Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Speak English, Wall Street English


Home of irritating advertisements all over Europe, it’s the Wall Street Institute.  It’s slogan is, “I speak English, Wall Street English!” as a focus to help in your career.  The fact is that most people in Munich already speak English very well – whether it’s Wall Street or not.  Further, most locals don’t at all mind speaking English.  In many cases, they want the opportunity to practice the language, so unlike in many countries around Europe – most Munich locals are not offended if you even open the conversation with English.  For me, I think the best is always to ask if people speak English first.  It shows a bit more respect before diving in.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Your Place, or Mine?


One of the mosaics at the base of the Peace arch in the Bogenhausen neighborhood of Munich.  The Mosaics are an allegorical representation of peace and war, and the victory and blessings of civilization.  Carl von Effner, forever changed the face of this part of Munich, when in 1857 he constructed the footbath and green area on the right hand side of the Isar.  The result is a 30-hectare Maximilian Park, and the 23 meter column that supports the peace arch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Whimsical Villa Stuck


No place in Munich do you experience a sense of fantasy like you do in Villa Stuck.  Walking from room to room is like walking through a fairy tale story, where the whimsical comes to life.  Here you see one of its famous rooms, the music chamber where the ceiling is covered with astrological symbols.  You will also find Orpheus with his lyre, as well as the Dionysian sphere and dance.  The magical lighting effects bring the room, and the building, to life.  The house it worth the visit alone, but the museum hosts a great selection of special exhibits that make a visit even better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Matchbox Mania


As you know, the Bavarians take their cars very seriously.  But not so seriously that you don’t see some innovative packaging around one of the latest BMWs.  I came across this scene at the airport, with some sort of promotion from Sixt, which is one of the most well known car leasing/renting companies in Munich.  Wrapped up like a Matchbox (which received its name from the boxes in the shape of a matchbox) car, this is one toy I’d love to take home with me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Freeze Frame


A group of dare-devil boys race across the frozen lake below the Olympic Swimming pool – in nothing but their swimming gear.  I wouldn’t have noticed them if it wasn’t for the high pitched screams rolling across the field once their bare feet hit the snow.  I think it’s at this point I’m supposed to tell you that no actual children were injured during the course of this stunt, as all of them were back in the pool in 10 seconds flat.  Although this was certainly an exception, Munich has done an amazing job of integrating most of their pools with the outdoors.  Many of the pools – the Westbad, Nordbad, etc – all have one of their pools outside and open in any kind of weather.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Literary Heart of Munich


In the largest publishing center in Germany and Europe (that’s Munich, by the way), they take their literature quite seriously. But it wasn’t until 1997 that Munich had a center to celebrate this great publishing history, and its innate love for the written word. Just off the pedestrian streets in the Altstadt is the Munich Literary House located at Salvadorplatz. It is described as a place for book sippers and page nibblers, movie talkers, penny-a-liners, starving artists, thinkers, and day-dreamers. Appropriately, the house was built in a former school, where they use the former girls gymnasium as the German Book Archive and Foundation for Literature. Despite a full program of public readings with famous authors, most people know the house for the great atmosphere in the cafe and coffeehouse.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Enough is Enough


With now more than a month of sub-freezing weather in Munich, some of the locals have said “Enough is Enough.” They found their way to the Munich Airport to get out of town – most likely to some place a bit warmer. My favorite departures today – Boa Vista (good view) Portugal – 455 KM West of the coast of Africa; Mallorca; Antalya, Turkey; Cairo; Doha, Qatar; and Tenerife. If you think you know your geography, a good test is to look at departures from an International Airport. Here were some direct flights to cities I was not familiar with: Donetsk, Timisoara, Poznan, Gdansk, Tirana, Catania, and many more.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Walking Through a Dream


You ever get the sense that you’re walking through a day dream, with other worlds swirling around you? Mythical creatures around you, historical battles playing out upon your side, and the gods looking down from up above. That’s the way it feels walking through the arcade at the Hofgarten, with it’s arched walkways and interior paintings practically reaching out to you. I end up showing the Hofgarten a lot on this blog, primarily because it’s one of the most beautiful parts of Munich. Between the Boccia Ball and great beer garden in the Summer, the street performers in the atrium, and the entry into the Altstadt or English Garden – there’s always something happening here...from this world or another.

