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June 1997

Munich's Splashiest Fountains: A User's Guide

The history and future of Munich's fountains

If there were a Fortune 500 of fountains, Munich would top the list. In fact, with more Brunnen(fountains) than any other German city - 500, to be exact - Munich would be the list. But how many ofus can name more than a few? Here's a guide to the city's finest "fontane," from stately to silly, so you can get started on your personal list of front-runners. COMEDIANS AND COMPOSERS Many of Munich's loveliest fountains commemorate famous people or historical events connected with the city. The six statues in the Viktualienmarkt, each by a different sculptor, represent some of Munich's most popular folksingers and comedians. They include folksinger Weiss-Ferdl and celebrated Bavarian entertainers Rolder Jackl, Elise Aulinger and Ida Schumacher, who collectively performed in countless Bierkeller at the turn of the century. Also look for the statue of the archetypal Viktualienmarkt Frau. Every Münchner knows the market's most memorable pair of fountains: the legendary comic-actor Karl Valentin, in a jaunty pose, with partner Liesl Karlstadt standing nearby. Few, however, are aware of the irony behind the memorial. Despite his pre-World War II popularity, Valentin died in poverty and near starvation; now he stands eternally surrounded by Weißbier and Würstl. Nearby, in the Fußgängerzone, some of the city's most popular fountains can be found. Outside Michaelskirche, the towering six-meter-high column of the Richard-Strauß-Brunnen seems a fitting tribute to Munich's best-known composer. Designed by Hans Wimmer in 1962, it is decorated with scenes from Strauss' opera Salome. Further up the street, near Karlstor, stands the Brunnenbüberl (Fountain Boy). This naked young boy was initially greeted by public outcry in 1895, when local sculptor Matthias Gasteiger refused to supply him with a fig leaf; nevertheless, he went on to win the gold medal at a prestigious international sculpture competition in Paris and is today Munich's best-loved fountain. A FULL PURSE There was once a fish market beside Konrad Knoll's famous Fischbrunnen (Fish Fountain) at the northeast corner of Marienplatz. This is where butchers' apprentices used to be "baptized" into the profession in a tradition known as "Butcher's Leap." It's long been said that the fountain's waters have the power to bring good fortune, and that if you wash your purse there on Ash Wednesday, it will never be empty. Indeed, the mayor keeps this custom alive, washing the city's purse in the fountain every year during Fasching. The original Fischbrunnen by Knoll was erected in 1862-65; sadly, it suffered severe damage in 1944 and had to be rebuilt ten years later by Josef Henselmann, who skillfully used some of the original bronze. Today the fountain is a busy, vibrant meeting place right in the heart of Munich. Another favorite meeting place and popular picnic spot is nearby at the Rindermarkt (cattle market), where a modern statue of three cows and a cowherd built by Henselmann in 1964 marks the site of an ancient marketplace on the old city limits. In the 18th century, the area today housing the Viktualienmarkt was a grassy field outside the city, a stopping place for stage coaches and where cattle grazed before being sold at the Rindermarkt. WITTELSBACH FOUNTAINS Perhaps the city's most grandiose fountain, the Wittelsbacherbrunnen (Wittelsbach Fountain), lies inside the Residenz, in the handsome eight-sided Brunnenhof (Fountain Courtyard), and was erected in honor of Duke Otto von Wittelsbach. At the foot of the central bronze figure of the duke (by Hans Krumpper, 1610-20) lie four allegorical river gods symbolizing Bavaria's main rivers: the Danube, the Isar, the Lech and the Inn. The fountain is further embellished by an outer ring of statues depicting the gods and godesses Juno, Neptune, Vulcan and Ceres, and an assortment of grotesque fish, frogs and monsters, all by Hubert Gerhard (ca. 1600). (The Residenz is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 until 16:30). Perhaps better known, though, is Munich's other Wittelsbacherbrunnen - a particularly elegant, neo-Baroque ensemble built by Adolf Hildebrand (1893-95) that lies on the eastern side of Lenbachplatz, surrounded by magnificent 19th century facades against a lush backdrop of trees. Erected to commemorate the completion of the city's new municipal water-supply system, it was considered the loveliest fountain in Europe at that time. It portrays a man on horseback powerfully hurling a stone, and a woman seated on a bull, meekly offering a bowl of water, symbolizing both the destructive and healing powers of water. Countless squares throughout the city boast fountains by Hildebrand, including the majestic Vater-Rhein-Brunnen (Father Rhine Fountain, 1902) at Ludwigsbrücke near the Deutsches Museum, where the medieval salt route crossed the Isar to Munich. At the end of Nymphenburg Canal near Waisenhausstraße is the neo-Baroque Hubertusbrunnen (1903), which reflects the arcadia that Neuhausen once was. This is Munich's tallest fountain, boasting a 10-meter jet of water. LESS-FAMOUS FOUNTAINS Not even the natives generally know the story behind Munich's largest fountain, Haidhausen's Bordeaux-Brunnen, a massive 180-square-meter basin of water framed by statues of wild animals at each corner and constructed in 1870. Originally, it was called the Brunnen mit jagdbaren Tieren, or Fountain with Hunted Animals. More of a giant wading pool than a fountain, it was designed as a children's play area, but it became so popular that local residents complained about all the noise. Consequently, the fountain was renamed the Bordeaux-Brunnen in September 1976 to commemorate new, friendly-neighbor relations with the sister city of Bordeaux (pleasing local residents near the new "Bordeaux-Platz" along the way). Children today can delight in Luitpold Park's Pumuckl-Brunnen - a cheeky, fairy-tale character who douses passersby when they least expect it. Another little-known and unusual fountain is the monumental Diana-Brunnen, which was erected in 1908 by Matthias Gasteiger (also the sculptor of the Brunnenbüberl) in Kufsteiner Platz. The Diana-Brunnen is designed in the then-fashionable Jugendstil and features a naked Diana (goddess of hunting) leaning against a stag on a massive throne of rock. Sadly, this fountain has seen better days. FOUNTAIN-AID Indeed, as many of Munich's fountains are in urgent need of restoration, a massive project was recently organized by the Münchner Kulturbaufonds to do so. The Diana-Brunnen alone needs DM 375,000 to return to its former glory and the Bordeaux-Brunnen needs a staggering DM 700,000. If you'd like to donate to this worthy cause, thereby becoming a "Fountain Friend," contact Horse Haffner at 233-228 01 for more information. Alternatively, a special account has been established at the Stadtsparkasse München (Konto-Nr. 203 000) to accept corporate and individual donations; if you have any preferences, remember to specify which of Munich's fabulous fountains you wish your money to help restore. 12 MORE FOUNTAINS TO VISIT: Stachusbrunnen, Karlsplatz-Stacchus. Glasbrunnen, Oskar-von-Miller-Ring 3. Universitätsbrunnen (twin fountains outside the university), Geschwister-Scholl-Platz and Professor-Huber-Platz. Radlbrunnen, at the corner of Hackenstraße and Brunnenstraße. Fortuna-Brunnen, Isartor. Die Waage der Gerechtigkeit, Marstallplatz. Springbrunnen, Karlsplatz-Rondell, (in Starnberg). Denkmal-Brunnen, Sendlingertor. Wassermarch-Brunnen, Rotkreuzplatz. St.-Anna-Brunnen, next to the Kirche St.-Anna in Lehel. A variety of fountains on the grounds of the Haus im Lenbachplatz. A variety of fountains on the grounds of the Nymphenburger Schloß.

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