Welcome to Miesbach.
Nestled in the foothills of the Alps to the south of Munich, Miesbach is one of the major towns in Upper Bavaria, not least because it is the birthplace of the Trachtenbewegung - a movement which began in the 19th Century to preserve the local costume and customs which were so rapidly being lost throughout central Europe due to industrialization and urbanization.
The town itself lies 688.85 metres above sea level and covers an area of 32.15 square kilometres, the highest point within the district of Miesbach being the 924 metre Stadlberg hill. At last count, on January 1 2006, Miesbach had a population of 12,245.
The thriving town of Miesbach is well worth visiting for its Thursday morning "green" market held on Marktplatz. Visitors might also enjoy the Zuchtviehmarkt (livestock market) which is held in the Oberlandhalle. The brown and white spotted cow known as the Miesbacher Fleckvieh, is bred in this region and exported all over the world. These placid animals are a picturesque sight grazing on the meadows around the town.
Miesbach has one of the loveliest intact historical centres in the whole of Upper Bavaria. Explore its winding lanes and quaint squares, admire its spectacular maypole and soak up the charming Bavarian atmosphere.
There's also plenty on offer for visitors looking for entertainment or sporting activities. Work up a sweat at our Sportpark, take a plunge in our indoor swimming pool, get your skates on at the Eishalle ice rink or try your hand at tennis and shooting. Those of a more cultural bent will enjoy concerts, opera, operettas, theatre or cabaret at the Waitzinger Keller cultural centre.
Preserving and handing on tradition is important to us in Miesbach, so it comes as no surprise that our town is known as the cradle of the Trachten Movement. Miesbach has many artisans' studios and workshops, and is particularly known for shops specializing in the authentic local costume which is still worn by many of the locals as a sign of their deep sense of connection and commitment to their home town.
Join us on a walking tour through the charming town of Miesbach!
A walking tour through historical Miesbach
Walking tour: Waitzinger Keller - Stadtplatz (main square) - Marktplatz (market square) - Lutheran church - Rathaus Straße - Fraunhofer Straße - Rathaus (Town Hall) - Bahnhofplatz (train station) - Marienplatz square - Catholic parish church (approx. 2 hours)
(1) The Waitzinger Keller (Schlierseer Straße 16)
with its impressive vaulted cellar was built in 1877. Originally a beer hall, it was extended in 1905 to include a further ballroom complete with stage on the first floor. The Waitzinger Keller belonged to the brewery of the same name, which had been sold for the princely sum of 43,200 Gilders by the royal but debt-ridden Wittelsbachs to the bourgeois Waitzinger family in 1817 (for more, see number 11 of the tour). After the early death of her husband Max, the feisty Susanne Waitzinger took over the brewery in 1855, and in 1877 had the Keller built amidst a beautiful, flower-festooned garden, thus creating a magnificent beer hall to rival any found at that time in Munich.
In summer 1905, her grandson Carl Fohr began work on the wonderful art nouveau Saal, or ballroom, with its colourful windows and stucco work. The Miesbach artist Alois Dirnberger decorated the Keller with paintings and witty aphorisms, and the festive opening of the new Saal was held on the August the 5th, 1906. With its stage at the southern end and an enormous stained-glass window to the north, the new Saal was comfortably able to accommodate 600 people.
The Saal was the focal point of Miesbach life for many years, but then fell into disrepair and had to be closed in 1976. It was then bought by the Miesbach town council in 1987 and re-opened as a cultural congress centre ten years later.
A wide range of adult education courses are now held in the Waitzinger Keller, and the tourist information office is also housed here. South of the building, behind the car park, is the Oberlandhalle where livestock is auctioned off every Thursday morning.
(2) Trachtenheim (the centre for local costume and customs, Schlierseer Straße 11)
The next stop along the way is known by the locals as the Trachtenhütte. This is the home of the oldest Trachtenverein, a society founded in 1859 for the preservation of local traditions, particularly the wearing of local costume, and which currently numbers some 600 members. This is where the traditional dance group of the Verein rehearses, and where the society holds its meetings.
