“[Munich is] a German dream translated into life.”
Today Munich is a high-tech metropolis of 1½ million people, but also a cultural hub attracting 4½ million visitors each year. Those who live here are called Münchner, typically hard working Germans. However, some are rumored to carry a playful, fun-loving, mischievous gene that turns them into “loveable rogues.” For example, while typical Münchners might get upset by life’s ups and downs, “loveable rogues” take a wait and see attitude––“Wartma ab” they like to say––toward a situation that might yet resolve itself.
Munich is the city of my birth, but I left long ago to make my life in the United States. Still, I manage to return often, gaining a deep affection for the place.
Of course you might ask if I carry any of the “loveable rogue” genes. Possibly. Certainly, I enjoy a good time. A case in point: When I’m in Munich, I always try to drop in on its famed Franziskaner* restaurant, acclaimed for Bavarian and international cuisine, where I often order Weisswurste, white sausages filled with veal, onion, and parsley, typically served with sweet mustard and fresh pretzels. While waiting for my order to arrive, I usually sip Riesling wine and people-watch, an activity that my Munich sister, Petra, describes as “bird watching, only with people.”
*(Address: Zum Fanziskaner, Residenzstrasse 9, 80333 Muenchen), Phone: 089/2318120).
Some in the German tourist industry say you should visit Berlin first and then Munich. Others say forget Berlin altogether––or, for that matter, any other German destination, and “Go straight to Munich.” Munich is Bavaria’s “city of gold”; in the eyes of some, it’s Germany’s Eldorado.
According to my sister Petra, legend has it that as God was divvying up the earth among its many peoples, the Bavarians were too modest to claim some of it for themselves, preferring to wait. Their humility was rewarded by God who gave them the portion that He had kept in reserve for Himself. To thank their benefactor, the Bavarians built fine churches and handsome castles throughout the countryside. Oktoberfest is actually a celebration of the natural beauties that were bestowed up them. Having told me this story, Petra felt obliged to give me her own take on Bavarians as people who believe Bavaria superior to the rest of Germany, more down-to-earth than the staid, reserved Northerners.
When my Weisswürste arrived, this is what I saw:
The sausage casing is slit along its side, so that the meat slides out. Cut into bite-sized portions, it’s lathered with sweet mustard and enjoyed with pretzels on the side.
(Should you want to prepare Weisswürste yourself, you might check out Olli Leeb’s cookbook: Bavarian Cooking, p. 24.)
While savoring this Bavarian delicacy, I noticed that the Germans all around me wore no lederhosen or dirndls! What I saw was lots of minimalism: nice, casual sportswear in muted tones. Considering Germany’s economic prowess, we think of microchips, biotechnology, and fast cars, but the German Fashion Association reports that “Germany is the world’s second largest exporter of fashion world-wide.” The list of German designers includes Jill Sanders and Karl Lagerfeld. Supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann and Heidi Klum constitute just a small part of Germany’s fashion pantheon.
On lazy Munich afternoons, I sometimes I make my way to Munich’s esteemed 125-year-old landmark Konditorei Kaffee Hag, once the confectioner of Bavarian royalty, and today the home of some of the city’s most mouthwatering pastries.
It’s an age-old Munich custom to go to a Konditorei to have cake and coffee or hot chocolate mid-afternoon. Often Münchners meet friends there, but it’s also acceptable to go there alone to read the newspaper or blog as I sometimes do.
The Konditorei is not a bakery, although it grew out of the baking industry when particular bakers (Konditor) specialized in sweet breads that might contain honey, spices or candied fruits. I’ve always liked marzipan, long a Konditorei staple. Venetians introduced this confection made of almonds, sugar and rose water to central Europe in the 14th Century. Chocolate, another mainstay here, came to Germany in the 19th Century, via Spain, Italy, and France, thus creating the Chocolatier, also a favorite component of the Konditor’s trade.