Munich…A Walk to the English Garden and back!

We had decided on our trip to Munich in 2022 that rather than do our own self-guided walk around town one Sunday, we would see what extra insights into Munich we would gain from an official tour run out of the tourist office in Marienplatz. Our guide turned out to be an Irishman with plenty of knowledge about the city and plenty to say to keep our group entertained as we walked. After an initial stroll around Marienplatz, we walked to the corner where Wein Strasse joined this central square. One of the sights hard to miss as you turn the corner here is the large dragon stretched out above the door that enters the New Town Hall. It is called Wurmeck and commemorates not so much local winged dragons, but the equally dire Black Death that brought famine and plague to the city in the Middle Ages.  

Having been to Munich a few times over the years, we were familiar with Wein Strasse but I was looking forward to getting a clearer explanation of the history of the major sites along this thoroughfare. As can be seen from the map to the left, our walk was taking us down to the historic area of Munich called Odeonsplatz which was the area next to the home of the Kings of Bavaria from 1805-1918. There is a very large square here called Max Joseph Platz named after the first King of Bavaria from 1805-1825. The square was opened in 1818 at the same time as the National Theatre of Munich. The King had instructed his architect to create a square in the style of the famous Palazzo Pitti in Florence and the buildings in this area certainly bring back memories of that wonderful Florentine Square…particularly the theatre with its formal Corinthian Columns facing the Platz (right below).

There is a huge statue of Maximilian himself in the centre of the platz which was commissioned by the local council in 1820 and in 1824, his son, who became Ludwig I (1825-48), took over the planning. Not long before his death, Max expressed his disapproval of the design by saying that he didn’t want to be remembered as the king “sitting on the crapper!”. Unfortunately for Max, his son continued the design and it was inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of his father’s death in 1835.

While our Sunday guided tour didn’t involve entry into the former Royal Palace of the Wittelsbach Monarchs of Bavaria, we had already taken the opportunity of visiting the museum housed in this building on our first afternoon in Munich after finishing our Romantic Road journey. There are 10 courtyards ands 130 rooms in the Residenz so there is a lot to see here. The satyr on the right below greeted us in the courtyard at the entrance to the venue.

The amount and size of the displays in the Residenz are far too complex to fully capture in this article. Our walk through this multi-room museum took us from one ‘gob-smacking’ exhibition to the next. Perhaps the Hall of Antiquities below was the most amazing site of all the rooms in the Residenz and it was a slow walk down this amazing hallway. The first buildings on this site go back to the late 14th century but this antiquarium was constructed and adorned in the 16th century.

Just as impressive as the vast nature of the hallways of this palace, the miniature constructions on exhibition in the rooms were delightful such as the examples below.

I had walked past this building back in 2018 and wondered why from the outside it looked like the building was made from concrete with the stone blocks painted on to give the impression of an ageing building. The reason became obvious on this visit to Munich; the Residenz didn’t escape the vengeance of the allied bombers who didn’t show any empathy for this ancient building. Its rooms, courtyards and walls were severely damaged in the bombings of WWII. Of course, much of the Residenz was rebuilt in the 1980s but one of the original aspects of the palace, its stone walls, were too complex and expensive to restore and were replaced with concrete walls and the original stones painted on!

Returning to our tour, we transitioned from Wein Strasse to Residenz Strasse and we came to the complex area around the Feldherrnhalle Loggia. We came across this building in a walk we did around Munich in 2018  Its similarity to another building in Florence, the Loggia dei Lanzi was the first thought that occurred to me on that occasion. The name ‘Feldherrnhalle’ translates as ‘Field Marshall’s Hall’ and refers to its original construction commissioned in 1841 by Ludwig I to honour the traditions of the Bavarian army, particularly those remembered from the Thirty Years War (1618-1638) and the 1812 war against Napoleon

Whilst there are complex references to Bavaria’s history in this building, it is probably most famous for its involvement in the so-called Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. From the Konigsplatz where the Nazis had commandeered their home base, the Nazi leaders decided to mount a Coup D’Etat against the Weimar Republic and 2000 Nazis had marched down from Konigsplatz to Ludwig Strasse and then along to hopefully take over Feldernhalle to announce their new republic. However the local police were prepared and opened fire on the marchers, killing 16 Nazi Party members. Hitler was spirited away from the March but was eventually charged with treason and gaoled, giving him some quite time to write his infamous Mein Kampf.

One of the interesting insights into the area was given to us by our Irish guide when we walked down the laneway behind the actual Felderrnhalle. He explained that if locals were coming up Ludwig Strasse during the 1930s and they were walking towards the memorial of the Nazis who had died during the Beer Hall Putsch (Mahnmal der Bewegung, see left below), it was compulsory to do the Nazi salute to the Felderrnhalle which Hitler had declared a National Monument. If they failed to do this, they could be arrested. As a result, most people took the right-hand fork in the road and then turned left down the laneway behind the Felderrnhalle to avoid the Nazi guards at the transformed monument. It was called ‘Shirkers’ Lane and today there are gold painted cobble stones to remember this shirkers pathway; the ‘Memorial to the Movement was smashed by locals at the end of the war

The photo on the right below shows our guide explaining the site of the Nazi memorials. In the background of this photo can also be seen the ‘Yellow Church’, just on the other side of the road from the Felderrnhalle.

