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Munich, Capital of Bavaria

Munich, Germany

Visiting the pedestrian-friendly core of Munich, we see the bombed-out but rebuilt main square, a thriving farmers market and beer garden, and bony relics in St. Peter’s Church.

Complete Video Script

Munich is considered Germany’s most livable city. While packed with history, it’s also this country’s Hollywood and Silicon Valley, all rolled into one. This city celebrates its traditions with gusto, and at the same time, it remains a modern cultural force.

Marienplatz, or “Mary’s Square,” marks the old center. The neo-Gothic New City Hall — or Neues Rathaus — is only about 100 years old. It dominates the square. This inviting town square is now Munich’’s living room.

The glockenspiel performs at the top of the hour as the Bavarian royal couple — celebrating their wedding day — oversees a joust. Bavaria always wins… and the coopers do their jig.

Virtually all you see was bombed flat in World War II and rebuilt since.

After the war, Germany’s destroyed cities debated how they’d rebuild — they could reconstruct their old centers, or bulldoze and start over from scratch. While Frankfurt voted to go modern (and today it’s nicknamed "Germany’s Manhattan"), the people of Munich decided to rebuild their old center.

Buildings cannot exceed the height of the church spires. Today, Munich’s downtown is vital — people come here, rather than to suburban malls, to do their shopping.

Munich’s main drag is one of Europe’s original great pedestrian zones. Local business people were enraged in 1972 when cars were first prohibited. But now, with 9,000 shoppers passing their display windows each hour, shopkeepers are happy. Imagine this street in hometown USA.

I’m being joined by my friend and Munich guide, Georg Reichlmayr.

Rick: So, it’s Reichlmayr?
Georg: Rrrreichlmayr!!
Rick: Reichlmayr.
Georg: So you know Bavaria, the state, is a very conservative part of Germany, but München, the capital, is different. It’s a very liberal city. One of the ideas of the council is to keep the traffic outside, and that makes downtown München a very silent place. It’s quiet over here, you have green areas always and a good public-transportation system, so leave your car outside.

You can still feel small-town Munich here at the Viktualien Market, long a favorite with locals for fresh produce and friendly service. While this most expensive real estate in town would have been overrun by fast-food places, Munich keeps the rent low so these old-time shops can carry on.

The Viktualien Market’s beer garden taps you into great budget eating. Stalls sell the best wurst, sandwiches, produce, and much more.

All six of Munich’s breweries enjoy a share of the business: At the beer counter, a sign — which changes every day or two — announces which of the beers is being served. Today’s beer is Paulaner.

Beer gardens like this go back to the days when breweries stored their beer in cellars under courtyards kept cool by the shade of bushy chestnut trees. With the inviting shade and all that cool beer so handy, it was only natural that tables were set up, and these convivial eateries evolved.

The twin and distinctive domes of the 500-year-old Frauenkirche are the symbol of Munich, but an even more historic church is nearby.

St. Peter’s Church is Munich’s oldest. Built where the early monks probably settled in the 12th century, it has a fine interior and some eye-catching relics.

They say Munich has more holy relics than any city outside of Rome. Why? Because for over a hundred years, it was the Pope’s bastion against the rising tide of Protestantism up here in northern Europe. And favors done for the Pope earned the city lots of relics as gifts.

The tomb of Mundita, thought to be a second-century martyr, was given to Munich by Rome as a thanks and as a vivid reminder that those who die defending the Roman Church go directly to Heaven without waiting for Judgment Day.