History of the Deutsche Eiche
The Deutsche Eiche („German Oak“) was built in 1864. In the same year, the 18-year old King Ludwig II. ascended the throne of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Starting around 1800, the second town wall was torn down and Munich was extended to the north (remains of the fortifications can still be seen at Isartor, Karlstor and Sendlinger Tor). The current area around the Gärtnerplatz also garnered an increasing amount of interest due to its vicinity to the Viktualienmarkt, the City Hall and major churches. Nevertheless, construction in the district began only in 1860, seeing that floods from the Isar River would repeatedly wreak havoc in this area. The river banks were then fortified and most city streams (anabranches of the Isar) were closed off, to provide more protection against floods. For the first time in city history, apartment buildings were constructed as row houses, resulting in a very dense architectural style. This can be felt especially in the summer when the buildings store a great amount of heat and a large discrepancy in temperature can be measured with respect to the areas surrounding the district. The street names were already decided upon by King Ludwig I. during the initial planning in 1830: the king wanted to honor the architects Gärtner and Klenze, court painter Cornelius and engineer Georg von Reichenbach by naming streets after them. In 1870, Bavaria lost its sovereignty and became part of the German Empire. After Bavaria had become a kingdom in 1806 through the support of Napoleon, it received a constitution, which was heavily influenced by the Enlightenment and therefore did include any passages referring to homosexuality being an offence. However, the adoption of the Prussian criminal code within the German Empire meant that homosexuality became, based on Paragraph 175, a criminal offence in Bavaria as well, ironically during the reign of Ludwig II., who himself was gay! In 1871, a war against France began, which was contrary to the wishes of King Ludwig II., who was a pacifist and a great admirer of France. The war was won by the German Empire and in the flurry of the resulting national pride, „German Oaks” were established all over Germany. Many existing premises were renamed “oak”, which had always been an old Germanic symbol for strength and eternity. Even a few years ago, there were still five “German Oaks” in Munich. Today, luckily, there is only one left besides our own, located on the outskirts of the city. Ludwig II. surrounded himself in the last years of his life with husky, good-looking soldiers from his light cavalry, referred to by the French name „Chevaux légers“. According to one theory, the German word “schwul” (gay) stems from this military expression. Bavarians tended to pronounce the words in their own, distorted French dialect: „Der Ludwig und seine Schwulischen!“ (“Ludwig and his light cavalry”)
The Deutsche Eiche - a house of many colors
The Deutsche Eiche has always had a very diverse clientele. Traders from the Great Market Hall, butchers from the slaughterhouse down south, prostitutes under the control of their female pimp called Napoleon and several artists all belonged to the Eiche crowd. In 1921-23, Adolf Hitler was also a regular, who, according to gossip, was a great fan of the male dancers at the nearby Gärtnerplatztheater, who would also meet up here. There is much evidence that Hitler himself may have been a closeted homosexual and that he made Paragraph 175 even more stringent only to silence the repeatedly arising gossip about his sexual orientation. Many ended up as early as 1934 in prison or in concentration camps (having to wear a pink triangle), due to complaints filed with the police.
Origins of the hotel
The history of the building as a hotel began in 1928: it was back then that the first two rooms out of today’s thirty-six were let to overnight guests. By the end of the war, the hotel had already had twenty-five rooms, however with a very low level of comfort. This low level of quality was here to stay until the early 90s. At the time when the new owners bought the premises, the rooms could hardly be let even during the Oktoberfest, as nobody wanted to share a bathroom with others on the same floor. Today, the Deutsche Eiche is a design hotel, fulfilling many criteria of the four- and five-star categories. Nevertheless, to achieve these categories, more large rooms and suites would have to be built. Our hotel has a „three-star superior“ designation and was the first hotel in Munich to win the German reality show „Mein himmlisches Hotel“(My heavenly hotel).