A painting by Sepp Stallhofer from 1980 portraying people wearing traditional Miesbach dress can be seen when entering the building. Because the Trachten movement had its origins in Miesbach, the traditional dress of the area has become synonymous with Bavarian national costume in general.
If we follow the little path which leads down the hill between the Trachtenhütte and Waitzinger Keller, we come to a small hut, built by volunteers from the Trachtenverein. This ingenious little building has a special feature: the facade can be removed, thus forming a stage. In summer, plays and concerts are held here, the audience watching from under the shade of the surrounding trees. On the terraces of the hill here was once the container in which ice was collected during the winter in order to cool the following summer's beer.
(3) Der Stadtplatz (main square)
Also known by its earlier name of Oberer Markt (upper market square), the Stadtplatz is the location of the town's earliest settlement and lies directly beneath the Miesbach Burgberg hill. Up until the great fire of 1783 which devastated the town, the Stadtplatz was the location of Miesbach's most impressive architecture, and a stopping-point on the old salt route between the Bavarian towns of Rosenheim and Bad Tölz. The little river "Miesbach" from which the town takes its name, now flows under the Stadtplatz, although until 1824 the river was open and used for watering the horses and livestock sold at the market which was held here. The name Miesbach derives from the dialect word for marsh - Mias - and Bach, which signifies a brook or stream
Although the stream was covered over the in the 19th century, it continued to be prone to regular and dramatic flooding, the last time being in 1946. The protective construction was modernized and extended in 1990. The stream now flows under Lederer Straße and Frühlingsstraße, under the railway tracks and thence into the River Schlierach. Above the Stadtplatz can be seen the neues Schloss (new palace) at Münchner Straße 1.
(4) Anwartshaus (Haindlkeller, Rosenheimer Straße 2) The so-called Haindlkeller was once part of the Miesbach palace, and lies at the foot of the Burgberg hill. During the Baroque era, the Anwartshaus was an imposing edifice and home to the prospective successors - Anwärter - to the Maxlrain dukedom. The cellar of the building is notable for its impressive vaulting, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, although the residence which lies above it with its half-hipped roof was not built until 1923, the design being by the historicist architect Karl Wegele. The building was renovated and converted into flats in 1985.
(5) The Kammerer Villa (Rosenheimer Straße 14 a)
was built in 1863 for the court notary, a certain Herr Kammerer, in the historicist style typical of the time of King Maximilian of Bavaria who reigned from 1848 until 1864. The well-known Bavarian poet and Nobel Prize winner Paul Heyse stayed here a number of times between 1887 and 1892.
(6) The Amtsgericht Miesbach (County Court, Rosenheimer Straße 16)
was built in 1901. The neo-renaissance building has retained its function as court house to this day.
(7) The Landratsamt (Rosenheimer Straße 3)
Built in 1914 in a fusion of modern and historical styles, the Landratsamt is the administrative centre for Miesbach and surrounding areas.
(8) The former palace (Münchner Straße 1)
was built to accommodate the local aristocrat Wilhelm von Maxlrain, Baron of Waldeck in 1611, although its current appearance is now very simple. Now used to house government offices, it originally served as the administrative seat of the Waldeck dynasty, although the family itself mostly chose to reside in the nearby palace of Wallenberg which lies to the north of Miesbach. The two-storey building no longer has the typically Bavarian onion-domed towers which once decorated its four corners as they were removed in 1734. This, and the great fire of 1783, divested the building of most of its historical features, and now the entrance hall is the only place where a little of its former Baroque glory is still to be seen.
To the north of the palace can be found the Catholic church of St. Francis. Better known in Miesbach as the "Portiunkula" Church, it was built in 1659 and named after the famous Lady Chapel in Assisi, which was said to be St. Francis's favourite place of worship. The Portiunkula church is unfortunately only used for special occasions and not open to the public.
