Kicking off the first of what I hope will be many contributions to my new ‘Home Towns’ project, guest-poster Alison Rolle reveals there’s more to Bavaria than beer (but you’ll still find lots of it!)
While London is my home, Munich is where I’m spending a fair bit of time at the moment, and it’s not a bad place to be!
I’m here because of my husband’s job: for the past 11 years he has been based in cities as far from home as Nagoya and Detroit, but in May 2014 he took up a post in Munich. At just over an hour and a half’s flight time from London, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive for me to make frequent visits. So I’m making the most of it, discovering the many delights of the city and the surrounding Bavarian countryside.
Munich may be best known for its annual beer jamboree, the Oktoberfest, but it also has a reputation as a highly desirable place to move to and live in. The Bavarian countryside of forests, lakes and mountains is beautiful and easily accessible; Italy is not far away, and that’s reflected in some of the architecture, in the café culture which spills onto the pavements in warmer weather, and in the abundance of Italian restaurants and food shops.
It’s a wealthy city too, home to BMW, Siemens, and a wide array of tech and media companies. The high demand for accommodation and a growing population pushes up property prices and rent, making it an expensive place to live. But I’ve discovered that it’s a great place to visit at any time of year – there’s a lot to do and see, and there’s usually something interesting going on.
Things I love about Munich
Museums and galleries
There are more than 80 of them, ranging from baroque palaces to a potato museum. Old Masters and modern art are housed in splendour, with some impressive permanent collections and visiting exhibitions.
After World War II, when only 20% of the city was still standing, a decision was made to rebuild as much of the old centre as possible in the original style. The heart of the city, which is also the main shopping area, is closed to traffic, and there’s always a bustle.
Alongside the ubiquitous chains, there are many independent shops and boutiques throughout the city centre. There’s also a fabulous food market, the Viktuallienmarkt, selling all sorts of local and exotic produce and Bavarian ‘street food’ . There’s even a beer garden.
The English Garden
A huge urban park (about four square kilometres) stretching from the north of the city right into its heart. Walking, cycling, horse-riding, swimming, sunbathing are all popular pastimes here, and the various beer gardens in the park, with their live music, good beer and generous portions of Bavarian food, are popular and crowded in the warmer months.
Bavarian food is great if you like large quantities of meat, cabbage and dumplings (Of course there’s more to it than that, but it does tend to be hearty!) Munich restaurants cater for every taste, and there are plenty of them, so experimenting has been a great pleasure. One of my favourites so far is Cantina Cantona, a small friendly place serving modern European dishes using local seasonal ingredients, in the Schwabing area near the University.
A busy calendar of fun events
From the carnival balls of ‘Fasching’ in January and early February, to the strong beer festival during Lent. From the Christmas markets during Advent, to the street parties and outdoor music in Summer. And much besides, including – of course – Oktoberfest.
Munich has its own thriving film-making industry, and lots of cinemas. Since many people speak English so well, many cinemas show British and American films in their original language. In fact, I see more films in Munich than in London!
The friendliness of Beer Gardens
Someone will always move up to make room for you on their table. You can bring your own picnic, if you like, as long as you buy beer and bread.
Words and imagery by Alison Rolle