Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Me and the Band

That’s the feeling in the Tunix festival going on this week behind the Glyptotek museum and produced by the Technical University of Munich. The four-day festival, which has been going on for the past 25 years, has brought the neighborhood to life – if for no other reason for the loud music that has rolled into the night around Maxvorstadt. The festival is free, organized by the student body, and mostly filled with students from the University next door. And to bring out the students, they’ve selected the top local bands around. Acutally, Tunix represents only one of the three festivals at the university, including StuStaCalum and Garnix. All are a great success for the Univeristy. Just to be consistent with yesterday's post, which ever band is on stage runs for cover each afternoon as the rain, thunder, and lightening begin. And like all student events, they have a "Meet the Prof" table where you can meet with your professors - but this time over a beer. It is Munich, after all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reality Check

So yesterday I did a post about the great outdoors around Munich. And it’s true. Munich has some great opportunities for enjoying the outdoors – generally better than most places on earth. However, I thought I would share a good dose of reality with you – what Spring is really like in Munich. I have not been here long enough to know if this is normal or not, but we have had three straight weeks of rain. And I’m not talking about a quick sprinkle through town. I’m talking about a torrential downpour happening every day of the week. The thing that is a bit misleading is it seems quite sunny and nice in the morning, only to be caught with heavy rain, winds, and a 15 degree (Fahrenheit) drop in temperature as the day goes along. As much as I am impressed with Munich, it makes being here incredibly depressing as it feels like nighttime at 3 in the afternoon. So get out while you can and enjoy the two hours of sun in the morning before the monsoon comes through town. Between you and me…I can’t wait til this pattern ends.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Great Outdoors

Jack Wolfskin may not be a Munich-based company (it is based in Idstein, 200 KM Northwest of Munich), but fewer brands are more engrained in the Munich outdoor lifestyle than this outdoor apparel, footwear, and equipment manufacturer and retailer. Jack Wolfskin is generally listed as one of Munich’s coolest assets, and a celebrated part of the culture as it becomes more and more fashionable and used in everyday situations rather than in the extreme outdoors. I tend to think of the brand as being very similar to Timberland, but there are claims that Jack Wolfskin is the largest outdoor clothing manufacturer in the world – although I can’t confirm. It. The company was founded in 1981, and now has stores across Europe and Asia selling everything from mountaineering to leisure clothing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

From Heine's Home to Home Store

Just North of Sendlingertor on Hackenstrasse 4, is the former home of German poet, journalist, and literary critic – Christian Johann Heinrich Heine. Heine was best known for his lyric poetry, much of which was set to music in the form of art songs by German Composers. Heine lived from 1797 until 1856, and lived in Munich for a very short time from 1827-1828. He was born in Dusseldorf and spent time in Hamburg, Gottingen, Bonn & Berlin. In 1825, just before moving to Munich, Heine converted from Judaism to Lutheranism, as Jews had severe restrictions in many German states at the time, and this prevented him from an academic career. He described this move as a “ticket of admission into European culture.” The elegant home is today the home of the Radspielerhaus, which today houses another Munich establishment, Radspieler a quality home and furniture store.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Where Good Beer Comes From

With all the beer production in Munich, there’s no shortage of key ingredients around here. I came across this barley farm at Inhausen, a small community North of Munich. You find similar farms around Munich growing hops as well. And that’s where the great beer production starts. Combine these two with water, hops and yeast – and you have an industry to power the region. You actually don’t need to go far outside Munich to run into these farms, as the moment you leave the urban boundary you are in the middle of farmland.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Catching Air

A paraglider works on his technique at the city boundary of Munich. Like most outdoor sports, paragliding is quite popular in Munich and surrounding area. There are two flight schools around Munich, including Fly for Fun, and Flagschule Chiemsee – both organized by the German Hang gliding and Paragliding Federation. The speed range of paragliders is typically 20-60 kilometers per hour. Unlike parachutes, which are used for descending, paragliders are used specifically for ascending and are often called ascending parachutes. Along those lines, this athlete struggles to stay afoot, as you see the neighborhood of Am Hart in the distance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A shooter’s view at one of the most recognized shooting ranges in the world, The Olympic Shooting facility north of Munich, which was built for the 1972 Olympics. The facility received a several million euro face-lift over the past few years as it hosted the ISSF World Cup back in May, and will host the world shooting championships in 2010. A big part of that renovation was adding a new five-range shotgun venue, as well as five new Olympic Bunkers with superimposed skeet fields. All five bunkers are connected by a service tunnel that parallels the shooting stations. The facility is quite interesting in that it has its own sub-culture, which most people don’t get to see. When I stopped by, there were only about 10 shooters in what seemed about 150 shooting bays. They were all “kitted out” with the latest firing outfits, equipment, and attitude. When someone saw me taking pictures, I was promptly chased out of there. But then again, when they all have guns you get right back on your bike and ride, ride, ride.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fashion Statement

