Unveil some of the best kept secrets of Munich Old Town with our inside information…
H o f b r ä u h a u s
A beer hall or, rather, beer hell? Formerly a brewery, Munich’s oldest beer hall has a sticky history. A bit gross, too. Originally designed without a toilet as any ordinary brewery, it gradually expanded and became a gathering place of beer lovers. Poor men wouldn’t let even the lack of toilet prevent them from enjoying their beloved beverage. To empty their bladders, Hofbräuhaus visitors had no other choice but to use the outdoor street gutters. Leaving their seats at long tables was risky, however, and often times they would return to see both their beer mug and their seat having been taken. Out of necessity comes invention! As they got sick and tired of losing their seat to someone else, they started doing their business right there under the table! To warn people opposite about the impending splash-back danger, they came up with another invention – a cane for hitting people sitting across the table! Nobody appreciated the bruises that resembled those of the black plague so they decided to give the cane a makeover. The upgraded cane contained a channel inside with the main purpose of channelling the urine into the ditches under the table. Luckily, modern times have seen birth of the toilet and nowadays Hofbräuhaus has a toilet for each sex.
T h e F o u r L i o n s o f t h e R e s i d e n z
The magnificent residence of Bavarian kings and dukes still holds an important place in the Old Town scenery. Guarded by four lions day and night, the castle is still a tourist’s favourite. Rarely will any passer-by miss the opportunity to touch the lions and rub their heads for “good luck”. Not everyone knows, however, that these famous lions have a very special role! The four lions of the Residence are no less than virtue treasurers! Representing the four cardinal virtues that every ruler of a state should have, the lions stand for Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temper.
Prudentia – The ruler must know how to lead and direct their people through difficult times. This is symbolised with an image of a ship on the shield held by a lion.
Iustitia – The coat of arms held by the second lion has a shining sun representing the light in judgement so much needed by a fair ruler.
Fortitudo – The sharp rock buffeted by the rising waves, portrayed on the shield held by the third lion, points to the strength a perfect ruler owes to possess.
Temperamentia – A clock engraved on the shield held by the fourth lion suggest the perfect ruler must be patient and clever enough to recognise the perfect time for a decision.
L i n d w u r m
The imposing Town Hall at Marienplatz may mislead you to believe it is an ancient building. The truth is, it was erected only a little over one hundred years ago. Built in a Gothic Revival style, this symbol of Munich looks truly spectacular. The elaborate facade hides numerous details inspired by the Middle Ages which hold some of the most interesting myths and legends of Munich. A dragon statue ominously looks down on passers-by from Wurmeck, the western corner of the Town Hall.
The name is not new, however. It dates back to the 17th century when the black death ravaged Europe and killed over 7000 Munich citizens. It was believed that a huge wingless dragon flew over the city and brought the plague with his poisonous breath. Several brave men succeeded in killing the monster with a cannon shot at the very spot where Wurmeck is today. If you come close enough, you will see not only the dragon statue, but also statues of the people running for their life and the brave dragon killers who, apparently, saved the city.
P u t t i a t t h e P i l l a r o f H o l y M a r y
Holy Mary is the most revered character on the Bavarian religious scene. A golden pillar devoted to Patrona Bavariae was placed at Marienplatz, Munich’s main square named after her. The curious thing is the addition of four putti, armed infant cherubs typical of Baroque. The four victorious angels are there to fight off the evils which followed the Thirty Years’ War which rampaged Europe: famine, pestilence, war and heresy, represented by a dragon, basilisk, lion and snake. The pillar is the favourite meeting point in Munich Old Town.
B r e z e n r e i t e r
Germany is home to the Old Salt Route, the leading medieval trade network of roads which were used for transporting salt, the white gold of the past that made many people rich back in the day. One affluent German couple decided to pay it back to the society by feeding free pretzels to the poor and homeless in Munich once a year. A rider on a grey horse would ride into the city and share the pretzels with the poor. One year the rider didn’t have enough food for everyone and the raging crowd got him off the horse and attacked him. He’s still portrayed in some frescoes in the churches in Munich Old Town. Literally translated, brezenreiter means a rider with pretzels.
G o l d s m i t h
Once upon a time, there was a renowned goldsmith in Munich whose workshop was right at the western gate tower of the ancient city fortification. Legend has it, the unfortunate goldsmith was commissioned by a prosperous man to create an expensive jewellery piece. One day the precious jewel was simply gone. Naturally, everyone blamed it on the poor goldsmith and he was sentenced to unjust death. As the wretched man was being taken through the gate tower, also known as Schöner Turm (a beautiful tower), to be executed, he yelled: “One day you’ll find out the truth, you’ll realise that I’m not guilty!”. Soon after the execution they found a jackdaw’s nest on the tower and the said jewel lying in it. It is believed that even nowadays the souls of unjustly executed people still roam the area. Be careful at night.