I don’t know on what date in September 1979 I arrived in Munich, but I do know it wasn’t long before I was changing the lyrics of John Miles’s 1976 single Music. The other soundtrack single of my undergraduate year abroad was M’s Pop Muzik. I remember dancing to that somewhere in Schwabing on a dancefloor surrounded by shark tanks full of living specimens …
You can’t help but fall in love with Munich, especially when the first mega experience of your year abroad is Die Wiese in full swing.
And in the intervening years, I have revisited the beer festival a few times. Though the last visit to celebrate retirement wasn’t a success. Perhaps it’s an age thing but it was too big, too crowded, and we were unable to get in the beer tents. Rossetti and I were consigned to drinking our beer outside in the rain … What a contrast to the – em – intoxication of prior visits!
Besides who needs the Oktoberfest when there’s the Hofbräuhaus, where you can drink beer and conduct the German band every night of the year if you wish. Talking of which ….
During my undergraduate year abroad I was a student at the University with no exams. So I had time and freedom to enjoy not just the city but other places too: The Alps ✔️the Lakes, Königssee, Tegernsee ✔️✔️ Ludwig’s Castles, Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee ✔️ ✔️✔️. It’s true, rather than study diligently, I became an inveterate tourist and a regular at the weekly showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Museum Lichtspiele on The Isar! (This I can confess some 4 decades later – btw the picture’s still showing!)
Now that I am older, I head to other haunts. I’ve been to the Lange Nacht der Musik twice. (I must go again.) The museums are a must see – arguably a city in their own right. The Lenbachhaus with the Blaue Reiter is my current favourite, but I always pop into the Neue Pinakothek to say hello to Effi. (Adolph von Menzel’s painting Wohnzimmer mit Menzels Schwester is the picture on my old, old copy of Theodor Fontane’s Effi Briest).
My study (gap?) year wasn’t all plain sailing. A longstanding issue turned serious but the German doctors put me right, and I think this is when my admiration of Munich became something more abiding. As the train pulled out of the main station at the end of the academic year, I was in tears. I always intended to return for good. All I can say is that life took a huge diversion, but, if I ever come into a large sum of money, you know where my next home will be. 41 years on, I am still dreaming.
So just how did that John Miles’s song go? This is my version, “Munich was my first love, and it will be my last. The Munich of the future, and the Munich of the past.”
Favourite reads from or about Bavaria
Schellingstrasse underground station was the one I used to get to university and, therefore, the official starting point for my Bavarian adventures. As it is for the adventures in The Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Pötzsch (born Munich). If you fancy a high octane chase around second hand book stores, Munich and King Ludwig II’s fairy tale castles, this is the novel for you.
The humourous poetry collection, Merely Human by Eugen Roth (born Munich) is unfortunately out of print, but it is source of delight. Perfect for dipping in and out of when a spoonful of cheer or an understanding ear is needed during those necessary but doomed-to-failure book culls.
Volker Weidermann is not Bavarian. He was born in Darmstadt, Hesse, but his book, Dreamers, When The Writers Took Power is set in 1919 when the Free State of Bavaria declared itself the first communist state on earth. I never heard so much as a whisper about this when I was there, and so I will be taking this book to reread and serve as my travelling companion next time I am walking the streets of Munich.
What no women? Patience my friends. Come back tomorrow for a review of the first German Bildungsroman, written by a woman and a major influence on a fellow named Goethe ….