Heaven is a half-pint
Malcolm Jack discovers there’s more to Munich than the national drink. Just about
Beer. It might as well be the first word here, since there’s no getting away from it in Munich, even outwith the world-renowned annual piss-up of Oktoberfest. Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Fraziskaner – you name them, the big Bavarian brewery brands are everywhere: on t-shirts, on caps, on billboards, on bus shelters. People drink them in beer halls, beer gardens, restaurants, cafés, in the park, in the street, on the underground, on the tram. Even at the swimming pool.
Germany’s third city (after Berlin and Frankfurt) is in some ways a world apart even to many Germans. Situated in the far south of the country, less than 25 miles from the Austrian border and over 300 miles from the sprawling liberal mecca of the German capital, Munich is generally regarded as a bastion of traditionalism and conservatism, a tourist hotspot known for its high prices, high culture and high standard of living. Certainly, the city has nothing like the buzzing music and clubbing scene that Berlin does. Crucially, though, that ‘high price’ label is misleading. A pint will almost always set you back far less than it would in the UK, and cheap, invariably excellent food is pretty much always at hand: breakfast platters piled high with delicious breads, cheeses and cooked meats can last you most of the day for a mere €6-8, while the many, myriad bakeries all stock giant, freshly baked, cheese-covered pretzels. Entertaining yourself can be done on a budget too: entry to many of Munich’s museums and galleries is slashed to just €1 on Sundays.
Thanks to the weather, the city is much more alive ain the day than at night. Between May and September, temperatures hover around 20–25ºC for as long as the sun is above the horizon. Ideal conditions for lazing in one of Munich’s many fine green spaces such as The Englischer Garten, one of the largest urban public parks in the world, with a handy 7000 seater beer garden (surprise) at its heart. Where the Eisbach meets the Isar on the park’s eastern side, queues of people in wetsuits patiently wait in line, board under arm, for their turn to surf on an artificial wave in the river.
Outdoor public pools are situated all over Munich and are popular haunts amongst locals on hot days. At Dantebad, pensioners swim up and down the Olympic sized pool at a leisurely, almost glacial pace, while kids dive-bomb the lounging pool and people of all ages lie around topping up their tans by the sides (not always clothed it should be noted. Evidently Munich isn’t that conservative). It’s a fine place to spend an afternoon, particularly since – as mentioned – beer is on tap.
Right then. The beer. Helles, the pale, golden variant, has almost completely overtaken traditional malty, darker brews (Dunkels) and wheat beers (Weißbier) as the standard Bavarian pint, but all are widely available in the various local brands listed above (imported labels hardly get a look in). Radler (essentially shandy) is always an option for the light drinker. For the heavier indulger, there’s Maß - a litre glass, practically a bucketful of beer. They’re best drunk sparingly, at least if you want to remember anything of your trip.
Get there Easyjet flies direct from Edinburgh to Munich Franz Josef Strauss International Airport (40 minutes by train from the central station) from around £55 return.
Sleep there Hotel Theresia-Regina www.hoteltheresia.de is a cheap, simple and funky discount hotel situated in the University district of Schwabing/Maxvorstadt, and well-located for transport links. Double rooms start from €32 a night including breakfast.
Eat and drink there Tresznjewski is a smart art deco brasserie in the Kunstareal serving great food and coffees by day before turning into a popular studenty drinking spot by night. Nearby Ausgabe (www.dieausgabe.de) on Theresienstraße is an unassuming bar, restaurant and café.
Find out more For more info on major events and sites in the city visit www.muenchen.de or drop into the tourist office situated in the grand Neues Rathaus building on Marienplatz.