In summer or winter, at the weekend or after work… the people of Munich love to go outdoors and do a bit of sport. And they don’t even have to drive that far in winter, as there’s quite a lot on offer in the middle of the city. Our author gave it a go.
Winter sports in the middle of the city – is that even possible? On a freezing cold day in February, I set out to see just what winter sports the Bavarian capital has to offer. Cross-country skiing, sledging, curling and ice skating are all on the programme. I prepare myself by reserving my cross-country equipment at the German Alpine Club (DAV) the evening before, borrowing a sled from my colleague and booking a curling lane. And we’re all set.
I can collect my skis from 8 o’clock onwards, giving me enough time to get to the DAV at the Isartor. You can get in through the side entrance before the official opening times. The staff here are always incredibly friendly and hand me my equipment. We address one another by our first names – it goes without saying really, as we’re all athletes here… The woman at the reception desk says goodbye with the words “Someone’s happy to be getting out there!”, and I head for the ski trail.
The lack of oncoming traffic lets me gather my thoughts as I ski. Towards the south. And then back up north. I could do this forever.
I’ve decided to go to the trail along the eastern banks of the Isar. This is my favourite part of the city; I always go running, swimming and mountain biking here in summer, and now I want to explore the area on skis. This is one of many options; it’s well maintained, but not by the city and only for classic cross-country skiing. Skating isn’t possible here. It’s a long trail that extends from the Reichenbach Bridge to the Flaucher area in the south of Munich.
I start at the railway bridge and make my way south. I might not be joined by any other cross-country skiers this morning, but I come across lots of dogs frolicking around in the snow. The lack of oncoming traffic lets me gather my thoughts as I ski. Towards the south. And then back up north. I could do this forever. But the next activity is already calling…
Since I’m already by the Isar with quite a few plans and don’t want to waste the day travelling from one place to the next, I decide to go to the Neuhofener Berg slope in the middle of Sendling (a 5-minute walk from the Mittersendling S-Bahn stop). The slope is one of the city’s recognised sledging hills. I’m still almost alone at this time of day – the kids are all at school or nursery on Friday morning.
But numerous sledge marks and green spots seem to suggest lots of activity on previous winter afternoons. Remembering my childhood days, I pull the sledge up the hill to start my descent. And what a rush of speed! Again! And again! And one last time! I just can’t get enough. But I’ll have to get going at some point, as my time slot at the curling rink is fast approaching.
The most natural and beautiful rink, the Nymphenburger Kanal, sadly hasn’t been open over the past few weeks due to the weather conditions – the canal isn’t frozen over. So I’ll have to think of an alternative. When making my reservation, I realise curling must be pretty hip in Munich. My first rink of choice is completely booked up. The owner kindly recommends a place I’m yet to discover, the Augustiner Schützengraben, which is also in the district of Sendling.
I usually come here to go to the hardware store or garage, but there’s also a lush beer garden hidden away and three curling lanes for the winter. And I’m lucky – the lanes are free. The friendly owner tells me they’re always fully booked in the evening.
I shoot one curling stone after another and try to position them as close as possible to the centre of the target at the end of the lane.
He then offers me a selection of food and drink (including all-you-can-drink mulled wine) served from a Bavarian “Standl”, or food truck. The owner quickly explains the rules, and then we’re good to go.
I shoot one curling stone after another and try to position them as close as possible to the centre of the target at the end of the lane. Back and forth. But unlike cross-country skiing and sledging, curling isn’t much fun on your own. So let’s move on to the next activity.
Ice skating would have also been possible on the Nymphenburger Kanal in other weather conditions. But you can also enjoy this in a much more comfortable setting – in all weathers – at the Prinzregentenstadion. My ice skating partners from Munich tell me they used to come here as a child and the stadium is steeped in history.
Ice skating reminds me of my own childhood and youth. That was the last time I donned my ice skates. That’s why I’m looking ahead to the fourth and final activity of the day with a mixture of joy and fear. It’s a very long time since I was last on the ice. And the rink is being prepared as I arrive. That can only mean one thing: smooth and slippy!
Without realising, my face breaks out in a big grin. I’ve not forgotten how it goes. One lap merges into another. And another. And another.
All the skaters are standing around the edge of the rink, eagerly waiting to be let back out onto the ice. Everyone’s here, from amateur dancers and teenagers to children with and without their parents. Just like back in the good old days, I hire a pair of ice hockey skates and walk along the rubbery floor – another childhood memory – towards the rink.
My hopes of getting a penguin to lean on are dashed when I see they’re reserved for children only. I carefully venture out onto the ice and claw my way along the boards. After a few standing and sliding tests, I venture out into the open area and skate my first lap.
Without realising, my face breaks out in a big grin. I’ve not forgotten how it goes. One lap merges into another. And another. And another. The perfect end to a long day of winter sports.