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This is the face of Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität, the city’s renowned social-sciences college. University life is part of living in the big city, and Munich is no exception.

The main buildings of Munich’s largest universities — LMU, the Technical University of Munich and the Academy of Fine Arts — are close in, steps from the city center. Some buildings go back centuries.

Historic fountains in front of the LMU, inspired by the fountains of Rome, were renovated earlier this year. Water pressure removed 15 coats of paint.

The hue originally was gold, but it turned to green. After renovation, the color was green again because “people have gotten used to it,” an LMU official said.

Part of being a student is mixing with others, and the ubiquitous sidewalk cafe is just the place to do it. Even if you’re not enrolled at the university, it’s fun to share a table.

Cadu — “Cafe an der Universität” (cafe at the university) — is a traditional hangout across the street from the LMU. Less appreciated by passers-by or guide books is the garden cafe behind that wall.

You can sip a Helles (half-liter of pale lager) or a cup of coffee at your leisure, shielded from busy Ludwigstrasse traffic. Not that hangovers are common in the university area, but last time I checked, you could get breakfast here until 10 at night.

But main buildings and streets are just part of the story. Student life really thrives in side streets packed with book shops, copy drop-offs, fruit stands, ice cream kiosks, bakeries and bars.

Boutique stores and clothing outlets get lots of attention from students, family members and friends.

It’s a treat just to roam the streets of this lively quarter, but it got out of hand during the pandemic, especially at night. Noise and activity increased outdoors when people couldn’t congregate indoors. Crowds dominated the streets, and city officials complained the streets were in danger of becoming one big outdoor bar area. Noise complaints have diminished since pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Popularity led officials to extend Shanigarten, the sidewalk/parking-area extensions of cafes and restaurants, from April to October. The Shanigarten continue to rouse the ire of some, especially disabled in wheelchairs, people in a hurry, trades people with tool carts, etc.

Meanwhile, Max Emanuel, or “Max E,” is not the same. When the right-wing AfD held an election party in the popular brewery in 2017, protestors descended. Police cordoned off the area.

After that, the former student favorite became increasingly unpopular with young people, and there was repeated talk of a student boycott.

Today, Max-E, with its 700 seats under chestnut trees out back, has reopened under new management. But at least one person considered the clientele a little lame.

On social media, he wrote that the new Max is best suited to students “who have studied business administration because they are supposed to take over their father’s company or law firm one day.”

Katzentempel is a chain, but it was Munich’s first cat cafe and it’s full of students. The cats come from shelters, and a staffer said part of the proceeds go back there.

Fraternities are part of college life in Munich, too. At a traffic light, university youths ask motorists — even motorcyclists — if they want their windows washed for a contribution.

An imposing conclusion to the university stretch is the Siegestor (victory gate), a 60-foot-high triple arch crowned by the goddess Bavaria and a chariot drawn by four lions.

Originally dedicated to the Bavarian army, the Siegestor today is a memorial to peace. On one face is carved “em Sieg geweiht, vom Krieg zerstört, zum Frieden mahnend” (dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, urging peace).

A noted British scholar writes that it’s important for the Germans, given their 20th Century history, to point their monuments to the future.

“I know of no other country in the world that … erects monuments to its own shame,” Neil MacGregor wrote. “Like the Siegestor in Munich, they are there not only to remember the past but — and perhaps even more importantly — to ensure that the future be different.”

Next: Old North


4 responses to “MUNICH: LMU”

  1. Ken Avatar

    Love that cat cafe and the (apparently) well-fed denizen perched on the platform handing from the ceiling.

    1. Clint Swift Avatar

      The cafe was vegan. But that cat sure looked like it loved meat and potatoes.

  2. Ken Avatar

    I also liked MacGregor’s comment about how Germans try to re-orient their monuments to the future rather than a shameful past. But all this grief over their past history must produce a lot of dissonance in young Germans. Can they be proud of their national identity or not? Or just parts of it? And what part?

    1. Clint Swift Avatar

      College-age Germans forced a re-evaluation of 20th Century history, starting in the 1980s. After decades of silence among adult Germans, they wanted the Hitler years acknowledged and understood. Some wanted to go further and examine what the country owed the Jews and other countries.

      Now their grandparents are gone, and I don’t find many young Germans who have a living connection to the Hitler years or feel personally responsible for the Nazis. But most I read or talk to seem to understand the need for the reparations the country has paid (and still pays to Holocaust victims) and the special responsibility the chancellor has been speaking about vis a vis the Israelis in the current war with the Palestinians.

      I’d say young Germans are proud of the intellectual and industrial prowess that made Germany the main engine of the EU (up to now). Aware of the past but not tied down because of it.

      That’s not all Germans, of course. That’s why a majority of Germans worry about what it means that the radical-right, anti-EU, anti-immigrant AfD political party has become the second strongest in the country.

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