(9) Weinhaus Beer (Stadtplatz 9)
Not as the name might suggest a building associated with the amber nectar, but rather one linked with the Beer family of wine merchants. Built in 1623 and untouched by the fire of 1783, this is now a pizzeria. The impressive mural depicting the town and St. Florian, patron saint of fire-fighters, dates from 1800 and the decorative frames surrounding the windows are rococo.
(10) The Fountain of St. Michael
with its bronze figure of the saint standing over the vanquished dragon is at the centre of the Stadtplatz. The fountain, dating from 1905, serves as a memorial to those Bavarians killed by the Hapsburgs in the "Christmas Night of Blood" a peasant uprising of the 25th of December, 1705 against the Austrian occupation of Bavaria during the Spanish War of Succession which raged from 1701 until 1715. It also commemorates the fallen in the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, the Franco-Prussian war 1870 - 1871, and those killed in the both World Wars. The fountain with its lovely setting amidst lime trees is characteristic of squares designed at the turn of the 20th century.
The fountain was cast by Ferdinand von Miller whose son Oskar carried out the first long-distance transfer of electricity (for more, see number 23 of the tour). Von Miller the younger also founded Munich's famous Deutsches Museum in 1906.
Many of the buildings around the square are former inns which flourished as a result of both the salt trade and of the establishment of Miesbach as a place of pilgrimage devoted to Mary in the 18th century. The rise of tourism ensured the continuing commercial success of these inns well into the 19th century.
(11) The Waitzinger Bräu brewery (Stadtplatz 12)
This impressive 3-storey building with its characteristic hipped roof dominates the southern side of the square. Unluckily for Miesbach, it was in this brewery that the devastating fire of 1783 began and the edifice we see today was built in the years 1783 to 1785, the art nouveau entrance being added in 1922. The Waitzinger Bräu brewery was acquired by the Waitzinger family in 1817 and developed into the most important private brewery in southern Bavaria, and the largest outside Munich.
The glory days were however not to last. By 1928, Munich Paulaner Bräu already owned the majority of the shares in the Waitzinger Bräu, and the Brewery finally closed down in 1977. Today, only the Hopf Brauerei (Schützen Straße 10) is still active in Miesbach, brewing a popular wheat beer. It is however owned by the Munich brewing conglomerate Paulaner-Hacker-Pschorr.
The fresco on the wall facing the square recalls the famous Miesbach pilgrimage to "the sorrowful mother beneath the cross" which was held annually in the parish church during the 18th Century. This attracted thousands of pilgrims from Bavaria, Swabia and the Tirol and generated considerable wealth for the inhabitants of Miesbach.
According to legend, the miraculous statue of Mary beneath the cross glowed so brightly at night that many of the faithful were drawn to it and, as a consequence, Miesbach became a place of pilgrimage. The first prayer is reported to have been answered in July 1693 when one Thomas Auracher was cured of a severe eye complaint. The volumes in which reported cures are listed record 13,330 instances between 1695 and 1703 alone - some quite spectacular - of prayers having been answered.
(12) The Priesterhaus (presbytery, Stadtplatz 1)
was the residence between 1722 and 1804 of the priests and associated lay-people who tended to the souls of the pilgrims who flocked to Miesbach. In 1783, the presbytery, sharing the fate of many buildings in the town, burnt down and was rebuilt. A third storey and the distinctive roof and balcony in the neo-baroque style popular at the time were added in 1905. The town's apothecary was based here from 1804 until 2002.
Now let us proceed along Lebzelterberg.
(13) Trachtenbrunnen fountain
This small fountain sculpted by local artist Ursula Kemser-Dieß in 1986 features a woman wearing her Sunday best. The fountain is one of a number of reminders dotted around Miesbach of the town's seminal importance in the development of the Trachten movement. Other scenes include the traditionally-dressed couple which adorn the maypole on the market square, the fresco on the Trachtenhütte, and the costumed figures to be found on the four roads leading into Miesbach.