A meeting place for artists
After WWII, more and more artists, decorators and a colorful crowd would gather at the quaint tavern. An article of the Süddeutsche Zeitung even stated that the Deutsche Eiche is a meeting place for homosexuals. The landlady at the time, Ella Reichenbach, was angered by the news: „Bollocks. In this house, 90% of the guests are artists and 10% are men who have been disappointed by women!“ And that was correct in a way. Nevertheless, there have also always been several women here, besides the landladies themselves, who have thoroughly enjoyed their time here. One can mention, among many others, Margot Werner, Elisabeth Volkmann, Barbara Valentin or Donna Summer. After the war, it was Ernst Craemer, who established the tradition of Carnival at the Eiche. Landladies Ella and Tony would be protagonists of parodies presented at the Eiche. Even today, large parties are organized at the end of January and on Mardi Gras. Our boys then practice their dances, in drag, of course. In the 60s John Cranko, world-famous ballet choreographer, would also always celebrate his successes with his team from the Gärtnerplatztheater at the Eiche. From 1974 onwards, the Deutsche Eiche would become the so-called „second living room“ of world-renowned film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who would also celebrate the completion of his films here. The Deutsche Eiche was even used as a filming location in his movies „Satansbraten“ (Satan’s Brew) and „Lola“. In order to live as close to his regular haunt as he could, Fassbinder moved into an apartment on the opposite side of the street (Reichenbachstr. 12) with his lover Armin, who was a waiter at the Eiche. The administrative offices of the Deutsche Eiche are now in that apartment. Freddie Mercury („Queen“) also lived in Munich in the 80s and liked to spend time at the Deutsche Eiche. Unfortunately, the great star then became a symbol for the new, fast-spreading disease AIDS and died in 1991. In this period, Dr. Peter Gauweiler, senior administrative officer at the local county council, caused much of a stir with his list of measures, which aimed to destroy all establishments of the LGBT scene. Nowadays, he would probably admit that it was a mistake on his part.
The new era
AIDS caused feelings of disconcertment in the gay community. Many would not go out any more, for fear of discrimination. „Löwenbräu“, the owner of the Deutsche Eiche, reacted by deciding to convert the building into an office building. However, the decision was met by strong resistance, so at the end, Löwenbräu just wanted to rid itself of the building. In December 1993, Dietmar Holzapfel and Sepp Sattler became the owners of the property. Since then, no year has gone by without some form of reconstruction, expansion or beautification.
Today, the Deutsche Eiche is considered to be the jewel box of the street. Just like society itself, the clientele of the Eiche has changed as well. Nowadays, all kinds of guests visit the property: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people and straight guests – and they all enjoy the colorful mixture!
Representative of this mixture were Günter Grass, family father and Nobel prize recipient, fashion icon Jean-Paul Gaultier, Frank Schätzing and his wife or Ulli Lommel, the “James Dean” of the Fassbinder era, Ralf Morgenstern, Thomas Hermanns, just to mention a few names.
The bathhouse of the Deutsche Eiche was created in 1995 in two of the courtyard buildings, targeting a male-only clientele. The demand for the bathhouse was strong from the very beginning. Luckily, the owners were able to acquire additional buildings in the courtyard, meaning that the bathhouse now occupies an area stretching over five properties and four floors. The steam bath with its five separate halls, the two Finnish saunas and the large jacuzzi are just as attractive as the large cruising areas and the bathhouse restaurant. Approximately 10 000 male visitors come to the bathhouse on a monthly basis from all parts of the world to relax and to get to know others.
The roof terrace
It is not easy in Munich to receive construction permits for objects that differ somewhat from the norm. It took years of fighting until one of Munich’s most beautiful roof terraces could be opened on the top floor. The authority responsible for the preservation of historical buildings claimed that the roof terrace could potentially seriously disrupt the architectural unity of the Gärtnerplatz district. The authority responsible for construction permits did not agree, however, thanks to which inhabitants of Munich and tourists alike can now enjoy a gorgeous view of our city. City tours of several different travel agencies and other organizations end on our roof terrace on an almost daily basis.
The Deutsche Eiche is a combination of a cozy restaurant with Bavarian and international cuisine, a chic design hotel, a pleasant rooftop bar and one of the world’s largest male-only bathhouses – and is therefore unique in the world. Welcome to the Deutsche Eiche!