August 10, 2012

Biking in Munich


** Munich by bike ** German bike club ** Bike tours in the city and surroundings ** Online resources **  Renting a bike ** Buying a bike **

I have read in many places that Munich is a “Radlhauptstadt” = a capital city for the “Radl”, which is the Bavarian equivalent of “Rad” (short for “Fahrrad”) so a bike. 

If you navigate online you will find strong arguments that support this statement/city slogan. The main one is that Munich´s infrastructure (public and private) strongly favors and supports this green “vehicle”:
  • There are approx. 1200 kilometers of bike lanes in Munich; 
  • The bike parking facilities are free and almost everywhere (unless you read “Fahrräder abstellen verboten”, “ Bitte an xxx keine Fahrräder abstellen” or something similar);
  • The public transport and taxis are expensive; as well as the rates for street-parking (besides the traffic jams are frequent and the parking control officers are everywhere);

If they were not reasons enough to convince me, the city publishes a lot of information about living and moving on a "Radl" in Munich: bike city maps; a bike route planner to plan how to get from A to B quicker and with bike lanes; an annual program of events (i.e. the bike summer nights, courses, free technical bike checks); tours outside the city to discover the surroundings, etc.

The MVG (the Munich public transport company) has partnered with ADFC (the German Bicycle Club) to put together more than 20 bike routes within and around Munich. You just need to pick your route and then take the U-Bahn or S-Bahn until the starting point, where your bike route starts. At the end of the tour, there will be another metro station that will take you back home. There are routes from 22 up to 68 kilometers and they include: the Bavarian mountain Taubenberg; lakes like Starnberger See or Ammersee; Dachau; etc.

It took me a year to make the decision to buy a bike in Munich. Why did it take me so long? Easy:
  • I have driven a car since I was 18 and I love driving; 
  • I was 12 years old last time I rode a bike and 
  • honestly I was under the impression that it was dangerous/complicated with all the cars, buses, trams… 
But I was mistaken. 

Firstly, not matter how many years have passed since you were on a bicycle, trust me: you do not forget it. Secondly, it is not dangerous/ complicated. You see parents with bike trailers for their children all the time; they ride to/from the office in their suits and with their laptops; to/from the supermarket with their grocery bags; to/from parties on the weekend in high heels (!), etc. It is not that the locals have a specific gene that makes them more skilled than you and me, it is just that it is easy. 

And dangerous? Well, I believe that the drivers in Munich are very respectful with bicycles and they are used to give way and to keep the security distance (I actually believe it is more complicated to drive a car in Munich than a bike).

There is a very nice brochure by the city of Munich where it explains the StVO (so the rules of the road and driving) for bikes. It is in German so if you do not understand it, get someone to help you or easier: ask in the Tourism Office or book one of the many bike tours in the city, this way you can learn the basics with a guide while sightseeing the city.

The most popular organized group tours in Munich are: Mike´s bike tours; Lenny´s bike tours, Frankie´s bike tours, Munich Walk Tours and Radius Tours
I have not tried any of them, but if you do, please drop me a line and let me know your impressions. 

Maybe you are like me, in which case you might want to go for a test ride before you invest in your own bike. In this case, a very good option is to rent a bicycle from the many shops/services in the city (private and public). Most of the above shops that offer organized tours by bike also have rental services.

The DB (Deutsche Bahn) has a bike rental service named: Call a Bike that is very easy to operate. They have several spots around Munich where to pick up the bike and it costs 0.08€ per minute, with a maximum of 15€ per day (or 9€ if you have a Bahncard).

Some bike rental shops require a deposit (that can go from 50€ to 100€) and then they charge you an hourly fee (that can go from 2€ to 5€ or 15€ per day). Most of the above companies that offer bike tours also have a rental services.
In some places they also offer student discounts, so do not forget that if you are enrolled in a language school here in Munich, you might be eligible for a student card (it depends on the school and the number of hours).

And finally if you are ready to go out and shop for your own bike, then you will find that the number of options is so large that it is almost impossible to compare them all. 

My suggestion is: pick one or two shops that are close to your place/office, go there, look around and ask the staff for advice. The prices are more or less standard in all shops for first and second hand bikes. 

If you go into a bargain quest, you will only be losing your time. Some people comment on forums claiming that they have bought bikes for 50€ or less and they are fantastic (well I hope so). I guess that this option works for people that are not using the bike regularly... But if you do, you want to make sure that what you pay for is in a good condition and that it is not going to cost you more money in two weeks, when you discover that you need to buy new brakes...

My honest advice is:
  • if you want your bike to be your main transportation in Munich, please avoid the super cheap stuff (junk) found in a dark patio of a corner shop somewhere and go and pay the market price in any of the many bike shops in Munich. Yes, this might mean to pay from 250€ for a bike;
  • if you just want a bike for a short sporadic ride on a sunny Sunday in the park, then do not let the shops sell you a brand new bike or an expensive second one. Go for a cheap, cheap bike. The second hand market here is very competitive and dynamic, so you should be able to find one for 150€ and that is in a good condition for the use you are planning. Just make sure the brakes work before you pay!!!


