In the interest of expediency, here are some excerpts from the Lonely Planet - Germany chapter on Bavaria:
Pulsing with prosperity, Munich (München) revels in its own contradictions. Folklore and age-old traditions exist side by side with sleek BMWs, designer boutiques and high-powered industry. Its museums include world-class collections of artistic masterpieces, and its music and cultural scenes give Berlin a run for its money.
Despite all its sophistication, Munich retains a touch of provincialism that visitors find charming. The people’s attitude is one of live-and-let-live – and Müncheners will be the first to admit that their ‘metropolis’ is little more than a world village.
It was Benedictine monks, drawn by fertile farmland and the closeness to Catholic Italy, who settled in what is now Munich. The city derives its name from the medieval Munichen, or monks.
Munich prospered as a salt-trading centre but was hit hard by the plague in 1349. The epidemic subsided only after 150 years, whereupon the relieved Schäffler (coopers) initiated a ritualistic dance to remind burghers of their good fortune. The Schäfflertanz is performed every seven years but it is re-enacted daily by the little figures on the city’s Glockenspiel (carillon) on Marienplatz.
By the 19th century an explosion of monument building gave Munich its spectacular architecture and wide Italianate avenues. Things got out of hand after King Ludwig II ascended the throne in 1864, as spending for his grandiose projects bankrupted the royal house and threatened the government’s coffers.
Munich has seen many turbulent times but last century was particularly bumpy. WWI practically starved the city to death, the Nazis first rose to prominence here, and the next world war nearly wiped the city off the map.
The 1972 Olympic Games began as a celebration of a new democratic Germany, but ended in tragedy when 17 people were killed in a terrorist hostage-taking incident. In 2006 the city won a brighter place in sporting history, when it hosted the opening game of the FIFA World Cup.
Today, Munich’s claim to being the ‘secret capital’ of Germany is alive and well. The city is recognized for its high living standards and for an haute couture that rivals Paris and Milan.
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