Moving 16,000km away from your home, family and friends isn’t as hard as you may think.
That is – not when you are blessed with regular visitors like I have over the last year.
Since July 2012 our little paradise in München has opened its doors to many a weary traveller – both German and Australian based. This has included my parents, my younger brother, my grandparents, my sister-in-law’s brother, Alex’s parents, Australian and German friends and will soon welcome my eldest brother and his wife (just a little excited!!)
Opening my home to these special people brings my far away home that little bit closer, whilst allowing me to share my little big German life with them.
Having visitors also means a chance to put on the mini tourist-guide badge and show off the beautiful city I live in. Being a ‘traveller’ myself, exploring the offerings of my city is exciting. We all know however that our daily routine can sometimes get in the way of appreciating our surroundings as much as we would like to – so given the opportunity to explore the city with my visitors and I will take it without second thought.
Having revealed a few of my favourite spots to my visitors, it is now time to share some of my München with you. (This will only be the start).
To be brief, München
– is the capital of Bavaria and close to the Bavarian Alps,
– is the third largest German city with a population of approximately 1.4 million (city) and a large expatriate population,
– was part of the Bavarian monarchy – ruled by (some particularly crazy) dukes and Kings – until 1949 where it became a democratic state of the Federal Republic of Germany,
– is blessed by the Alpine Isar river,
– welcomes millions of visitors to the Oktoberfest every year,
– has the most number of Biergartens in Germany, as well as the worlds largest (Hirschgarten, seating 8,000 people),
– is victim to the Föhn phenomenon – a warm, dry wind believed to cause severe head aches,
– is home to more than 35 museums and is an epicenter of cultural arts,
– is translated to Monaco in Italian/Greek/Spanish,
– and, and, and ….
The München I call home is beautiful, elegant, humid in summer, musical, has an excellent cycling network and many little districts, each one different to the next. Since moving here I have explored a lot of Munich, building a list of my ‘special’ places along the way – parks, squares, spots along the river, walking routes, cafes…
A 10 minute walk from my house leads me to the wild banks of the Isar River – each day reveals a different face of the river’s character. You will see runners paving their way along the river all year, but in summer the banks attract sun bathers, picnic-goers and a vast collection of portable mini-BBQs. The Isar itself also attracts fishermen, canoers and the famous Flossfahrt (raft tours) that operate throughout spring and summer.
The Isar runs throughout the city; crossing-through and dividing several living quarters, parks and Munich’s zoo. Walking along the river through the valley and you will stumble across one of said favourite spots – Hinterbrühler See (Lake Hinterbrühler). Swans, Weeping Willows, wooden bridges, and many spots to play hide-and-seek.
When the sun is out I like to walk or ride my bike along the river towards the city. Not only are the paths well maintained, but the scenery is amazing – from the diverse array of nature along the shore and the mini-forests, to the melting pot of people and groups that meet in spots along the river. For example, one particular group of people who live by the ideal of the Frei Körper Kultur (Free Body Culture), have established their little nudist colony along the Isar (one of many dotted throughout the city), which I happened to stumble across one warm Summer’s day…
Furthering the water theme, the surfers on the Eisbach in the Englischer Garten is another favourite spot of mine in the city. One would normally not associate München and surfing, but thanks to the man-made wave accompanying the man-made river that flows through the Englischer Garten (and also flows into the Isar River), the popular tourist attraction sees some daring surfers take a turn to conquer the wave. The site draws a crowd in the summer, but it is the winter surfers who brave the minus temperatures that are worth a bigger applause.
The Englischer Garten is München’s paradise. Developed in 1789 it is the world’s largest urban public park and beautiful throughout the year. As a city park it definitely serves as the backyard for many – with summer drawing crowds who lie along the Eisbach, who strum their guitar on the hill side of the Monopteros, who row along on the Kleinhesseloher See or who merely enjoy a Bier & Brezel in one of the park’s many Biergartens (yes, it is very well equipped). While I love that it is so easily to lose yourself along the weaving paths, my favourite part is turning a corner to unexpectedly find a group of street musicians playing their tunes; filling the air with a sweet melody to accompany the park’s visual beauty.
München is a people-watchers paradise. The Müncheners may be known as the Schickeria (from the italian sciccheria, an exaggerated and somewhat derogatory description of one as Chic) amongst the Germans, but this simply makes for a well-dressed city, making people-watching even more fun. (The Schickeria is also characterised with snobbyness, an elitist character and a slightly exaggerated air of elegance – but we don’t need to go into stereotypes just now.)
If ever wandering throughout the city I like to take small breaks along the way and take in the surroundings. A few of my favourite spots in München to absorb the people, the culture, or just a brief pause are:
Gärtnerplatz – once the central square of Isarvorstaft, the roundabout that marks the centre of the square is often decorated with seasonal flowers and looks onto the cafe fronts with tables facing the footpaths and small boutiques.
The Hofgarten – close to Odeonsplatz and situated between the Residenz (the former Royal Palace of Bavaria’s Monarchs) and the Englisch Garten (English Garden) the garden originally laid by Maximillian I, has a distinct air of peace, despite being in the centre of the city. The Garden is always perfectly maintained, sees many tourists passing through and provides a spot to think amongst the Roses.
Less than 500m away from the Hofgarten and a member of Munich’s cafe institutions, Cafe Luitpold, is another favourite. The constant buzz of activity means a lot to take in, and with its decadent cakes, house made pralines and a Sunday brunch accompanied by live music.
Viktualienmarkt – located close to Marienplatz, this open market has been offering an abundance of local, gourmet and traditional produce for more than 200 years. While you will see the groups of tourists with a Leberkäse Semmel in their hand, it is also popular with the locals given the high quality produce. The lunch hour rush is my favourite – with lines of people waiting for freshly pressed juices, a Fisch Brötchen, a felafel or some vegetables for the night’s dinner. I often take my lunch, find a spot in the sun and watch the bustle all around.
While only a glimpse, I hope this has revealed the beauty I am surrounded by every day and a few of the spots I like to explore with my guests. München, a city that gladly offers more than the Oktoberfest, has opened its doors to me; something I am truly grateful for.