But what is he trying to say? Lounging far up above the Tollwood festival at the Olympic Park, a young man kicks it and listens to the free tunes flowing across the extensive parkland. The man’s fashion choices caught many an eye in Munich, which isn’t prone to bright colors, individual style, and getting noticed. So what is Munich’s style? I’d describe most as quite casual and a bit dark. Jeans are the norm, and if you want to dress up you wear a button-down and a sport coat. Some people love the casual lifestyle in Munich. I don’t mind it, but also feel that when you go to a theatre performance, opera or ballet, you find some way to get out of your butt out of the jeans and into something a bit more formal. It’s a bit of brainwashing from living 3 years in Paris and 19 years in San Francisco. There’s a time and place for everything, I suppose, and in Munich – the time and place call for conformity rather than outspoken – which is why this is a-typical for Munich.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Flower Power in GBV

A quick glance at one of the vendors in the lively neighborhood-wide flea market of Glockenbachviertel (thanks Mia for the tip). Often shortened to GBV, it’s the neighborhood directly Southwest of Munich’s city center, and houses the Viktalienmarket, Gartnerplatz, and Sendlingertor. It is also a sub-area of Isarvorstadt. Today you find an eclectic mix of shops, cafes, and artist galleries. You will also find Munich’s most densely populated district, as well as the one with the fewest children. GBV is also the self-proclaimed gay capital of Munich. It’s name actually means Bell Brook, and is named after the businesses in the 14-1600s which made bells, leveraging the endless brooks that ran off the Isar River for power.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On Your Mark…Get Set…Go…

Here is the scene at the start of the Haimhausen Triathlon, just outside of Munich. More than 300 athletes jumped into the competition – with a 375M swim, 19.1 KM cycling, and 4.6 KM running – in what’s called a sprint triathlon. The swim was at Unterschleissheimer See, then the cycling travelled through Mooswiesen and past Ottershausen, and completing with a run in Schlosspark and a finish at Bavarian International School sports field. Of course, being Germany, one key difference is that you no longer have worries on the transitions. When you switch from swimming to biking, you just strip on the course and change into your next outfit. But then again, one of the other benefits of being in Germany, there’s a beer garden at the end of the race. Ah…Bavaria.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Roar of the Crowd

Saturdays in the Altstadt is not for the weekend warrior – sort of speak. If you’ve ever been downtown on a Saturday, you know it’s madness. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Sundays when everything is closed. It leaves you with nothing else to do but spend down time with family and friends. This is a European trait that doesn’t exist in the US (as everything is open every day), and it’s something I hope we bring back with us to our time in the US. With that said, it puts a lot of pressure on the working families to get everything they need to get done on Saturday. And the crowds that take over the center of town resemble something more like the running of the bulls, than weekend shoppers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Iran on the Isar

More than 500 protesters marched the streets of Munich today hoping to sound their unrest over the recent elections in Iran. I snapped this photo as the protesters passed by Ludwigvorstadt, the self-proclaimed middle-eastern part of town with large populations of Turkish-German residents. Yet the crowd was certainly a mix of people in terms of age, race, political beliefs, etc. I think it’s always interesting to see foreign communities in Munich step up to ensure their voice is heard – especially given that Munich is so structured around conforming. Unfortunately the situation in Iran became worse as the day progressed, with government police using a mix of tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters in Tehran.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sumo Squeeze

Although I didn’t mean to align with yesterday’s post about plus-sized Germany, I came across this fantastic bike horn and I thought it was worth sharing. 90% of the bikes in Munich seem exactly alike, but it’s the little details that help them stand apart. Some have bright banners and details on the body of the bike, others have bright rims (I saw a bike today that looked completely neon), and others just choose to show their personality by the butt they squeeze, to get other butts out of the way. Actually, the only reason I noticed it was that people passing by couldn’t help squeezing it. I say, let er blow…