Lebzelterberg derives its name from the Lebzelter, a dialect word describing the manufacturers of the local gingerbread known as Lebzelten (or Lebkuchen in High German) as well as candles, mead and cakes. Today, the café and bakery here continues the age-old tradition and Lebkuchen is still an Advent speciality throughout Bavaria. A representation of a baroque aristocrat can be seen between the windows on the outside wall facing Lebzelterberg
(15) An impressive fresco can be seen at Lebzelterberg 2. Painted by Richard Schaupp around 1935, this fresco depicts a scene from the peasants' revolt of 1705 in which 1500 Bavarians lost their lives on Christmas Day.
(16) Marktplatz (market square)
The market square is known to many locals as the "lower market" to contrast it with the "upper market" or Stadtplatz. In contrast to the grander buildings surrounding the main square, these smaller houses were once inhabited by the tradesmen of Miesbach, the buildings surrounding the square having once belonged to the town's smiths, milliners, tanners and coopers. Here too lived the miners who worked the Miesbach coal pits. The larger buildings are the Bräuwirt inn and a handful of shops to the west towards Rathaus Straße which were built around the turn of the 20th Century.
(17) The Maypole
The 30 metre high Miesbacher Maypole stretches upwards from the centre of the market square, and the version that can be seen today was placed here for the first time 1968. The maypole, painted in the traditional Bavarian colours of blue and white, is a fertility symbol and can be seen in every village throughout the State. This one in Miesbach is refurbished every five years and raised by the town's men amidst great celebration on May Day.
The town's coat of arms and the blue and white Bavarian flag can be seen at the top of the maypole, and to the right and left of the pole are figures designed by Paul Ernst Rattelmüller which represent the guilds which operated in Miesbach: woodturners, tanners, butchers, smiths, milliners, tailors, carpenters, painters, merchants, teachers and town officials, miners, farmers, bakers and brewers. As a sign that this maypole belongs to Miesbach, there is also a Trachtenpaar - a couple decked out in local costume. The total weight of the maypole is 3200 kilograms, the figures to the right and left weighing 800 kilograms alone.
(18) The Märchenbrunnen,
(fairy-tale well) is next to the maypole. When in the 17th century the horse and livestock markets became too large to be accommodated on the main square, the market square was established here near the edge of the river Schlierach which at that time divided into many small streams which came as far as the steep slope to the eastern side of the market. In fact, well into the last century, the inn on the market square was known as the Brewery on the Schlierach.
The animals of course needed water, and in the 18th century there is reference made to a wooden well. But the fountain in its current form has its origins in the early 1920s, when it was part of architect Karl Wegele's project to beautify the square. The Munich professor Georg Römer designed the fountain with a crowned duck forming the central column, and around the edge of the fountain can be seen a frog, a snail, a crab and a tortoise. The fountain was modernised in 1972, giving it the appearance we see today.
The weekly "green" market and farmers' market are held on Marktplatz every Thursday morning. A fair is also held here four times a year, and the square is used for many other events.
(19) Himmisepp (Marktwinkel 10)
The Himmisepp house survived the fire of 1783 and is therefore one the oldest buildings in Miesbach. Named after one of its earliest owners, one Josef "Sepp" Himmel, the top floor is constructed of wood and features a superb baroque carved figure of God the Father in clouds, complete with orb and sceptre. Himmisepp now houses a pizzeria.
(20) The Lutheran church (Rathaus Straße 8)
To the south and blending harmoniously with the surrounding architecture can be seen the spire of the Lutheran parish church. The small Lutheran community which existed in Catholic Miesbach around the turn of the 20th century had to travel long distances to worship, and after many years of planning, were finally able to build their own church in 1908. The exterior of the church is simple in style, but the interior is decorated with a wooden ceiling and above the choir can be seen images of the four evangelists. The arched windows are decorated with stained glass, and the altarpiece with its representation of the crucifixion was painted by the Miesbach artist Fritz Freund. The parish hall was built next to the church in 1984/85. A protective wall separates the church, parish hall, garden and manse from the hustle and bustle of Rathaus Straße.
