BEING BAVARIAN IN MUNICH

Munich Bavaria 10The first thing that struck me in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, was how insanely crowded it was. The second – that the locals were wearing Tyrolean hats, unironically.Munich Bavaria 1

We all know what a traditional/stereotypical German get-up looks like, right? Lederhosen and all? And I’m going to guess that most of us associate it with Oktoberfest, Sound of Music, and cliché comedy sketches about Germans. I, for one, never would have guessed that those outfits are ever worn on a regular basis in modern times In Real Life.

Well, apparently this is EXACTLY what Bavarians wear on regular basis, in real life, because these traditional get-ups are an inextricable part of Bavarian identity.Munich Bavaria Tracht 4

The main thing that you need to know about Bavarians, is that they are Bavarians first, Germans second. They see it as a matter on local pride; many other Germans take it as a sign of snootiness (ah, those comments made by my own German in Rothenburb make a lot more sense now).

Bavaria is sometimes referred to as “Germany’s Texas.” Some of the reasons for such a strong regional identity: Bavaria is the largest state in Germany, making up nearly one fifth of the country; it was its own kingdom until 1918 (FUN FACT: in 1919, it became Bavarian Soviet Republic for about a month); it is (slight) majority-Catholic in a (slight) majority-Protestant country; it has distinct Alpine landscape; it is the most economically prosperous region of Germany and there’s been talk from local politicians about how Bavaria doesn’t need Germany but Germany needs Bavaria, which isn’t so distinct from the attitudes of many Texans and Catalonians, for that matter, and yes, there are even some secessionist elements in Bavaria’s political make-up.Munich Bavaria Tracht 5

On a more tangible, observable level, the Bavarian culture in Munich manifests itself in biergartens (beer gardens – a Munich invention), Weisswurst (white sausage) with beer for breakfast, the onion domes of its churches (between that and the whole Soviet Republic business I feel like there’s some latent kinship between Bavaria and Russia), and yes, the traditional costume, called Tracht – Lederhosen for men and Dirndl for women. As the 5 pm bell chimes on a Friday, signifying the end of a work week, Münchner put on their Lederhosen and Dirndl like it’s no big deal, and head out to the beer gardens all over town.Munich Bavaria Tracht 1-horz

I didn’t have my own Dirndl (though man, was I tempted to buy one – they are SO pretty!) but that didn’t stop me from hitting up three beer gardens on the same day.

* * *

This was my second trip to Munich, and having taken in the main sights on my first go-around a few years ago, I was ready to spend this visit chilling out and making like a local – with the help of lovely Allane from Packing My Suitcase, who is a Brazilian expat living in Munich.

Here are my assorted impressions of Bavaria’s capital on a mid-summer weekend:

  • Falling in love with Munich six years ago was what put Germany on the map for me, as far as travel destinations go. On my return, the city was just as lively and beautiful as I remembered.Munich Bavaria 7Munich Bavaria 3 Munich Bavaria 4 Munich Bavaria 6 Munich Bavaria 8 Munich Bavaria 5Munich Bavaria 9
  • It is so, so crowded during the holiday season (I am afraid to think of what it’s like during Oktoberfest). The buildings of Marienplatz, Munich’s stunning medieval central square, are barely visible through the hordes of tourists, souvenir stalls, dozens of café umbrellas, sound stage installations and tour buses passing right through. The beer garden in the main market square barely had a few free inches, let alone seats.