Shops to buy a bicycle in Munich (first and second hand): 

And this is all from me today. I hope this info is useful. As always, drop me a line if you know of any other options/shops/places to rent/buy a bicycle here or just to tell me your experience with the bike in Munich.

Related posts:

August 8, 2012

Munich: Going to the movies in English


On Sunday we finally went to the new Batman movie… in English. The 8pm session at the Mathäser in OV and the one in Museum Lichtspiele were already sold out, so we went to Cinema München. These are the three movie theatres you should keep in mind when looking for cinemas in English in Munich. 


For those of you who are a cinema´s lover: there are over 30 movie theaters in Munich (suburbs + city). They tend to be middle to small-sized theatres: some with a better sound quality than others; some with more comfortable chairs than others… but this is matter of likes and dislikes and you need to experience them to develop your own opinion. 

Most of the cinemas in Munich show the films dubbed in German, as it could be expected, but there is also a number of theatres with sessions in original version (in English) with/without German subtitles; or in original version (in German or any other language) with English or French subtitles.

The tickets can go from approx. 10€ to approx. 5.50€ on “Kino Tag”. In some theatres there is also a special price for sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; or a discount if you have a student card from your University or language school. 

Also be aware that if you purchase your tickets online, they usually charge you with an extra of approx. 0.50€ per person as pre-sale and seat pre-booking. 


***WHERE DO I FIND THE MUNICH MOVIES PROGRAM IN ENGLISH?***

The official site of the city of Munich lists every single cinema in town and the current program with details on whether the film is in English with/without subtitles; in German with/without subtitles or in other language with/without subtitles. They even have an application for iPhone or iPad that I have just installed and I will be testing this week.

The Local has a cinema guide with listing of all the movies in English in Germany. 

The largest website in Germany for cinema is Kino and it is my favorite. Although you have to go down through the whole list to find the ones labeled with OV or OMU.


***CINEMAS IN ENGLISH***

Mathäser in Stachus has 14 screens. The films tend to be dubbed in German but for the major box office hits (you know: the Harry Potters, the James Bond, the Batmans, etc.) they always find a time... The chairs, the quality sound, the 3D thing is the best… 

Museum Lichtspiele in Haidhausen is located within two minute walk from the cultural center of Gasteig and the Deutsches Museum. It is a very small and cosy theatre with something like 30 seats per screen. As far as I know it offers 99% of its program in English or with subtitles. The cinema is also popular because of their children program and sessions that are very suitable for families with kids.

Cinema München in Nymphenburger Strasse is the most popular movie theatre for English-movies in Munich.  I saw Batman there on Sunday. 

***OTHER CINEMAS TO KEEP AN EYE ON***

Neues Arena in Hans-Sachs Strasse has two small-sized screens and usually offers a very interesting program that includes films from UK, US and Canada with subtitles in German. It is located within five minute walk from Gärtnerplatz. 

Atelier (City Kinos) has a cinema with capacity for 204pax and then a smaller one for 84pax, whose program is usually approx. 40% in OV with subtitles. It is located in Sonnenstrasse, so within a walking distance from Stachus.

Monopol in Schwabing West (Hohenzollernplatz) has set Tuesdays as the day to show some of their films in English (at least in August 2012). But in general its program usually includes films that are shown in OV with/without subtitles anytime of the week. “Kino Tag” here is on Thursday when the ticket costs 6€.

And this is all from me about movies in English in Munich. I will be in London next week, so you will hear not much from me then, but in the meantime, let me know if you know of any other cinemas I should be mentioning here or sites that compile a list of English movies in Munich.
And as always for comments, just drop me a line.

Related posts:

August 5, 2012

Traditional open-air market for kitchen cookware: Auer Dult


The Auer Dult is a traditional street market and open-air shopping fair that takes place three times every year at the main entrance of the Mariahilf Church. It is located in the Au district of Munich which is 15 minutes from Gaertner Plazt, five once you've crossed the Cornelius bridge. (Check the dates at their site).


The official website claims that the Auer Dult is Europe´s largest market for pots, pans and tableware and they may be right because you can find everything there and I mean everything in every color/design/size, first or second hand, in every material and at any price (from super expensive stuff to junk dealers). There is also a small fun fair area, some attractions for teens and some for kids (and yes, they have ponies).

The food stands have outdoor areas where you can enjoy their sweets and cakes with a coffee, the traditional sausages with a bier or even grilled fish on a stick. 


I was there on Sunday and it was crowded. The stands with live demos on a new knife set, a “wonderful” casserole and a “magic” food grater were the three most popular ones and were bursting with public. It was fun to watch for a while but if I had to do it again, I wouldn't go on a Sunday.


I leave you a few pictures so you can get the idea, but as always, I suggest you visit it to get the “real feeling”.




If you know of other street markets or similar open-air shopping events in Munich, please drop me a line, I would love to visit them.

