Our author spent many years quenching her thirst for adventure as a travel blogger, and her adopted home town of Munich was somewhat relegated to a place of relaxation. Her column gives her the chance to catch up on some of the things she missed. This time, she takes on the challenge of turning night into day. Because, among her friends, she is actually known for being the first to disappear from parties – secretly and silently.
In my clique, I'm nicknamed "Anika Nachtleben Landsteiner" (Anika Nightlife Landsteiner) whenever we talk about weekend plans or review a past party. This middle name is an ironic reference to the fact that I've been leaving parties at their peak for years, often by sneaking away: One o'clock in the morning, the bar is packed, the vibe is great, but all that’s left of my drink are clinking bits of ice cubes, and I'm tired. Then I tend to slip away, and the reason I don't always say goodbye is that most people want to convince me to stay.
Maybe this is due to the past pandemic years or simply due to this extremely hot summer: Mild nights that tempt you to linger a little longer, to raise your glass one more time, to let yourself be dragged onto the dance floor once more – all of these phenomena were particularly noticeable in Munich this summer. So I took up the personal challenge of partying until sunrise. Just like I did in my early twenties. And I also want to find out what the city has to offer at night – because when I am adventurous and curious, it's usually in places I'm newly discovering, not the ones I call home.
In midsummer you usually meet for a beer by the city river. This is especially pleasant when a hot day comes to an end and a cool summer evening unfurls in the freshness of the rushing river Isar.
On this Friday evening, I meet up with photographer Frank and my friend Kathy at the kiosk at Reichenbachbrücke at half past eight. I want to start the night in a very typical way, and as is customary for all Munich residents, the first thing they usually do in midsummer is meet for a beer by the city river. This is especially pleasant when a hot day comes to an end and a cool summer evening unfurls in the freshness of the rushing, crystal-clear river Isar. The sky is marbled with pink veils of clouds as we sit down on the riverbed and chat for a while. At some point, Frank says to me: “Anika, you have two sidekicks with you tonight. You can just let go and we’ll support you!” I have to laugh, because he takes my attempt so seriously, then we brag a bit to each other about how many times we have danced entire nights away.
Finally, we head for the hotel bar at "The Flushing Meadows", which is dim and cosy in winter, while in summer, a warm breeze blows through the open doors to the roof terrace. Of course, you can find a beautiful boutique hotel in any city, but what is special here are the eleven rooms on the third floor, designed in close collaboration with artists from around the world. The same attention to detail is reflected in the hotel bar. With soft jazz sounds in the background, we sit down in a nook and order a bottle of rosé. After a few sips, Frank waggishly tips an ice cube from the cooler into his glass. “It's a scorned habit, but as you get older you don't care," he says, and I do the same. A few minutes later, Tamara, Ulla and Buddhi join us, the latter accompanied by his housemate Nadja.
Now the group is complete: the age difference is over twenty years, but everyone gets along right away. It's half past ten when the first ones feel a little hungry and we decide to pay a visit to Glockenbachviertel's French fries hub: the Bergwolf. A decade ago already, I used to get a reliably decent portion pushed across the counter here on wild nights. Tonight, Frank orders fries special – that is, with raw onions and mayonnaise. I pinch one, it's really crispy.
Our portion in hand, we stroll through Munich at night, heading for the Unterdeck, a mix of bar and club, my personal favourite, because you can dance spontaneously here, but don’t have to stand around a dance floor for hours because there are no tables. Unterdeck is unpretentious – a perfect hangout spot when you want to spend a relaxed evening with friends. At the bar, my friend Ulla orders two Liquid Cocaine for us and I have to admit that I've never tried this drink, even though it's on almost every drink menu: Vodka, espresso, sugar, and you have an extremely tasty concoction that you’ll never ignore again.
The sounds of Caribou lure me onto the dance floor. Together with Ulla and Kathy, I stumble through a dense fog and let myself float with the song. For a few minutes I lose track of time and space, but that's really because of the fog machine, which seems a bit over the top. If you're single and believe you won't meet anyone offline these days, you might want to try the dance floor in the Unterdeck – bumping into each other gives a whole new interpretation to the term "blind date".
As we walk back to the others, I meet an acquaintance and Frank chats with a good friend who suddenly stood in front of him. That's what I like about Munich's nightlife: The longer you live in the city, the more often you meet people and you can feel the village flair that defines Munich. And also that so many bars and clubs are within walking distance of each other. At our table, they're already discussing where to go next over a round of shots: Karaoke bar? Or maybe another bite to eat? Frank is hungry again and suggests a Turkish takeaway at Sendlinger Tor. When we arrive there at the fountain, Frank grabs Nadja's hand and they dash through the water together. I take a snapshot of this fabulous insouciance, then we enter, our hair damp from the mist.
We all feel a little droopy. Frank therefore suggests that we let it rip: in the Blitz. And I think: Oh dear.
“Now it's going to happen very fast, Anika! One more drink and the sun will rise”, Frank announces, devouring a plate of lentil soup. Blissfully, I look around at this diverse group. Everyone has come to celebrate with me, and for a moment it feels as if the night belongs to us. It is just past one now, we are as far away from sunrise as from yesterday's sunset, and this is unfortunately the moment when Ulla and Tamara say goodbye. "They've learned something from me," I think with wistful pride, "leave when it's most beautiful."
Frank, Nadja, Buddhi, Kathy and I head back to Glockenbachviertel. For a quick drink, we stop by the friendly Lola Bar. I like the place, because the average age is late twenties to late thirties and on weekends, they often play funk and American hip hop from the 1990s. Nevertheless, we all feel a little droopy. Frank therefore suggests that we let it rip: in the Blitz. And I think: Oh dear. The Blitz is a techno club with one of the best sound systems in Europe and a ban on photography. Before I can refuse, Buddhi has ordered a cab and Nadja, who actually wanted to go home, says: "I'll come along to check out the queue." I shake my head in disbelief at this Spirit of being 22. Amazing.
A little later, I find myself – a little lost and very fascinated – in the middle of the crowd moving as if in a trance. Many have glitter on their faces, a few men are topless, all feel the beat that carries them through the night. But I have to admit to myself that I probably wouldn't go to the Blitz under any other circumstances. Not because I don't think it's a good club, but simply because it's not for me. Techno is not my cup of tea, and I honestly don’t care how good a sound system is at three in the morning. I order my last drink for tonight, a gin and tonic, and I know: I’m about to go home. For sure.
When we step outside, dawn is already breaking. It feels a bit like crawling back to reality from the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland. At home in bed, I take one last glance at my notes. "Don't cry now," I typed into my phone at some point between Liquid Cocaine and lentil soup. I have no clue what is meant by this, but I can say with certainty: If I had cried at all, it would have been tears of joy. Because this was one of the coolest nights of the year. Spontaneous, entertaining, full of warm friendship. And surprising, because I realised how good and versatile Munich nightlife is. That's why I know I won't regret these last eight hours when I wake up later with an unbearable hangover that will accompany me all day.