Munich, the gateway to the Bavarian Alps, is a city with a great many historical associations—past and present—a city with an atmosphere completely unspoiled by bustling modernity. Lying midway between Strassbourg and Vienna, it is the most important town in southern Germany, also one of the largest European towns to be situated at so high an altitude. Founded in 1158, Munich was for centuries the capital of the independent kingdom of Bavaria, and in more recent times the birthplace of Nazidom. A heavy ring of munitions factories built by the Hitler regime made it an important target for allied bombings in World War II; however its protected location prevented much of the devastation suffered by other large German cities. After the Americans liberated Munich in 1945, the Temple of Honor, a memorial to the 16 Nazis killed in the “beerhall putsch,” as well as other remnants of Nazi rule, were destroyed. Today, Munich has regained much of its former prominence as a cultural center of world fame. This is a city rich in museums, art collections and exhibitions, theaters and concert halls. Especially famous are the Munich Opera, the art treasures of the Old Pinakothek and the Deutsche Museum. Every year the inherent “joie de vivre” of Munich is expressed in three typical festivals—the Munich Carnival, the bock beer festival held each spring and “Oktoberfest” in the fall is one of Germany’s gayest festivals

The World’s Top Libraries

Key among Washington’s sights is the monumental library of Congress. As the largest library in the world, it boasts nearly 142 million items on 650 miles of shelves. Each working day, the library receives some 22,000  items, from which it pulls 10,000 for its collections. (Items not chosen are used in exchange programs.)  Among its most notable books is one of the three perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible in existence.

Tour the library’s elaborately decorated Great Hall and Main Reading Room, and check out the Bibles Gallery, which features murals that trace the evolution of the book from the cairn and oral traditions to Egyptian hieroglyphics and the printing press. The Library of Congress Experience opened in 2008, bringing the library’s rare collections to life digitally. Using touchscreens in the exhibition galleries, you can turn the pages of rare books and examine rare documents, including edits made to the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.