To the west of the church, we see the River Schlierach which rises in Lake Schliersee in the Alps, flows north through Hausham and Miesbach, empties into the Rivers Mangfall and Inn, and thence ultimately into the Danube. The River Schlierach is 13.1 kilometres long and has a catchment area of 73.4 square kilometres. Average rainfall for the area is around 1300 millimetres per square metre.
(21) Fraunhofer Straße
If we continue along Rathaus Straße, we reach the Town Hall (Rathaus), to the east of which begins Fraunhofer Straße, known to the locals as the Trachten Straße of Miesbach. This is the place for anyone interested in traditional Bavarian costume - the street is full of delightful shops offering Bavarian Dirndl skirts, bodices, blouses, Lederhosen, footwear, traditional jewellery and hats.
(22) The Rathaus (Town Hall, Rathausplatz 1))
We return now to the Rathaus, which was built in 1880 in the neo-renaissance style. This impressive building testifies to the confidence felt by the citizens of Miesbach during the so-called Gründerzeit which followed the unification of Germany in 1871. Initiated by the energetic mayor of Miesbach, Johann Baptist Wallach, the building also served as a boys' school until 1937, when the girls' and boys' schools merged and new premises were built in Münchner Straße. Four notable frescos from 1968 by Sepp Stallhofer depicting the history of Miesbach can be seen in the entrance hall.
(23) The Kraftstromübertragungs Denkmal (monument commemorating the first long-distance transfer of electricity)
This monument is located between the Rathaus (Town Hall) and the railway crossing. At the International Electricity Exhibition in the Munich Crystal Palace on September 16, 1882 Oskar von Miller and Marcel Deprez were able to demonstrate that high-voltage electricity could be transferred over long distances. Miesbach was chosen as the location for this transfer partly because of its technologically advanced mine, but also because Oskar von Miller happened to be a personal friend of the mine's director, Carl Fohr. Fohr provided a small steam engine which powered the dynamo for the experiment, and this fed the overhead cable (consisting of two telegraph wires) with a continuous current of 1343 volts. With an efficiency of at that time only 22%, around 1.5 horsepower was transferred, but this was sufficient to enable an electric pump to power an artificial waterfall in the Glass Palace in Munich, 57 kilometres away. The immediate success of the experiment made clear that a new electrical age had begun.
The monument was designed by the architect Norbert Widmoser in 1982, who had this to say about it:
"The universe (the source of all energy), represented as a negative sphere, develops out of space and represents the minus pole. The sphere above (the Earth) is the positive pole, and water is the driving force. Around the Earth stretches a band of formulae which indicate the resistance and the tension which made this great achievement possible".
Making our way along a number of winding lanes, we come to Marienplatz. Backing onto a building at Frühling Straße 21 can be seen the former Konditorei Kern, a bakery specializing in cakes and sweets On its west wall there is a large mural depicting the wedding at Cana set in a traditional alpine inn rather than in Palestine 2000 years ago. Executed by Heinrich Bickel and dating from 1936, this painting is representative of the so-called Heimat style which sought to give a sense of local colour and tradition to the topics portrayed.
The delicate Mariensäule sculpture at the southern end of the square was created by Josef Hamberger, a local of nearby Rosenheim, in 1962. It shows a 1.5 metre high bronze representation of the virgin and child on a three metre high travertine stone column. On the Eve of Assumption of Mary, which is celebrated every year on August the 15th and a major Catholic feast day, the Miesbach congregation holds a festive candle-lit procession from the church to the column in order to pray together.
As part of the renovation of the square, the town council commissioned the artist Karl Jakob Schwalbach to produce the Taubenbrunnen (dove fountain) which was erected at the northern end of the square, opposite the Marienbrunnen (fountain) in 1993. The inspiration for the fountain derives from the Bible which tells us that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus at his baptism. The dove therefore signifies the Holy Spirit, and is also known as a symbol of peace. Several inscriptions also make reference to the Christian symbolism of the fountain.
