Being Wholesome in Munich

The DB train took us swiftly from Berlin to Munich (€59 each) on a Sunday, and we descended on an (almost) dead town. Our airbnb apartment this time around was a small studio apartment located in Karlstraße, with a queen-sized bed, sofa bed, and kitchenette packed into the only room. It was hot, hot, hot in Munich, and it got quite stuffy inside the fan-less home. I still don’t understand how Europeans can survive their summers without a fan.

We escaped our oven-apartment by walking over to the Augustiner Keller beer garden. On our way there, we saw that everything, including the supermarkets around our neighbourhood was shut. And it seems that the beer garden is where the locals and tourists congregate to while away lazy Sundays. We explored a bit, settled ourselves out in the open despite the threatening skies, and ordered ourselves a massive jug of beer, pork knuckle (average on the whole, but the deep fried skin was memorably good), bratwurst (damn good), and fries.

After over-eating yet again, we made our languid way towards the city centre. It was pretty crowded considering that only half of the shops were open. Perhaps everyone was content to be in the company of the sun and the absolutely gorgeous historical architecture. The ornate churches, town halls, and clock towers reminded me a little of Florence. Coming from Singapore, where everything is constantly being razed and rebuilt, walking amongst these structural masterpieces made me envious of Europe, to have these beauties still standing. It’s a truly magical feeling, to walk the same streets that were paved hundreds of years ago. Let me take you for a walk…

Munich Germany travel
First, we will pass through the Karlstor, one of the four gates surrounding the medieval city.
St Michael's Church Munich architecture travel
The baroque St Michael’s Church.
St Michael's Church Munich architecture
Was amazed at the grandeur and enormity of its interiors.
Church of St Peter Munich view travel
We climbed 300 steps up the Church of St Peter to get a bird’s eye view of Munich.
Munich panorama Germany travel
Worth the exercise!
Munich Germany architecture travel
The new town hall is built between in the late 19th century in a Gothic Revival architecture style.
Munich Germany architecture travel
Thanks to local building height limits, the Frauenkirche still towers over the city despite being completed in 1524.
Munich Germany travel
The Hofgarten, the city’s oldest park which dates back to the 16th century.

Day 2

I’ve waited for years to paraglide. And today we’re finally going to take flight. We booked it with Craig of Paraworth over email, and the flight cost a hefty €149. It’s a big sum, but I believe it’s a bucket list kind of thing. The original intention was to fly over the famous Neuschwanstein castle, but Craig broke it to us that take off spots were hard to find around that area. So he recommended Brauneck mountain instead. He also kindly agreed to pick us up near our apartment before driving over to the location.

Munich Germany adventure travel
Chaz our driver and

I’m so, so happy to be back in nature. Really enjoyed passing through glorious greens during the hot, drowsy 1.5h ride.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany adventure travel
Craig with his 20kg backpack containing the gliding gear.
Brauneck mountain Munich Germany adventure travel
Happy to be on our way up to the peak.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany adventure travel

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany adventure travel
Brauneck mountain offered jaw-dropping views of the Bavarian alps.

Brauneck mountain has an elevation of 1,555m. Guess it’s not tall enough for us to feel a significant difference in the air. I expected cool breeze and crisp mountain air, but the air up here was as still and the heat as intense as it was on ground level.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany adventure travel
Last group photo before we attempt to defy evolution and gravity.
Brauneck mountain Munich Germany adventure travel
Craig trotting towards our take off spot on a steep slope.

We weren’t the only ones flying on that hot afternoon, so we got some previews of what’s to come.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding
The view from the take off spot.
Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding
Here we go! Craig instructed me to run down the slope with him, and not to stop running even after we’ve taken off.

Craig instructed me to run down the slope with him, and not to stop running even after we’ve taken off. If I were to stop and lean back the moment my feet leave soil, I might weigh us down before the wing fully caught the wind, and we’ll then fall back to earth.

So I’m glad that didn’t happen, and we had a beautiful take off. It’s strange, but I didn’t expect paragliding to feel so natural. It feels as if man was meant to fly. I didn’t register how unnaturally high I was, and was more occupied with lapping up the views from vantage point.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding
According to Craig, it couldn’t have been a better day in Munich to fly.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding

I felt at ease (probably due to the fact that Craig has 20 years of flying experience) and couldn’t stop smiling like an idiot. When the initial thrill of floating mid-air passed, I was able to really enjoy the views all around me. It was like watching National Geographic. You know how they love doing aerial pans of landscapes? The view while paragliding was just like that. It was absolute silence. Just me and Craig, and him telling me stories like how he did a flight once in the Himalayas.