This beautiful Church is officially called the Theatine Church of St Cajetan and Adelaide and is a Catholic Church today, now administered by the Dominican Friars. It was built between 1663 and 1690 to mark the birth of the heir to the crown of Bavaria. It has been through many different phases of administration since then, in particular the monastery was closed in 1801. The church was bombed during WWII like the Residenz over the road and was restored by 1954.

Further down Odeons Platz there is a very impressive equestrian statue of Ludwig I of Bavaria created in 1862. He came to power in 1825 and was the guy who organised the statue of his father, Maximilian Joseph in the platz in front of the Residenz. Ludwig himself had problems ruling as a constitutional monarch and abdicated in favour of his son, Maximilian II in 1848. He lived on until 1868 so I wonder if his son negotiated the style of this memorial statue with him in his old age.

We crossed over the road to the entrance to the Hofgarten, the large ‘Italian renaissance’ style garden that runs along the side of the Residenz. In the centre of the garden there is a pavilion named after the Goddess Diana. On our first day in Munich on this trip we were very impressed by a classical music band that played next to the Fischbrunnen in Marienplatz. As we passed through the Hofgarten on this walking tour, we were attracted by another band that was playing in this pavilion, perhaps more contemporary music but just as pleasant as the band we listened to in front of the New Townhall.

As can be seen on the map of the Hofgarten (above left, courtesy Wikipedia), the pathways through this park lead to a huge building on the east side of this huge garten. It is the Bavarian State Chancellery. This building had a previous life as the Army Museum built in 1905. Previous to its museum status, it had been the site of a military barracks in the 19th century. When we there in 2018 I was able to have a close look at the façade of the central dome and was quite amazed at the presence of many bullet holes in the columns that held up the dome. (See right). I didn’t get close enough on this 2022 trip to check for signs of old battles so perhaps it has been repaired

Our target for our guided walk this afternoon was the English Garden. It is reached by walking along past the State Chancellery and passing under a road bridge through a tunnel that is well used by the rough sleepers of Munich. For some reason there are loud music speakers in this tunnel that I can only assume were to keep the sleepers awake and encourage them to go elsewhere rather than spoil this tourist pathway.

The English Garden in Munich is a beautiful, complex park with a lot to see in it. Built in 1789, it is one of the world’s largest urban parks and stretches to the north eastern limits of the city. It was September in 2022 when we visited here but I preferred the Autumn photos I took when last I was here in 2018.

Our guide only had so much time left in our tour so he took us for a quick walk through the gardens, admiring the pavilion on the hill in the distance. One of the curious stories from the history of the English Garden concerned Unity Mitford, the English socialite of the 1930s who attempted suicide here. She had formed a strange personal relationship with Adolf Hitler and when war became inevitable with England, she decided to end it all and came to the English Garden to shoot herself. She failed and Hitler kindly shipped her back to England where she survived until 1948 with a bullet in her skull. This complex tale is covered in the blog on this site, “Time-Travelling in the 1930s

Our guide took us to a section of the river running through the English Garden where the local surfers, with no access to the ocean, played out their enthusiasm for riding waves. Presumably there was some sort of wave machine slightly up river that generated waves for the surfers lining up on either side of the river for their 30 seconds of fun and fame.

From the Surfing spot in the English Garden, we left this inner city oasis and headed back across to Ludwigstrasse that would take us back up towards the Residenz. There was just one major site to inspect before we began our long return walk back up to Marienplatz and that was the Victory Arch or Siegestor. This monumental archway was another contribution by Ludwig I  in his praise of the Bavarian Army and it was completed in 1852. It was heavily damaged during WWII and it was on the list for demolition. However it was reconstructed as a reminder of peace and a new inscription was placed on one side… “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, urging peace”. Sitting on the top of Sigator is the statue ‘Bavaria’ driving a chariot pulled by four lions.

Between Sigastor and the Hofgarten is a university district and home to the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. There is also a monumental church amongst all the university buildings here called Ludwigskirche, built between 1829-44. It is renowned for having the second largest fresco in the world situated over the high altar.

We passed the giant equestrian statue again of Ludwig I over the road from the Hofgarten and crossed over Brienner St, the pathway the marching Nazis took from Koningsplatz in 1923 on their way to death and glory in the Beer Hall Putsch battle further up the road near the Felderrnhalle. It was quite the walk around this area of Munich but very satisfying to find ourselves back at Marienplatz, still walking and happy with our guide’s guidance and company for the afternoon.

MUNICH…Visiting the Marienplatz and places nearby

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