hinten Angerbräu und Alpenkette
As beautiful as any oil painting

Murnau in winter? Wow! Mountains that glisten as if coated in white sugar, set against the colourful town houses. Walks through the region’s “Moos” preserve, and along the Staffelsee. All this was painted by the expressionist artist Gabriele Münter. And we’ve decided to set out on her footsteps.

Reading time: 18 minutes

Murnau in Winter: Hot on the Trail of the “Blue Rider”:

First, take a look at the original locations and then the pictures? Or vice versa? We decide on taking the middle route. This winter’s day is so beautiful that before visiting the castle museum, we first take a tour of Murnau’s pedestrian zone, passing the Mariensäule (St Mary’s Column) glowing in the sun at the transition point from “Untermarkt” to “Obermarkt”.

Every few metres, we turn around and admire the mountain backdrop that shields the little town comprising 12,000 inhabitants with a stony dignity. Just a few minutes later, a soft, rosy glow settles on the peaks around the 1,790-metre Heimgarten.

Mariensäule in Murnau

An Idyll that Inspired Painters

This light caresses what is, without doubt, a perfect Upper Bavarian idyll. No wonder that the artist couple Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky were enthusiastic and inspired in equal measure by this place. In 1908, they spent their first summer holiday in Murnau. At the suggestion of the Munich architect Emanuel von Seidl, many facades had just been spruced up and shone in bright, cheerful colours. A beautiful artistic motif indeed.

The colourful rows of houses are reflected in numerous works, as is St. Nicholas Church and the castle, where many of the paintings can be seen today. While Kandinsky moved towards abstraction early on, Münter painted street scenes and landscapes that were almost true to nature in the beginning. Later, she radically simplified the forms involved and let the colours speak for themselves.

We can follow this wonderful development over more than four decades at the museum – although during our visit, renovations were underway to accommodate the works of Gabriele Münter and those of the “Blauer Reiter on the first floor, affording them an even more spectacular setting.

Bemalte Häuserfasseden in Murnau
Rathaus in Murnau

See What Münter Painted

Looking out of the window, we experience a feeling of a déjà vu: St. Nicholas Church, one of the artists’ favourite motifs, is stood right in front of us in all its splendour. In the background, the mountains, and on the far right on a hill, the “Münter-Haus” with its yellow plinth, another spectacle that is also frequently painted.

“Even after 20 years in the museum, I am still thrilled by this view,” enthuses museum director Dr Sandra Uhrig, drawing our attention to another special picture. Wassily Kandinsky painted it. It depicts Gabriele Münter painting the daughter of the “Griesbräu” innkeeper against a magnificent mountain backdrop, a picture within a picture, as it were.

The “Griesbräu” still exists today. The imposing facade dominates the region’s “Obermarkt” with its lush greenery, which would certainly have pleased Gabriele Münter. She spent her first Murnau summer there before buying the Münter-Haus in 1909. She also immortalised the view from her room at the inn on canvas.

Blick über die Altstadt mit St. Nikolaus Kirche

“Snack time” in the Brewery

Today, the “Griesbräu”, a square courtyard rebuilt after a major market fire in 1836, has been carefully renovated. Münter’s former room bears the number “one”. Murnau’s only cinema is housed in the building, and peasant theatre performances take place in the beautiful vaulted hall. The former cowshed was converted into a brewery in 2000. There, we re-fuel with a snack next to copper brew kettles. Cheese, ham, sausage and homemade beer bread.

During Lent, owner Michael Gilg dishes out the “Murnator”, a truly delicious beer. The brewery is his pride and joy, after all, of the former thirteen Murnau breweries whose names can still be read on some houses, only his revived “Griesbräu” and the Karg brewery, known for its wheat beer, remain today.


Beer Garden Next to the Church

The latter owns the “Ähndl”, an almost outrageously idyllic restaurant situated on the edge of the Murnauer Moos. Inside, two rustic guest lounges, outside a beer garden with roughly 200 seats right next to the “Ramsachkircherl”, which is perfectly positioned within the landscape. 

Since 2014, Thilo Bischoff, former star chef at the nearby luxury hotel “Alpenhof”, has been cultivating a genre of cuisine that is as creative as it is rooted in the region. Smoked fish, whitefish, char and trout come from the region’s “Kochelsee” lake, while the quail eggs for the tartare from a farm on “Riegsee” lake. Sometimes a whole stag is processed during the hunting season.

A cuisine that is as creative as it is rooted in the region

“Last year, Christian Bär, the boss of the ‘Alpenhof’, shot a deer shortly before the end of season,” says Bischoff, “We bought it whole and butchered it ourselves.” In autumn, the rutting cries of the deer are clearly audible in the ‘Ähndl’ beer garden at dusk. Chef Ronny Buchholz always has a pair of binoculars handy: “With them, I can see the animals’ eyes glow in the dark.”

Artistic Hosts

A wooden sculpture in front of the door refers to the artist scene in Murnau, which still thrives to this day. Painters, graphic artists and sculptors such as Susanne Assum – a native of Murnau – present their works in prominent places in the town, among other things, as part of the “Kunstwirte” project. The “Pulpo Gallery”, which opened in April 2021, also features international artists in Murnau. And, as in Münter’s day, collectors and art fans are drawn to this picture-perfect place.

Box Seat with Mountain View

From the “Ähndl”, we walk in a good half hour to the “Panorama-Stadl”, where we let the sun shine on our faces and compare the real mountain panorama with the one provided on the information board: “Herzogstand”, “Heimgarten” and the “Ettaler Mandl” are easy to identify. Towards the evening, the Moos and the mountains first turn a delicate pink-orange, then dark violet – moods of light that we have also witnessed in Münter’s and Kandinsky’s work.