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Split Personality

As with many things in Munich, you find contrasts wherever you go. I stumbled across this sculpture in the Olympic Park. You already know I’m a big fan of this extensive park built in 1972 for the “Happy Games” which didn’t turn out so happy, but what’s amazing is just how much is left undiscovered. No matter how many times you’ve been there, you will still find new paths, new areas to fall asleep on the grass, or great spots to rollerblade or bike through. But back to this sculpture – it was built in honor of the Olympic athletes that amazed the spectators of the games. The top athletes were Mark Spitz with 7 gold medals in swimming; Olga Korbut, the tiny Soviet gold medal gymnast; and the Soviet basketball team which upset the US team breaking their streak of Gold since 1936. And now to the contrast. Which of those athletes looked like this sculpture? This sounds weird, but I’ve discovered a slew of heavy set sculptures around town. Is Munich feeling a bit big these days? Germany has been established as the heaviest country in the European Union, but do they need to show it in stone, bronze, and marble?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hidden Secrets of the Hofgarten

If you’ve ever been to Munich (for any reason other than Octoberfest), you’ve probably come across the beautiful Royal Palace Hofgarten. I love it there, and since I have posted several times before about this area, I figured I might try to share a few things about the Hofgarten that you may not have known. First of all the entire garden has been redesigned countless times over the centuries to follow the current trends. No renovation was more dramatic though than after the devastation of World War II, when architects restored its original grandeur. They focused on every last detail, even ensuring that the fountains were in the appropriate style and the flower beds included plants typical of the early 17th century. The pavilion that you see pictured is actually the Temple of Diana, named after the Roman goddess Diana, who was goddess of the hunt and later became the moon Goddess. On top of the pavilion is a bronze statue named “Tellus Bavarica” symbolizing the treasures of Bavarian land – grain, game, water and salt – although to see the original you will have to look in the Residence. The Pavilion has eight arches, and from each radiates a footpath that divides the garden into eight individual sections. If you follow those footpaths to the north and west ends of the garden, there is an arcade with 125 arches – designed after the Palais Royal in Paris. Finally, the Hofgarten is the first place to be named in T S Eliot's The Waste Land and is used to symbolize the dying courts of Old Europe and the empty charms of the aristocratic life. Now there had to be something in there that was news to you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Escaping the City Without Leaving

When is a neighborhood in the center of town not quite in the center of town? When it’s Lehel, the neighborhood that wraps around the East side of the altstadt. I used to think it amounted to only the postage stamp blocks surrounding St. Anna church, but it turns out that it drapes the entire East side of the city. I love this area as you can easily walk into the Alstsadt, but each of the sections of the neighborhood have its own personality – from North Lehel (North of Prinzregentenstrasse), mid-Lehel (between Maximillianstrasse and Prinzregentenstrasse, and the south side from Maximillianstrasse. Lehel is said to be the city’s oldest neighborhood outside of the Altsatdt, also often referred to as Vorstadt – or urban neighborhood. As the neighborhood includes the Bayerisches National Museum, the Haus der Kunst, and the upscale shopping street of Maximillianstrasse, it is also quite culturally rich. But what I love most about this neighborhood is how you leave the main boulevards and you feel immediately like you’ve exited the center of the city and relish the true heart of a residential neighborhood.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oh So Bavarian

When it comes to finding a lust for life, Bavarians certainly have it down when it comes to drinking beer. For an American who is used to largely “dry” states, it actually takes some getting used to (but I’m adjusting quite well – don’t you worry). Everywhere you go you find a beergarden, and when one doesn’t exist you just make one as you go – at picnics, school events, or even church functions. You simply don’t have events in Munich without beer. So I laughed when I saw this party coach. Pulled by a pair of horses, this group of revelers (quite the characters, let me add) rolled through the English Garden with the keg only inches away. Ah…beer fuels life in Bavaria.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Munich's Other Schloss

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted about one of my favorite locations in Munich, which is Schloss Schleissheim – located in the Munich suburb of Unterschleissheim. It’s near the Deutsches Museum of Flight, and is by far one of the best castles around Munich. You shouldn’t expect a Neuschwanstein, but rather expect a laid back parkland that happens to surround three amazing castles and a long canal which is the center-piece of the Baroque gardens. What started out as a renaissance country house for the royal dukes in the 1600s, today is an amazing complement to Nymphenburg Palace – with less than 10% of the visitors and what seems to be more formal grounds. I’ve never been inside, but there is supposed to be very important examples of German baroque architecture in the Grand Gallery, the wide staircase, the Maximilian’s Chapel and the four state apartments. In the end, it’s nice to stop by on a weekday when you seem to be one of only 10 people on the extensive grounds, and notice some of the wonderful details of the Palace (as shown here).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Munich Flea Markets

