March 21, 2012

Locals know better

“Mallorca ist das 17. Deutsche Bundesland”

There is a common saying in German that claims that Mallorca (a Spanish island of the Balearic Islands that is located in the Mediterranean See) is the 17th region of Germany. You may know that Germany is divided in 16 regions (Bundesländer) and the saying claims that Mallorca is the number 17th.

If you have not been to Mallorca you may wonder why is it so? The reason is because Mallorca has (and has had for decades since 1960) such a large influx of German (and English) tourists that you could say that the small island (that has a surface of approx 3500 km2) have been invaded by Germany (always in the good sense). If you walk around the island, most of the restaurants, shops and businesses have German speaking staff, the menus are translated into German and the eating schedules are adapted to German times (meaning that you can have lunch from 12pm and dinner from 5.30pm). 

For many years, the Germans have loved this island so much that many of them have bought summer houses or have retired to Mallorca. And thanks to this love, the island has experienced a strong economical boost since the 60´s that has brought new infrastructures, new opportunities to start up new businesses and of course new jobs. So thank you Germany for that! And in return, yes, you may call Mallorca your 17th Bundesland (figuratively speaking of course).

But today I did not want to talk about Mallorca alone but what I am telling you is relevant because: Mallorca, as well as Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, etc. are attractive cities to visit for the Germans. 

Spain has been the second most visited country on earth after France for many years. Then USA started a very aggressive, smart and attractive promotion campaign and they gained the second place, replacing Spain, then China came in and Spain was pushed back to the forth place. 

In any case, second, third or fourth, Spain remains a top tourism destination and so, I get many questions about: local tips.

Local tips: what is that? In my opinion is a list of places to visit, restaurants where to eat and stuff to do that you do not usually find in a travel guide. I am a huge fan of the Lonely Planet guides but the truth must be said: the locals know better.


In Europe every city is so close (in comparison with the USA and Australia) that when someone says: I am visiting XXX city, he/she is probably only going for a weekend, so when giving local tips, the list of places, restaurants and stuff to do should be short. In my opinion, three suggestions max for every category.

In Munich, if you check the Lonely Planet guide, the official Munich site or whatever other travel guide about the city, I would say that if you could only pick three, these would be the ones in my opinion:

Places to visit (advised by most of the travel guides):

1.-Althe Pinakothek (if you like art) or the Deutsches Museum (if you are more into technique and science).
2.- Marienplatz, Frauenkirche and Viktualienmarkt (all three within a 5 min walk).
3.- Odeonsplatz, Theatinerkirche and Hofgarten/Englisher Garten (with surfers).

Restaurants (advised by most of the travel guides):

1.- The Hofbräuhaus, of course.
2.- Any of the other German typical restaurants (Agustiner Brauerei, Pschorr, Spätenbrauerei etc.).
3.- Das Glockenspielcafe in Marienplatz for a nice cake and tee with a sight to the main square of the city.





Stuff to do (advised by most of the travel guides):

1.- Oktoberfest.
2.- Go to the Englischer Garten for a walk, for a ride with the bike, for sun bathing or for a bier in the Biergarten.
3.- Go to a soccer/football game in the Allianz arena (if you are a sport fan) or to the Olympic park for a concert.

All of them are great tips but what if you find that you have a bit more time and you want to do some local tips that are not in the guides… 


I have put together some local tips for Madrid, my home town and they seem to be working. So far, seven people have tried them and all have thanked me enormously after coming back from Madrid. Now, I know Madrid far better than I know Munich, but after almost a year here, I am going to try to select three local tips for each category that I would have loved someone gave me when I first arrived here:

Places to visit:

1.- Das Amerika Haus in Karolinenplatz. This is the cultural centre for the USA and Canadá in Munich. The cultural program is usually extraordinary. The last seminar I wanted to attend there was “The Politics behind the Simpsons” but it was all sold out.


2.- Die Bayerische Versicherung Exhibition Hall. Their exhibitions are usually for free. In March they have one of a photographer that accompanied Marilyn Monroe and others VIPs.

3.- Das Literaturhaus: I love going there for a coffee while I read the news and enjoy the nice quiet spot where they are located. Their cultural program is usually also very interesting. 




Restaurants:

1.- For dinner, something out of the ordinary for a change: the Blue Nile in Schwabing, traditional Etiopian food to be eaten with your bare hands. (Check Eating out in Munich for more details).

2.- For lunch: go and enjoy a sandwich and a coffee in the Elisabeth market in Schwabing. (Check the Grocery List for more details).

3.- For brunch/breakfast or lunch: the Victorian House. (For more details read Eating out in Munich).

Stuff to do:

1.- “Let´s do a Barbie” as they say in Australia, go out and barbecue!. I will write more about barbecues very soon. (Barbecue in Munich).



