For centuries Bavaria was ruled as a duchy in the Holy Roman Empire, a patchwork of nations that extended from Italy to the North Sea. In the early 19th century, a conquering Napoleon annexed Bavaria, elevated it to the rank of kingdom and doubled its size. The fledgling nation became the object of power struggles between Prussia and Austria and, in 1871, was brought into the German Reich by Bismarck.

Bavaria was the only German state that refused to ratify the Basic Law (Germany’s near constitution) following WWII. Instead, Bavaria’s leaders opted to return to its pre-war status as a ‘free state’, and drafted their own constitution. Almost ever since, the Land (state) has been ruled by the Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU), the arch-conservative party that is peculiar to Bavaria. Its dominance of the politics of a single Land is unique in postwar Germany, having ruled for all but five of the last 50 years without the need to form a coalition with anyone else. Its sister party, the CDU, operates in the rest of the country by mutual agreement.

Munich Air Disaster

One of Europe's worst sporting tragedies happened on a freezing February afternoon in 1958 at Munich Riem Airport. The Manchester United football team, the much-lauded Busby Babes, along with journalists and supporters were returning from a UEFA European Cup (the forerunner to today's Champions League) fixture in Belgrade when their flight had to land in Munich to refuel. With fuel tanks full, two take-off attempts were made but engine trouble meant they were unsuccessful. The passengers were offloaded, a solution to the problem found and the passengers got back on. However, on the third attempt, the plane never reached take-off speed on the slushy runway and slid off the end, hitting a house and other buildings. Some 23 people died, including eight players, eight journalists and three coaching staff. Bobby Charlton was one of the survivors – he went on to lift the World Cup for England in 1966. The German authorities opened an investigation against the one pilot who survived, captain James Thain – this dragged on until 1968 when the case was dropped.