Morning Commute

Why let the snowy weather get you down. For many people around Munich, they just change their mode of transportation. It is amazing how many people you see around town pulling out their cross country skis to get around town - especially in the parks. This particular photo was taken in the East Park, and he was one of about 20 skiers swishing by. So many people seem to have all the Winter gear - even if they only use it 2-3 times per year. I suppose that comes with the territory of living in a cold climate.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Modern NY Living – but at a Price


One of the many modern building developments in Munich now.  Previously I talked about the 1600 units being built lining the train tracks of central Munich.  This development, which I affectionately call the “Big Dig” was kicked off several years ago and the first phase is done, and the second is just a huge hole in the ground.  It sits between the famous Lowenbrau Keller, and the neighborhood of Nymphenburg.  The views of the apartments and sky terraces are incredible, but so are the prices.  Most of these developments were created prior to the global financial crisis, and there’s no telling how many of these units will remain vacant in the short term.

Slogging Down Nymphenburg Strasse

Once the principal road connecting the old town Munich to the summer residence of rulers of Bavaria - it's Nymphenburg strasse. Today, it represents one of the main thoroughfares leading through neighborhoods Maxvorstadt, Neuhausen, and Nympenburg. Like many other streets in Munich, it continued to be covered with snow. It's quit interesting, in fact, which streets they choose to completely plow, and which they don't. At any rate, amongst the old early 1900 villas, as well as the post war box buildings, Nymphenburg provides a bit of charm because of its tree-lined boulevard.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dreaming of a Warmer Place

For the second day in a row, Munich was pounded with snow and temperatures ranging from a high of -4 and a low of -8. Local papers report that a record 19 inches of snow fell yesterday. Reportedly, 600 passengers spent the night in the airport last night after flights were cancelled. The Munich airport seemed to catch up today, and most flights took off - albeit a bit delayed. I witnessed a few faux avalanches today as huge puffs of snow fell from rooftops. Well for those sticking around, they are sure to see the heat go up at the Bayershererhof Hotel Fasching show (pictured here), but that may be the only heat around town - as temperatures are supposed to drop to -16 in the coming days, and the low doesn't get above freezing any time in the next 10 days.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snug Like a Bug in a Rug

That is a bug, but not so snug under a good 6 inches of snow that absolutely pummeled Munich...scratch that, pummeled Europe today. All over Europe, we heard stories of of traffic coming to a grinding halt. More than 100 flights were cancelled today at Munich Airport, and many, many more were delayed - or simply still sitting on the runway. Most of the inner city still works, but there have been reports of delays on train lines, and certainly the bus and tram lines were impacted. The really disturbing news is that the same weather is expected for the next four days, so this could be just the beginning. Grab your boots and your ski-wear, and get ready for the snow that just keeps on coming.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brief Encounters

IMG_0566Where do you find the best shopping in Munich?  Dare I say it…the airport.  Yes.  It is likely true.  In Munich, they’ve created a marvel of an airport – experience.  After 3 years of flying in/out of Charles De Gaulle Airport in France, I can tell you they have built something special on the border of Freising.  If you like the styles from Hermes, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Bvlgari, Esprit, and Burberry; you can find them all at the airport.  Not only that, Terminal 1 feels like you are using a small local airport where each section only has 15 gates.  Terminal 2 is the Lufthansa Hub, and it provides all sorts of extra services like free coffee and newspapers. Add to that the cinemas, the historic aircraft visitor center, and the visitor viewing terrace– and you have an airport worth visiting if you are travelling or not.  This is one of the scenes from the open area between terminal 1 & 2.  The airport is constantly voted one of the best in Europe.  And one visit, and you will see why.  Amazingly clean, efficient, and reliable – with a whole lot of extras thrown in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Flower POWER!