Related posts: 

August 1, 2012

Barbecue and sunbathing in Munich


The summer has finally arrived in Munich. After three weeks of awful weather, the time for some outside fun has come. In summer barbecue, sunbathing and swimming are three of the best things one can do in the city. No matter if you live in Munich or you are just visiting. You have to try them all.

Read below for more information on how and where to do them all right in Munich:

***BARBECUE***
The official site of the city of Munich provides information on the only six public areas where you are allowed to barbecue in the city. If you use common sense then you should be fine… or not?... since you are in Germany, your common sense might not reach to fulfill all the German rules… so read and follow their rules if you want to avoid a fine and an embarrassing situation with the local police. 

Some of the rules include:
Use only gas or charcoal barbecues, bonfire is not allowed (fair enough); 
Keep a distance between your fire and the trees, bushes, dried up grass and other flammable surfaces (ok, this is common sense); 
Be careful with the “flying” fire sparks (also common sense);
Organized parties are not allowed (this one I do not get). You need to coordinate with your friends to meet at a place and bring all that it is needed for a BBQ… so it is going to be an organized get-to-together any way… do they refer then to not to invite too many people?... or do they mean not to be loud like in a “party loud”?... or do they say “please do not hire a Dj”?... still not sure about this one. If you do, please let me know;
And of course the last rule: clean up after, but not only that, dispose the trash at the designated places or (as they suggest) take the trash with you home (!) so you can dispose it (recycle it properly) when you get home.

The places were a barbecue is allowed:
At the lakes around the city: Feldmochinger See, Fasaneriesee, Lerchenauer See; Langwieder See and Lußsee/Birkensee
In the Hirschgarten
In the Ostpark
In the Westpark
At the Isar (north and south areas)

Check the maps on the official site to make sure you do your BBQ where it is allowed. If you do not understand German, just click in the links: the red area in every map is where you are allowed to barbecue.

So far I have only tried the Isar-south area. On a weekend was crowded, but we managed to find a spot. So go for it! It was great and it would be great when you do it, just keep in mind that there is a distance between where you park your car and where you barbecue. This means that you and your friends, like me and mine, will need to be able to carry all stuff for a 10 minute walk before you reach the destination. Just keep that in mind…

Barbecue in your terrace:
I live in a third floor and have a balcony big enough to fit two chairs and a small table. Is my balcony big enough to be allowed to make a barbecue on Munich? Does the size matter?

No. After a year of reading about this in articles, comments in forums and news, I have come to the conclusion that the size does not matter. It is not the fact that my balcony is small, it is the fact that I have neighbors above and that my balcony comes out to a private small patio that connects to many other neighbors. 

My understanding is that under those conditions you are not allowed to barbecue in your balcony (with charcoal). I should probably check with the city council before going for a full no, and I will, but in the meantime, let me tell you that:

Apparently you are allowed to use an electric barbecue in your balcony but not gas or charcoal. And in some buildings, you need to check with your tenant and neighbors before. Gas/charcoal are not allowed because of the smoke. 
However I see people hosting barbecues all the time in their small balconies and they use charcoal… so I conclude that if it is not allowed people do it anyway. I guess that if the neighbors do not complain, they get away with it… 
There is an official site explaining where you can barbecue outdoors in the city in Munich, but there is not or it is very very difficult to find one that explains regulations about a barbecue in your balcony. I have not been able to find it, in English nor in German. The city offers an email service where you can write and post your questions about BBQ in Munich. I will email then with the question and as soon as I get an answer, I will let you know. (The email is: gartenbau@muenchen.de)

***SUNBATHING*** 
If it is sunny you can find people sunbathing in every green spot in the city. A few suggestions in the city center:

Englisher Garten: anywhere along the river Isar in the Englisher Garten. 

Gärtner Platz: this one not in a bikini but it is the best place to go on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon to sit on the grass, to enjoy a drink, the sun on your face and a good conversation with friends. And if the evening arrives and you are still there, just enjoy the atmosphere of so many locals gathering around.

The Isar riverbank south from the Deutsches Museum: in the “Frühlingsanlangen”. This is for me THE BEACH of Munich. North there are also some spots you should try.

The Munich beach bar changes its location every year. In 2012 is located in Haidhausen, crossing the Zweibrückenstrasse-Ludwicksbrücke. 

Any biergarten in the city. If it is sunny, they will pull out tables and chairs.
The roof terrace of the Mandarin hotel in Munich is amazing! You just need to be prepared to pay a lot for a drink. If you are, the view is unbelievable. 

There are also other roof terraces where you can sit and enjoy a drink and the sun in your face without paying so much… one is in the department store Oberpollinger two minutes from Stachus and five from Marienplatz.

***SWIMMING**
In the city center:  I only know about the Isar bank, south the Deutsches Museum, a metro station away from Marienplatz. I am unsure if it is allowed, I can only say everyone does it and if you go there, you will not be the first nor the last in getting into the water.

I need to investigate and learn more about the outdoor pools in the city. I will soon, but in the meantime, please let me know other places you know to sunbath or swim in the city. 

Where do you go on a sunny day in Munich?

Related posts:
The River Isar I and II