On this page you will find famous personalities from Bavaria who have set standards in their respective fields and achieved great popularity.
The Bavarian King Ludwig II is one of Bavaria’s and even German’s most glamorous celebrities. It was his love of grandiose architecture that helped to put Bavaria well and truly on the map. His palaces are considered works of art created to fulfil King Ludwig’s own personal dreams.
His fairytale palace of Neuschwanstein was modelled on the legendary castle of Gralsburg as a symbol of Germanic heroic sagas. Ludwig’s nickname of “the fairytale King“ dates back to this time. His fascinating life cam to a tragic and mysterious end on 13th June 1886 in Lake Starnberg. The cause of his death remains to this day unsolved.
Tip: Follow in the footsteps of King Ludwig II and visit his place of birth Nymphenburg Palace, his dream palaces Neuschwanstein Palace, Linderhof Palace and Herrenchiemsee Palace, as well as the place of his death in Felden by Lake Starnberg, where a chapel and a wooden cross commemorate the king.
Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary (known as Sissi or Sisi) was born on 24.12.1837 in Munich as the fourth child of Princess Ludovika of Bavaria, Duchess of Bavaria and Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. “Sissi” as she was fondly called, was considered one of the greatest beauties of her time. Her eventful life as an emancipated rebel who was at the same time musical, fit and interested in politics, has been the subject matter of many films and books that still entertain people the world over even today.
Sissi spent her childhood in Munich and in Possenhofen Palace on Lake Starnberg. Even after her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1854 Possenhofen and the lake were to remain both an important refuge and a much-loved retreat for her. Here, she was able to enjoy riding through the gently rolling hills nearby or spend a tranquil hour or two rowing over to the Rose Island where she often met with her cousin King Ludwig II of Bavaria for one of their rendezvous that even today are still shrouded in mystery. Possenhofen Palace is currently in private ownership.
TIP: Kaiserin Elisabeth Museum in Possenhofen railway station: www.kaiserin-elisabeth-museum-ev.de. Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth that was a popular haunt of Sissi’s, enjoys stunning views over Lake Starnberg: http://www.kaiserin-elisabeth.de.
shining light of German football, as Franz Beckenbauer is frequently called, is definitely one of the most well-known Bavarians in modern times. Born in 1945 in Munich, he launched his international career in the 1960s. With FC Bayern Munich he won the National Champions Cup 3 times among other accolades, was German Champion 4 times and won the German Football Association cup 4 times. With the German national team, he was European Champion in 1972 and World Champion in 1974. He repeated this success in 1990 as the coach of the national team. In 2000 as the Chairman of the Bid Committee he successfully won the bid with his team to host the Football World Championships for 2006 in Germany). Today Beckenbauer is honorary president of FC Bayern and a welcome expert at numerous live football broadcas The ts.
Tip: Visit the FC Bayern World of Experience in the Munich Allianz arena which was opened in May 2012 and discover everything about the history of Germany’s most successful football club, a history which Franz Beckenbauer has also been very instrumental in developing.
The impressive baroque works of Cosmas Damian (1686–1739) and Egid Quirin Asam (1692–1750) can be found throughout the whole of Bavaria. During their creative period, the two brothers worked as painters, sculptors, stucco plasterers and architects when they predominantly fitted out churches and monasteries. The highlights of their artistic endeavours include the Asam Church and the Asam House in Munich, the church of the Weltenburg Monastery, the frescoes in Freising Cathedral, as well as the Assumption Day church in the Fürstenfeld Monastery to which Cosmas Damian contributed the ceiling fresco and Egid Quirin the altar.
Tip: Visit the Asam Church in Sendlinger Straße in Munich and stare in awe at the magnificent, almost overly ornate interior of the small church.
The sportswear goods of two brothers from the tranquil Herzogenaurach region in Franconia have captured the world. While Adolf Dassler (1900-1979) founded the global brand “Adidas” and made it very successful, Rudolf Dassler (1898-1974) became one of his greatest competitors with his “Puma” brand. Whereas at the beginning they were still working together in the company “Gebrüder Dassler” [Dassler Brothers], after the second world war a fierce rivalry developed between the two which would lead to the partition of the company. Today the sportswear goods of both manufacturers are popular all over the world and both Adidas and Puma are amongst the best-known brands in the world.
Tip: In Herzogenaurach both Adidas and Puma run an outlet shop in which you can buy brand products at cheaper prices.
Painter, graphic designer, mathematician and art theoretician of European standing, all of this was encapsulated by Albrecht Dürer, born in Nuremberg on 21st May 1471. Among other achievements, Dürer made a significant contribution to the development of wood and copperplate engravings. He freed wood engravings from their reputation of “only being good for book illustrations” and gave them the status of being works of art in their own right which could be placed alongside paintings. Dürer was the first artist to sign his artworks systematically with a monogram. This statement of authorship soon became a seal of approval which was imitated by many artists. His world-famous works include The Hare, the Praying Hands, Knights, Death and the Devil and Melencolia I.
