In the Catholic state of Bavaria they take their religious holidays very seriously, which means that shops and offices close on Good Friday (April 9) and Easter Sunday and Monday 11-12 April). However, restaurants and museums remain open. As this is mainly a family holiday, there are few public events in town. People typically have a nice meal of lamb or fish at home with the family and an Easter egg hunt for the children. (Hellabrunn Zoo [see What to see] offers an Easter Egg hunt for children this year). On Fridays during Lent it is tradition not to eat meat, so in most Bavarian restaurants you’ll find a special fish menu.
Considering the rather somber Easter celebration, it may come as some surprise that the real party time in Munich is during Lent when the Starkbierfest ‘strong beer festival’ takes place and the time leading up to it called Fasching or Carnival.
Church Services in English
Anglican-Episcopal church of the Ascension, Emmauskirche, Seybothstr. 4, tel. 648185.
Bible Baptist Church, Balanstr.
St. Bonifaz Catholic Church, Crypt, Karlstr. 34, tel. 399081.
Church of Latter Day Saints, Hofbrunnrstr. 85, tel. 797792.
English-Speaking Catholic Mission, parish center, Landsbergerstr. 39, tel. 5003580.
Gospel Life Center, Am Kiesgrund 2-4, tel 9038803.
Lent is normally thought of as a time to reflect and to fast, but the fasting was a bit too much for the Bavarian monks. Craving something a bit heavier and more substantial during their fast, they came up with an officially sanctioned fasting loophole, Starkbier, which they actually referred to as ‘liquid bread’. As beer is a drink after all, why not just drink a heartier version of it in great quantities to fight back those hunger pangs?
This revolutionary idea couldn’t be implemented of course without the permission of the Pope, so legend has it that a delegation of Bavarian monks was sent with barrels of the stuff for the Pope’s approval, but unfortunately the sensitive Bock beer didn’t survive the long journey, so when the Pope tried it, it was spoiled. The taste was so dismal the Pope instantly sanctioned its use during Lent, thinking that no one in his right mind would want to drink it anyway. So, the happy tradition continues on to this day, but also in secular circles.
Unlike other beer festivals in Munich, the Starkbierfest attracts an elite crowd and fewer tourists. The most famous host to the Starkbierfest, Paulaner am Nockherberg, is also famous for their exclusive political rally at the opening of the festival, with the German chancellor candidates in attendance. Political caricatures of the nations finest unabashedly slugging it down inevitably appear in the morning papers. But, we suppose if the monks can get away with it, why can’t the politicians. Sobriety at the Starkbierfest certainly doesn’t last long. As soon as the politics are over the lumberjack/strong man contests start and the beer guzzling really gets going.
Venues (see Brewery Houses section):
Paulaner am Nockherberg 11/3-28/3
Löwenbräukeller; February 27 - April 4
Augustinerkeller; March 12-27
Unions-Bräu Haidhausen; March 12-26