I’m glad that he took extra effort to keep us in the air as long as possible, by reading invisible (at least to the average person) signs such as the slight movements of the trees and birds in order for us to catch the right winds. I was constantly baffled because every time he pointed out how he reads the air movements, I saw nothing. It’s amazing how he only relies on these minuscule signs to keep us in the air. He says a lot of it is simply instinctive too. That should scare me right? But he’s so calm and composed that my instincts told me to trust him.

“Make sure your feet are in the pictures. If not it’ll seem like just any scenery shot!” Charles advised.

We cruised about 15 – 20 minutes, which felt like a really long ride as time stands still when you’re adrift.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding
Prepare for landing!

After watching many skydivers land unglamorously, I expected to fall on my face and be dragged for a few metres before coming to a stop. So when we landed in an upright position with both our feet on the ground (with a slight tug from the wing a few seconds later), it was amusingly anti-climatic. The elegant landing made the flight seem even more magical — we were definitely made for flying. And here’s a clip of my flight, complimentary from Paraworth.

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding

Brauneck mountain Munich Germany travel paragliding
Thanks so much guys!

They offered to drive us back into Munich’s city centre, but we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the natural landscape.

We had our usual decadent picnic buffet on the banks of the Isar river, then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring, tanning, and then braving the icy river waters. Felt pretty good to dunk myself in after tolerating the heat for so long.

Isar river Munich Germany travel
A parting glimpse of the Isar river. Wish I had a place like this to run to every now and then.

And for dinner, we bought groceries from Netto the discounted supermarket, and it only added up to €7 for the 3 of us! We managed to get a huge portion of salad, pre-marinated pork, and chocolate mousse. All of which were yummy! Screw Singapore and its pricey, imported groceries.

Day 3

Started our last day in Munich with a trip down to Netto again, to stock up on picnic supplies. This is about the time where I got sick of cheese and ham.

Munich Germany food travel
The amazing Netto.
Munich Germany travel
Bavarian fashion.

The plan was to cycle to the Englischer Garten (English Garden), Munich’s largest park and apparently one of the largest public urban parks around, even bigger than Central Park in New York. We arrived, and was greeted with the most peculiar sight of crowds bobbing down and frolicking around the park’s man-made river. I was very amused because I’ve never seen so many people enjoying a swim in an in-land area that’s not a pool, let alone a park!

It was 34°C that day — just like Bangkok’s merciless sun and heat but without the humidity. It was also the perfect weather for a cold dip. And it’s great to be out and about with 1,000 other locals to enjoy the summer. You could almost smell the hormones wafting through the park as the half-naked summer bodies mingled.

We had a tough time choosing a picnic spot along the river banks as the waters were too murky at some areas, and the currents too strong at some. After settling at a shady area, I decided to take a plunge first. The river bed felt icky as it’s soft and muddy, but I managed to find the concrete floor a few metres downstream. I was envious of those who were riding the rather strong currents on rubber floats — looked like a whole lot of fun. There were others who were just bobbing down the river, letting it sweep them away. I was tempted, but I wasn’t too sure where I’d end up.

So we spent the afternoon napping, snacking, swimming, and checking out everyone within our radar. Besides the occasional eye candies, we were also entertained by teenagers trying to outdo each other on a tight rope, a mother and her baby who was super eager to swim, and a couple of kids who swam passed us about 20 times doing laps after laps. It was good, clean fun, and I really, really loved it. After dark and mysterious Berlin, bright and wholesome Munich was a fantastic contrast. I want a life of both lifestyles. It’s all about balance, man. And it’s here that I finally understood why ang mohs love their summers so much.

English Garden Munich Germany travel
Was feeling wet and sexy so we cycled around in our bikinis.
English Garden Munich Germany travel
Chanced upon 1000 more half-naked bodies.

Day 4

Cycled through a quaint area called Schwabing that’s dotted with cute shops, unpretentious cafes, and alternative dwellers before arriving at our lunch destination, Alter Simpl. We shared a really good pork schnitzel that wasn’t too oily but retained its taste. The cutlet was also thin, making it not too heavy — great for my stomach as it’s been on an overdrive. The fries was heavenly too, but for the wrong reasons. It was hot, oily, salty, and crispy. Recommended for a casual and affordable lunch!

Alter Simpl Munich Germany food travel
Dinosaur Priya diving into our lucnh.

Before our evening flight to London, we had some time to explore the Viktualienmarkt food market. Loads of families and retirees milling about, shopping for kitschy decorations, spices, exotic fruits (durians going for €18/kg), and having a beer at the open-air beer garden.

Next up, good old London!

Ten Bells London travel

Berlin Destroyed our Body Clocks

We got the early train out of Amsterdam on the DB Bahn to Berlin (it cost €49 each), which turned out to be quite an unpleasant ride. Our seats were not indicated on the ticket, so we just plonked ourselves down anywhere we pleased. In the subsequent stops, we had to move because new passengers got on, and we happened to be sitting at their reserved seats. It’s a silly system because the carriage was a mess as new passengers had to jostle on the narrow aisle with those who have already settled down in their seats.

