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March 2005

Crown Jewel

A Trip to Grünwald Castle Is a Historical Eye-Opener

A sense of history is one of the most enriching and fascinating aspects of living in Europe. In Munich this experience is all the more accessible, as local history comes in clean, well-maintained and clearly marked buildings—each jewels unto themselves, which together form a harmonious living museum.

Grünwald Castle is one such historical gem. Set in the well-heeled community of Grünwald, the 13th-century castle sits perched on a bluff overlooking the Isar Valley. An extraordinarily well-preserved example of late medieval architecture, the structure alone is exhibition-worthy. However, it also houses a museum and a selection of exhibits from Munich’s Archaeological Collection (Archäologische Staatssammlung).

Tied inextricably to the earliest days of the Bavarian court, the castle was commissioned by Ludwig II, The Severe (1229–1294), who ruled as Duke of Bavaria from 1253 to 1294. Grünwald Castle’s first residents were Ludwig’s third wife, Mathilde, Countess of Habsburg, and their son, Ludwig, The Bavarian (1294­–1347), who would become the famed Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig IV. As the first Wittelsbach emperor, Ludwig had an enormous impact on Munich’s architectural development. He is credited with bringing the salt-trade monopoly to the city and ensuring the preservation of its earliest architecture, including Marienplatz and the New Town Hall.

As the centuries passed and the power and wealth of the Wittelsbach dynasty grew, opulent palaces, such as Nymphenburg, Schleissheim and Dachau, became the preferred places of residence. Grünwald Castle remained in use as a hunting lodge, but was eventually abandoned. Having fallen into disrepair, the castle was used primarily as a prison for misbehaving nobility and later as an arsenal.

In 1879 Grünwald Castle was purchased at auction by sculptor Paul Zeiller for 10,600 Marks and remained in private ownership until the late 1970s, when it came into the hands of the Bavarian government. Since 1979 Grünwald Castle has been open to the public as a museum devoted to its own history, the work of local artists and Roman artifacts.

Most of Munich’s recorded history begins around 1158, when the city was founded. However, continuing excavations in and around Munich suggest that the area may have been settled as early as the first century AD and was home to both Celtic and Bavarian tribes. In fact, an important Roman trade route passed along the Isar through what is now Grünwald and the site continues to bear ancient fruit for archaeologists and treasure-hunters alike.

On display in the castle are a number of regional artifacts, including grave and altar stones that depict scenes from everyday Roman life. One particularly impressive example is a gravestone relief that shows wine merchants at work. In the basement of the castle are a replica of a Roman kitchen and a reconstruction of an elaborate wall and floor heating system, both of which are based upon local excavations.

In the keep, visitors can find information about the castle’s history. And from its observation point one has an impressive panorama of Munich, the Isar Valley and the Alps. The castle museum also exhibits pastels and oil paintings by Grünwald artist Valentin Pruy as well as wax figures produced by the Zeiller family of sculptors. In addition to the permanent collection the museum also regularly presents temporary exhibitions.

Once you’ve visited the castle, you can easily augment your outing by exploring the many trails along the Isar, or by taking a stroll through Grünwald. And when it’s time for a bite to eat, you’ll have plenty of choices. Directly adjacent to the castle is the Schlosshotel Grünwald Ristorante, which has indoor and outdoor seating and serves decidedly high-end Italian cuisine. Just 100 m north of the castle, on Zeillerstrasse is Café Lindenwirt, where you’ll find a cozy, modern atmosphere and a wide range of meals, snacks and desserts at reasonable prices.

A visit to Grünwald Castle is impressive in itself. But when you include the natural environs of Munich’s charming Villenort to the south, you’ll have both an enriching outing (see “Stepping Out” feature on p. 37) and another reminder of why Munich is such a great place to live. <<<

Grünwald Castle is located in Grünwald at Zeillerstrasse 3 (Tel. 641 32 18). It is easily reach-ed on foot from the last stop on tram line 25 (walk 200 m down to the castle). Grünwald Castle is open seasonally from March 15 to November 30; Wed.–Sun., 10 am–4 pm. Admission for adults costs € 2.

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