OK, so I’ve been quite laxed over the last few days about posting, but it wasn’t by choice. The lovely resort we spent the last few days at in Croatia shocked us with NO internet access. Yes…it’s true that some places in the world still don’t have persistent wi-fi, but perhaps you have to leave the European Union to find them. So I’ll try to catch up over the next few days. As this is a Friday post, I think it’s worthwhile to mention a weekend establishment in Munich. That’s the weekly fleamarket at the Olympicpark parking lot. Of course, flea market is not one word, but it seems somehow appropriate to pull the words together, as is so often the case in the German language. And what better to find in Bavarian flohmarkts but Gnomes. It just seems somehow appropriate. You can find other Flohmarkts around town. Here’s a list of most of them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Culture Clash

I laugh every time I see something like this in Munich. It’s not because I dislike the graffiti, or because I am offended by the fact that someone would deface another person’s property. I laugh because Graffiti just doesn’t fit in Munich. Graffiti comes with this impression of some social unrest, a rebellious youth, or some sort of counter culture – that simply doesn’t exist in Munich. Like most places in Germany, you find order where ever you go in Munich. As one example, the few places you find graffiti in Munich are walls designated for just such a thing. That’s right, state sanctioned graffiti. It just seems counter-intuitive and wrong. At any rate, the image is interesting in the heart of yuppie Schwabing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Place in the Sun

OK, so we’ve had rain nearly every day for the past two weeks. But at the same time, we’ve had sun nearly every day for the past two weeks. This is Spring in Munich, and you can tell we are in seasonal transitions. But as you get ready for Summer, I think there are a tremendous amount of things to do outdoors around Munich. Here are some of my favorites, and a few suggestions from others. Bike, run, walk, sit, surf, skinny dip, sleep along the Isar. I hope you get the picture. Do anything (clothed or not) along the Isar. It’s great. Rollerblade around the Regatta near Schloss Schleissheim. Built for the 1972 Olympics, it’s 4.5 KM around and perfectly flat. Wander through the English Gardens and stop at EVERY beer garden you find. Bike through the Olympicpark, and explore all it has to offer. Try out one of the many outdoor pools, which are more like waterparks than anything else. Most people pay the cheap fee (usually around 3 euros), bring their lunch, and stay all day. For the hell of it, go test drive a BMW, and see how fast highway 9 turns to NO speed limit. OK. This is not outdoors, but find a convertible and call it good. Hang out at the endless cafes along Leopoldstrasse, and experience the heart of Schwabing. Wander between Nymphenburg and the Botanical Gardens. Like I said, there’s absolutely no shortage of things to do, so ensure you make the most of the part of day where the sun shines bright.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Slow Motion

If you want to travel a little slower around Munich than yesterday’s post, this is the best way. There’s something about hopping on your City Cruiser, finding a park somewhere, and getting lost in a book or two. The students around Munich’s University have figured out that the best place for sun worshiping (and possibly studying) is in the parks that line the near-by museums. As they are blocked from the wind, they make a perfect hide away. I like this picture because the soft lines of the woman’s shoulders and her bike are contrasted with the heavy stones of the museum. In Munich, there’s no better way to get around. You can get from the edge of town into the Altstadt in about 20 minutes, and there’s nothing like the fresh air along the way. So next time you are out cruising, be sure to find a park you’ve never seen before and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to be anywhere all that soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What are you driving?

Munich is a such strange place to drive. For starters, every other call is a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. They are all considered luxury cars in the US, but because so many companies provide these as company cars – they are quite common. You even see sights like this, with a Ferrari or an old Jaguar cruising through town. Munich has a passion for driving that I’ve never seen before. Everyone seems to be an enthusiast. So how does that explain why Munich drivers are so incredibly bad at driving. You might think I’m exaggerating here, but they are some of the worst I have seen. Offense number one: signaling and immediately moving into that lane without looking. Offense number two: aggressive autobahn driving where the outer lane is travelling 100 KM per hour, and the inner lane is 250 KM per hour – which has led to a few high-profile accidents lately. Third offense: the bike riders on two wheels – who are so convinced they have the right-of-way at all times, that they will trample you if you cross the bike lane, and will ignore all rules or people around them. All I can say, is don’t mistake a passion for driving with the ability to drive.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Election. What Election?

