I stumbled into the Bavarian town of Munich in mid-March of 2016, a region that all of my ancestors lived in before immigrating to the United States. Since a young age, I’ve been infatuated with Germany and dreamed of living there for a portion of my life. When I met a family in Munich that was willing to host me as their Au-Pair to teach their youngest daughter English, I couldn’t decline the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So at 18 years old, I began my 6 month adventure of living in a foreign country half-way around the world from home.
The first few weeks after arriving I spent my days exploring city-center, riding the U-Bahn lines 1 and 3 all around the proximity, and people watching at whole-in-the-wall cafes.. I dressed in the most “European” clothes I owned, stuffing my bright colored t-shirts into storage in order to blend in with the neutral palette of the germanic wardrobe. My apartment wasn’t far from Olympic Park, so I spent my first full day lounging in the sun and walking around the historic park. You must check out Olympic Park when in Munich, as it was where the terrorist attack bombing occurred in the Olympics in the summer of 1972. Aside from that depressing fact, one can take tours of the premiere olympic soccer stadium, even zip-lining across it. For those with less of a thrill-seeking heart, lying in the green grass overlooking the lake can be an all-day event in itself.
The hill in the park is made completely of debris from WWII and is full of many beautiful trails that take you to a lookout point over all of the city. If you have 10 euros to spare, buy a ticket to ride to the top of Olympia Tower to get an even better view of the massive city. Since it is a large park, you’ll probably work up an appetite while sight-seeing. No worries, as the park is equipped with tons of food trucks offering the famous Doener, Crepes, and Bavarian bratwurst.
The best part of Munich, in my opinion, is the city center.
The German Workers’ Party (better known as the Nazi party) started in Munich, making it interesting to stand in the center of a city that has so much history. Most of the building were bombed during the second world war, but fabulous reconstruction efforts would make you think that the building weren’t even scratched during the bombings. Marienplatz is perhaps the most iconic part of city center, with it’s massive town hall that presents a puppet-show-like show every hour. I recommend forking over some euros to ride the elevator to the highest point on the town hall, which offers the prettiest views of the city I was ever presented with.
Adjacent to Marienplatz is the stunning St. Peters church, that I sat in hours just meditating and getting away from the chaos that can occur in a larger city. After admiring the minimalistic interior of the church, I would head to the Viktorianmarkt (located next to St. Peter’s church) to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies. This market is huge and is open 6 days a week. Don’t worry if you can’t speak German, almost everyone can speak basic English.
One can’t visit Munich without stopping by a beer-garden to sip on some of the best alcohol in the world. The beer garden with the prettiest view is located inside of the Englischer Garten, which has a backdrop full of glorious green trees and breathtakingly blue water.
The garden is free to the public and is one of the largest in the world, so I spent multiple visits exploring the area. You’ll find young musicians playing guitar quietly by a tree on a warm day, or couples riding in little cycle-boats to enjoy a romantic getaway. The quiet atmosphere will make you feel as if you are in the middle of the Schwarzwald, when in reality you’re a few minute walk from the city. It’s the perfect escape when city-life becomes too overwhelming.
If possible, try to be in Munich around mid-September, so that you can attend Oktoberfest (my all-time favorite part of the city). This event lasts a couple weeks and it is fantastic to see how the tradition has carried on for years and years. Tourists from all over the world dress-up in lederhosen and dirndl and sip on huge pints of beer. While I was there, everyone seemed to be in a great mood and were more than happy to let me take photos of them. The festival is free, but the beer is quite expensive, so make sure you save up if you want to drink inside one of the tents. The famous tents are booming with traditional music and smiling dancers. If you’re lucky, you may catch some drunk Bavarian men doing a silly-looking traditional dance that they learned when they were young boys.
Aside from outfits and alcohol, the entire venue is a Bavarian theme park, with tons of rides for all ages. Bands march up and down the different streets while festival attendees dance along with the festive tunes. When hunger pangs set in, spend a couple euros on a bag of roasted nuts. They are coated in various sugar toppings. The best souvenir to bring home from the fest is the cookie hearts with writing on them, but please don’t be an obvious tourist who munches on the cookie. These are meant to not be eaten, but more as an artistic decoration (I hung mine on my bedroom wall).
The vibes radiating from this Bavarian city are different from the other towns in Germany, which usually are more strict and not so laid back. Munich is a fun city with bars and beer gardens at every corner to give you a true central European experience. Now i’m back in my home country, dreaming of the salty Bavarian pretzels and the history the region holds. The day I return to this central European wonderland will be one of the best days of my life.