Most of Munich is an ultra-modern German city, albeit one of the most expensive cities in Europe, where you can travel anywhere by tram, automobile, S-Bahn, rail or taxi. But why bother when you have the opportunity and thrill of walking through the old city center and have Bavarians greet you with “May God greet you” or “God bless”? — what a way to say hello. That experience, which brings back fond memories — more on that in my main column — combined with the wonderful aromas from bakeries and early morning baristas hard at work, which are hard to pass by, made the short walk to the Residenz München seem all too short; and then you are there — greeted with the magnificence of the Munich Satellite Summit venue.
The Residenz München served as the seat of government and residence of Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. The Residenz began life in 1385 as a castle on the outskirts of München and subsequently transformed over the centuries into a magnificent palace or Schloss, its buildings and gardens extending further into the center of town or Stadtmitte. And this is the incredible venue for the Munich Satellite Summit. It is breathtakingly magnificent and yet for all its age and history the Residenz serves its varied and ever-changing purposes well, and certainly is the perfect venue for the summit. This is the 10th anniversary of the summit in this location, and hopefully it will never change. Anything else now, with so much grandeur and history, would be a huge disappointment.
As you ascend steps that have been trod and worn down daily by kings, dukes, barons, and commoners alike for more than 625 years, it comes home that you are in a very special place. If that is not enough, the König’s guarded banquet room, which is still set with silver place settings, silverware, and crystal goblets to feed more than 100 at one grand table, soon gives you a clue that you are someplace special. Whilst there are several large banquet rooms and court areas easily capable of holding the 400+ attendees, the organizers have wisely chosen to keep you moving from place to place to pique your interest in the old castle and to keep the blood flowing after sitting through a series of high-tech presentations.
In the alte Schloss, the summit presentations are in one area, the company and sponsor booths are in another, and the German coffee and refreshments in yet another. This keeps you moving and also keeps the noise and modern-day distractions to a manageable level — plus, of course, it is perfect for networking. There are a myriad of interesting nooks and crannies for meet-ups and impromptu discussions. Fortunately the conveniently provided summit Wi-Fi signals penetrate the thick stone walls and are available in all meeting and presentation areas.
The real danger of meeting in this iconic Bavarian palace is that you are constantly distracted by the beauty and history surrounding you. I constantly reminded myself I was attending a 21st-century satellite summit and not a whirlwind tour of gorgeous historical Bavarian architecture. Although I must admit I managed to do a little of the latter in between presentations and meetings. Just don’t tell my editor.
Fortunately, lunch is served in-suite, so you do not have to leave the fabulous Schloss for sustenance — and what a gourmet lunch. You guessed it: the meals were fit for a King or König, certainly more than sufficient for a mere journalist. Although I must admit to being a bit worried since as a vegetarian, Germany does not exactly have the reputation of providing veggie substitutes for wurst und sauerbraten. However, to say I was happily surprised is putting it mildly.
Frauleins Heike Haas and Bärbel Deisting, whom I cannot praise highly enough, the intrepid and unflappable organizers of this wonderful international event, had obviously warned their chef and he provided sumptuous vegetarian or “vegetarisch auf Deutsch,” options for every meal. My most common refrain at mealtimes, as I returned for seconds and thirds, was…are you sure this does not have any meat in it? The meals, snacks, and of course the coffee are not to be missed. You might miss five minutes of a presentation but don’t dare miss a meal.
This was my first year to attend the Munich Summit as Alan Cameron, our intrepid editor-in-chief and now publisher, has always attended in the past. So most of the greetings went like this: “Hi Don, glad you are here. Where’s Alan?” My invariable response was, “Busy being the publisher.”
The opening plenary, as it is so aptly named, took place in the Allerheiligen-Hofkirche, or Court Church of All Saints, and it was a fitting venue. The master of ceremonies opined that the Court Church of All Saints only took 11 years to complete in the 1800s, in direct contrast to the Galileo constellation, which has already been in existence for more than 11 years with…well, you get the point.
Now for an historical note: King Ludwig 1 who commissioned the Court Church of All Saints married Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October 1810 and the resulting wedding celebration was the occasion for the first ever Oktoberfest. Beer drinkers for the last 200 years are still celebrating that wedding. I know I did when I attended University in München more than 45 years ago, but that is a story for another time. And no, this is not the Neuschwanstein, Wagner loving, mad King Ludwig, who unfortunately after a lifetime of swimming forgot how at the crucial moment…that was his grandson.