Munich, Bavaria and Wine

Written by Giles MacDonogh

Munich, Bavaria and Wine

Posted: 1st July 2022

If all goes according to plan, this will be a German summer for me and much of it spent in Upper Bavaria, a region which I had never visited before this year. I had been to Kempten in the Allgäu and even gone up into the mountains to buy cheese on a day so misty that you might have convinced me that the land around was as flat as a pancake; but the Allgäu, with its largely Swabian Protestant population, is not typical of Catholic Upper Bavaria.

In June I saw the Bavarian Alps for the first time: the lake at Chiemsee, Füssen, Garmisch, where I tried to spot Richard Strauss’s villa high above the stadium (the Alpine Symphony has been buzzing in my head ever since), the Starnbergersee, Ettal and Oberammergau with its Passion Play and wood carvers. First, I spent a couple of nights in Munich, a city I have known reasonably well since I tried to get a job there between school and university. I ended up living in a maid’s room in a crummy hotel near the Asamkirche, until I ran out of money and slunk off home.

My chief discovery of this last time in Munich was the Augustiner Stammhaus, opposite St Michael’s church in the Neuhauser Strasse. I can’t think why I had never been there before. My delight had more to do with architecture than food, beer or wine. The restaurant, as opposed to the beer hall, has the most wonderful interior with panelled walls, a profusion of antlers, vaulted ceilings and the most wonderful grottos. The Hackerhaus round the corner is also atmospheric, but not to the same degree. Hacker has merged with Pschorr, another beery Bavarian name to conjure with. Richard Strauss’s mother was a Pschorr, something which made the young Richard a man of independent means (to be Pschorr).

Bavarian food is similar to Austrian: pork knuckles, boiled beef, Zwiebelrostbraten, chanterelles with dumplings. Maultaschen (ravioli) etc. Munich (particularly around the Viktualienmarkt) has a few quirks of its own: I wanted Weisswürste, but had forgotten that decent places won’t serve white sausages after midday. Quite a long time ago I came to Munich specially to interview the then mayor, Christian Ude, about why people were no longer eating typical Bavarian food. Weisswürste were on the endangered list, but Munich cafés didn’t make life any easier with their restrictions. If you want the sausages you have to eat them out of their skins with your fingers, have beer with them and sweet mustard; and all that at breakfast time.

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Giles MacDonogh

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