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Munich has made a name for itself in recent years - for its architecture, its airport, an architectural wonder, and its festivals. Now it is celebrating its 850th year.
Munich has become one of Europe's most popular cities of late. With its many examples of extraordinary architecture, its awesome museums, its fine restaurants and classy department stores, and its famous mid-winter Fasching, not to mention the annual Oktoberfest, it is attracting more visitors by the year. Founded in 1158 as the capital of the German state of Bavaria, Munich this year is celebrating its 850th anniversary with great ceremony. The city where the 20th Olympic Games were held in 1972 is also home to the Bayern München football team.
When you arrive at Munich Airport, which has the distinction of being one of the busiest in the world, you immediately realize that you are coming to an extraordinary city. For one thing, the terminal is an architectural wonder. Annually awarded as one of the world's best, the facility has been voted the best in Europe for four years now, which goes to show the high quality of service it offers. An estimated 36 million people will pass through it in 2008. Surveys conducted in Germany also indicate Munich to be the country's most successful and interesting city. There are 45 different museums and collections in Munich, all of which stand out architecturally. Pinakothek Der Moderne, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Brandhorst museums with their modern buildings erected since 2000 deftly bridge the gap between past and future. And sometimes an ultra modern annex will form the continuation of a museum in an old palace, creating pleasant contrasts and reflecting the often centuries of separation in time between the works exhibited. There are three Pinakotheks - old, new and modern - in the city's Kunstareal or art district. The Old Pinakothek houses works by the Medieval Masters, the New Pinakothek works of the 19th and 20th centuries. The most impressive of the new ones, the Pinakothek der Moderne has fine examples of the graphic arts, design and architecture. The works of world-famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Albert Dürer, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso are found in these three museums. Still another museum in the Kunstareal is the Glyptothek, first opened in 1816, with its fine collection of artifacts from the Greek and Roman periods.
With a population of close to 1.4 million, Munich boasts sixty theaters and three symphony orchestras as well as an opera and ballet which are part of the Munich National Theater, opened in 1818. The Residenz and Gartnerplatz Theaters are among the city's most popular venues for important artistic events. The Opera Festival held in Munich in summer is another cultural event and a big drawing card for music lovers and opera buffs.
Karneval means giving up meat during the Lenten fast that precedes Easter. Celebrated in many parts of the world, in Munich it is called 'Fasching'. The entire city becomes a festival during Fasching, in which large numbers of tourists also take part and the revelry continues into the wee hours. Thousands of people gather to watch the processions during Fasching, whose roots go back to the Dionysian and Saturnalian festivals of ancient Rome. This year Fasching began on 21 January and continued through February.
Oktoberfest, which starts at the end of September and lasts through the second week of October, is known as one of the world's largest festivals. The hosts first proceed to the festival grounds in a great cavalcade of musicians and floats. Close to ten thousand people from various European countries form a procession some seven kilometers long. Folklore ensembles and orchestras in the traditional costumes of their countries add color to the scene.
The entertainment continues for days in enormous tents, some of them capable of accommodating ten thousand people, where food and drink to suit every taste is sold. Karneval got its start with the wedding ceremony of King Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810 and soon became a tradition. But war and cholera prevented it from being held for 24 years, so the 2008 festival marks its 175th year. Some 6.2 million people visited the 2007 festival. If you missed this year's Karneval, note the 2009 one on your calendar right now, 19 September to 4 October. And in 2010 it will be from 18 September to 3 October.
Munich also dazzles the eye with its many recently opened nightclubs and restaurants, from establishments boasting Michelin stars to those run by famous chefs. While the clubs on Maximilianstrasse attract a chic crowd that follows the latest fashion, those around Kunstpark Ost draw the university crowd, for whom dress is not a priority. Munich is a city with something for everybody. Shopping freaks can shop till they drop on Maximilianstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse, where famous brand names from the couteur capitals of Paris and Milan have long since carved out a niche. For those who prefer malls, there are Maximilianhof and Fünf Hof with their vast array of shops. People in search of the splendor of the past go to Schrannenhalle. This old structure in the city center is a giant restored bazaar with countless alternatives from handicrafts to shops to delight gastronomes.
Located in the foothills of the Alps, Munich is also a skiing capital with ski centers like Sudelfeld, Spitzingsee and Brauneck to its south just an hour from the city center. Sudelfeld appeals to families while Spitzingsee is a favorite with the experts. Munich was founded on 14 June 1158 and was the scene of extensive construction activity during the reign of King Ludwig I. As one of Europe's leading cities of art and culture, it opens its arms to tourists. Five million people came last year alone. If you want to be one of this year's visitors, Turkish Airlines flies to Munich's magnificent new airport every day of the week.