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Special Times to Visit Munich
Sarah N Walker
Visiting Munich Throughout the Year
Photos - My Munich: The beautiful city I live in.
I believe Munich is best appreciated in the middle of May. You arrive before the summer tourist season picks up, but you can enjoy nearly everything the summer has to offer, plus witness the fertile beauty of Bavaria. Munich is a large city, but it is very green and colorful. Large flower pots line the old city, small grassy areas teem with wild flowers, and strips along sidewalks and roads are often sprinkled with daffodils, tulips and other large blooms. Often (no guarantee!) the weather is warm and pleasant. Beer gardens are open, the Italian ice cream shops have fresh ice cream out, and locals flock to the street cafes when the sun is out.
The streets come even more alive on Monday evenings starting in May, as the Blade Night ritual starts up again. Every week up to 10,000 people take part in the roller blading extravaganza on various routes through the city. If you don't have your roller blades on you, you can rent them for a reasonable price at Sport Scheck in the city center. Enter the shop from Sendlingerstr. to get to the rental desk.
At the end of April you can visit the Maidult, one of three annual Auerdult bazaars or fairs located at Mariahilfplatz in Au (a neighborhood along the east bank of the Isar River). The other two occur in mid summer and early fall.
This is also the Spargel (Asparagus) season. Little roadside stands will pop up in the outskirts, selling freshly cut, local asparagus. Restaurants create special menus, taking advantage of the Spargel spirit that reigns in Munich (I am not kidding).
Meanwhile, the countryside is patched with flowing carpets of Rape weed, a sight spectacular to the visitor's eye.
Summer is high season (after Oktoberfest) and Munich can be wonderful during all the summer months. Weather usually cycles from warm, sunny, clear days, to thunder storms that build up after a period of good weather. The summer of 2003 was a record breaker. Temperatures consistently reached the 30s (Celsius). The only respite was to visit one of Munich's many modern and clean outdoor swimming pools or take the train or car to one of the nearby lakes, such as Starnbergersee or Ammersee. Spend the afternoons in the city at the beer gardens (see Beer Gardening in Munich).
The blade night event continues through summer and one can also enjoy many outdoor concerts in Königsplatz or outdoor cinema at local parks, such as Westpark. The Tollwood Festival, which occurs twice yearly, takes place for two weeks in June in Olympia Park. Afternoons after work are meant to be spent in beer gardens. So do as the locals do. Oh, and don't miss all of the wonderful Italian gelato (ice cream). It isn't hard to find.
Munich is also beautiful right at the end of summer, during the first weeks of September. The temperatures drop, but often the sun lingers in clear blue skies. No more of those heat and electrical storms that often spoil an otherwise perfect summer day. The trees start to turn color, life slows down a little bit. A walk around the Theresienwiese is an excellent way to spend midday or early afternoon. You can see the festival's dwellings half-erected and admire up close the various elements that go into a large beer tent. Have a beer and snack at one of the small stands already set up to serve the construction workers. And bring your camera.
If you are organized and have access to a car, get out to some of the little towns to witness the Viehscheid--the return of the cows from summer pasture in the hills. This is something I have wanted to do, but never really figured out how to do until recently. The images from postcards and books, with cattle crowned with flowers and led by people in traditional costume are almost unreal. so I would suggest giving it a go. The dates vary from year to year, but hover around September 11-25. The schedule for all of such events in Allgau in 2004 is on the website (see Resources section below).
The Christmas Season
Munich, Bavaria, and Austria are exciting places to be during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Many of our (Anglo-American) traditions originated in German-speaking areas, and here it feels like Christmas is celebrated with even more zest than (but not quite as much commercialism as) back home. In many of the town squares there will be Christkindl markets set up, where you can buy decorations, specialty foods and hand-crafted items, as well as stop to have a drink of Glühwein (muddled wine) or Rum Punsch. The largest markets in Munich are located in Marienplatz and at the Chinese Pagoda in the Englischer Garten, but smaller, equally interesting ones can be found throughout the city. Many restaurants put up Glühwein stands, as well.
Two foods that you will probably encounter and that you ought to try are Lebkuchen and Stolln. The former is a specialty from Nuremburg and comes in many forms, to be found in supermarkets and specialty shops open just for the Christmas season. Stolln is made in Dresden and is similar to a fruitcake, but far tastier than what you probably would imagine, given my comparison to such an under-appreciated food (fruitcake!). You might be able to sample it at a stand while you drink your hot wine, or buy it in a bakery or specialty food shop, such as Dallmayr.
If you want to get some culture, visit the winter Tollwood festival on the Theresienwiese. Although it is plenty chilly outside, and often quite windy, the tents and the Glühwein inside will warm you up. You might not want to miss the ice skating rink in Marienhof. It stays up most of the winter and is a further way to enjoy the holiday season. During very cold winters locals ice skate on the canals leading to Nymphenburg. I haven't tried it, but you could have a look if you visit the palace. Oh, and do some Christmas shopping! Plenty of shops along Kaufinger, Theatiner, Sendlinger and other streets will do for that.
Sarah Walker Photo Essays: Photo essays on Munich, Berlin, rural Germany, Bavaria, Austria, Vancouver, New York City.
www.muenchner-blade-night.de/neu/: Blade Night
www.sportscheck.com: Sport Scheck
www.auerdult.de/englisch.html: Auerdult bazaars
www.swm.de/freibad/sommerbaederzeiten.asp: Munich's many modern and clean outdoor swimming pools
www.tollwood.de: Tollwood festival
www.oberallgaeu-ferien.de/index.shtml?viehscheidkalender: Viehscheid, the return of the cows from summer pasture in the hills
www.oberallgaeu-ferien.de: Location, herd size, time, date and whether a festival tent (Festzelt) will be set up or not. PDF file.
www.oberstdorf-event.de/index.shtml?oe_viehscheid: More Viehscheid information
© Sarah N Walker, 2004
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