Shore along the river in Munich during summer

Love letter to the Munich summer

The Summer Olympics

The loneliest mountain peak, the bluest lake, the most secluded beer garden for miles around: When things really warm up in the month of May for Munich, every local has a very specific and personal summer check list in mind.

Just when Munich's summer season comes to life is not something cast in stone. Roughly speaking, it gets going between the “Rotkreuzflohmarkt"  (flea market) held on the Theresienwiese and “Kocherlball” (folk dancing festival). However, for many of Munich's inhabitants, the word summer simply means a time when snow is no longer visible on the peaks in the distance and the ski equipment is confined to the cellar.

But a sense of yearning for the mountains does not diminish; quite to the contrary. Unlike with virtually any other German metropolis, the summer season leaves no room for doubt: The city's surrounding landscape beckons you to explore! In any case, from roughly May onwards, Munich’s citizens always manage to cause a stir throughout the summer as they are drawn to upper Bavaria's beauty – it’s just so incredibly appealing.

For Munich, however, the summer's most beautiful adventure playground is traditionally located a stone’s throw from the city's core.

The people of Berlin barely make it out of their own neighbourhood and even if they succeed in navigating one of Brandenburg’s lakes to enjoy the rough-and-ready appeal of non-civilization for a weekend – well then that's as far as it goes. In Hamburg, although people spend the entire summer planning to drive to the nearest beach as soon possible, they are often left soaking up the nautical charm and sea breeze that envelopes the city all year round.

For Munich, however, the summer's most beautiful adventure playground is traditionally located a stone’s throw from the city's core: the surrounding area becomes, in a sense, annexed and the city limits are unceremoniously shifted to the end of the motorway at Eschenlohe. Given that, just a little way along the Isar river, people are enticed by the prospect of beer gardens, outdoor bathing, mountains and baroque churches, which many would have visited as children and which have perhaps earned a quick repeat visit, just to make sure they are still there.

Every citizen of Munich has his or her very own summer check list in mind: Whether it’s taking the plunge from the peer at Pilsensee lake, or plundering a certain strawberry field behind Wolfratshausen, visiting a town festival in Fünfseenland, taking in a beautiful log cabin or enjoying that brewery tavern, or simply dipping your toes in a rock pool before taking the inflatable boat back towards to the city – because otherwise summer just would not be the same!

Anyone who volunteers an insider tip when it comes to the Karwendel mountain range or a well-hidden swimming spot on the Osterseen lakes, is bound to earn some respect.

At any rate, young people have no issue with finishing their clubbing nights early, because they want to go hiking the next day. And anyone who volunteers an insider tip when it comes to the Karwendel mountain range or a well-hidden swimming spot on the Osterseen lakes, is bound to earn some respect. Because such details are what really count in Munich during the summer months.

On a beautiful Saturday in June, nearly half the city is already on its feet by eight o'clock, making it look more like an expedition camp than anything else: Everyone is frantically shouldering backpacks, carrying dinghies and steering children to at least beat some of the early morning rush into nature. It’s only then that the city’s one major topographical planning error comes to light: If lakes and mountains were distributed just a little more evenly around Munich, the whole event would be slightly more comfortable.

But this collective desire for freedom is constricted by just two motorways and the terrain in between. And if you’re unlucky, you’ll find yourself in the morning rush behind the same people stuck in traffic, with nothing else to look forward to than the prospect of missing the last parking space, the last boat for hire and the last spot in Haidhausen on the way back. If that happens, you’ll sense that burning ambition to turn the tables and do better next week, going earlier, further and higher than the rest of the competition.

These are, so to speak, the eternal Olympic Summer Games of Munich. But in actuality, such recreational competition makes things rather interesting. And somehow everyone still finds a place where the surrounding world looks something akin to one of those wheat beer advertising billboards you’ll find in the city – in a delicious white-blue look.

For stoic city dwellers – yes, they do exist – summer may begin with their first proper beer garden evening. An evening when you don’t freeze while sat outside and when no more pollen needs to be wiped from the bench and where, if you listen carefully, a quintessential Munich noise hovers over the city – the collective scraping off of too much pretzel salt namely.

Somehow everyone still finds a place where the surrounding world looks something akin to one of those wheat beer advertising billboards you’ll find in the city – in a delicious white-blue look.

That's one thing the locals do casually and with natural grace, with well-proportioned movements. Besides: A little salt is essential for a good thirst. But too much makes the mouth so parched and is sure to cause a sore head for a little while. A reminder for newcomers (Zuagroaste): The salt on the ground in winter is to prevent black ice, but in summer it’s from the pretzels!

But even if you stay in the city over the summer, it’s impossible to fully escape the holiday vibe. Head for the centre and down to Isar late on a fine Saturday evening and you may sense some slight trepidation. Yet somehow, this regular night-time party, this colourful throng of people along our river, has its own beauty. It tells not only of legendary nights sat around a camp fire, of Augustiner beers chilled in the water and fun in the water by night, but also quite simply: of summer in the most beautiful of cities.

 

 

Text: Nansen & Piccard; Photos: Dominik Morbitzer

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