Travel Tips: Germany

An Ode to Munich

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was taught to hate Los Angeles for no good reason. The traffic! The smog! The shallow blondes! The ocean water that’s actually warm enough to swim in (unlike the ice bucket Pacific we had in precious, precious NorCal)! Of course, my hatred of SoCal and L.A. was rather ridiculous considering I’d only ever been to Anaheim to visit Mickey, Goofy, Snow White and co. Around 15 years ago, I went down there for the first time as an adult with an ex-boyfriend of mine. What can I say? I actually liked it. Sure, the traffic is terrible and the city is terribly sprawled out all over the place, but there are great neighborhoods and things to see in L.A. and SoCal too for that matter. Who knew? My former irrational hatred seems silly in retrospect.

Then again, the Bay Area/L.A. animosity is not the only example of north/south grievances I’ve heard of. When I first moved to Berlin almost 20 years ago (gasp!) I heard a lot of Munich and Bavaria bashing from native Berliners. So shallow! So conservative! So chatty! Such a ridiculous dialect and accent! Even the Bavarian friend I had didn’t like Munich (he was from near Nurnberg and considered himself Franconian, not Bavarian). I once went with him and my ex-husband to Munich for an afternoon. For some inexplicable reason, pretty much the only thing we did there was go to a McDonald’s near the train station, or at least that’s all I can remember. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

However, several years ago I got the opportunity to spend more time in Munich. Like L.A. all those years ago, I found myself enjoying it despite all the bashing I’d absorbed over the years. On the whole, the locals in Munich are much better dressed and well groomed than native Berliners, although Berlin has been improving recently (my friends and I used to play a game called “Is it a street person or a Berliner hipster?” It was often really hard to know for sure…). Is dressing well shallow? Possibly, but if so, then please – bring on shallow. Then again, locals in Munich also (need to) earn a lot more money, since rents are sky high, albeit not as obscenely high as they are in the Bay Area now. I hope Berlin never catches up – the city was dirt cheap for a long time while now it’s moderately expensive – but I don’t feel all that optimistic.

Anyway, what I really love about Munich is that the touristy places are actually worth visiting, which is much less the case in Berlin. It’s also so quaint and, Berliners be damned, the accent is downright adorable (although I can’t understand a single word if they’re talking in dialect).

I went with a friend to Munich a couple of weeks ago and we did all the typical touristy stuff and loved every minute of it. The square at Marienplatz is beautiful, although the shops on the main street are boring chains (but mostly European ones, so they might still be interesting to folks coming from outside of Germany). However, if you go onto the side streets you’ll still find plenty of traditional shops selling Bavarian Trachten, German ornaments, and other fine things, many of which have been there a very long time.

From Marienplatz, we made our way to the Viktualienmarkt, a historic farmer’s market which still sells plenty of produce, meats and cheese along with snacks and tourists trinkets. Whenever I’m there, I always get an ultra scrumptious Krustenbraten at Schlemmermeyer, which only costs around 3 euros. This time I went for the best of both worlds and added both sweet and spicy mustards, although that’s probably against Krustenbraten/mustard rules.

I also had a fantastic espresso macchiato and the best Floretine cookie ever at the Kaffeerösterei, the coffee shop tent complete with chandeliers inside. The Viktualienmarkt also boasts a beer garden, which was closed due to it being February and freezing and all.

From the Viktualienmarkt, we headed somewhat off the tourist path to my favorite part of Munich, the more laid back and hip Isarvorstadt. I already knew the shop Kauf dich Glücklich (German for Retail Therapy) which is more Berlin than Munich really, but I don’t do much hipster boutique shopping at home; I save that for my treks down south. I picked up these sunglasses there, which are tres chic, at least if it were still 1964. 😉

The only touristy (but cool) thing we didn’t do this time around was take a stroll through the English Garden (check out the surfers if you’re ever there) or hop into the Isar River for a wild ride because, duh, way too cold in February. Maybe I’ll take a quick trip down there again in the summer to make up for what I missed out on.

Munich, I liab di!

p.s. When in Bavaria or Austria, make sure you eat a Germknödel (a traditional poppy seed one). The. Best. Thing. Ever!

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