If you feasted your eyes on the recent Guggenheim (New York) retrospective of the work of Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944) and now crave a little backstory (not to mention sausages and beer), a week in the countryside of Bavaria is sure to satisfy.
Between Munich and the Bavarian Alps, you’ll find Munter House, also known as Russian House. From 1909 to 1914, this was the summer residence of Kandinsky and his partner at the time, Gabriele Munter (also an accomplished painter). Munter House was the birthplace of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a movement considered a precursor to Expressionism.
If you’re starting out from the United States, you’ll probably be taking a plane. It’s up to you, but there’s something appropriate about choosing Lufthansa for this trip. First class provides an oversize deep blue sweater that you can pull over your black leggings.
When you arrive in Munich, get hold of as many color postcards of Mad King Ludwig as you can. This royal guy had plenty of dark curly hair and fancy outfits. Come December, Ludwig’s image can substitute for that of Santa Claus. As a matter of fact, I find these postcards appropriate for most festive occasions.
Just so you know: One of the Mad King’s castles, Neuschwanstein, was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castles at Disneyland sites worldwide.
From Munich, take the train approximately 70 kilometers south, to Murnau am Staffelsee, a market town in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Don’t worry about lugging your luggage up and down the stairs at the train station. As if by magic, strong citizens, generally of the distaff persuasion, will appear and assist. This seems to be some point of honor. Remember to say “Danke schon.” [Thank you.]
If you’re not familiar with the area, don’t drive yourself crazy looking for a place to stay. The centrally located Griesbrau zu Murnau consists of two restaurants (the informal one serves a daily lunch special), a hotel, and a movie house. Its staff can help you find a car service and anything else. Don’t forget to say “Bitte.” [Please.]
This town isn’t as kitschy-glitzy as neighboring Oberammergau, but in Murnau you can exchange your euros for lederhosen, dirndls, and cuckoo clocks. A dollar is worth less than a euro, so be careful when you say “Stimmt so.” [Keep the change.]
Don’t be surprised if you happen upon a herd of cows.
Before you leave this fairy-tale setting, pick up a CD or two by Hubert von Goisern. You haven’t lived till you’ve heard this Alpenrocker’s version of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” (on his live Wia Die Zeit Vergeht), on which he addresses “Herr Gott.” [Mr. God]