2.- Go sunbathe at the Isar beach. Imagine that you are on a beach somewhere else (not in Germany) take your towel, your sunglasses, your sun cream and prepare some sandwiches: it is summer in the city baby! (Sunbathe in Munich)

3.- Enjoy an real German beer with friends sitting outside on the grass in Gärtnerplatz. This is very common during spring and summertime. In the evenings, the Kirk Bar (Corneliusstrasse, 16) sells beers to take away. 


I am sure that you are reading this post and thinking that you would give other tips, likely they would be far better than mines and that means two things: 
1.- you need to send these tips to me :-)
2.- you are becoming or have become local and you should be proud!

Any other ideas and tips for local advice?

Related posts:

March 15, 2012

Books, books, books...


Monday is “Kinotag” in most of the cinemas in Munich, which means that the ticket costs 2€ or 3€ less than in a usual day. I was on my way back from seeing The Artist in the City Kino (Sonnenstarsse, 12), when I found this commemorative plaque in memory of the year that Heinrich Heine lived in Munich. And a year might be a very short time but it was enough to motivate me to feel that I needed to go to a bookstore and buy some of his poetry.



A few minutes later after this first excitement, I realized that my German is probably not good enough to understand the 19th century German poetry, so I decided that I was going to buy his poems in English and then maybe I will try in German.



I woke up on Tuesday with this idea and planned to go to Hugendubel in Marienplatz to search for a Heine book in English. Hugendubel is likely the most well-known bookstore in Munich and most people like me would go there, as a first choice to buy their books. 



Very few people know but Hugendubel started in Munich as a family business in the 19th century. Heinrich Hugendubel did such a great job in running the family business that today it has 54 stores all around Germany and more than 75.000m² in sales surface area in Germany. In the store in Marienplatz or in Stachus, Hugendubel have a small section for English books but the rest is all in German, so if you are, like me, looking for something very specific in English, you might not find it there.

Where do I go then? Where can I buy my Heine book or other books in English in Munich? 

One of my friends in Munich suggested that I try the Hugendubel store behind the Literaturhaus in Munich.

The Literaturhaus (Salvatorplatz, 1) is five minutes from Odeonsplatz. It is a cultural center in the heart of the city that is worth a visit. Its cultural program offers a wide choice of art and photo exhibitions, as well as music concerts and films. It has a library and a cute cafe with an outside area that is cosy and quiet enough to enjoy a coffee while reading the news of the day.

There used to be a  Hugendubel store across the street that was dedicated to English books. Unfortunately, it closed its doors before the summer and as far as I understand it has not reopened else where. 

I have also found the Club Bertelsmann, another bookstore chain that actually has more subsidiaries than Hugendubel and their mother company: Direct Group Germany has also stores in Austria and in Switzerland. Bertelsmann and its sister company: Zeilenreich have more than 230 stores and they also have a small choice of English books in every store, but again, the range is not wide enough to find my Heine book in English. If you want to try, there is one store in Sonnenstrasse, 17.

Jokers is another bookstore chain that was recommended to me and that it is worth a visit. Their key sales message is about their selected range and their price. There is one Jokers store in Rosental, 3, so two minutes from Viktualienmarkt.



I am still not sure about whether is cheaper to buy in Amazon or in Jokers or in one of the other stores. I have read some posts and articles in expat forums and sites, which claim that Hugendubel and other stores in Munich are cheaper than Amazon. I can only say that I have recently bought a book in Hugendubel for my new German class (das Oberstufenbuch, Schubert Verlag) and it was a euro cheaper than in Amazon. A euro does not create a rule and therefore, I guess you need to visit those bookstores, check their prices and then compare them with the prices in Amazon.

Heinrich Heine is one of the most famous German poets of all times. Schuman and Schubert used his poetry to give lyrics to some of their musical creations. But he is not the only German writer that should be considered or mentioned, if we talk about German literature. You and I have studied Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and Immanuel Kannt in philosophy class. But they are not alone, Hermann Hesse is another one that I need to mention. Swiss or German, he is a poet that influenced the German literature history in the 20th century.

Also, we all know Johann Wolfang von Goethe. You may have not read anything from him but the man was relevant enough to give his name to the official German cultural institution: The Goethe Institut. He is considered a genius of the 19th century and if he does not say anything to you, then think of Faust… he wrote it!!!!

I am not going to find my Heine book in The Comic Company, five minutes from Gärtnerplatz. But I like the store, Superwoman could live there and for those of you that like the Big Bang Theory, this store is the place to go to search for comics, new or old, but comics, it is all about comics…


The Munich Readery (Augustenstrasse, 104) is my favorite for shopping second-hand books in English, their range is the widest and most interesting in the whole Munich. Anything you can think of: they have it! 