    Munich Bavaria Marienplatz 4

  • Munich is expensive! I didn’t really get a sense for the prices the last time – I didn’t have a lot of time after all that sightseeing in-between connecting flights – but this time around, from restaurants to hotels to souvenirs, I had quite a sticker shock, especially after Frankfurt and its muh more affordable surroundings.
  • Munich is delicious. On my first evening I opted out of going to a restaurant for dinner, instead buying several sausages, cheeses and pretzels at a high-end deli, to indulge in as many #sanctions-forbidden delicacies as possible. But the rest of the time I did eat out and it was consistently good, and even the traditional cuisine was diverse and surprising (Bavarian chanterelle ravioli, anyone?). And I bought a honey-almond pastry from the same bakery in Marienplatz as I did six years ago – aww, nostalgia! And yes, it was as good as I remembered all those years.Munich Bavaria Biergarten Beer Garden 1 Munich Bavaria Biergarten Beer Garden 2
  • Munich bike culture could rival Amsterdam’s. If it wasn’t for Allane, I probably would have gotten killed a few times over. I am much more comfortable with 2 types of roads: one for pedestrians, one for cars, and the two should never meet. Bikes are for country roads. Unfortunately for me, Moscow has gotten on the bike-wagon as of late.Munich Bavaria 2
  • I loved the Englischer Garten – or the English Garden, Munich’s largest public park. I generally love hanging out at parks, whether in Moscow or anywhere I travel, but I don’t think all parks are created equal. Luckily, Englischer Garten was right up my alley – a bit wild, lively but not overcrowded (phew!), with a varied landscape, streams and lakes, many different nooks and crannies to explore, and a sprawling beer garden (with the famous pagoda with a live orchestra!) in the middle.Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden 1 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden 2 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden 4 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden 3 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden 5
  • The biggest surprise of the English Garden was Eisbach (Ice Brook) surfing area with SUPER HOT SURFERS. I’m an East Coast girl, so surfer dudes have never been my thing, but OMFG HOT GERMAN SURFERS!!! I don’t think I could have been creepier, snapping up more than 50 photos of those studs, but thankfully I wasn’t the only one. But hot, fit dudes aside – surfing in the middle of Munich? How cool is that!Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden Eisbach 1 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden Eisbach 1-1

Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden Eisbach 4 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden Eisbach 2 Munich Bavaria Englischer Garten English Garden Eisbach 3Special hospitality thanks to Allane, who indulged my every Munich whim and who, in a perfect bit of timing, just published a perfect 24-hour guide to Munich.

Have you been to Munich? What did you like most about it?

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19 thoughts on “BEING BAVARIAN IN MUNICH

  1. I have not donned a Dirndl since I was 10 (it was a blue-and-white one, I do remember that)… and I don’t think anyone in my immediate family has even got a traditional outfit, and they are all born and bred… I can see that a Dirndl would suit you, though 🙂

  2. Surfing! What s great idea for a city park. It’s been many many years since I was in the Englischer Garten and there was no surfing then. I do remember beer, pretzels and nude sunbathing though. Perhaps surfing has replaced the latter.

    • I’ve just learned about the nude sunbathing and walking on a podcast – apparently when that folk is done with sunbathing and go home on public transport, the problem isnt that they are in the nude – but that they don’t have tickets on them because of no place to keep them!

  3. You had me at hot surfers!!! In all seriousness, I’m dying to visit Munich, if I could visit only one city in Germany, this would be it. Now I know not to go during the holiday season, though I feel like it’s just as crowded in December with the Christmas markets, isn’t it?

    • I could have the whole post of just the hot surfers! Seriously, I think Allane was thinking, ‘enough with the ogling already!’ but OMG THEY WERE GORGEOUS GERMAN MEN YUMMMM!!!

      I wouldnt be surprised if it IS just as crazy in the winter – esp with all those Alpine skiing resorts nearby. I am hoping to get my first taste of the Germany Christmas Markets this year but in Berlin.

  4. Yum…I mean…delicious…I mean… STOP TAKING PICTURES OF GUYS WITH GREAT ASSES IN WETSUITS. Even the sole girl in those surfer photos knows what she’s looking at.

    And if Bavaria is the Texas of Germany…whoa Nellie. There’s a lot I can say about that, but I probably shouldn’t so I don’t get myself in trouble.

  5. What a fabulous blog post!!! Gorgeous photos (all of them, not just the surfing studs)
    And yes, wearing Tyrolean hats not ironically! I was amazind in Augsburg to notice the same thing, poeple walking around in lederhosen, Dirndl skirts and the full get up whilst obviously not on their way to a fancy dress party. Rather lovely once you can stop laughing, and I wish more Europeans did the same thing.

    • Russians do dress up in folk costumes but for traditional holidays, and also very few non-performers embrace it. But now I am thinking of posh Moscow bars and how they’d look stuffed with traditional Russian Kokoshnik headwear instead of Gucci, and I am cracking up a bit.

  6. My high school German teacher was Bavarian and you are dead on – she was a Bavarian first, German second. These shots are amazing – definitely including the hot surfing Germans; and I’m a Left Coaster, so I know these things

  7. Pingback: Travel Dreams Come True: NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE | Home & Away

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