Then we had to change trains at Hannover, and the next one we hopped on was overcrowded. We learnt that an earlier train was faulty, and our train had to take on passengers from that train. So Ade and I ended up sitting on the floor, in between carriages, for more than two hours before we managed to grab an empty seat. After 5 hours, a few rounds of musical chairs, and passing through beautiful countryside, we finally got off at Berlin Hauptbahnhof station.

To get to our Airbnb stay in Kruezberg area, we had to take the public train — which I didn’t realise had no gantries until Ade pointed it out. A purely nationalised public transport! The walk up to their apartment was a little dark and dodgy, so we were quite pleased to see that the apartment was sun-drenched, clean, and cosy. The couple was there to greet us, and we figured the lady was a textile or fashion designer as there were art supplies everywhere. I love the array of nice and pleasant colours that she bathed her home in too. This small studio apartment cost us £60 each for 3 nights.

Gorgeous view outside! Can you also tell that it’s mother fucking hot?

So here we are at Berlin, the city that I’ve heard great things about. But I was still apprehensive. I consider myself a visual traveller, and things like beautiful sceneries are at the top of my to-do list. So when people tell me that the “vibe” in Berlin is great, I felt like this place has a lot to prove because while I was researching for things to do in Berlin, I found that this city looked pretty unspectacular in pictures.

After settling down and snacking some more, we headed out and explored the city on our £10/day rental bicycles. Rode passed cafe-dotted Neukölln, and through a Middle Eastern-influenced part of town. So far, Berlin is already looking a lot livelier than Amsterdam. There were more people were out and about, and most of them were either having coffee or ice cream at the cafes. I also found cycling in Berlin a lot less confusing than Amsterdam. There were less bicycle lanes and heavier traffic, but the roads were more organised, and it was easy to follow the flow of traffic.

Some views of Berlin’s gritty streets and a lake we passed.

Dinner was booked at Sauvage, apparently the first paleo restaurant in the world. I had no idea what a paleo diet (caveman diet) was until this meal, and I was very surprised that our dishes turned out to have a very distinct Asian flavour.

We had a mediocre salad to start, and for my main course, I had dory fish wrapped otak-otak style in banana leaf with a side of Yuca root purée with nutmeg, which tasted very much like orh nee. It wasn’t bad, but nothing to rave about. It was an underwhelming £70 meal.

Cycled back home, showered, and skanked up for a night out at Watergate. We passed some more graffiti on the way there — almost every public surface in Berlin is covered in graffiti. Many would associate graffiti with undesirable neighbourhoods, but aside from its pervasive vandalism (I believe I saw more lowbrow graffiti than artistic ones), Berlin was clean, safe, and friendly. It was a strange but interesting contrast.

There was a £10 cover charge for Watergate, but it was the most cost-effective ticket into a club I’ve ever paid because we left at 8am. Oh yes, it was one of the best club nights I’ve had. They had minimal techno on, which was deep, dark, and lulled your soul into a beautiful bliss inside your head. The crowd was partly made up of tourists, as it was still a Thursday night. But we were so glad that there were no pub crawler-type of tourists. After Tomorrowland, the last thing we needed was to party with a rowdy bunch of idiotic people who cared more about getting drunk or laid than enjoying the music. At Watergate, everyone was clearly there to savour the music, and we had such a great time with this bunch of awesomely polite and cool partygoers.

Watergate sat on the bank of the river Spree, and offered a lovely view of the waters through its full-height windows. When day broke, I found it a wonderful experience to carry on clubbing like it’s still 3am, but with sunlight creeping into the club.

Taking a break outside to enjoy the crisp morning air. (Photo: Ade)
Then Ade had a beer… (Photo: Ade)
and I took a nap. (Photo: Ade)

We left at 8am together with a Berliner, who told us of another party that was still going strong. So we had a light breakfast and took a cab over. The entrance to the club looked dodgily awesome, much like a run down kampung house. But too bad it was by guest list only. Quite a bummer because I was so enticed by this glimpse of the local underground party scene.

That night, I finally understood the draw of Berlin — it is an absolutely cool and unpretentious city. The Berliners really know how to party, and they didn’t feel the need to shout about it. It’s a scene I really appreciate, and I’m glad I can finally say that I’ve partied in Berlin and absolutely loved it.

Day 2

Of course, we were wrecked by the all-nighter. We woke up only in the late afternoon, and we were all dreading the unbearable heat outside. Then again, this is better than being rained on like in Amsterdam. We braved the sun, and proceeded to tick off sights on our tourist checklist.

