“The world city with a heart” would be a proper translation, I suppose. The above line was the motto of Munich up until 2005, when it became “München Mag Dich!”—Munich loves you! While the latter may be a nice motto, I personally like the earlier one, as it really describes this beautiful city. My dad, whose company has been collaborating with an American company based in Germany for quite some time now, goes to Munich pretty frequently. Prior to my first visit, he and my uncles kept telling me how beautiful, elegant and peaceful, yet lively the city was. Normally, if I am told that something is amazing too many times, I tend to be predisposed to finding some flaws or not enjoying it as much. But that was not the case with Munich, probably because I had this great admiration for the German culture (of course not every one of the inhabitants is as welcoming and pleasant as they are overall); maybe it is way they managed to pick themselves up after experiencing such horrific events, or maybe it is because they have that “German excellence” in so many areas. A lot of people perceive Germany solely as an industrial giant, with extremely intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated people, and a government that creates prosperity through effective use of resources; but bear in mind that this country has been home to many great composers and musicians, poets and writers, architects and designers, and even psychiatrists and sociologists: Wagner, Goethe, Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Walter Gropius, Schiller, Patrick Süskind, Weber, Jil Sander and the Grimm Brothers, to name but a few.
Let me get back to the slogan. Munich, located in the German state of Bavaria, is honestly the most beautiful city I have ever been to. This may sound odd, because I haven’t heard many people say this, but for me it is true. I am not merely talking about the visible and tangible aspects of the city; I am also referring to the elegant and peaceful atmosphere it conveys. I’ve been told by other Germans that Bavarians are rather more conservative—not conservative in the “Turkish” sense, but conservative in the sense of being not entirely all that welcoming of outsiders. But this isn’t the impression I have gotten so far. Every time I go to Munich, I see that people are even more pleasant toward international tourists in particular (of course there are some exceptions to this).
Bavaria and Munich are home to many great things, but let me describe the city itself first. The streets are always so clean, even the huge pedestrian zone that lies between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz, which is always incredibly crowded. People enjoy the city, and you can see that they do because there is always someone on the street, regardless of the time of day. I saw many people running at 5:30 a.m. while it was raining cats and dogs (you have to admire the discipline), and many in the Hofbrauhaus in the middle of the night. A great thing about Munich is that despite how much beer the locals drink, I haven’t seen anyone start a fight over a “you looked at my girl” type of misunderstanding. That is not to say they are perfect, but rather to say they may simply be immune to beer or perhaps know how to hold their liquor. The crime rate is incredibly low, and there are no beggars in the streets; in fact they are filled with performers, incredibly talented jazz artists in particular. Walking down streets filled with the aroma of “Gebrannte Mandeln”—“burnt” or roasted almonds—while listening to these artists has a tranquilizing effect. The city, along with the state overall, is incredibly wealthy; in fact, I have read that had Bavaria parted ways with Germany or become independent, the state itself would have been wealthier than many European countries, and there would have been a significant decrease in the government budget as Bavaria is the state making the highest tax payments. I do not know how correct this information is, but I read it in two different articles.
Moving onto the more specific, we always stay on Maximilian Strasse, as it is just a few steps away from Marienplatz. Maximilian Strasse is much like upscale avenues in other cities, only less chaotic. Everyone is so well-groomed that you wonder what they do for a living. I once asked a resident—originally from Münster—if everyone in the city was rich, because they all give that impression. They walk fast, but never seem to be in a hurry, and they don’t yell. “Not at all,” he answered. “In fact, only a few can be considered very wealthy, but everyone here is well-educated, and they simply do the best they can and enjoy life. It’s an odd mix, because in Europe, Italians are considered the ones who enjoy life while Germans are seen as the hard workers, but here people are both—they do things differently.” I once saw windsurfers and wave surfers walking down the street in the middle of the day with boards in their hands, wearing nothing but their surfing suits. Now, there is no sea in Munich, so where were they going, you may ask. Well, they do water sports on the Isar River. Rafting, in particular, is a very common activity on the Isar. Turkey is a country surrounded by three seas, but as a licensed windsurfer, I can tell you that I have a difficult time finding many surfing-related things here. In Munich, you can find anything sports-related that you want, especially at Sporthaus Schuster.
I will continue writing about Munich in my next column. This was just an introduction, as there is so much to say about the city. I hope you’ll read the next installment, for I’ll be giving many tips on where to visit, where to dine, where to shop, and where not to. Have a great week!