At the southern end of Marienplatz, we then turn into Kirchgasse, and at the former craftsmen's house at Kirchgasse 8 we see in the tympanum the
(25) Haberfeldtreiben Fresco (Kirchgasse 8)
Ludwig Siekmayer, a painter originally hailing from Berlin but resident in Großseeham created this fresco depicting the Haberfeldtreiben in 1937.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Miesbach gained a certain notoriety through the practice of a rather archaic form of peasants' tribunal. During the nights of Haberfeldtreiben, the men of the village, their heads covered by a hood, or faces blackened would gather on a hill or meadow within earshot of a village. There the misdeeds of citizens who were deemed guilty of some moral failing (frequently unmarried girls who had fallen pregnant, but also even more frequently members of the local aristocracy) were recited in verse amongst much catcalling and derision. This occurred for the last time in 1883 on the Miesbach Kreuzberg hill.
(26) Stadtpfarrkirche (The parish church)
The imposing structure of the parish church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary was built to a design by Johann Baumgartner after the original structure had been destroyed in the fire of 1783. The Miesbach church was a principal representative of the Miesbach stucco school of architecture, a school second only to that of the famous Wessobrunn abbey. The church was also known for its woodcarvings dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Nothing of the structure survived the fire apart from parts of the choir walls, the buttresses and the foundations of the tower. The statue of the Sorrowful Mother, which once attracted so many pilgrims to Miesbach also survived, and to it was added in 1963 the mighty crucifixion group with the two figures at each side which dominates the church, the figure of Christ having been carved by Johann Millauer some time before 1783.
The church was re-built between 1783 and 1786 in simple hall-church style with an elegant early classical structure crowning the tower and very pleasing choir ceiling. During the 19th century, the interior of the church was decorated in the rich neo-romanesque decoration so popular amongst the wealthy middle-classes of the time, but this was partially removed in the 1930s, and the church had been completely divested of it by 1963. The entire interior was redesigned by Alexander, Freiherr von Branca in 2001 in a light and pleasing combination of pink and white. To the right of the entrance can be seen ex-votos from around the turn of the 19th century. These were thank-offerings for prayers answered. Notable also are the richly-decorated rods at the right and left of the pews. These can be removed, and are carried by the faithful participating in the procession held annually on the Eve of the Assumption of Mary.
Miesbach - a historical overview
1114 - Miesbach is mentioned for the first time in a treaty between Bishop Heinrich of Freising and Abbot Aribo of Tegernsee
1527 - The first great fire. The church is so badly damaged that it has to be pulled down and erected anew.
1611 - Wilhelm of Maxlrain builds the first palace.
1637 - The Emperor Ferdinand II elevates Wilhelm of Maxlrain to Free Imperial Count, his lands consequently becoming known as the Free Imperial County of Hohenwaldeck
1659 - The Portiunkula church is built.
1705 - 1715 - The famous exponent of Rococo art, Johann Baptist Zimmermann resides in Miesbach
1734 - Joseph Max Veit von Maxlrain dies, leaving no heir. Miesbach passes to the Bavarian Electorate and is henceforth officially Bavarian.
1740 - The Kurfürstliche Brauhaus (royal brewery) is built.
1783 - A second great fire destroys much of Miesbach
1803 - As a result of the huge changes brought about throughout Europe by Napoleon, the aristocratic Hohenwaldeck family loses its control over Miesbach.
1812 - Miesbach receives its official coat of arms from King Max l. Joseph
1837 - The first Miesbach Fleckvieh cattle are bred.
1849 - The beginning of industrialised coal-mining in Miesbach.
1859 - Foundation of the first Trachten Society, devoted to local traditions and culture.
1880 - Official opening of the Town Hall.
1882 - Electricity is transferred for the first time in an experiment held in Miesbach. Introduction of electric lighting to Miesbach.
1911 - Miesbach's coal-mine closes.
1918 - Miesbach receives official city status from King Ludwig the Third.