I had an interesting weather weekend with sunshine and warmth, hail and snow- that’s what you get for travelling in January and February I guess; at least it’s always a surprise. And I was surprised by several things about Munich. I was surprised by how green it was, and how spacious it felt. I was surprised by how easy it was to navigate round and I was also surprised that it did not automatically win my heart as the greatest city in Germany as it has with so many others.
Our day started off at the Olympic park, which really did take my breath away with its natural-not-natural beauty. The area is so green, and clean and spacious, as you would expect an Olympic park to be. On this weekend there was a gentle sunshine, making everything glow a little and patches of ice and snow still crouched undiscovered in shady corners. All of the buildings blend with the natural line of the landscape and the grass perfectly; the architects seem to have spoken to nature around here and asked how she would like to be improved, and then gently embellished without spoiling her. There is a ‘mountain’ in the park- more of a gentle hill- which was formerly a dumping space for old building waste and has now been transformed into a thoroughfare for walkers, runners, cyclists and tourists to ascend and gaze over the beautifully sculpted park. If you spin one-eighty you can see the towering mountains in the distance too, from here seeming just a stone’s throw away from the sprawling city.
We also took an obligatory stop in BMW world (the museum costs but the world is free) and, as always with the big players in the car industry, it’s as much about architecture and style as it is about the vehicles; although every curve of the building gentle leans you in at the perfect angle to view the show cars. It’s a multi-layered emporium, encircled by a balcony and latched to the museum by a long swooping bridge. Every age group is catered for inside too; a children’s zone (I particularly enjoyed this part), an ‘electric’ zone, racing games, designer shopping and plenty of opportunity to hop on and off your dream motor bike. The sexy glass curves of the building are hiding enticing toys.
My most coveted visit of the trip was Schloß Nymphemburg; I’d heard how beautiful it was and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved mostly how public it was; not only full of people viewing the castle but also of families walking and people going for their daily run. The building itself is understated as you walk towards it, it is the carefully directed river channel you notice first that sweeps, bordered by trees, in such a beautifully straight line towards and unassuming white building. The building becomes less unassuming as you get nearer, its sprawling majesty gleaming white from all angles, reflected in the pleasantly still water. Maybe it’s the amount of white and cream present, or maybe it’s the precise symmetry and layout of the delicate gardens, but I found the castle grounds rather Parisian- or maybe it was just the cold, hazy sunlight and sparse vegetation that sparked a kind of anti-romantic vision of Paris in early spring or late autumn. I could have walked all day in the large, tastefully designed gardens.
What struck me about Munich was the scale of the buildings- we saw churches, theatres, the residence, the Rathaus, and they’re all beautiful and often a little over-grand and over-zealous in their decoration but they are all enormous. Munich’s buildings all feel so grand and this is possibly why I didn’t buy a single post card- I didn’t find one I felt really showed the grandeur of the place to its full potential. Although on a smaller scale, I lost myself and my sense of reality completely for a while walking down Maximillian Strasse. World famous for its designer density, I have never seen so many big names squished next to each other like sardines, so many painfully polished shop windows and sparkling interiors, so many expensive cars just casually slung on the street and so vulnerable to scratching. Okay, I haven’t been to many ‘designer streets’ I’ll admit, I have no real cause to, but this was Chanel next to Hermes next to Dior next to Ferrari Design next to Louis Vuitton next to Jimmy Choo next to Cartier… it was endless glamour. Being next to so many big names left me almost star struck.
I do like the Englischer Garten, even in its wind swept, colour-bleached, wintry state. It was, as with the castle, romantic in a desperate kind of way- I can imagine it is just straight-up romantic in the summer. Apart from the sweeping scape and the feeling of being in the countryside, amid babbling rivers and the floating music of buskers, the atmosphere has an edgy side to it, mostly created by the unexpected surfers. Yep, Munich is a river surfing destination. With a tricky-to-ride man-made, static wave constantly roaring from under a bridge at the edge of the park, the surfers line up (even in freezing, grey January) in their wetsuits to try out new tricks and test their staying power in the surf. It attracts quite a crowd; I certainly thought it was cool, surfing in between two grassy banks, facing a city road with trams crawling past. Near to the surfers is a little kiosk, highly recommended, only three or four seats inside. It is beautifully warm inside (and has toilets- miracle), and does very good cake, coffee and soup. After the Englischer Garten we headed to the Pinakotheks- a collection of three museums and galleries near to Odeon Platz. We favoured these over the Deutsches Museum, which is reckoned to be one of the best in Germany, purely because there is €1 entry to all of them on a Sunday. There is an ‘Alt’, a ‘Neu’ and a ‘Modern’ Pinakothek- you should look online to figure which you’d prefer. We spent a pleasant few hours sheltered from the snow flurry inside the fascinating, white and glass structure of the Modern Pinakothek. It has interesting exhibitions; photography, modern art, installations, projects, video art and behind the scenes footage. I also happen to love museum shops- this one is no let down!
Maybe Munich romances people more fully in the summer; I didn’t instantly fall into raptures over it like a lot of my friends. But what I do find is that I respect it, I admire its culture, I find it very refined. I’d certainly go back and, if I were earning an appropriate amount, I’d certainly live there.
images provided by ajfstuart.com