Ingolstadt is a pleasant city on the banks of the Danube, half way between the big city tourist destinations of Munich and Nuremburg. Despite its riverside location it attracts far fewer visitors than its neighbours, or indeed some of the similarly sized but much more architecturally significant Bavarian cities such as Würzburg or Augsburg.
Admittedly its location isn’t on the most scenic stretch of the river, unlike Regensburg or even Passau, but Ingolstadt has three big claims to fame that should ensure its lasting legacy.
First it is the home of Audi, the third of the famous car marques that call southern Germany home. Less well known than the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart or BMW Welt in Munich, Audi has its own visitor centre at the Group HQ in Ingolstadt, the Audi Forum, which attracts 400,000 visitors a year. It offers both tours of its production facilities and there is the Audi Museum Mobile, charting the development of the company and its cars.
Unlike its competitors, the presence of the firm in Bavaria is something of an accident, a legacy of the historical settlement that concluded World War II. Before the war, Auto Union had its headquarters in the Soviet zone, but following the expropriation of the company’s plants in occupied Chemnitz and Zwickau by the authorities, the newly-named Audi relocated to Ingolstadt and has been there ever since.
The importance of Audi to the local economy cannot be overstated. It employs over 40,000 people and either directly (or through its supplier network) accounts for over 50 percent of regional output. Ingolstadt now has a third railway station, Ingolstadt Audi, a €15m joint project with Audi and Deutsche Bahn, which allows 3,000 daily commuters to get to their place of work more conveniently.
Ingolstadt’s second big claim to fame is its lasting place in the pantheon of horror fiction as the literal birthplace of Frankenstein’s Monster. Touring southern Germany in 1818, Mary Shelley decided to use the University of Ingolstadt, and its well known scientific research centre, as the setting for the young scientist Viktor Frankenstein’s decision to create a new animate creature.
The city operates a Frankenstein tour through the Altstadt, calling at locations which feature in the original novel, and makes good use of its setting as the location of one of the most enduring stories in European fiction.
Finally, Bavaria is synonymous with beer, and the first ever laws governing food safety, in this case regarding the ingredients that were permitted in the brewing of beer. Duke William IV proclaimed, in Ingolstadt in 1516, that beer could only be brewed with barley, hops and water. Initially this was the Bavarian Purity Law but it soon came to apply to the whole of the country.
Despite some tinkering to allow for brewing with wheat etc, those essential three ingredients remain at the core of the German beer industry, and brewers still proudly state that their beers adhere to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516.
So instead of passing through Ingolstadt en route to Munich from Nuremburg, it’s worth stopping off to consider the lasting effects that the city has had on European industry and culture.