Being an Arsenal fan I really should hate Munich. Whenever I thought of that place all that sprung to mind were those 5-1 losses to the classy Bavarian footballers that kept knocking my team out of Europe. I also pictured huge beer festivals, sprawling Christmas markets and folk in lederhosen. Driving up from the stunning Eibsee into the city I expected to have a few steins, walk around the city centre and maybe even putsch a beer hall. Now when I think about Munich I think back to one of the best times of my life. My time in Munich is sandwiched between visiting the beauty of the German Alps and going to Prague to live it up with my mates. Now when I think of Munich, I think of lazing in the stream through the English Garden, laughing through the town and about Bani falling of his bike. I still remember the lederhosen and steins but more importantly, I don’t instantly think of humiliating football results.
The night before we swapped the mountains for the metropolis, Bani and I camped on the shores of the heavenly Eibsee. As we froze under our towels beside the water, shooting stars hurled past the peak of Zugspitze whose outline was illuminated by the lights of the Milky Way. So we were in high spirits when we arrived in Munich after one of the best nights of my life and found our way to a beer garden to continue soaking in our happiness. In the glorious English Garden, in the shade from the Chinese Tower, we enjoyed a couple of steins, served by lederhosen wearing men, as the smell of Schnitzel wafted past our noses and the sounds of the traditional band resonated around the bustling park. It had the atmosphere of a bierkeller combined with a ski bar, just without drunk mums dancing on tables, and was full of happy people revelling in the summers sun.
Leaving the relaxing gardens behind we set out from the park and into the city. Following the stream towards the city centre we were amazed to discover the Eisbach, a manmade surf wave in the heart of the city on the border to the English Gardens. We watched the locals skilfully jump onto their boards on the white-water and effortlessly glide atop the torrent of water. To have surfing in a clean stream in the middle of a city is, to me, incredible, it wouldn’t work on the brown tributaries to the Thames I don’t think. Crossing the threshold from green sprawling park into a busy city plopped us into a street lined by palatial buildings and elegant museums and we eventually found ourselves under the bulking town hall in Marienplatz. Weaving through the old town we wandered past the domed top of St Peter’s church, the Rathaus- Glockenspiel and back over the river to the Maximilianeum, close to where we had dumped the van.
For dinner, a spot of our van speciality, dodgy pasta, and a bottle of rum reinvigorated us for the night and we headed out back to the city centre to enjoy the fine Bavarian nightlife by visiting a cultural Irish bar. I’m not sure how we ended up there out of all the fine places to go to but we must’ve liked it because we didn’t leave for another few hours. When we did leave, it was substantially more difficult to find our way back to the van, it must’ve been the darkness, and we set out in search of our home. On one of our detours, Bani somehow gate crashed a very elegant and fancy looking affair at a museum and after breezing past the security, I watched him float through the crowds and inside. I don’t know what he was doing and how he got away with it in the state he was, but a few minutes later he emerged from the other side of the building, bewildered at his adventure and still with a face like a melting waxwork.
The next day he was in dire need of a miracle, and Munich provided one. With all the beer halls, partying and Oktoberfesting the city is well equipped to deal with the sore and woeful and in the English Garden, the best cure can be found. After the waters flow beneath the surfboards on the Eisbach, they continue down the stream until they filter into the Isar river and it is in this section that people can recover in the wonderful lazy river. Bobbing under bridges and past a small waterfall is a great way to have a wash on the road as well as wake up after a big night. The cold water is revitalising and even Bani, on the cusp of comatose, seemed capable of survival in the flowing current. Looking up at the changing tree lines which blocked out the battering heat of the sun we floated down to another small wave where surfers cruised across the ever-present whitewater. After crawling out the side we decided another few brilliantly buoyant sessions were needed to get rid of any excess smells and soreness.
Revitalised, we found ourselves once again holding a stein in the beer garden, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. Munich is full of some of the country’s finest art galleries, museums and buildings but in rays of the summer sun we were happy to relax in the wonderful English Garden, the rest can wait for another visit because another visit is inevitable.
I adore Munich and I cannot wait to return. It had everything I could want in a city, from beer gardens and lazy rivers to a charming old town and surfing. The time I spent there, and in the mountains to the south, were simply amazing and myself and Bani often look back at our time there a laugh at all the stupid, funny things we did. I just wish they had a worse football team.
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