In 1789 the American Sir Benjamin Thompson – later ennobled as Lord Rumford, which explains the origins of Rumfordstrasse in the Isarvorstadt – suggested that a 5km marshy strip along the River Isar be landscaped in English style, and it’s thanks to his advice that the people of Munich can enjoy one of the largest city parks in Europe, the Englischer Garten. It stretches north from the Haus der Kunst on Prinzregentenstrasse, beside which surfers ride the waves on the Eisbach stream when spring meltwater makes the “surf” high enough, and behind which in summer nude sunbathers stretch out on the Schönfeldwiese. The landmark Chinesischer Turm in the centre of the park – which has a huge Biergarten at its base – was modelled on the pagoda at Kew Gardens in London. The Englischer Garten’s better-known English connection, however, is that it was here in September 1939 that Unity Mitford, the Hitler-obsessed sister of Diana Mosley and the writer Nancy Mitford, shot herself, unable to bear the thought that England and Germany were at war. She failed to kill herself, however, and was shipped home via Switzerland to Britain, where she died shortly after the war, the bullet never having been dislodged from her brain.
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