MUNICH: Short takes

Time to read:

6 minutes

This is a post for topics that deserve more than one photo but not the length of a separate post.

A look at Munich buildings and bridges makes it clear that graffiti, which falls somewhere between vandalism and art, is not simply the work of teens sneaking around at night with spray-paint cans.

Buildings in the Werksviertel (industrial zone) are a huge central location for graffiti.

But bridge columns, highway supports and tunnels are an even more frequent “canvas.” Take the Luitpold Bridge tunnel. Daylight combined with artificial light gives a unique patina to the work on the walls.

The Container Collective at the start of the industrial zone owes much of its personality to the painters.

Elegant, staid Munich can be a bit outlaw. 

A lot of the city’s graffiti is hidden, but public Munich is a glorious outdoor gallery. The pedestrian tunnel under the Oskar-Mueller Ring is home to the Munich Art Tunnel project.

Painting on the walls is OK with the city, which wants to draw people to the area. In 2025, the tunnel entrances will be filled in, and the space will become part of a city hot-water network.

Until then, it’s a gallery.


For all the destruction the pandemic brought retail, the virus is one reason that Shanigarten blossomed. People wanted to go to cafes and restaurants, but they didn’t want to sit on top of one another.

“Shanigarten” are those restaurant or cafe extensions of tables and chairs that often occupy former parking spaces.

Some Shanigarten are ingeniously constructed; others are just pallets and raffia mats.

There are 600-700 Shanigarten in Munich, typically approved by the city for the warm months.

Many say they started in Vienna. But don’t let anybody tell you where the term comes from. Nobody really knows.


Peeking across the wire fence, you can get a glimpse of a Schrebergarten (Schreber garden), also known as a Kleingarten (small garden).

These usually are a small piece of land some distance from a person’s house, which they can typically rent to grow fruits, vegetables or flowers.

The allotments are named for Dr. Daniel Schreber, who in the 1800s wanted to create more outdoor spaces for children’s exercise in his hometown of Leipzig.

He asked the city to lease small plots of land for this purpose, and the Schrebergarten was born. 

Right after WWII, the gardens were primarily for growing your own produce during hard times. Today, they’re still about gardening but also simply about peace away from the hubbub of the city.

Munich has 79 allotment garden areas, containing about 8,700 plots. It takes four to six years for a plot to become available. The Munich Allotment Garden Association has closed its waiting list because no reasonable prospect of acquiring an allotment exists.

Still, the price is right. A typical plot of about 2,700 square feet costs about $150 a year.

City gates

Three gates of the old city wall still stand on the west and south sides of the Inner Ring road that runs where the wall did (around the city center).

The first fortified wall around Munich was completed with four gates in 1175, and a second with eight gates was built farther out between 1285 and 1337.

The center-most gate is the Karlstor (Karl’s Gate). The king created a square nearby, officially known as Karlsplatz. The gate was integrated into plans for the new square by adding wings to each side. 

The Karlstor originally had three towers, but the central, tallest tower was destroyed in 1857 in an explosion of gunpowder stored there.


At the southern edge of old-town Munich, Sendlingertor is another of the three remaining city gates from the 14th Century. Sendlingertor was on the Sendlinger Road, a main trade route from Munich to Italy during Medieval times.

The two brick towers were built in 1318 and remain the oldest part of the city gates still standing. 

2014 photo

Above is how it looked when I studied down the street. That’s the shopping mile, a pedestrian area, behind the gate.

This was on the same block as school, and at lunchtime, I regularly wandered down and bought a sandwich and fruit from a red, tented cart on the square.

Today, there’s construction everywhere. The subway station below Sendlingertor has been undergoing renovation since 2017 and is due to be finished this year.

Six of the city’s eight subway lines converge there on two platform levels. During the day, trains come into the station about every three minutes. The renovation will give the 150,000 passengers a day more room on the platforms. 

2014 photo

Kennedy’s on Sendlingertor square was a favorite place for lunch. While the multi-level transit and shopping center underground grows sleeker and chic, above ground it’s commercial turmoil.

This whole seating area in front of Kennedy’s has disappeared.

For years, fashionable clothes, jewelry and pastries lured shoppers and strollers, and shop fronts were full. But the pandemic thinned crowds; rents have risen more quickly than sales; independent operators have surrendered; and chains have moved in — and now and then an empty storefront can be seen. 

Even if subterranean construction here ends on time, this area will be in flux above ground for a decade or more.


The third gate is the Isartor (Isar Gate) near the river, east of the old center.

It may have been the most important gate because Henry the Lion built a bridge nearby and rerouted the Salt Road from Bad Reichenhall and Hallein through Munich. That established the city. 


Anyone who lives by public transportation in Munich knows the Stachus, one of the city’s main traffic hubs. Above ground, Stachus serves as a hub for the city’s streetcars and regional trains, with a four track tram station on the line that circles the old town.

During the summer, a large fountain operates in front of the Karlstor (Karl’s Gate), and in winter an open-air ice rink is installed.

Below, the Stachus Passage is one of the city’s largest underground shopping centers. The subterranean structure is almost 400 yards long, 180 yards wide and 40 yards deep, featuring many restaurants and stores.

2014 photo

In the Stachus’ underground mall, I often lunched at Pano, where sometimes live music could be found even during the middle of the day.

Actually, “Stachus” is one of two names for the square. In 1777, the Elector Karl Theodor took over the government of Bavaria. First, he made himself unpopular with plans to exchange Bavaria for estates in Austria. Then he started renaming locations around the city after himself, including this square.

The people rebelled and called the square “Stachus,” after a nearby tavern. Even today, many locals refuse to use the name “Karlsplatz.” The square is called “Stachus” even in the electronic announcements on the streetcar and subway. 

The Stachus underground mall attracts a wide variety of people.

After WWII, Stachus reportedly had the highest traffic density in Europe. That persisted until its eastern section, just behind the Karlstor, was turned into a pedestrian zone during preparations for the 1972 Olympics.

Today, the zone is the start of a prestigious shopping area (Kaufinger Strasse, Neuhauser Strasse, Marienplatz).

Next: Scene on the street


2 responses to “MUNICH: Short takes”

  1. Ken Avatar

    These Schrebergartens must be a Germanic thing. We saw them along the railroad tracks in urban areas when we took the train from Vienna to Salzburg. Nice custom.

    1. Clint Swift Avatar

      Right. The little gardens show up in cities and towns across Germany. And across other countries, too, apparently. When I mention an allotment garden, I’m often told it’s nothing special. But in a big city such as Berlin or Munich, it is special to residents, as you can tell from the long waiting lists.

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