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