Spazieren gehen

One of my favorite activities to do in Munich so far is going on a walk, or “spazieren gehen” auf Deutsch. Like most German cities, Munich is an easy place to be a pedestrian. Of course, it had the advantage of being a city centuries before cars were around, so automobile infrastructure was kind of an after-thought. But even with its now-busy roads, its sidewalks, bike paths and various means of public transit (subway, bus, streetcar, commuter train) are still bustling. The Germans don’t seem to have forgotten what life was like before the car, which this recent article in The New York Times reminded me.

Granted, some of the places I have lived in the States, especially the last three, were relatively pedestrian-friendly. But Munich takes it up a couple notches. Within a few blocks radius of me, I can walk to just about anything I need on a daily basis: several grocery stores, my bank, a post office, bakeries (there are literally about 2 bakeries per block in my neighborhood), my subway stop, and stores of all sorts–from furniture to second-hand clothing to books.

An after-work occasion I delight in is taking a walk to my new favorite market, Lowenzahn, a tiny shop that sells only fresh produce, wine, cheese, bread, meat, and an enticing selection of oils and vinegars. The other evening, on my walk to Lowenzahn, I took new route along the edge of a large park called Theresienwiese, which is home to Oktoberfest (only a block and a half from my house!). The centerpiece of the park is a huge statue of the lady of Bavaria that guards the entrance of the “Hall of Fame,” which displays busts of important dead people (mostly men, of course…she says sarcastically). I was walking at sunset, and the sky above the monument was illuminated pink. I held my breath and slowed my pace as I became transfixed by the gorgeous sight and embraced the moment. Even on a bike, it would have been hard to truly appreciate that moment, while also staying vigilant of road hazards and oblivious drivers.

Bavaria statue

The lady of Bavaria and the Hall of Fame. Image by R. Pirkner

But “spazieren gehen” is not just a utilitarian way of going from place to place. It is also recreational and one way I am getting to know Munich. At least once per week, I take myself on a walk around a new part of town, in an attempt to etch a map of the city into my brain.

And it doesn’t seem to be just me, the newcomer in awe of her new surroundings, that fancies a recreational stroll, even if it is on a chilly winter day. On my first Sunday here, my flatmate took me to Schloss Nymphenburg, the former summer castle of Bavarian royalty, now a public park and museum. Munich was still in the holds of the cold snap that hit Europe, but the frigid temperatures did not stop people from playing outside. Children and adults alike were ice skating on the narrow canal that runs through the park. Families, pairs of lovers, and gaggles of friends strolled along the paths, some sipping Gluehwein (myself included) to keep warm. It seemed that half of Munich was there.

Schloss Nymphenburg

Schloss Nymphenburg's backyard. Imagine this covered in snow and about 20 times as many people in the picture, and that's what the day looked like. Image by Florian Adler

I am not saying I don’t think Americans take themselves on strolls in parks. There are certainly many places where that happens. But I think what struck me most was just the huge number of people that had the same desire to walk on the same miserably-cold day.

As my new reality slowly spoils me, it also reinforces how important it is, for me, to keep “walk-ability” at the top of my priority list for places to live. Without intending to be self-righteous, the pedestrian life has become a valued part of my everyday, and I simply can’t imagine giving that up. Walking slows down the pace of life and allows me to really pay attention to my surroundings and notice details I probably otherwise would not. It also frees up more brain space to think–or not think (i.e., meditate)–than both biking and driving allow.

And so, if you’ll excuse me, I have some walking to do.

7 Comments

Filed under Germany

7 responses to “Spazieren gehen

  1. Aunt Barbara

    Sounds like fun!

  2. fraufischer

    hallo Jenny,
    thanks for sharing your impressions – and welcome to munich! i’m glad we met at that very sunday at nymphenburg. it was such a beautiful day with all those kids iceskating, despite of the freeeeeezing cold wind. and be sure, your german was not bad at all! hope to see you soon,
    andrea

  3. Julie

    Hey Jenny! I am enjoying following your blog about life in Munich. I was just there last September for Oktoberfest and my 30th birthday. I loved just wandering around the city by foot and all the fun places and things we stumbled upon. I am jealous of your adventure and hope you are doing well!
    Love from Atlanta,
    Julie

    • Hi Julie!
      Thanks for reading and for your note! That’s very cool you got to experience Oktoberfest. I hope you are doing well, too. I hear you are getting married soon–congrats!
      Love from Munich,
      Jenny

  4. Emily

    Love, love, love the idea of a blog from Jenny. By the way, you just inspired me to walk my butt home down state street. Miss you and can’t wait for more blog posts!!

  5. Jess Wedan

    Hi jenny! I’m reading your blog! I really liked this post. It carries me back to my love of walkable cities, primarily London because that’s where I spent the majority of my time. So I know, Munich and London are very different, but I loved living there with everything I needed just a 30 minute walk away (or less). My dependency on a car makes me feel insecure. I love how european towns lend themselves to walking… Largely as you said because they were there well before the ole automobile. I would love to once again find myself in a place easily living car-free. And not just for the charm of it all!

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