Bavaria is blue. Blue is what Bavaria does. “Blue is the typical heavenly colour” wrote Wassily Kandinsky. “The ultimate feeling it creates is one of rest.” His own Blaue Reiter (“Blue Rider”) group of pioneering modernist artists based in Munich and Murnau is only one of a number of associations between the free state and the cobalt colour. Strauss’s Blue Danube flows through Bavaria on its way to the Black Sea. We have Bavaria Blu stilton cheese, and Nuremberg’s annual Blue Night city festival. There is also the white and blue Bavarian flag, inherited from the heraldic colours of the former ruling family, the Wittelsbachs – one of whose most celebrated historic figures is Max Emanuel, the 18th century Blue Duke.
Popular lore has it that the white and blue lozenges of the flag represent the lakes and rivers of Bavaria – or, depending on who you ask, the lakes and sky, or other variations – but this is probably a later romantic reinterpretation of medieval heraldry that held no such meaning. People keep making the connection, however. The state anthem refers to “die Farben deines Himmels, Weiss und Blau” (“the colours of your heavens, white and blue”) and compares them to “unser Banner, Weiss and Blau“. The Munich writer Carl Amery described the Bavarian sky as our “white and blue canopy of state.” Associating nation with nature is very much a Bavarian thing.
The Bavarian landscape seems almost designed to grasp the sky. The mountains, fading blue into the horizon, draw the gaze upwards to the blue immensity of the heavens, and the crystalline lakes mirror and complement both. The white towers of a typical Bavarian church serve only to highlight and define the blue all around. Can there be a more typically postcard-perfect Bavarian sight than a blue and white maypole against an unblemished azure sky?
Perhaps the only area where Bavaria is not a kingdom of blue is in football, much to the chagrin of the blues of Munich 1860, forever in the shadow of the all-conquering reds of FC Bayern. They would probably agree with Kandinsky when he described red as a troubling colour, causing a sensation like fire.