Self-experiment

Adventure experience: blood, sweat and tears

A shopping experience day in Munich city centre could make even the pros at FC Bayern break into a sweat – if they head for the right shops.

It is 12:22 and my pulse is 180. The 161 steps that lead from the Karlsplatz (Stachus) U4 underground stop to ground level are a challenge in themselves. Other shoppers look at me quizzically, passing smoothly at 2 km/h. “Why doesn’t that woman with the red face just take the escalator?” they seem to wonder. I clench my buttocks together and start taking the stairs two at a time. I am Rocky Balboa and I will see this through to the bitter end.

Our ancestors had to forage for berries and hunt bison for kilometres; they would have had no trouble hitting the 10,000 daily steps we now covet so dearly. Nowadays we drop goods into virtual baskets, moving our index fingers occasionally as we do so. I don’t need to search for berries or bison – but I would be fascinated to know whether a shopping day in Munich city centre entails as much exercise as the daily hunting and gathering tasks of the Neanderthal. From 129, the Karlstor swims into view. Reaching the top, I freshen up in the mist coming off the fountains, beside a stag party and a hen party.

An Italian jogs past me on a test run, while further ahead, an old man jumps around in his new Nikes as if Jesus has healed his paralysis.

The groom, wearing Lederhosen, pole dances around a flagpole with the bride-to-be. Funny stuff – but there’s no time for gawking. Every hour on each Saturday during the summer, up to 14,000 pedestrians stream along this thoroughfare between Stachus and Marienplatz, one of the most popular shopping streets in Germany. Today, I am not ambling comfortably along – I’m power walking. After all, for us Germans, trekking is in the blood. I deftly dodge selfie sticks and smiling Jehovah’s witnesses, until, before Neuhauser Straße becomes Kaufinger Straße, I have reached my first destination: SportScheck.

The first collection that Otto Scheck tailored from old military stock for his store in 1946 was a range of winter clothing. Since then, the range of clothing on offer has grown exponentially; in this 27-degree weather, I have no need of a down jacket, but instead head to the third floor to peruse the running section there. Three running tracks lead through the racks and shelves of clothes – like at the Olympics or the Bundesjugendspiele (German Federal Youth Games). An Italian jogs past me on a test run, while further ahead, an old man jumps around in his new Nikes as if Jesus has healed his paralysis. I get my running form analysed in the lab.

Three minutes of video are enough to establish that I need orthopaedic insoles. Knock knees – typical in women. I am one of you! I have also just run off 30 calories and can now tuck into half a radish with a clear conscience, although I think I’d rather do another lap on some retro white roller skates.

My health app is showing 5,103 steps. I’ll get it to a nice round 6,000 now. It’s a good kilometre of walking, from Stachus to Marienplatz square – and I am taking several detours. But the number just doesn’t want to stop when it’s round – just like filling up the car. I give up at 8,005 steps. It is almost four o’clock already, and the supervised “Kinderklettern” (children’s climbing) will only be on for another hour at the Sporthaus Schuster store. I must admit, it did not live up to my expectations – or rather my hopes. Here’s what I had hoped for: a swarm of small children scurrying about in front of a 2 x 2 metre wall with cute, dinosaur-shaped holds, while I’m able to reach the top on my tip-toes.

The coach doing the belaying explains that grey holds mark out the easiest route, red holds are the hardest, and the blue route offers a happy medium. I go for a colourful mix.

However, I actually found this: a 25-metre massif stretching up through the stairwell of the Sport Schuster store, reaching the fifth floor. I should have guessed that the “sports house of the south”, as they call it, would celebrate mountaineering. It certainly does look impressive. The coach doing the belaying explains that grey holds mark out the easiest route, red holds are the hardest, and the blue route offers a happy medium. I go for a colourful mix. In my mind’s eye, I am Spiderwoman. Although I make my way up fairly swiftly, I am rather happy that the “colourful mix” only reaches as far as the second floor – a height of about five metres.

To take the climbing route that reaches all the way to the roof, you need to book a course. Once I get to the top, my right hand starts to shake and I forget to ring the bell at my summit. Outside, the Glockenspiel in the Rathaus (Town Hall) rings at five o’clock, as it always does in summer.

The next leg of my walk brings me through the Tal, a well-known street that runs through the old town, past the Isartor and into the Globetrotter grotto. When I say grotto, I’m really talking about the basement of the enormous outdoor store, a world which extends over hundreds of levels (at least that's what it feels like!). In the basement you’ll find a 100-square-metre pool in the atrium, where customers can try out canoes and other watercraft. Tourists love doing this, the salesperson explains to me – until they fall in, anyway. I took a canoeing course 15 years ago, and I had to be brought ashore because I could only paddle in circles.

After a few high-concentration, well-balanced laps, I reach my limit and crash into the edge of the pool with a thump. I splash into the water. Why on earth did I decide to wear a white top?

I decide to try stand-up paddle boarding. Paddle boards: the Segways of the local recreational waterways. The “Atlas Zen Board” is “universal and sturdy” and as big as a single bed – this’ll be easy, I think. Until the first turn. There’s not much wiggle room for a single bed in a 10 x 10 m space. After a few high-concentration, well-balanced laps, I reach my limit and crash into the edge of the pool with a thump. I splash into the water. Why on earth did I decide to wear a white top?

Nonetheless, my mishap isn’t a complete washout: as I get back on the board I am much more relaxed, since I am no longer afraid of getting wet. And as the sole competitor, I have also won the unofficial wet t-shirt contest (and gathered some fans too). “You’re really taking it in your stride,” the salesperson praises as he helps me off the board and onto the edge of the pool. I feel a little proud of myself.

And although I really don’t need a shower, I want to go to the rain chamber before I dry off for good. For a cool-down, so to speak. Inside a glass chamber, I can use my foot to control wind conditions and rain showers myself. The rain poncho stays securely closed – as long as you don’t start posing and prancing about to look good in the photo.

It is 7:23 p.m., and I am wet through and blissfully happy. Until now, I had no idea how much it’s possible to experience in large sports stores today. My memories from the 90s are limited to slightly musty, carpeted shop spaces for sports fanatics. Back then, the only way to tell whether or not you’d snapped up the right pair of running shoes was to wait and see if any agonising knee pain kicked in. And how else could you learn about climbing apart from by reaching for the top shelf?

Today, I have clocked up 8.4 kilometres, 43 floors and 11,761 steps – not counting elevations and drop depths. For reasons I cannot explain, I painted my fingernails this morning with a fresh coat of “Red Seduction” – and by evening, the degree of chipping is testament to how energetically I got stuck into my shopping tour. My ancestors would be proud of me.

 

 

Text: Pauline Krätzig; Photos: Frank Stolle