Munich's Englischer Garten is clearly one of the world's great parks, and it's one of the largest, stretching over 5 kilometres from the center of the city to its northern edge, covering nearly 4 square kilometres.
Obviously, in our short visit, we only got to taste the incredible variety of things the park offers, ranging from riding to biking to sports to concerts and exhibits and even a small surfing area. Yes, surfing. One person at a time, but what other city has that downtown?
The garden dates back to 1789, and one of the most fascinating figures in history, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Born in Massachusetts, Thompson fought on the "wrong" side in the American Revolution, moved to London where he became known as a scientist and a founder of the Royal Institution and a member of the Royal Society. He is considered the father of thermodynamics, and also invented the double boiler and drip coffee pot
Always on the lookout for the next job, he moved to Bavaria to become minister of war and police. One of his innovations was to propose that in peacetime, instead of spending all their time drilling or idling, soldiers should engage in useful work, such as growing food for their tables. The original plan for what is now the Englischer Garten was as fields for military agriculture.
After the Napoleonic wars, the idea of military gardens faded, and recreational uses of the park grew. Large areas of the park were planted in the informal style that was popular in England at the time, and the area took its present name from those 'English gardens.'
The idea was soon expanded to include a public park, one of the electors attempts to curry favor with the locals, who weren't all that much on his side; after he inherited Bavaria on an uncle's death, he tried to trade it for the Austrian Netherlands which were closer to his home in Mannheim. When that fell through, he had a tough selling job for his new subjects!
The army fields are now long gone, and the full extent of the former royal hunting grounds and private lands are now all parkland, and one of the most popular local places for recreation.
Among the most popular features of the park is the beer garden (It's Munich, of course there's a beer garden) near the so-called Chinese Tower and its colorful carousel (which originally was powered by several men on a treadmill in a pit below the attraction).
Hundreds of tables are set around the area, which is connected to the city by a bus route as well as the park paths, with a large open-air food court to one side, where all manner of Bavarian specialties are available, and the two hardest choices are which delicious slices, wursts, salads, potatoes and dumplings to try, and whether to try to balance it all on a tray and carry a stein or so of beer with the other!