I’ve driven past the large brown signs for several years now. The signs on the Autobahns that indicate the presence of cultural attractions and regions. I’ve seen signs for castles, museums, Carpland, Spargleland – you name it. But one that’s intrigued me beyond the others was the sign for Hundertwasserturm.
The tower looks more like an illustration from a Doctor Seuss book than anything you would find within the traditionally tiled and well-groomed Bavarian countryside, but there it is. I looked it up and added it to the ever-growing list of places I’d like to visit. I didn’t give the website much more than a cursory glance, noting that there was a tower, a Biergarten, and a brewery. I tucked the information away for a weekend day trip.
What I didn’t realize before we visited last weekend, was that Hundertwasser was a famous contemporary artist. Born Friedrich Stowasser in Vienna in 1928, he would later change his name to Friedensreich Regentag Dunklebunt Hundertwasser. His name itself then becomes art, loosely translated to peaceful-rainy day – dark-colored – hundred water.
Early one Saturday morning, we decided to take a trip expecting little more than lunch at a Biergarten. When we arrived we found not only a Biergarten, a tower, and a brewery, but also lovely art museum housed together within the boundaries of Kuchlbauer’s Bierwelt.
The first thing we noticed as we approached Abensburg was the enormous gold dome towering over the otherwise very Bavarian buildings. We entered the parking lot to find that although there were several large tour buses, there were very few cars and we easily found a spot. There is also an underground parking lot and an off-site parking lot available for busier days.
As we searched for the entrance to the tower, we followed a path marked with mosaics and interesting architectural features to the Brewery.
Once inside the main entrance to the Kuchlbauer’s Brewery, there is a ticket desk, where you purchase tickets for entrance in several different combinations. You can tour everything together, or visit the brewery or the art house alone. In order to view the tower, you must take the hour-long tour through the brewery. The day we visited, there were no English tours available, so if you are not comfortable taking the tour in German, you might want to check before you go to find out if and when an English-language tour is available.
We did take the tour in German, the lady at the ticket booth gave us an information sheet in English so we could follow along if we were having trouble following the tour. It is a fascinating tour, but I would advise against taking young children. Because my children understand German, they were able to follow along with the tour, but even they grew a little bored at times. Only the promise of exploring the tower at the end kept them interested in the tour through the Brewery.
The first half of the tour is all about the beer. The tour guide covered the production methods and ingredients in-depth as he led the group through the different areas of the brewery. Finally, we viewed a couple of films on the tour which show the differences between the bottling methods of the past and the bottling methods of the present, before we began the art portion of the tour.
The first stop is the Dwarves’ Brewery. Herr Salleck, the owner of Kuchlbauer’s Brewery combined a love of art and brewing, and came up with a truly imaginative and magical place.
In the Dwarves’ Brewery, we were introduced to several Dwarves, each representing a different part of the brewing process. Much like the Märchenwalds we’ve visited, the dwarves were animated and told the story of their part in the process. We learned that the tower was built as a home for the dwarves of the Kuchlbauer Brewery.
Following the introduction to the Dwarves of the brewery, you enter the former ice cellar. Today, the cellar no longer houses ice, but a magnificent reproduction of Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper. According to the video we watched here, the owner has uncovered many secrets of the painting, and has authored a book – which is available at the gift store.
From here we climbed a staircase which led to a mirror plated entry, lit by tiny points of light that made it look as if you were climbing into the heavens on a starlit evening. Unfortunately, it was at this point that the heavy music began as well, which the children found a bit dark and scary.
From the darkened stairwell, you emerge to the Dwarves grotto, and you are once more treated to a tale told by the automated dwarves. The final speaker is the wall itself, and the giant eyes and gruff voice proved a bit frightening for the children.
The final stop on the tour is the base of the tower. Inside the tower is a hallway with thousands of pint glasses from large and small breweries throughout Bavaria. From this point in the tour you are free to explore the tower at your own pace. We enjoyed exploring the tower at a leisurely pace, stopping to admire both the surrounding view and the hundreds of intricate details.
Construction on the tower began after the death of Hundertwasser, but it is based on the plans he sent shortly before his death in 2000. It is interesting to note that the original plans called for the structure to rise 70 meters, but an unwritten Bavarian law prohibits construction of a building higher than the steeple of the church. The final approved height for the tower was 35 meters, not 70.
Following the tour, we headed over to the Kunsthaus – the Art House. The most fascinating part of the exhibit there is the architecture, which follows the ideals of Hundertwasser – he believed that the lines should flow, in harmony with nature, and they should be filled with color. We spent another hour enjoying not only the original graphic works housed in the Kunsthaus, but the architectural form of the Kunsthaus itself.
We enjoyed our morning immersed in regional beer and the works of a world-renowned artist. It was nice to discover an artist that we all enjoyed. If you are in the Regensburg area, I would recommend this as a day trip. The menu at the Biergarten is rather small, making it more of a stop for a brotzeit and a place to try the Kuchlbauer wheat beer than a destination for a meal. Keep in mind that most of the tours are in German, you’ll need to check ahead to find out if there is an English language tour available. There is no tour in the Kunsthaus, you can tour that at your own pace.
You can find hours of operation and ticket prices here on the Kuchlbauer’s Bierwelt website.
You can find more information on Hundertwasser here.