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July 27th, 2007

munich hofgarten_1


“At the Hof” —as I like to call this quintessential formal garden—is … well, as formal as gardens come. Flower borders along straight paths, uniform hedges, a hub-and-spoke design, the temple monument, no-step lawns, little ’n’large fountains, and plenty of comfortable wooden benches along the perimeter walkway from which visitors can take in all of this beauty. A garden holding these goodies is posh by any standards. But first things first.

munich hofgarten_6Number one: the Hofgarten is hidden. If you don’t know where the park is beforehand and then stumble upon it with your nosy-traveler’s intuition, you’ve found “it.” Interpret that word with a look through these pictures. There is peace and quiet here, an open space without the traffic noise, car exhaust, and (let’s face it) tourist body odor. The Hofgarten is a courtyard garden originally built in the late 16th century as part of the Residenz palace buildings of Duke Maximilian I. The geometric paths converge on a central pavilion, crowned by a statue of Diana, a Roman goddess particularly revered by Germans.

To the west is a music college (and you’ll love the clef note railing that separates Hofgarten from the institute’s rear entrance). A picturesque baroque wall blocks the east side from a side street. Murals once decorated the surrounding arcades. Only one survives today, an interesting story mural illustrating life in the Bavarian royal family. This courtyard forms a perfect sanctuary that few tourists seem to know about. But you should.
munich hofgarten_5
Number two: “At the Hof” is a nice place to stop through to recharge your touring batteries. Munich’s major historical buildings, churches, and tourist sites lie inside the traffic ring that circles the old town, just a few blocks south of Hofgarten. If you plan a walking tour of Old Munchen, you’ll easily come within yards of Hofgarten and not even know it without a map in your hand.

Number … Okay, enough with numbers. Hofgarten, by any imagination, creates a place that is more 18th century than 21st. This is especially so in the summertime, when students from the nearby music academy perform jazz or classical music in the dodecahedral pavilion as evening descends across the surrounding arcades. Munchen’s professionals fill up tables in the three cafés open during the warm season, where German celebrities also visit. Sunset envelopes the two-tiered pink church behind the north wall.

(read more about Hofgarten highlights here

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