I have still not found my Heine poetry book in English but I keep trying. In Schwabing, around the Uni, there are many bookstores, most of them selling second-hand books or specializing in specific areas: economy, law, etc. Still no Heine in English… but they have him in German, if you are brave…




The Words Worth in Schellingstrasse is my last visit. Next to the Uni, they have a wide range of English books, go there and check… I have found a few bargains … 

And to finish, if you like to read, my advice is that you walk around the city and pop in every small bookstore that you find in your way. There are many. There is one in Rindermarkt (2 minutes from Marienplatz) that is called Shakespeare and Company, go there and go through their section of books, I am sure you will have fun.


After this expedition, I have not yet found a book that is worth buying with the translations of Heinrich Heine poems in English. I should spend more time in the Munich Readery or I just need to go online. 

My father says: read Heine and Hermann Hesse, then don´t forget the Grimms Brothers and Schopenhauer and Gunter Grass. So many, too many.. I do not have the time... I only want to find a translation of Heine poetry in English...

Which are your favorite German writers?

Related posts:
It is culture time

March 7, 2012

Germany knows good food

Who said that Germans did not know how to cook?


They do and some of them are worldwide famous chefs with a strong influence in these days‘cooking culture.


The first time I heard of Alfons Schuhbeck he was advertising a new hamburger for one of those largest American fast food giants in television. Then I did not think that he could offer much in terms of cooking inspiration, but I learnt that he is considered one of the most relevant chefs in Bayern so I decided to give him a chance.









In the 80´s his career kicked off after becoming the head chef in a popular restaurant (Kurhausstüberl ) frequented by the high society of Munich after receiving a Michelin star. Nowadays Schuhbeck is everywhere in Munich: in the heart of the old city, a few steps away from the world famous Münchner Hofbräuhaus, Schuhbeck owns a cooking school, two restaurants and four delicatessen stores. 










The restaurants: der Südtirolen Stube and das Orlando Haus are both fine restaurants specializing in traditional German cuisine. He also has an ice-cream parlor and café, a tee shop, a spices shop and a chocolate shop. His cooking school offers courses on traditional Bayern recipes, Italian cuisine, wine seminars, etc. 



The man has also a relevant presence in different cooking shows in the German television, such as “Lanz kocht” (Lanz cooks) and “die Küchenschlacht” (the kitchen battle).

However, Schuhbeck is not the only German chef that enjoys of international exposure and is loved by the Germans. For this post, I am following the suggestions of the Michelin Guide and I am listing below a few of the many (and they have many) three-star chefs that Germany has produced in the recent years. 

Heinz Winkler is a German Italian chef, known for being the youngest German chef in receiving the three stars. In 1989 he bought a medieval building in Aschau im Chimegau (located in southeast Bayern and known as a ski resort in winter and due to its 13th century castle Hohenaschau). Winkler converted the building in a luxurious hotel called “Residenz” and he is devoted to French cuisine everyday in the hotel´s restaurant. 

Sven Elverfeld, born in the Grimm Brothers´ city of Hanau, replaced Winkler in 2009 in the top ranking of German chefs published by the Michelin Guide. Nowadays Elverfeld cooks (again) French cuisine in the three-star restaurant Aqua in the Ritz Carlton in Wolfsburg (north Germany, where the HQ of Volkswagen is located).

The Hotel Bareiss is a luxurious holiday resort located in the beautiful Black Forest (southwest of Germany). Its restaurant received the three stars in 2008 thanks to its renowned Chef Claus-Peter Lumpp, who (again) offers a delicious French-style menu.

Joachim Wissler is head chef in Vendome, the main restaurant of the Bensberg Castle, a first class hotel in Cologne. Vendome received the three stars in 2005 and since then Wissler has enchanted his guests with his magnificent (again) French cuisine. 

And to end, it is worth mentioning two television German Chefs that accompany us every day. I love them for their sense of humor and creativity in their recipes. 

Johann Lafer is not actually German, he was born in Austria but he has made most of his professional career as a television chef in Germany, so he counts for this list. Lafer is a usual suspect, like Schuhbeck, in the TV program “Lanz kocht” und together with the chef Horsch Lichter (the man with the funny mustache), they both make me laugh so much, that it seems like I am watching a comedy instead of a cooking show.

I do not think that Lafer and Lichter have been awarded with any Michelin star, but these two cooks/showmen are watched everyday by millions of Germans and their books are sold all over the country, so Michelin star or not, they have a say when it comes to cooking in Germany.

Do you know of any other top restaurants/chefs in Germany?


Also about food in this Blog:
The Grocery List- Die Einkaufliste