Tip: The Albrecht Dürer House in the historic centre of Nuremberg is the only Renaissance artists’ house in Northern Europe still preserved to a very large extent in its original state. The world-famous artist lived and worked here from 1509 to 1528. A tour round the four-storey house shows the many facets of his life and his works. For more information, go to: www.museen.nuernberg.de/ .
Jam-packed with the best of Bavarian humour and a lot of tongue-in-cheek joking, the works of Ludwig Thoma belong to the popular cultural heritage of the free state. Among other works, the writer who was born in 1876 in Oberammergau and died in 1921 in Tegernsee wrote the “Lausbubengeschichten” [Stories of Scallywags] which were later made into films with Hansi Kraus in the lead role. Without a shadow of a doubt , however, his most famous work is “Ein Münchner im Himmel” [A Munich Man in Heaven]. The story of the porter Alois Hingerl who after his death has no desire to rejoice in heaven and sing “hosannas” is almost unparalleled in accurately representing the Bavarian lifestyle of the typical grouch. The comic representation of the angel Aloisius decorates many beer mugs, postcards and other little gifts in Munich souvenir shops.
Tip: Go and see the angel Aloisius in the Hofbräu tent at the Oktoberfest. Here every year he floats above the partying throng and the international audience sometimes like using him as a repository for items of clothing which have become superfluous. “Ha-ha-le-le-lu-u-uh – – God in heaven – Spuds – Bloody Sacrament – – lu – uuu – jah!” is probably what Aloisius is thinking.
Richard Strauss is considered one of the leading composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Born in Munich in 1864 Strauss died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1949. It was said he was a man ahead of his time. It is also claimed that from about half way through long his life he began to fall back into times gone by.
There is no doubt at all however that Strauss played a massive role in the development of modern music as well as in the perfecting of late romantic music. His most famous operas are Salome, Elektra, the Rosenkavalier and Adriane on Naxos. These are still a part even today of the permanent repertoires of numerous opera houses. In total his musical creations encompassed more than 250 works.
Tip: Visit the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and enjoy the masterpieces of the composer.
One of the most mysterious personalities in Bavarian history is that of the Franconian Kaspar Hauser. The mentally retarded young boy turned up in Nuremberg aged 16. At that time a rumour spread that the boy was of noble descent, was said to be the heir to the Baden throne and the victim of an intrigue. Based on current information, these suppositions are foundless however. However it has still not been clarified who Hauser actually was. His death in 1833 also attracted attention: He died of a stab wound which he is said to have suffered during an alleged attempt on his life. It cannot however be ruled out that he inflicted the injury upon himself. And so who Kaspar Hauser actually was will always remain a mystery.
Tip: Go to the Kaspar Hauser Festival in Ansbach. You can walk in Kaspar Hauser’s footsteps every two years here.
There are definitely not many comics who have had their own museum dedicated to them. One who has however is Karl Valentin. At the beginning of the 20th century, Valentin Ludwig Fey (that is his real name) who was born in Munich in 1882 became a popular comedian who was also well-known beyond Bavaria’s borders. Together with his partner Liesl Karlstadt he performed sketches on theatre stages and in short films. But it was primarily his puns that made Valentin legendary. Despite his popularity and success, Valentin however never managed to achieve financial prosperity which fitted with the tragic/comical figure that he also embodied as an artist. In 1948 he died age 66 of pneumonia.
Tip: Visit the Karl Valentin fountain at the Munich Viktualien Markt (a market offering agricultural produce) and then have a laugh at the comical exhibits in the nearby Karl Valentin Musäum (the spelling is intentional!).
Today they hang in every wardrobe, however without a Bavarian, jeans would never have existed. When Levi Strauss emigrated with his family in 1847 at the age of 16 from Buttenheim in Franconia to America, no one could have guessed that this young man would shape the fashion world until the present day. While he was selling clothing and useful items to gold-diggers together with his brother and his brother-in-law, he noticed that the workers were frequently wearing worn-out trousers. So he set about manufacturing trousers made from the robust cotton material denim. Jeans were born and began their unstoppable triumphant sweep around the world.
Tip: Visit the Levi Strauss Museum in Strauss’s place of birth Buttenheim and find out about the history of the development of the jeans industry in the interactive exhibition.
A healthy body houses a healthy soul and vice versa. Not only was Sebastian Kneipp preaching exactly this philosophy some 150 years ago it was also the premise on which he built his five-pillared health concept that endorses a holistic view of man. The Bavarian Father Sebastian Kneipp’s steadfast belief and his phenomenal powers of observation smoothed the way for his holistic therapeutic methods to quickly spread far beyond the borders of Bavaria and Germany.
At the turn of the 20th century in North America, Allgäu’s so-called “Water doctor” was one of the three most well-known Germans even Europeans alongside the Pope Leo XIII and Bismarck. Sebastian Kneipp was born in 1821 in Stephansried near Ottobeuren. He died in 1897 in Wörishofen.
He was one of the most significant German playwrights and renowned worldwide: Bertold Brecht born in Augsburg in 1898 was the founder of “epic theatre”, the aim of which was to turn theatre into a vehicle for learning and changing society. His most famous work is
“The Threepenny Opera”. The stage play set to music was premiѐred in 1928 in Berlin and became a great success. During the Nazi period, Bertold Brecht lived in exile (including in Paris) and his works were banned in Germany. After the second world war, he returned to Berlin where he established his own theatre group and lived until his death in 1956.