What if you threw a party and no one showed up? That a bit how locals feel about tomorrow’s European Parliament elections. It’s the biggest trans-national election in history with 375 million European citizens in 27 countries eligible to vote as 736 members of European Parliament are elected for a five-year term. And in Germany, the vote counts most – as the country with the largest population, Germany will elect 99 members. In contrast, Malta, the smallest country, will have only five. Reports from early elections taking place in other countries around Europe is that the turn-out has been very low. At its peak in 1979, approximately 60% of the eligible voters cast a ballot. This year it’s expected to be approximately 40%. There are a variety of reasons – one is the feeling that the EU parliament doesn’t impact local lives. Yet several significant laws passed over the past several years do exactly that – like the regulation limiting the amount cell phone companies can charge for rooming, or the regulation that requires companies to show that the chemicals they use are safe. Is that enough to convince locals to go to the polls? After having an election in what seems every six months in Munich, I don’t think so.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Learning in the Shadow of Luitpold

A one-on-one doggie obedience course takes place under the obelisk in Luitpold park in Northern Schwabing. The park is a peaceful setting, especially on sunny mornings like this one. As for the dogs around Munich, they behave exactly as you would expect – quite orderly and obedient like this one. The 17-meter high obelisk was built in memory of Prince Regent Luitpold, who reigned over Bavaria from 1886 til his death. During this time Luitpold is credited as bringing Bavaria to its golden age, even though it’s usually King Ludwig II who is recognized today for his lavish castles across the region.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Moment of Your Own

Sometimes finding a spot for yourself can be pretty challenging in the city. I’ve shown you the crazy crowds at the English Gardens on a sunny day, as well as the endless skin at the outdoor pools. But early morning at the Olympic Park can be a place of refuge, solitude - even if there are thousands of people already using the park. For most of Munich’s history, this place previously known as Oberwiesenfeld (or upper meadow-field), was largely unused. It was used as an airfield before 1939, but the Munich-Riem airport left the Oberwiesenfeld deserted and unused. The Nazis planned to use this area as the central slaughterhouse and marketplace, but WWII hindered those plans. After the war, the area became known as the Trummerberg, which refers to a hill erected from the ruins caused by the bombings in the war. After the war, refuges from the Hungarian Revolution camped at the US Army facilities. Because it was largely vacant, the area became a perfect place for the development of the Olympic Stadium. And today, for most, the Olympic Park becomes a space where one can compete, work out, discover, watch, or simply discover a moment on your own.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Back on the Film Set

A film crew moves back in to the parking lot behind the Paleontology Museum. For three days straight you could see the lineup of lighting trucks, vending trucks, and a constant flow of actors going in and out. I learned something fascinating about movies filmed in Munich the other day. I knew that classic films like Das Boot, Cabaret, and The Never Ending Story were filmed in Munich. It was a complete surprise to find out that “Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory” was filmed in Munich as well. That’s right. The 1971 children’s classic about a poor boy who wins the possibility of a life-time supply of chocolate was filmed in Munich because it was much cheaper than the US, and the setting fit the original screenplay. The director said he liked the ambiguity and unfamiliarity of the location. The external shots of the factory were filmed at the Gasworks on Dachauerstrasse. Most of the factory interior scenes were filmed at Bavaria Film Works. And the closing sequence, when the Wonkavator is flying above the factory is footage of Nordlingen, 132 KM NW of Munich. I haven’t been to the town, but it’s one of only three in Germany that still has a completely established city wall. The other two being Rothenburg ob der Tauber (244 KM NW of Munich) and Dinkelsbuhl.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sign of the Times

Munich has seemingly refused any signs of economic crisis. I posted a few weeks ago about the closing of several large auto sellers, yet when you go to the city center it is swamped by shoppers. The National Theatre is still full before performances. There’s no shortage of nice cars on the road. Really – you don’t see all that much that would indicate any crisis. Yet throughout town, you see a quiet sign of struggle – as business signs disappear from entrances of apartment buildings. In Schwabing, particularly, it seemed that every other sign post was missing several businesses. I suppose even in strong economies like Germany (fourth largest in the world/biggest in Europe), and in one of the strongest economic cities like Munich (boasted by headquarters of Siemens, BMW, Man Truck, Linde, Allianz, and Munich Re), you see the struggles that are hitting small businesses around the world.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beer Gardens as They Should Be

One thing I love about Munich is that you can find thousands of different kinds of beer gardens. This is no exaggeration. Every beer garden seems to take on its own personality – the beer, food, setting, people, ambiance, theme, etc. One of the best is La Villa at Bamberger Haus, which is in Luitpold Park in North Schwabing. The century-old building is a perfect setting on a sunny day to enjoy an Augistiner Beer. Throughout the beer garden are casual lounge chairs that strake a stark contrast to the buildings neo-baroque building. However, this is not the only contrast. For example, inside you will find true Bavarian food, but mixed with a menu of International fare. And in the basement, you have a Cantina – serving Brazilian and Mexican food. The building, which is owned by the city of Munich, was completely destroyed in WWII, but was restored in 1983.