Our writer 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. This column gives her the chance to catch up on some of the things she missed. Normally – because COVID-19 changed everything. Our writer takes the lockdown as an opportunity to visit her favourite places. And tells what she associates with them.
There is this one day a year when it is unusually warm at the end of February or beginning of March. You walk through the streets yourself and wonder where all these people come from: Have they always been here? Are there already so many tourists in the city? A preview of spring and summer.
I spent that day in 2020 on the terrace of the Café Gartensalon. I ate scrambled eggs with farmhouse bread, drank a cappuccino, maybe two, and felt happy alongside everybody else about this unusal day, which can be relied upon every year. A week later the daycare centres and schools closed, I moved my work in the office to my home and for the time being I only looked from inside to outside. And I thought about how much Munich lives from its people and the large number of tourists who visit museums, relax on the many green spaces, sit together in restaurants or go to concerts. I thought of my favourite places, known for the smell of warm crumble cake or the sound of ringing bicycle bells, the feeling of ice cold water on my skin or the sound of applause from hundreds of people. For this column I visited my favourite places. And I wrote down why it was worth visiting them before the crisis and why it will be a special place after.
Munich's most beautiful outdoor swimming pool stretches along the Isar floodplains and is therefore perfectly located for those who want to explore the surroundings after a few laps of swimming: get on your bikes and cycle south along the river Isar, have a picnic in the Flaucheranlagen or take a walk to the enchanted chapel Marienklause. But back to the outdoor pool, which is my favourite for several reasons: built in 1899, it was later transformed into a natural pool - the water in the basins is biologically purified with the help of microorganisms. In addition, a side-arm of the Isar, an ice-cold stream that refreshes like no other on hot summer days, flows through the facility. I still remember the day when I dared to jump in for the first time instead of just sticking my toes into the water. Afterwards I proudly ate my fries, which taste best at an outdoor pool as every child knows. The Maria Einsiedel is an idyllic place, even on well-visited days. Everyone is simply relaxed here.
The status quo: The natural pool was open during summer of 2020 but you needed a reservation for visiting. Hopefully this will work in 2021 as well.
The Marienplatz and the Viktualienmarkt are the two heart chambers of the city. In order for Munich to function, they have to live.
To be honest, I sometimes deliberately avoid these two places. It is always crowded here, in summer there are large crowds of people standing in the sun, in winter everyone warms up in front of the stalls and stands of the Christmas markets. I suddenly missed these lively squares, because they represent exactly what we are now longing for: analogous closeness under chestnut trees, in front of the New Town Hall with its ringing carillon and when shopping for regional products at Munich's gourmet market. Here, people get together on the beer bench, there they take a picture of a selfie with their best friend, there they get advice from the vendor on buying fresh spices. The Marienplatz and the Viktualienmarkt are the two heart chambers of the city. For Munich to function, they have to live. That's why I am really looking forward to the first groups of people here.
The status quo: The beer garden at the Viktualienmarkt is closed during lockdown. The sales stands have opened in compliance with the hygiene measures and are happy about visitors and buyers.
If you walk across the Gärtnerplatz, one building immediately catches your eye: the Staatstheater with its beautiful façade in the style of late classicism. Inside, there is room for more than 800 guests, but what is most impressive is that the underground rehearsal rooms are up to 13 metres below the surface - one of them is as big as the stage itself, on which a lot of magic happens in the evening. Only last winter I visited an opera for the first time, which once again reminded me of the incredible cultural offerings of the city. The singers and dancers, as well as the musicians in the orchestra pit and everyone involved in bringing a piece to the stage, deserve the applause at the end of each performance. Clapping hands – which carry a very special mood – while feeling carried away and then going home elated, thoughtful or inspired: In times of crisis, people have always turned to the arts, because they are the ones who make us dive into other worlds. Therefore: See you very soon, dear Gärtnerplatzheater!
The status quo: The Gärtnerplatztheater is currently closed.