Here's another scene from the kick off of the Carnival season. I'm not quite sure exactly how this crew of "Bloom Where you are Planted" revelers put these outfits together, but they were quite the hit - especailly next to the scary witches, afro maniacs, or the Viking Warriors (when was the last time you saw Vikings in Bavaria - anyway). Most of the festivities will happen on Feb 14-16 leading up to Fat Tuesday. If you prefer to move away from the funny masks, flower women, and crazy beer drinking, you could try a taste of the real thing - the Brazilian Carnival show at the Gasteig where they will highlight the rich musical tradition, as well as new choreographies of Samba and Bossa Nova.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fasching is Back

Today officially opens the Fasching celebration in Munich. You may not think of Munich as a place for Carnival, but the festivites actually take over the city. For the next few weeks, you will see amazing costumes, great private parties, and the locals going out of their way to show off the spirit of Carnival. We spent the day at the Crazy Knight Parade, which was a strange mix of tractor and farmers, an odd collection of witches, and of course the standard partying band. Here's one of the crazy costumes. Again, not what you would expect in Munich - but everthing ramps up to the big celebration at the Viktualienmarkt on Fat Tuesday.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Minute Munich Details

One of the great things about Munich is finding some of the endless little details that make up much of its character. I have come across these shutter locks in several places around Munich. This one was in one of the outer burroughs of Munich (un-officially known as the subburbs) called Ramersdorf-Perlach, on an inn called the Wagnerhof, built in 1826. I looked the building up, and it seems it's just like 10 others historical buildings in the little village; and the village is just like 100 more in the surrounding area. What happens when incredible historical buildings are just the norm - the center of every community, the setting for every village? Coming from the West Coast of the US, where nothing is more than 100 years old, I think all the small details are amazing and provide a lot of context for what Munich is all about.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Walking on the Wild Side

I mentioned the other day how street performers seem to have taken over downtown Munich. Well, it's the same with artists. This scene was on Theatinerstrasse, next to the park on the backside of the Rathaus. I have also seen similar artist lining Leopoldstrasse. Not sure exactly how much of this art they sell, as it certainly is not my thing. But somehow, they seem to make ends meet, and their art reaches a tremendous audience walking by on the central streets of Munich.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Place for those "No Moped" Types

Over in the Southeast part of Munich is a dealer and service center for that Italian cultural icon, the Vespa. It even states on the Vesbar website, not to even think about bringing in some moped. They don't do that sort of thing around there. Vespas are all over Munich, with the proximity to Italy. They are built primarily just over the border, outside Pisa, and were created as a result of a severely restricted airline industry after WWII. For decades they have been the ultimate in Italian design, selling millions of units - driven in large part by Hollywood glamorizing in movies like Roman Holiday. That success lasted largely into the 90s when the Vespa was undersold by cheap scooters from Asia. Now bouncing back from the edge of bankruptcy, the company seems to be on track again. Either way, no one can take away what the Vespa has done for pop culture.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Bit of Istanbul in Munich

Just blocks South from the Central Train Station is the neighborhood of Ludwigsvorstadt, one known as the international section of the city. And when I say International in Munich, it generally means the Arabic part of town. It is estimated that Munich has a Muslim population of approx. 100,000, representing about 7.5% of the total Munich population of 1.34M (and well above the 5% German average - which is second highest in Western Europe behind France & the Netherlands). Munich's largest ethnic group is Turkish with 43,000 residents, and Albanian with 30,000 residents. I find this neighborhood (pictured here with St. Paul's Church in the background) fascinating because it is something you will not find in most US cities. To contrast this with the US, Muslims represent less than 1% of the total population. While there, you can find all the Middle Eastern foods and craft products, as well as hundreds of other businesses that cater primarily to the Muslim world of Munich.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Falling February

Caution! Caution! All over Munich you will find boards leaning against buildings at a 45 degree angle urging people not to walk too close to the side of the buildings. As the sun has been shining at mid-day, much of the snow (and more likely ice) on rooftops are beginning to slide off into the streets - much to the surprise of those passing by. You can see many rooftops have a grate to catch this fleeting snow, but it can only do so much as three weeks of snow has been building up. So watch yourself out there. Sometimes it's not always the snow beneath your feet that slips you up.