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Posts Tagged ‘biking’

Spring is finally starting to come out of hiding here in beautiful Munich. Goodbye negative temperatures, snow, and frozen hair (deciding to head out into the cold with wet hair wasn’t one of my brightest moments).

As soon as the sun makes even the slightest appearance, the once desolate Munich comes to life. The Englischer Garten is always buzzing with activity with the slightest rise in temperature. Families are out having picnics at the Biergartens, friends are having BBQs, people are out walking their dogs, pushing strollers, jogging, biking, playing sports. My personal favorite pastime on a gorgeous day is to ride my bike to my favorite spot by the lake and read…and dog watch, naturally.

The public squares, especially the prized center of Munich, Marienplatz, are bustling with so much activity it’s often times almost impossible to get anywhere in the midst of the crowds. Especially if you’re caught in front of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel at 11 am or 12 o’clock noon (and 5 pm, except in winter). Good luck trying to get anywhere fast during those 15 minutes of music and little dancing figures.

When in Munich, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel must be experienced for stereotypical tourism’s sake, but trust me, one time is all you need. Remember that when you go to grab your video camera.

When the sun is out, the mood of the city changes, and I can’t help but to think that there couldn’t be a more beautiful city to live in. People walk and ride their bikes everywhere here. And when I say everywhere, I mean, everywhere. I’ve never seen a city’s bike paths structured so well.

And every restaurant, Biergarten or not, is packed with outdoor seating, where locals can soak up the sun and enjoy an afternoon beer. In fact, drinking a beer with lunch, or even breakfast, is very normal in Bavaria and not just saved for college football tailgates.

The Biergarten culture is not only a Bavarian tradition that one must experience, it is the perfect atmosphere in which to spend a sunny afternoon. While traditional Bavarian food is served, such as Brezn (large breaded pretzels), Obazda (cheese cream with onions and paprika powder), and Wurstsalat (thin, cold sausage slices served with onions) – many people bring their own picnic and just purchase beverages at the Garten, which of course is typically Bier.

Now, there are two main types of Bavarian beer: Helles and Weißbier. The first, which literally means “pale”, is the most popular and is brewed from only three ingredients, as controlled by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law): water, barley, and hop. Simple, delicious, and stronger than one would initially anticipate. As this is the only Bier served at Oktoberfest, that should be enough to attest to this beer’s effect on people after one too many Maß.

The second, Weißbier, which literally means “white beer”, is brewed from barley and wheat. To really blend in with the locals, be sure to only be caught drinking Weißbier out of a tall, slender glass. The reason for this is it accentuates the bouquet of the beer, but I just think it looks cooler.

The next step is to purchase a traditional Dirndl or Lederhosen. For the ladies, the Dirndl consists of three main parts: the blouse, the dress, and the apron. However, there is a plethora of different styles, colors, and lengths. If you wish to go for a more traditional route, pick a dirndl that hits at or below the knee. The next step is the apron, which often matches the color or design of the Dirdnl itself. Mine, for instance, is brown with green stitching and embellishments, so I chose a green apron. The last part is the blouse, which comes in an array of fits and styles, from displaying your entire chest for the world to see, to conservative, sleeved, and high cut. Some have collars, some cinch in the middle, and some can go off the shoulder as mine does. Traditionally these blouses are white, but there are now “fashion dirndls” which to me look a bit tacky and more like a halloween costume. They are often shorter, in brighter colors, with a shinier type of fabric, and worn with black blouses.

For the men, Lederhosen are more simple. With the literal translation being “leather pants”, that is exactly what these are. Leather pants, with suspenders. The Lederhosen can vary in length, from to the knee like David is wearing below, to more relaxed and looser fitting shorts. Typically, a checkered button up shirt is worn underneath; I’ve seen them in green, red, and blue. Plain white is also worn and is more traditional. To complete this ensemble, one needs tall, usually cream/white colored socks, and when it’s cold, one can wear a traditional wool embroidered jacket over top. To go all out, sport a traditional hat as well, and you’ll be ready to fit right in here in Munich, Bavaria.

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This morning, I braved the roads of Munich for the first time. My host family scheduled me a driving lesson which I am extremely grateful for, especially in relation to one special word: Autobahn. While the advised speed limit is 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph), drivers have been known to reach speeds as high as 322 km/h, or 200 mph.

I’m off to a good start, impressing my driving instructor with my parallel parking abilities and managing to heed each new driving regulation with success. I’m feeling confident, until my instructor utters the word “Autobahn.”

“It’s time to try the autobahn,” he says with a slight smirk. I look over, managing an apprehensive smile in return. Okay, I can do this.