The Jewish Museum is a must for fans of architecture…

Checkpoint Charlie, where you need to pay to get a photo with the “soldiers”.
The Holocaust memorial.

Are we even supposed to smile while taking pictures here?

Took shelter from the sun at the amazing Tiergarten. It’s a massive garden that’s a joy to see on two wheels.
At Brandenburg Gate, which Ade the knowledegable tour guide said was built in memory of Brandon Flowers.
So much more dramatic at sunset.

After this we went to a cheap and hearty Italian restaurant called Pizza Bella near our apartment. I had the best lagsane — it came in a big bowl filled with generous amounts of cheese and fresh tomatoes, and it only cost £4. Cheap eats are definitely one of Berlin’s big plus points.

We were so beat when we got back after dinner, that our “nap” stretched out passed midnight, and we only got ready for our big Friday night in Berlin at 3am. It’s going to be club Berghain tonight, a spot that’s been quoted as the best club in Berlin by both locals and tourist. It had a “strict” door policy, where bouncers randomly decide who’s allowed inside. The club is a massive warehouse located in a convenient yet isolated-looking area, and it appeared to be exactly the kind of place where you’d expect to have a secret underground party.

Berghain’s building used to be a power plant. (Photo: Wikipedia)

It was pretty nerve wrecking, queueing up and watching groups of decent looking people get rejected, and people wearing sandals allowed inside. It was also the strangest and most amusing experience, to be queueing up to get into a club at 5am in broad daylight. Thankfully, we got the bouncers’ approval. It was only when we were inside that we realised that the main room was not opened on Fridays. But the small Panorama Bar (it’s a clubbing space) was still impressive — albeit very stuffy.

As a design and interiors journalist, I’ve seen countless interpretation of the industrial look. So I was absolutely blown away to see a place that was truly industrial. Panorama Bar was grimey, rusty, and sleazy in a mysterious and seductive way. It was stripped down and unpretentious as well, as if 300 people just decided to turn up at an abandoned factory to party. Again, the crowd — very local this time around — was very cool. There was no shouting or silly dance moves, just polite murmurings in between the minimal beats. Berlin is really a place where you must experience to understand its appeal, but I hope I managed to do a decent job trying to describe my growing love for Berlin’s party scene without pictures.

Anyway, we decided not to stay late into the morning to avoid sleeping away our last day in Berlin sleeping, and left at around 7am.

The stairway down from Panorama Bar.
Snapped this picture on the way home from clubbing at dawn, and I clearly remember thinking, “Damn I fucking love Berlin,” after I shot it.

I really think that all clubs should stay open overnight. Berlin is really made to party — the trains run 24 hours on weekends. Tickets cost around £2.80 for an hour’s worth of rides, but we cheated a bit because there are no barriers at all the train stations.

Day 3

Our city exploration began in the late afternoon again, and the first stop was the East Side Gallery.

And since it was so damn hot, we decided to take a dip at Badeschiff, which was just a short cycle from the East Side Gallery. It was £5 to enter, and it was a curious sight, to see so many people sunbathing on a man-made beach right by some old cargo containers. But damn, there were beautiful people with fit bodies all around, and you could smell the hormones in the air. And taking a dip in the cold sunken pool felt heavenly. Weather like that is made only for lounging around the pool and people watching. I also remember thinking how relaxed and happy I was to be in Berlin at that moment in time, enjoying the summer with everyone, and loving my life.

For dinner, we had Mustafa’s famous kebab.

We had the currywurst from a neighbouring store too, but I wasn’t a fan of it as the sausage tasted very fake. But here’s some Girls Gone Fat moments to remember the meal…

We then met our friend Scarlet, who’s a dancer and was rehearsing in Berlin.

Kisses from Scarlet.
Bar & Beck

That night, we decided to head back to Berghain because I really wanted to see the main room it in its full galore. Bad choice. We queued up immediately after the doors were open, and because of the long line, they rejected half of the people — including us! It was so shit because we queued for about 40 minutes.

Then we took a cab to Tresor, a well-reviewed club that had a more conventional way of letting people in. The cab diver took us to the wrong club, and we ended up walking 800m to Tresor, only to find an epic queue in front of it. We admitted defeat then, and took the train home. HAHAHA! What a wild Saturday night in Berlin!

Thankfully, we have already had such a wonderful time in Berlin in the past couple of days. I was only upset that I can’t return sooner. Berlin was wonderful both in the night and day. It showed me how clubs should be, and I’ve been spoilt by its standards. It also showed me how enjoyable summer in Europe can be, and I’ll always look back at my time here as one of the best parts of this trip.

The next morning, we had to drag ourselves out of bed for our 6:30am train to Munich.

All of us knocked out on the long and peaceful ride.
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