so that you know where you want to go and which train you need to catch. This will avoid having your travelling companions suddenly exiting, when they decide that you are all on the wrong train, just before the doors close, leaving you stranded in the train while they are on the platform, then watching you disappear down the track. (I was actually on the right train and had no trouble making my way back to our apartment but had to wait for them to get the next train because I didn’t have a key! This photo wasn’t taken in the train station, but these are the culprits.)

DO visit the Frauenkirche. The Pope was once the Archbishop there, and legend says that the devil left his footprint in the entrance when he left in a fit of bad temper after being tricked by the builder of the Church.

 

DO splash out and buy yourself a BMW when you go to BMW Welt, even if it is a matchbox car sized one. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t fit one of these in your hand luggage.

DON’T spend just a day or two in Munich. You need to stay at least a week to really see everything and enjoy it. We did and every day was amazing!

The Angel Of Peace

As we strolled along Prinzregentenstrasse in Munich we could see in the distance a golden angel floating above the trees in the Maximilian Park. A closer inspection revealed the Friedensengel – the Angel of Peace.

She commemorates the 25 years of peace after the Franco-German war of 1870 and 1871 and is modeled on the Greek goddess Nike. This gilded bronze beauty stands atop a 38 metre column, while on the four sides of the platform below are gold mosaics depicting War, Peace, Victory and Culture in the guise of the ancients.

Long may she continue to serve as a reminder of the importance of peace in our world.

Collections

There are more than 40 museums in Munich and it would take you more than 40 days and 40 nights to see them all. Some have buildings in more than one location and others are just so huge that it would be impossible to see their entire collections in a day.

The Marstallmuseum, at Schloss Nymphenburg, houses a collection of royal carriages and sleighs in what were once the royal stables. There are coronation coaches, state coaches and sleighs, all highly gilded and ornamented as well as lavishly decorated harnesses and paintings of favoured horses. The coronation coach of The Emperor Charles VII dates from 1742.

                 

Situated on an island in the river Isar, the Deutsches Museum showcases science and technology and is so large that visitors can only take in a small amount of the collection in a day. Its transport exhibition features original pieces including boats, planes and even a World War Two U1 submarine and hands on experiences are encouraged.

 One of the most popular real life displays takes place daily in the Energy exhibition, when a staff member sits inside an elevated wire sphere while 270 volts of electricity are applied, creating a massive spark and an very loud bang. It’s a relief when the cage is lowered and the staff member steps out unharmed.

For a more refined exhibition of technology, travel to the northern suburbs of Munich to BMW Welt and the BMW Museum. Inside the museum visitors follow a 1000 metre pathway which spirals downwards past displays about the history of the company, the development and design of BMW’s vast range of vehicles and the BMW products of today. In one gallery there is an exhibition of people’s memories of their own BMW experiences. The photos and remembrances are extraordinary and quite moving.

On the other side of the autobahn is Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Olympic Games. The complex includes the Olympic Stadium, Swim Hall and Ice Rink, all of which are open to the public. The Olympic stadium was the home stadium of the FC Bayern München and TSV 1860 München teams, until the opening of the Allianz Arena in 2005. Now it’s mainly used for cultural events and concerts. The guided stadium tour includes an exhibition of Olympic and football memorabilia.

          

On the same site is the Olympic Tower, 291 metres high, with an observation platform at 191 metres. To reach the platform visitors travel in an elevator at 7 metres per second, a journey that takes 30 seconds. The view at the top extends on a clear day from Munich to the Bavarian Alps, and gives a great view of the Olympic complex. In one room of the platform there is a small rock and roll museum. It seems a strange place to find such a display but the memorabilia of past concerts is fascinating and there are items from Kiss, The Rolling Stones and Queen in the collection.

Back in the centre of town, at the Old City Hall in Marienplatz, is the Speilzeugmuseum, devoted to toys from the past. There is a large display of Steiff bears, accompanied by the story of their creator, Margarete Steiff. The collection of toy soldiers, armies, Noah’s Ark animal sets and toy cars is a young boy’s dream come true, while the display of Barbie dolls with accessories, and doll houses filled with miniature furniture and inhabitants would make a little girl’s life complete. The museum is a treasure trove of childhood memories, with the earliest piece dating from the neolithic period.

The Land Transport Museum, at Theresienhöhe, is one of the three museums belonging to the Deutsches Museum and its main focus is transport technology. Who knew there were so many varieties of bicycle, car, bus, train and tram in the world, let alone all those skis and rollerskates?

You wouldn’t be able to try them all, even in 40 days and 40 nights!

Escape to the Country

As I strolled through the Englischer Garten it was hard to believe that I was in the middle of a bustling city with a population of more than 1.3 million. The traffic noise was barely audible and the other visitors in the park seemed to be enjoying the serenity as much as I was.

The Englischer Garten, in Munich, is 1000 acres of lush greenery and parkland devoted to enjoying the outdoors. The feeling is one of wilderness, with meandering walking tracks, cycle paths and swiftly flowing streams. The river Isar borders the park to the east and adds to the sense of having escaped to the countryside.

The garden dates from 1789 and the term “English garden” refers to the landscaping style of such designers as Capability Brown, who favoured an informal approach to garden design in the United Kingdom in the 18th Century.

Of course there are four biergartens in the park. The biergarten at the Chinesischer Turm, or Chinese Tower, has seating for 7000 and if you’re there on a Sunday you can sit back and enjoy the music of German brass bands.

If a Japanese Tea Ceremony is more your style, the Japanisches Teehaus is the place to be on the weekend. The tea house and its Japanese garden were a gift from Japan to the city in 1972 in celebration of the Munich Olympics and tea ceremonies are regularly held there.

The Monopteros is a small Greek temple perched on a hill overlooking the Schönfeldwiese, or Schönfeld meadow, and the expansive views of the city from there are lovely. Nude sunbathing has been allowed in the meadow since the 1960’s, so you might get more of a view than you bargained for!

It was a beautiful place to soak up the serene atmosphere of this lovely park, but no amount of serenity was going to get me to take my clothes off with 1.3 million people looking on!

What would you like?

The decision to visit the Hofbrӓuhaus in Munich is easily made, but choosing what to do once you’re there isn’t so simple .

The biergarten, in the central courtyard, is sheltered by 400 year old chestnut trees. It’s as popular with locals as it is with tourists, all indulging in a Hofbrӓu bier or two.

Inside, in the Schwemme, there’s room for 3,500 guests. The traditional Bavarian menu is extensive, and watching other people’s meals go by doesn’t make the selection of a dish any easier. The pork knuckles are almost as big as the plates they’re served on and the succulent Weiner Schnitzel is complimented by kartoffelnsalat – a delicious Bavarian potato salad.

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But there’s another side to the Hofbrӓuhaus that’s equally worth seeing. Visitors have to go to the second floor to experience the Festival Hall, the largest room in the Hofbrӓuhaus, which is used for functions and parties, especially during Oktoberfest. It’s beautifully decorated and the flags that line the walls represent the states that Bavaria once ruled over.

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Up another flight of stairs, to a mezzanine floor over the stage, is the Hofbrӓuhaus-exhibition, which tells the history of the Hofbrӓuhaus and its beer, from its beginnings in 1589 to the present day, with old photographs, brewing equipment and memoirs.

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The Schwemme is beckoning though, and it’s time to go downstairs and claim a space for dinner. Now, will it be pork knuckle or Weiner Schnitzel?