The Autobahn - Munich

And I do, with flying colors actually. I think the idea of the autobahn is scarier than it is in reality. Many drivers are going at reasonable speeds, with only a few maniacs flying past us here and there. One key thing to remember on the autobahn is to check the mirrors, then physically turn to look, then recheck, before changing lanes. Many cars may come shooting out of nowhere at high speeds much too fast to brake in time if another car cuts in front. For now, I plan on driving in the slow lane and staying put.

Following my driving lesson, Claudia, Sven and I make our way to the kids’ preschool for their final performance/party before the summer holiday. Jolina, who is almost five, performs with her classmates – they are all dressed up as various safari animals – dancing and singing for their parents. Their program commences and its time for a potluck lunch.

Luckily, today is the first summer day we’ve had in a while. The past few days, Munich has been dim and gloomy, rain occupying most of the day, partnered with grey clouds looming above. But today, the sun is shining and the air is warm. I decide to take the kids to the neighborhood park for the afternoon. Jolina and I go down the slide and around to the top again enough to make me dizzy. Tristan mostly watches, giggling at Jolina and I as we run past. We all soon tire and head home. Sven arrives home from work minutes later, so we are off to dinner by bike.

The sun is setting in the distance, casting a stunning array of golden yellows and light pinks above us. We are in good company on our journey, as the street is overrun with other bikers and pedestrians enjoying the brilliant evening. We arrive at Riva, an Italian Restaurant nearby our neighborhood, where we eat on the outdoor patio and relax. An excellent conclusion to a lovely day.

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Today is already my 14th day in Germany. Let’s recap, as I’ve been ever so neglectful of my dear blog for the past two weeks.

The Englischer Garten

On my first full day, Claudia took me on a bike tour of the city as the kids would be at school until 4pm. The famous Englischer Garten is only footsteps away from our neighborhood, so we finished the tour with a pleasant ride through my new, glorious “backyard,” which happens to be one of the world’s largest urban public parks.  It stretches farther than New York’s Central Park, although it is smaller than London’s Richmond Park. Decorated with beautiful trees and flowers, large bike and walking paths, multiple biergartens, and a lake which offers paddle boats and row boats for rent, it is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon with family and friends. Not to mention, it is a choice location for people watching, and my favorite, dog watching. The Englischer Garten offers an area that is legal for dogs to run off of their leashes, which dog owners frequently take advantage of.

Dog watching – my favorite spotted dog

The following day was Sven’s birthday, and as a birthday treat I made the family pancakes for breakfast – one of Sven’s favorites. Although making pancakes is no glorious culinary accomplishment, I felt nervous preparing them as I have never been a natural when it comes to the kitchen. My boyfriend, David, who loves to cook and is quite good at it, will be the first to attest to this. Luckily, they tasted rather good and no one got sick – so overall the experience was successful.

That night I met Sven’s parents, his sister, and her daughter. We went to a traditional biergarten outside of the city limits. This was my first traditional German meal, and being able to experience it outside of a tourist trap such as the Hofbrauhaus made it all the better. Hours later, we were still there talking and drinking – a refreshing change to my usual rushed dinners in the States.

It was a lovely evening that would lead into a lovely weekend, as I was to be reunited with David for the first time since the first week of July.

At the Biergarten

He had been living in Berlin as an Au Pair for a family with two boys, but they were spending two weeks in Salzburg for a classical music festival which the family attends each year. As Salzburg is only a short train ride away from Munich, David was able to come visit for the weekend. I hadn’t had much time to explore the city yet, so we set out on this venture together. Our first stop: A biergarten, naturally.

After downing two beers each and David refueled himself with food, we wandered the Englischer Garten, admiring the gorgeous scenery and large population of dogs running about. The following day, we returned to the Englischer Garten as the weather presented itself with perfect conditions. Another biergarten was our first stop, where we ate incredibly overpriced food and drank overpriced beers. The biergarten sits right next to a lake, offering a spectacular view, which essentially was what we were paying for.

At this lake, boats can be rented for a small fee – we decided to rent an old fashioned row boat to tour the lake, take in the scenery, and enjoy the weather. As only one person could row, I kindly let David take charge while I sat back and took pictures.

That evening, a BBQ was held at home for Sven’s birthday. Here I was introduced to many of the family’s closest friends, as well as five or six little ones that ran around with Tristan and Jolina. I will admit, having that many kids in a small space, combined with meeting a large group of people I don’t know, was a bit stressful. Things finally calmed down once dinner was served and we were all able to kick back a little and relax.

The rest of the weekend was consumed with wandering the streets of Munich as tourists,

The Glockenspiel – Marienplatz

taking in the sights and snapping photos. Among our travels, we visited the Deutsch Museum and Marienplatz. And last but not least, we went shopping for lederhosen and a dirdnl – David being completely successful while I will have to search somewhere else another day… It’s a little over a month until the start of Oktoberfest – David will be returning to Munich, lederhosen and all, and by that time I will hopefully be adorned in a traditional dirdnl and ready to experience the festivities.

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