My husband and I moved to Munich from New Delhi in 2013 as a result of a job offer for him there. For those of you who have had the good fortune of visiting or living in Munich already, you will undoubtedly agree with me when I say that it is certainly an unforgettable experience and an unforgettable, beautiful city!
We have been living here for a year and a half now and even though we have a few more months to go and (hopefully) are able to extend our stay in this amazing city, this feels like just as good a time as any to sum up for you, what my experience here has been thus far and to throw some light on what you are missing!
Amply endowed with greenery and expanses of gardens and parks and with the majestic English Garten that extends from one end of the city to the other, studded with the serene river Isar cutting across it, Munchen, as it is called locally, exudes a subtle magic in its beauty that I suspect, is also what attracts a large number of expatriates to this city. And the magic is this – nowhere else in all my ample travels have I come across a city in which in one instant I feel like I am in a country side with rolling meadows and rivers surrounding me and in the next instant I have stepped out of that illusion and into a city center with a gigantic church, cobbled streets, beer halls, offices, shops, cafes and so on – all those spectacular traits that make a European city all that it is known to be. Just the English Garten itself, with a beer garten every kilometer within it and vast rolling hills and fields is enough to wow you and make you forget those work calls and meetings! Oh and for all you beach lovers, just so you don’t feel left out – in the summer months the weather is so good that you are allowed to swim in the river and even sun bathe by it! So, there you go. No need to fly to Hawaii or Thailand to get some sun!
For me, Munich’s charm lies in that flexibility and choice it extends to its inhabitant – almost like it is offering you a travel brochure containing choices of the kind of places you may want to visit – beach towns, buzzing cities, green country sides, and historic havens – except it is all in one place! Munich has it all!
Munich is the capital of the old Kingdom of Bavaria and many of the finest buildings it houses were built by Bavarian kings. This may be a lesser known fact but before Berlin, it was actually in Munich that Hitler founded the Nazi Party and where the first official headquarters were established. So, as you can well imagine, the city is teeming with historic museums, buildings and pertinent sites dating back to the Third Reich era and movement. If you are a history buff then some of the historic tours like the Third Reich Tour is definitely for you! Which also brings me to the Concentration Camps! I have visited the Dachau Camp in Munich and it was simply fascinating. There is hours of reading material on the events that took place and the horrific ways in which the prisoners were treated arranged in chronological order. For history buffs with the stomach for it, these are certainly worth the visit!
Yes, yes, your favorite part now – the beer!! I know this doesn’t even need a mention and yet it deserves it! Fondly titled the ‘Beer Capital of the World’ Munich lives up to every word. From dark beer (Dunkles), Radler (flavored mild beer) to the lagers and the Bavarian specialty – Weisenbier (wheat beer), you can select from a wide range of Brewery Brands and you will be a stone’s throw away from a brewery or a beer hall or a beer garden no matter which part of the city you live in. I mean, you will be paying almost double for a bottle of water than a pint of beer!
And as if this wasn’t enough beer to tickle your fancy, the hugely and globally famous OKTOBERFEST Beer festival is held annually in Munich with different breweries sponsoring the innumerable tents that are constructed for this purpose – offering their own beer in each tent along with the very Bavarian pretzels (the size of my arm!) and the delicious Bavarian cheese dip called Obatzda. I have literally had some visiting friends and family say to me – ‘I just can’t have beer in India anymore.’ Enough said.
Donning the Bavarian garb called a Dirndl for the ladies and Lederhosen for men, the proud Bavarians from near and far and also people from all over the world flock to the Oktoberfest grounds for these two weeks starting in September to drink, eat and have a great time! The hospitality and friendliness of the local people (as experienced by me) is certainly noteworthy. And hey, you can buy your own Dirndls and Lederhosens in the many shops and market places all over the city!
Some of the other scrumptious Bavarian delicacies are the sausages – Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weisswurst, one of my favorites – a potato mash called Kartoffelsalat, Steckerlfisch and some popular deserts – Apple Strudel and the very unique and delectable Kaiserschwarm (Austrian shredded pancake served with an apple sauce). And if your mouth isn’t watering enough by now – we also discovered an irresistible New York Cheese Cake ice cream! Yes, you heard me. All I can say is I don’t ever want to be disturbed when I have THAT!
Being an industrial and tourist hub, the city caters in every way to the myriad nationalities it houses. From South African, Indian, French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, American and even Lebanese restaurants to a buzzing nightlife with bars and some clubs in the center of the city, a wide selection of cultural shows, outdoor cinema, theater, sports centers, huge swimming pools spread out all over the city, you are never at a loss of things to do! Being a cycle-friendly city with large pavements for pedestrians as well as well-defined cycle paths for cyclists, you can enjoy a bike ride or a stroll to the beer gartens in the lovely summer months here.
After taking the time to settle down, travel around Europe with my husband and making some great new friends, I decided to try my luck at job hunting here in Munich but I knew that my very basic grasp of the German language was bound to be a deterrent to this end, though the search is on nonetheless! Meanwhile, with so much to do and see in this city, I happily indulged myself and enrolled for Tennis, Yoga, and even joined the MIWC which is the Munich International Women’s’ club that opens up great opportunities for women of all ages, nationalities to come together, socialize, do some great volunteer work and engage in all kinds of extracurricular activities together from hiking, to walking tours to catching the latest flick and even raise money for various charities!
Flanked by castles both within the city and on the outskirts dating back to eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Romanesque and Baroque architectural styles that attract tourist in large numbers, as well as the more modern BMW headquarters and museum with its unique and very interesting exterior and interiors, the city boasts a culmination of modern and archaic culture and traditions – the perfect blend of conservatism and socialism. And then there is Munich’s close proximity to many wonderful and exotic countries around it that one can make a weekend getaway of.The public transportation system, both within and beyond the city is very well connected with the regional and fast speed trains operating frequently and connecting neighbouring countries quite efficiently. And some of them serve bratwurst and beer on the train!
There’s something for all you students too. Munich is at the forefront of Science and Research and has produced many Nobel Prize winning laureates back in the day. From the esteemed Ludwig Maximillian University (LMU),Technical University to the many other Management, Business, Law, Journalism, Political Science and even Film and Television Universities – there is something for everyone. A recent stint at one of the large multispecialty hospitals in the heart of the city proved quite fruitful and we are more than a little convinced of the good quality and efficiency of the medical facilities and doctors here as well.
I can go on and on! Munich has an underlying vibe that has found its way into the hearts and minds of the people it houses too. The vibe is positive, laidback yet proactive, buzzing yet medieval, modern and yet beautifully archaic.
I can write volumes more on my love affair with this city but I must wrap up here for now. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience all this and more – I definitely urge you to allocate some of your next vacation days to experience the magic of Munchen city!
And then later you can thank me over a Weiss bier. Prost!