Froschhausener See

Bavaria’s Largest Moorland

The next morning, we meet Tim Korschefsky at the “Biological Station”, which opened in 2019, at the hikers’ car park. The landscape ecologist and station chief knows the Moos like no one else. And he’s a bit disgruntled. 

At around 32 square kilometres, the largest living moorland in Central Europe is an immensely valuable cultural landscape and an important bird breeding area. But although there are two beautiful, sunny and well-signposted circular paths, there is a steady flow of joggers, walkers and many dogs that keep criss-crossing the area, especially in spring and summer, when game and meadow birds need a lot of peace and quiet to raise their young. During the breeding season from 1 March to 30 June, there is an official ban on entering the designated protected areas. 

Bernhard Bierling and his father Georg like to meet Korschefsky in the Moos. The part-time farmers help to maintain the wet meadows and prevent them from becoming overgrown. Woody plants and trees also have to be removed time and again.

“Meadow-nesting birds such as curlews, whinchats or meadow pipits need open landscape” says the conservationist. And above all, they need rest. The meadows in the Moos are only mown from 1 September – rare plant and insect species also benefit from this.

Discoveries in the Moos

Once dried, the grass serves as fodder for the cows. Mr Bierling and his son are the last farmers who still artfully pile up the mown grass into “Strahdrischn”, where the sun and wind dry it. “It takes an hour and a half to put together such a ‘drishn’,” says Bernhard. It takes less than a quarter of an hour to load them onto the trailer with pitchforks.

Two of these so-called “Strahdrischn” can be admired in front of the “Biological Station”; inside, you can learn a lot of interesting facts about the immensely rich flora and fauna of the Murnauer Moos in a beautifully created show. As early as mid-February, liverworts and snowdrops sprout, accompanied by marsh tit, dipper and the garden treecreeper.

Naturschutz und Landschaftspflege

An Alpine View to Fall in Love

Gabriele Münter could often be found in the Moos with her easel. She also immortalised “Staffelsee” lake in glowing colours, as can be experienced, evening after evening, in Murnau Bay, or in the secluded neighbouring village of Seehausen with its boathouses on the Ferchenbach. The winter landscape at the small Froschhauser Lake is gentler.

We are truly in love with the view from the “Alpenblick” beer garden restaurant in Uffing. An idyllic spot that is popular on sunny winter weekends, especially for its cakes. In the neighbouring lido, we sit down on a wooden bench and cast our gaze across the lake into the mountains. The sun glistens on the water and a touch of pink sweeps over the peaks.

Finally, we visit the Münter House in Murnau. The artist lived there from 1909 to 1914 and from 1931 until her death in 1962. It doesn’t feel museum-like in the slightest, although, of course, there are many pictures by Münter that adorn the walls. As in her lifetime, the modest rooms are painted in pastel colours, and edgings designed by the artists cover the walls. Kandinsky painted a wooden staircase with vibrant colours. Art history was written here in the autumn of 1911 with the working sessions for the almanac “Der Blaue Reiter”.

Bootshäuser in Seehausen

Beautiful Spirits and the Bavarian Way of Life

At the same time, Gabriele Münter and her illustrious artist friends such as Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej Jawlensky, Franz Marc and August Macke, as well as the composer Arnold Schönberg, enthusiastically immersed themselves in the Upper Bavarian way of life, complete with “lederhosen”, “Wadlstrümpfen”, “Dirndln” and all the trimmings you’d expect.

The ancient tradition of bell ringers, who drive out winter with clanging cowbells and archaic masks every year on “Faschingssonntag” or “Carnival Sunday”, was only taken up again at the end of the seventies – otherwise, it would have no doubt served as a source of inspiration.


Sledging Fun on the Lake

Münter and Jawlensky slid around on wooden skis on the Dünaberg, as a photograph in the Schlossmuseum depicts. The sledging fun across the “Staffelsee”, which was often still frozen at that time, was one special treat: the ladies were chauffeured across the lake on the “Boandlrodl”, a toboggan with runners made of shiny cattle horns.

Right behind Münter’s house begins the Kottmüllerallee, lined with old oaks, which Münter also painted. Shortly before sunset, we walk along this route. As the last rays leave the Moos glowing a sulphurous yellow, we have the feeling of being in a painting.

Portrait Gabriele Münter
Blick über den Staffelsee

Highlights of Bavaria’s “Blue Country”

Castle Museum: More than Münter!
The castle museum is also dedicated to another Murnau artistic personality – namely the writer Ödön von Horváth. There is also a beautifully presented collection of painting behind glass on display, as well as examples of this technique from around the world
schlossmuseum-murnau.de (only in German)

Trip to Kochel: Franz Marc Museum
Less than 20 kilometres away, the Franz Marc Museum in Kochel preserves high-class works by the “Blaue Reiter”, which are constantly rearranged as part of thematic special exhibitions

Schellenrührer: Winter Fun for all
With clanging cowbells and archaic masks, the “Murnau Schellenrührer” drive out winter every year on Carnival Sunday – a spectacle that continues afterwards in the taverns at the market.

Winter walk: The “Big Moos circuit"
With a length of 12.7 kilometres, a good proportion of which is in open, sunny terrain, the “Große Moosrunde” along marked trails is a tour that is highly considerate of nature throughout. One highlight is the wooden plank path through sparse forest near Murnau/Westried, and the “Ähndl” is a good place to stop for refreshments
murnauermoos.de (only in German)

For sporty types: The “Staffelsee” circular trail
You can walk a solid 20 kilometres around the “Staffelsee” and enjoy wonderful views, for example, in Uffing at the “Alpenblick” inn or in “Seehausen”. At the starting point, situated at the large car park at Murnau Bay, you can fuel your body with coffee and snacks at a wonderful kiosk – enjoy!

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