Erected in towns throughout Bavaria, the maibaum, or maypole, is meant to symbolize the independence, strength and community of a town. A long-standing tradition and closely governed by local regulations, the maibaum has to have a height of at least 30 meters and can only stand for a maximum of 5 years. Once a tree is selected, it is carefully cut and decorated, which typically entails painting it with the Bavarian colors of blue and white, painting and attaching carved wooden symbols representing services, craftsmen and trade guilds in the town and affixing a fir wreath around the top of the pole. The maibaum is erected amid a large festive gathering on the eve of May 1st. Local men from the town, wearing traditional dress, will use their strength and long sticks to raise the pole to a vertical position. Prior to the celebration the pole has to be carefully guarded 24 hours a day as there is an ongoing tradition of neighboring towns to try to steal each other’s maypoles. If the pole is successfully captured then its return must be negotiated for in exchange for free beer and food.
Hofbräuhaus‘ story begins in 1589, when Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria, dissatisfied with the quality of beer in the city, decided that Munich would brew its own. With that decision, Hofbräuhaus was born, though at the time, it only brewed a brown ale. Wilhelm’s son and successor, Duke Maximilian I, changed that as he preferred a wheat beer over the brown ale. Under his control, he forbade all private breweries from brewing wheat beer thereby creating a local monopoly for the brewery. As a result of its growing success, Hofbräuhaus could no longer meet the demands for its beer and the wheat production was moved to a separate facility known as the “white” Hofbräuhaus, which occupied the same location where the beer hall stands today. In 1828, by decree of King Ludwig I, Hofbräuhaus was opened to the public, beginning the tradition of the beer hall as it is known today. By 1852, Hofbräuhaus became owned by the Bavarian State. Unfortunately, due to heavy bombing during WWII air raids, the majority of the beer hall was destroyed and would require major reconstruction. On the 800th anniversary of the celebrated beer hall, the renovations were completed and the new hall was opened as it stands today.
Although undeniably classifiable as a tourist trap, the Hofbräuhaus is well worth any visitor’s time, whether hunkering down at a table for hours or simply walking through the historic beer hall. At any time of the day, the crowd is lively, regularly breaking out into cheers and drinking chants. Indoors, the house brass bands offers additional encouragement to patrons.
“In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus – oans, zwoa, g’suffa!”
Platzl 9 80331 München, Germany