It's been two years since I could hardly believe my luck. I got two tickets for the almost immediately sold out Rolling Stones concert for my father ("Child, listen to this record, this is real music") and myself. I especially like open-air concerts, because despite all the people there is always room up there. The Olympiastadion has been a listed building since 1997 and with its tent roof is architecturally a very special place. The concert was incredibly good and although bad weather was predicted, it only rained for three minutes during 'Paint it black', which we found very fitting. At the moment I run past the closed doors of the stadium several times a week and peek through the bars at the empty stands. I listen to the songs of the Stones while running and I can't wait to celebrate and sing together again with almost seventy thousand people.
The status quo: Major events are still cancelled, so the Olympiastadion will remain closed until further notice. However, the Olympiapark is open.
There are cafés and there are cafés: those with soul. Places that decelerate and are perfect for lingering. We've got a few such cafés in Munich, one of my favourites is Franca's. When I'm going stir crazy at home I walk through the district Maxvorstadt for ten minutes until I arrive at Franca's. In summer you can sit in her incomparable garden, which lives from its flowers and the buzzing of the bumblebees. In winter you snuggle up in the small room that resembles grandmother's living room and always smells like Christmas baking. Above all, however, outside in the garden, under one of the projecting parasols, I experienced the most beautiful moments. It was here in 2019 that I wrote my novel, revised it, and got to experience the seasons. Sometimes I was given a piece of crumble cake or a second cappuccino, and later Franca said "you were so absorbed, I didn't want to disturb you". I miss that a lot. That's why I look forward to the quiet conversations at the neighboring tables, the dogs at their feet, myself disappearing into books or a manuscript - in Franca's little café.
The status quo: Café Franca is closed during lockdown. However, you can pick up coffee and cake to go on the weekend. News and information can be found on the Instagram page.
If you want to experience the diversity of a big city, you should take the public transport: Which groups of people get in and out of the waggon in which district, and what are they talking about?
When an old subway enters the station, I am happy. There is nothing wrong with the new trains, but the retro charm of the first series from 1970 reminds me of how long it has been normal to ride underground on public transport. When I visit big cities abroad, one of my highlights is to buy a ticket and go deep down. When I think of Paris, the old Art Nouveau-style of the station entrances come to my mind. When I think of Shanghai, I remember the commercials projected on the tunnel walls during the ride. If you want to experience the diversity of a big city, you should take the public transport: Which groups of people get in and out of the train in which district, what is being discussed, who is still reading a book and if so, which one? Perhaps it is my curiosity as an author that I like to let my eyes wander while driving instead of sticking my nose into my smartphone. My personal longing is this right now: the normal and crowded sitting together, because everyone has to go in the same direction. It's time to look at each other surreptitiously in the four-person compartment!
Status quo: The subway can be used in compliance with hygiene regulations. Wearing a mouth & nose protection is mandatory.
A few years ago I accompanied a friend to the Pinakothek der Moderne. At that time, Ingo Maurer's beautiful pendulum did not yet hang in the impressive rotunda that represents the entrance area - but the wide staircase to the first floor was of course already there. A student of Marina Abramović sat on it and one hundred or maybe even two hundred people stood around her in a large distance. What she did? Performance art! She whipped butter. With her hand. I will never forget the amazement of the people, the disbelief in their eyes and the giggling of my friend and me. It was also the Pinakothek der Moderne, where I saw one of my favourite photo exhibitions (several times): "The Brown Sisters", for which the photographer Nicholas Nixon has been portraying his wife and her three sisters every year since 1975. The Pinakothek der Moderne has been eerily silent for weeks - the pendulum was swinging nevertheless. As unique as it is to have a museum all to oneself, I notice how wonderful it is that the museum is back in business: the collective pausing in front of the works, the quiet interpretations with one another and moving altogether through the rooms is something special.
The status quo: The Pinakothek der Moderne is currently closed.
Seven places to which I feel a personal connection - and of course there are so many more in Munich. On my current strolls through the neighborhood, I am discovering some things that I didn't notice before in the hectic pace of everyday life. Something that I would like to continue doing after the crisis. More looking, more amazement, more standing still. This is how seven favourite places quickly become countless.