November 14, 2012

The sweetest German tradition: the Advent Calendar and more


One of the things I enjoy most in Germany prior Christmas is the tradition of the Christmas/Advent Calendars. 

Although you may think that this is something just for kids, it is not. Most of my friends receive one of these Calendars every year from their girlfriends/husbands/etc. And if you check in the stores: many of the available options are also targeting adults with a sweet tooth.

In 2012 the Advent time runs from Sunday 2nd to Sunday 23rd December. However the commercial (sweet) versions of the Advent Calendar begin on December 1st until December 24th December.

These sweet Calendars, in case you have never seen one: are rectangular chocolate boxes that do not open but instead have 24 small windows that break/open and are filled with hidden sweets or chocolates. 


They also sell sets of 24 small cute cloth bags each one representing a day that you can fill with whatever you want: small gifts, notes/photos, messages, chocolates, etc. 

You can find a wide range of these calendars almost everywhere in Munich with prices that rank from 4€ to over 30€ (for the most exclusive ones). The Kaufhof and Karlstadt are the usual places to go but there are also sold in beauty and drugstores like Müller (in the toy section) and in small candy shops spread across the city. 


The manufacturers are getting smarter every year and want to reach other consumer segments beyond the children and therefore there are even Advent Calendars filled with beauty products or football merchandising.


But the sweet treats at Christmas do not end with the Advent Calendar: 
  • The “Baumkuchen” which I understand are very popular in Japan they also have a space in the Munich grocery shelves; 
  • The “Lebkuchen” which is the German Christmas cake par excellence;
  • The “Spekulatis” biscuits are originally from Belgium/Holland (I first enjoyed one “Speculoos” during my time living in Antwerp) but you can find them everywhere here in Munich;
  • And at the many street stalls (or at the Christmas markets) they sell roasted chestnuts/ almonds, other caramel coated nuts; fruit pieces dipped in hot chocolate; etc.

The Christmas markets will open in less than two weeks here in Munich (they are already setting them up) so if you happen to be in the city then and you want to know where to go, check the official site of Munich for a list of all of them with descriptions of their history and offer. 


Do you know any other traditional sweet treats from Munich/Bayern?

November 5, 2012

Rooftops and weather in Munich


The autumn time in Munich is confusing.  

Three weekends ago on Saturday 20th October Munich it was sunny and warm, it was like springtime all over again but in October:  we reached 25°. With this amazing weather: I went on a “rooftop crawl” in Munich:


Mandarin Hotel: The China Moon Roof Terrace is open from May till October. I have been there mid-afternoon in summer and in springtime for drinks and I must say that it is expensive but for a tee or a single drink the view and the service is worth what you pay for.

Oberpollinger is a fashion shopping center in Altstadt that you should visit. On their 5th floor they have a buffet restaurant and an outdoor area with a view to the city  (Dachterrasse). It is free to go up.

The Bayerischer Hof is a five star hotel in Munich where relevant international events take place: such as the Worldwide Security Conference. Also many celebrities stay there while the champions league game is on.
Facing the main entrance, you find the Michael Jackson´s memorial, which is outstanding and one should visit it, even if you are not a fan.

In the Bayerischer Hof: take the lift to their “Roofgarden” to enjoy a nice quiet breakfast until 11am (affordable); a lunch (expensive); a coffee or a drink (prices are like in any outdoor area in the Viktualienmarkt) and all with a great view of Munich.

Last but not least, check the cinema experience that @ the Astor Cinema lounge inside the hotel. It is not a rooftop but it is definitely an experience that you want to consider for a special evening. They call it a "premium cinema" and it is because the cheapest ticket costs 15eur. The 38 very comfortable seats (not usual chairs but sofas) and the service justify the price. 

Glockenspielcafe is featured in every tourist guide about Munich. From up there you do not only get a view of the main square of the city but you can actually enjoy a nice brunch or meal. I have been here many times. They do not accept reservations, which means that you need to go there and find (fight for) a table outdoors.

Alte Peter is a Romanic Catholic Church located within two minute walk from Marienplatz- the main square in the city-. You pay something like 5$ and then you get to go up and enjoy a 360° view of the city.

The Frauenkirche is the main church in Munich. Despite their works, you should be able to step up for a gorgeous view.

A weekend later after that 20th of October: all changed. On Friday night the temperature dropped to zero and it started snowing (out of the blue) and did not stop for two days. No more rooftops, no more sunbathing, no more anything that had to do with being outdoors.



On Sunday morning, Munich was covered in white snow. In just one week, we went from Barcelona to Stockholm.

I was not the only one surprised by this weather change; the local newspaper was also featuring the unexpected snow and reporting that Munich has not seen “this winter coming” since 1939.




I am unsure what happened during the week after the snow because I was in Berlin but when I got back to Munich on the following weekend, all the snow was gone, the sun was back and the temperature has dropped down again (something around 9° to 12°) somedays with sun, some others with rain

You can follow the official German weather service department in Twitter and Facebook. My favorite information sources on the current weather is:
Any tips on how you face the weather in Germany?

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