City events: Nymphenburg and Kocherlball, Munich

This week I went to a wonderful concert in the Johannissaal in the Nymphenburger Schloss (castle). It was one of a series of “Liedkunst – Kunstlied” (The art of singing) featuring Angelika Huber (soprano) and Stephan Lin (tenorio), accompanied on the piano by Tung-Hsing Tsai. The room with very high ceilings has room for about 100 listeners, the adjoining concert room Hubertussaal is much larger, for about 220 people. Both grand rooms belong to the oldest part of the castle, the “Brunnturm” from the 18th century, which even today houses one of the oldest mechanical fountain pumps for the large central fountain outside. It was also the home of the elector’s well-servant (kurfürstlicher Brunnknecht) who checked the pump regularly. Both rooms can be booked for events, many good concerts are given on a regular basis.

The castle itself is worth visiting, there are guided tours for visitors. In another wing of the castle you will find the entrance to a great museum “Mensch und Natur”, all about evolution, dinosaurs and animals, birds and human beings all around the world. Entrance is 3,50 for adults, you can book a birthday party or special group tours for kids with specialized Museumspädagogen (educational personnel). There is a fun shop at the entrance with minerals, books, mugs. etc. Downstairs is a large room for school classes with lock-up boxes for their bags and jackets.

If you don’t feel like being indoors, the expansive park behind the castle is great for a nice brisk walk along the canals. In the fall there are the golden leaves, in the winter you may go skating on the canals (safety depth permitting). Some smaller pavilions are tucked into the corners of the park. The Palmengarten Café is not far off.

Around the corner you can enter the Botanical Garden with its lovely café and terrace. Try to be there in February/ March for the butterfly show!

On Sunday July 21, if you are an early bird, you can try out the “Kocherlball” (Cook’s Ball) in the Englischer Garten at 6.00 in the morning. This is a tradition going back to the 19th century when the cooks, gardeners and maids had to get back to the mansion when the rich masters arrived from morning mass. So they organized their ball plein air very early around the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) in the English Garden. Naturally, you will want to wear your best Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses to fit in while whirling around. And if you don’t know how to dance, the Hofbräuhaus organizes free dance lessons to learn all the important local dances. Join the 10,000 others having a ball!

City trip: Füssen, Allgäu – near Neuschwanstein

We took the regional train, a two-hour ride from Munich, on a fine morning to Füssen. Passing the ticket window for tickets to Neuschwanstein, it is only a 4 minute walk to the center. Our group met in front of the Tourist Info Point at the Kaiser-Maximilian Platz. In front of the Info Point there are seven steles or columns with a loose basalt stone on top that dances in circles when the water is turned on. From there we walked to the old part of the town center. There are many lovely little colorful shops. Unfortunately, city planners have evidently not found any solution to keep the loud rumbling through traffic out of the center of town.

Our first stop with the guide was at the town wall built of river gravel from the Lech and wooden beams, of which several parts are still standing. Then we proceeded to the city church St. Mang (Magnus) who slew a dragon (= the evil) as shown on all images and frescoes. St. Mang ostensibly came from Kempten together with St. Gallus. It is legend that his corpse was found in a perfect state of preservation. In Rosshaupten they still have many traditions with horses, where he passed through.

The church is painted white on the inside, with many lovely frescoes and niches depicting saints and Biblical scenes. It was built by Johann Jakob Herkomer after he had been to Rome and Venice in 1717. The stucco was was done by Dominik Zimmermann and the altar by Josef Obermüller where you can see twin portraits on either side of bishops.

In the center you will walk past many enticing shops with beer, wine, clothes, ice cream, bakery goods, market halls, everything. Check out the wheat and baker’s fountain with the bronze flour sacks to sit on.

The name Füssen probably does not originate from Füße (feet) but from fons (lat: fountain) or fauces (lat: gorge). The fountain shown below is the symbol of Füssen. The tourists staying overnight are about 1.3 million whereas the city’s population is about 13 000.

The Sebastiankirche ( St Sebastian’s church) was originally a plague church and built close to the town wall with the Old Cemetary on one side, where you can read interesting epitaphs.

The Holy-Ghost-Hospital Church was built in the 15th century in Gothic style, but burned down in the 18th c. It was later rebuilt in the Rococo style with colorful frescoes of the Holy Trinity. The tripartite window was an idea of J.J. Herkomer and his assistant Zimmermann. The frescoes on the inside show the seven Christian sacraments, in the four corners of the ceiling yoou can find the four (in those days) continents: Africa, Asia, America and Europe. You will also see the seven virtues such as Wisdom and Piety. Holy St. Catherine is the patron saint of the rafters.