Tip: Visit the Brechthaus (Brecht House) in Augsburg. In the house where Bertold Brecht was born, you can find out everything about the life and creative works of the playwright.
Where resisting the Nazi regime is concerned, the first name that springs to mind is: Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Born in 1907 in Jettingen in Swabia close to Augsburg, he forged a career in the military during the Nazi period. Later he rescinded his allegiance to Hitler and planned an attack on the dictator. The regime was then to be deprived of power under his “Operation Valkyrie” plan. Hitler survived the bomb attack however. Stauffenberg and his accomplices were arrested in the Berlin Bendler Block. Four of the conspirators, including Stauffenberg, were executed the same evening in the courtyard of the building. Today many streets, squares, public institutions and schools bear the name of the resistance fighter.
Tip: Visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds Documentation Centre in Nuremberg and find out more about the history of Germany in the Nazi period.
On the 19th April 2005, after almost five hundred years, a German was elected pope once again in the form of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Before Joseph Ratzinger born in 1927 in Marktl am Inn in Upper Bavaria succeeded John Paul II in the Holy See in Rome as Pope Benedict XVI, he was for a long time the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. Previously Joseph Ratzinger worked inter alia as a theology professor in Freising, Munich, Tübingen and Regensburg before he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977. In the same year, he was accepted into the College of Cardinals. In 1981 he followed the call to Rome where he became one of the closest confidantes of John Paul II. After the death of John Paul II, Ratzinger was elected by the cardinals to be the new pope. On 28th February 2013 however, he resigned on the grounds of age and now lives in a monastery in the Vatican.
Tip: Visit the Papsthaus (Pope’s House) in Marktl am Inn. The birth house of Joseph Ratzinger does not merely cover the Holy Father’s biographical details but also lets us discover the high degree of significance concealed behind all the historical facts.
Franz Josef Strauß born in Munich in 1915 was the Bavarian Prime Minister from 1978 until his death in 1988. In his time in office Bavaria experienced a great recovery and became a leading economic centre in Germany. Before his time as Prime Minister, Strauß was Federal Minister for Nuclear Affairs, Federal Defence Minister and Federal Finance Minister. More than 100,000 people thronged the streets to view the funeral procession commemorating his death. Strauß, not always an uncontroversial figure in his political activities, is still honoured today in some sections of the Bavarian population. In 1992 a new airport was opened in Munich. In memory of the politician it was given the sobriquet “Franz Josef Strauß”.
Tip: Take part in a tour of the Munich Airport “Franz Josef Strauß”. Although you will not find out anything about the politician, you will however gain an exciting and interesting insight into the world of aviation. Strauß was himself an enthusiastic pilot. For information on the airport tours, click here.
Bernd Eichinger born in 1949 in Neuburg an der Donau was one of the most successful German film producers in history. He produced national and international cinema hits such as “The Neverending Story”, “The Name of the Rose”, “The Downfall”, “Resident Evil” and “Perfume”, for example. In addition as a shareholder, managing director and later CEO of Constantin Film AG he made a considerable contribution to the success of the film distribution and production company. Eichinger’s films and productions have been honoured with numerous film awards. In 2003 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit. Bernd Eichinger died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2011 aged 61.
Tip: Visit the Bavaria Filmstadt in Munich and take a peak behind the scenes of major Eichinger film productions such as “The Neverending Story” or “The Baader Meinhof Complex”.
In 2011 the major dream of the Würzburg-born Dirk Nowitzki came true. As the first German basketball player he won the NBA title together with his team, the Dallas Mavericks, and he was elected MVP (Most Valuable Player – in German “wertvollster Spieler”) of the final series. He was elected “Germany’s Sportsperson of the year 2011” by specialist journalists the same year. When he was only 19, Nowitzki who was born in 1978, took a big step when he moved to America to start a professional basketball career. The 2.13 metre high Franconian quickly made his mark, won the hearts of the fans and earned himself the nickname “German Wunderkind”. Since then Nowitzki has been nominated 11 times for the NBA All-Star Game.
Tip: Visit the Würzburger Residenz on the balcony of which Nowitzki was celebrated by thousands of enthusiastic fans following his triumph when he was on a trip home.
Who of us can claim to have finished their careers and achieved everything there is to achieve by the time they are 25 years old? Magdalena Neuner can. The former biathlete born in 1987 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the most successful and popular German winter sportswomen to date. She won 12 gold medals at biathlon world championships as well as two Olympic gold medals. She was elected Germany’s Sportswoman of the year (2007, 2011 and 2012) three times. In 2012 Neuner ended her fantastic career to devote herself to other projects. In 2015 she was awarded the Bavarian Order of Merit not just for her outstanding achievements but also for her social commitment.
Tip: Take a walk on the Magdalena Neuner Panorama Trail in Wallgau and follow in the footsteps of this top-ranking athlete. 28 boards with photos, quotations and information bring you one step closer to the unique career of this likeable gold medal winner.
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