Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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October 2000

Culture Shock

Centuries of beer garden tradition at risk

My husband, a native of Munich, is passionate about the rules that govern a beer garden — if you can’t bring your own food then it doesn’t qualify.
He delights in telling every tourist or visitor to our home the story of how the first beer gardens came into being. Who could have known that, when King Ludwig I of Bavaria gave the brewers here permission to sell beer, but not food, directly from their beer cellars, a Munich institution would be born. Back in the days before refrigeration, it just made sense to sit down and enjoy the frothy beverage on the premises while it was still cool.
The plots of land on which these breweries were located had been planted plentifully with chestnut trees, chosen for their expansive, strong, leafy limbs, which provided the shade that was to keep the ground temperature — as well as the amber thirst quencher stored below — as cool as possible. I often wonder who was the first Münchner to have the idea of packing a picnic and spending the afternoon there.
One thing is for sure, they did not give the health of the lush chestnut trees a second thought. Little did they know that some 160 years later, the greenery, which characterizes our beer gardens, our parks and the banks of the Isar, would be in real danger. In the Last Word this month Lisa Hock explains the problem, how city officials plan to deal with it and her own affection for the Munich fixture.

Speaking of local traditions, Kathleen Saal explains the history and the man behind Leonhardiritt, a colorful procession that is held in villages scattered across southern Bavaria in October and into November.

This month we were fortunate to interview two authors and thus expanded our book section to two pages. Joe Klein, author of the political novel The Running Mate, gives us a timely interview in light of the upcoming U.S. elections.
Munich resident Mary Sharratt talks about her first novel, Summit Avenue, the story of a German immigrant’s experiences in America.

The Lange Nacht der Museen (long night of the museums) will highlight the city’s cultural calendar again this year, on October 21. You will find the details in News & Views. Perhaps a late night trip to the Thomas Theodor Heine exhibition at the Lenbachhaus is just your ticket. In the Arts section this month Claudia Hellmann shares a bit of history of this painter and political cartoonist made famous by his time in Munich.

Autumn harvest months are a perfect time to spend a weekend in wine country. Instead of heading to Italy or France this year, why not explore the wine region of Bavaria — Franken. Kerry Stewart takes a look at the region and offers plenty of advice for designing an unforgettable weekend of wine tasting.

One of my favorite paintings, Max Liebermann’s Münchner Biergarten (1863-1864) can be admired in the Neue Pinakothek. The painting portrays the beer garden much as I see it today — young and old passing the time side by side in the tradition of true Bavarian Gemütlichkeit. I hope this 19th-century image will continue to be a reflection of the beer gardens of the 21st century.

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