Johann Jakob Herkomer was a master artisan of marble, especially the red kind. Marble is basically limestone, which was a long chapter of the town’s history, as can be seen in the old limestone factory with the gigantic smokestack amid all the cultural ‘pearls’. In 1861 the factory produced hemp and rope and twine, now called “Mechanische Seilerwarenfabrik Füssen” using the water power of the river Lech.

Within the Benedictine monastery there are beautiful library / refectory rooms, many lovely statues, a tower with a view and many great exhibits of building lutes and violins. Only the oldest son was permitted to become a lutist.

Our last stop was the castle with its painting galleries and tower with many steps. Take time to stop in the courtyard to look at the painted windows and turrets. If you need a refreshment, there are several great ice cream parlors with gelato e caffè!

Cloister Fürstenfeldbruck and the Klosterstüberl

Should you ever be in the vicinity of Munich, you should head out to Fürstenfeldbruck and its Cistercian cloister with its excellent restaurant. It is not far behind the quaint town and there is a good Autobahn and the S-Bahn nearby.

It seems the Duke Louis II “the Severe” had his first wife Maria of Brabant beheaded, because he read the wrong letter, causing him to believe her unfaithful. He therefore had the choice of founding a monastery or some other difficult task. He chose the friary of Cistercians and quickly obtained papal permission in 1256, but could only begin building 9 years later.

During the 30-year war from 1618-48 the abbey was sacked and monks had to flee to Munich. In 1691 however, the new baroque building were entrusted to the famous court architect Viscardi, later to Ettenhofer and the altars and paintings to the unique Asam brothers. At the bottom of the altar the church also features a beautiful Madonna of the Roman-Gothic period in lime wood which used to be on the main altar. There are services every Sunday. The facade was painted with a special, traditional green.

Don’t forget to stop in the restaurant Klosterstüberl. They offer a large variety of Bavarian “slow” food, have won prizes of excellency and their éclairs and cakes are mouth-watering. Bring along a huge appetite or you won’t manage their portions! In the warm season there are various gardening and other markets in the courtyard.

Landshut – betrothal, ceramics, The Sphere

Tu felix Landshut, nube” must have been the idea of the politically arranged marriage Landshuter Hochzeit 1475 celebrated every four years (next one in 2021) in Landshut – head of the Land Lower Bavaria. The betrothal between the Bavarian Duke Georg der Reiche and Hedwig Jagiellonica, daughter of Kasimir IV Andreas, King of Poland and the wedding festivities are depicted on the walls of the Prunksaal, the Magnificent Hall of the Old Town Hall, Altes Rathaus – or simply go there for the next magnificent celebration, lasting several weeks with parades and knights’ tournaments in historical costumes dating all the way back to 1475.

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close-up of a wall painting in the Rathaus

The town itself started out with the castle Burg Trausnitz and several long, very narrow streets along the river, with the textile and ceramic trade and tanners closest to the water. The Great Fire of 1342 conveniently burned down all the wooden houses in the middle, thereafter only brick and stone houses were built, leaving us with today’s view of the Altmarkt.

The Catholic Church being “mightier than the sword”, there are quite a few churches worth visiting, especially the one recently converted into an exposition hall for works of art by Fritz Koenig, whom everybody will recognize as the creator of The Sphere in front of the World Trade Center and found under tons of debris after nine/eleven, now removed as a symbol of hope and survival to Liberty Park. Fritz Koenig (1924 – 2017) was fascinated by Arabian horses and had lovely ones in his stables and grounds in Landshut. Another of his works, Bildschriften, usually located in Unterföhring, is currently on loan to Florence. Near his former property is the Berufsfachschule für Keramik, a world-renowned school for ceramics.

The nuns of the Ursulinen Kloster were among the very first to promote free education for girls, which they successfully did until not so many years ago. Currently there is a fine exposition ZUgeneigt on their history till 11 November 2018, Wednesday – Sunday.

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Europe Park near Berufsfachschule für Keramik, Landshut

Don’t miss out on the Rosentage (rose festival) in the castle Burg Trausnitz in June (Park and Ride with a shuttle bus up the very steep hill from the Grieserwiese). Do enjoy some typical Bavarian food and (what else?) beer! (Augustiner of course) while you are in Landshut. Enjoy!

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Krustenbraten mit Kraut und Knödel