I left for Munich after spending a long time in a bookshop. I admit, I thought I would spend relaxing afternoons on the meadows of the Englischer Garten or strolling through the gardens of Nymphenburg Palace. I planned to sit on a wooden bench and sip away at a tankard of Löwenbräu for hours. I imagined the tranquillity of a city that in the evening offers delicious dishes and interesting cultural programmes, but I thought I’d be going to bed early… That’s why I bought a 708-page novel in the airport bookshop… From the very first steps beyond Karlsplatz gate, the shop fronts have the feel of an international city that has nothing to envy in the great metropolises. After a quick spot of breakfast at Aran, a fashionable and healthy café on Theatinerstraße, I find two girls chatting around a flowerbed, sitting on seats that look like they belong to a bar, but that are actually part of the urban furniture. I was born in Rome and conviviality of this kind always strikes me. Having made friends with the girls, I follow their advice and go to their favourite vintage shop. Pick N Weight, between Tal and Hochbrückenstraße is a crazy place. An indoor jungle full of clothes of every age, material and style, with the price determined by the weight of the garments you buy: so much per kilo. Some of the finer items have a higher price category, but here you can grab some real bargains if you’re a fan of this type of clothing.
If you love glasses, either as an accessory or because you need them, you’re in the right place. Prescription or sunglasses, it makes no odds: the people of Munich have a real fixation for glasses. Ace & Tate in Gärtnerplatz, with its round, wooden customer counter, giant cactuses and reading corner, almost looks like a restaurant. It’s not just a trendy glasses shop, though. The staff are attentive and competent, there are hundreds of frames for your every need and meticulous packaging. Just some of the many reasons why you shouldn’t leave empty-handed. It’s difficult for me not to succumb to the temptation to go inside all the big Italian fashion stores and international chains, but I’m on the look-out for something truly original. I’m stunned by the impact of the complete blackness and minimal lines of Yukai in Kurfürstenstraße. Literally. Shamelessly Japanese-inspired, the store offers timelessly elegant collections, essential items and unique scarves from Japan. I could say I’m feeling quite satisfied, but after so much vogue I feel a strong need for Bavaria. There it is. Colourful, fun, voluminous and many-layered: Dirndl are the traditional clothes of Bavarian women and Lodenfrey is the big shop at Maffeistraße 7, which has been a must for this type of clothing since 1842. Here they sell Dirndl for day and for evening wear, Loden overcoats, and men’s Lederhosen leather trousers for every occasion, especially Oktoberfest. Lodenfrey also boasts international brands and sportswear on six luxurious floors in its city-centre building.
I‘m drowning in shopping and decide to go back to the hotel to drop-off my purchases. Flushing Meadows is the perfect accommodation for anyone who wants to fully immerse themselves in this city‘s transformation. It‘s in Glockenbachviertel, Munich‘s vibrant hipster area. As is often the case when it comes to new, trendy neighbourhoods, until a few years ago this area used to be infamous for being poor. My hotel is a refurbished industrial building with living concrete walls and just a few rooms, each designed by a local artist. My mezzanine bedroom features a hammock hanging from the ceiling and recovered items elevated to works of art. I can even listen to my favourite playlist using Bluetooth.
After a quick shower with organic cosmetic products made by Berlin brand Walachei, I go up to the rooftop bar of the hotel to drink a good glass of cold Riesling. The view is breathtaking, enriched by chilled electronic music and people speaking languages from around the world.
Go along Fraunhoferstraße if you want to get lost in a whirlwind of vinyl shops, luxury dealers selling modern collectables and vintage trunks, small trendy boutiques, multi-ethnic restaurants and barbershops. Barber House strikes me due to its huge yellow logo on a blue background, with the typical old school imagery reminiscent of sailors and pin-ups. Inside is so much more than a barbershop. Someone is having their moustache groomed with great care, while others are chatting and sipping aperitifs, reading glossy magazines with sleek layouts, perhaps looking for inspiration for their new do.
It’s not the first salon of this kind that I’ve seen in the city, but it’s by far the most popular. I ask around for information about the night life. It appears that something interesting is about to take place: the opening of the pop-up hotel Lovelace. The hotel will only be open in Munich for a couple of years and it will then move, with the same concept, to another city. Taking the leap, I head towards the poshest area of Munich: Kardinal-Faulhaber-Straße. The entrance to the palace that houses the Lovelace leaves me stunned. A great red marble staircase leads to a central hall from which positive energy emanates. The rooms are covered in motivational phrases. One reads: “Everything is going to be amazing”. It turns out to be true. Neon signs, oddly-shaped mirrors, a hairdressing salon overlooking the balustrade on the top floor. Then corridors, lifts, designer bikes displayed as sculptures. The calendar of events is the envy of the music and arts festival.
After such sumptuous elegance, I decide to refresh myself at Zum Augustiner, just a few steps from Marienplatz. It might seem like a touristy choice, but I’ve come here in search of a local experience with typical food and a good beer. Inside, I’m greeted by an enormous room with frescoes, glass cupolas and wooden columns full of cheer and the aroma of spices. The waitress, in traditional attire, advises me to trust her and smiles when I worry about the enormous amounts of food I can see on the tables around me. This turned out to be the biggest challenge of my stay in Munich! My Bratenpfander’l is a gigantic dish made up of a quarter of a baked duck, crispy pork hock and roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings on the side…
I can’t get away from the astonishment of having discovered such an unexpected city. I was imagining a fairy-tale setting full of popular songs, markets and delicious pretzels, but instead I found myself amazed by innovation and design, in a cultural melting pot to be envied by Paris, Milan and New York. I leave Munich with my bag chock-a-block full of wonder and books I never had time to open. There’s even a small souvenir on my skin: a tattoo from Suite 447 in Glockenbachviertel.
di Veronica Gabbuti