Bike tour in the Germany’s biggest village
As a member of the CycleCities network we’re always looking forward to our annual meeting in February. The main thing of course is the exchange with fellow tour operators and making new friends, but of course it’s a great excuse to play the tourist in a different place and ride in the back of the group and not worry much. Our host this year was Radius Tours, who have their headquarters literally inside the main station. Radius is one of the really early adopters. They started doing guided bike tours more than 30 yours ago, although today walking tours make up the majority of their business. The city itself is flat and thus very bikeable. At a glance I would say cycling infrastructure still has some catching up to do, but on the other hand Munich’s motorists seemed more laid-back than their Berlin counterparts, making up in friendlyness what they’re lacking in bike highways.
The old-town is completely car- and cycling-free, which means a lot of the most important landmarks like Frauenkirche, Viktualienmarkt or the neo-gothic townhall have to be approached on foot. And it’s no good dismissing this as one of the things no-one cares about. To make sure we would not miss those sights on our bike tour the following day, we did a short walking tour on our first evening and what can I say, we actually saw two cops fining a cyclist who thought he could sneak through. See, we’re in Bavaria, where people still care about stuff, not like Berlin where people smoke weed in front of a police station and the cops only ask if they can get a drag as well. Kidding, they wouldn’t ask. One tradition they care greatly about in Munich is beer and beergardens, and one thing I loved especially about that, is, that you can bring your own food and only pay for the beer. Something that works especially well at Viktualienmarkt, where three dozen foodstalls surround a beergarden. So, you just meet with your friends, secure a table, order beer for everyone and then send out scouts to bring back every delicaliy imaginable.
What a lot of people don’t realize is the role large-scale taverns like Hofbräuhaus played – and still play – in the political process. This is especially true of the 1920s and 30s when Hitler and his cronies lured people to rallies with the promise of free beer. Once there the agitators of the day would take their time, until everyone had a nice buzz going before taking to the stage for their message of hate. And than morning after a whole night of drinking, they took their first shot at taking over and tried to overthrow the Bavarian government. It ended in tears, in blood for some and with a prison sentence for Adolf, which he used to write his infamous book. When our tourguide showed us a photo of that incarceration most of us had to admit, that Hitlers prison was at least as nice as our appartments. It’s strange really, he went in a more or less unknown orator without a proper power base and when he came out he was the face and voice of all those looking for simple answers in a world that’s more complicated by the day. For me personally it was very touching to stop at the Ludwigs-Maximilian University (LMU) and hear about Sophie Scholl and her companions of the White Rose. I remember watching a movie as a kid and one scene stayed with me until today: when Sophie puts her leaflets on the balustrade in the open lobby/Staircase to let them fly down. And then I’m there suddenly and remember how much I always wanted to be like her; not fearless but brave and clinging to her humanity with all that she got. The memorial in front of the building, even though very inconspicuous is a powerful symbol and its simplicity reminded me of our own memorial for the book burnings at Bebelplatz.
From LMU it’s not far to the residence and the English Garden, and whatever else you might want to say about Munich, it’s pure genius and the standing wave at Eisbach beats everything. The park is immense and follows the Isar river through almost the whole city, it has a Chinese pagode – with a beer garden, of course – and enough space for everyone. And, yes, when it’s warm nudists still take over a certain lawn, you pervert. In the summer you can enjoy Eisbach even without a surf board. It’s flowing so fast, that people just drift 2 km to the next S-Bahn station, ride back one station in their dripping swim trunks and go again – and they don’t even need a ticket.
Radius Tours GmbH