Munich: A Shwitastic Guide!

22 days.

That’s how long it took for me to get around to buying a cheese pretzel (käsebrezel, as I now know). This may seem insignificant (which, ok it is), but I love cheese and I surely love that cheese on a pretzel – ERGO – this is an unacceptable situation.

My pretzel antidote is part of a bigger concern: not taking full advantage of our new city. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of life, especially with everything going on in the world today. As a way to hold ourselves accountable, I’ve created a ‘Make the Most of Munich’ map – a Munich bucket-list, some might call it. Without further ado…

Icon Color Key (i.e., our recommendations):

⚪️ Yet to visit. [grey]

🛑 Eh, it’s ok to skip this. [red]

🧡 If there’s time, check it out. [orange]

✅ Highly recommend! [green]

If you’re curious about something, check out each icon. I’ll be updating as we adventure, so you’ll find links to our experiences here!

Have we missed something? I’m always interested in ‘hidden gems’ or unique experiences. So please, let us know what we’re missing!

Tschüss,

Whitney

Feature image icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Germany: First Impressions

Ah, first impressions. They can make or break a relationship. So far, Germany has been kind to us. We’ve been here for two weeks, so I thought I’d put on paper (on screen?) our first impressions of living in our newly adopted country.

Learning German is a must.

Ok – so we could probably get by without learning German, but our quality of life and feeling of integration will certainly improve by speaking the language at a basic level. In the Netherlands, everyone was willing to speak English. In the beginning, multiple (Dutch) people told us not to even bother trying to learn Dutch. This was good for us as first-time expats, it took a lot of pressure off, but it was also bad because it removed the feeling of necessity. We knew we could get around without it. Here, plenty of people speak English, but I feel a much bigger pull to learn German. For me, it’s part guilt – I’m in their country, I should speak their language – and part “do-over”. I get a second chance at becoming fluent in a language! So, for now, I’m particularly motivated to learn. I’ll report back on my attitude in a few month. 😜

So far, learning German has been much easier because it’s so close to Dutch (I could understand just about everything, I was just sh*t at speaking…). On the other hand, learning German has been hard because it’s so close to Dutch!

For now, Meatball and I are having a lot of one sided conversations in German (“Es tut mir leid, Meatball, aber ich habe kein essen für Sie!”). My favorite word so far? Schmutzig (dirty).

Recycling / trash collection is serious business.

Grey bins (trash). Blue bins (paper). Brown bins (compost). Yellow bins with sub-bins for white, brown, and green glass, for plastic, and for aluminum.

It’s a lot.

A “trash island”.

Maybe other places have this kind of trash and recycling system, but Groningen surely didn’t! You can find the grey, blue, and brown bins at your house. As for the yellow bins, you have to find die Wertstoffinseln (recycling islands – pictured above). BUT THERE’S MORE! If your glass or plastic bottle has a pfand (deposit) – indicated sometimes by the word, sometimes by a symbol – then those bottles have to be returned to a store to have the deposit refunded.

We did have bottle deposits in the Netherlands, but it was much more straightforward. The magic word was statsiegeld, and it was either there or it wasn’t. No deciphering required.

Don’t get me wrong, I like all the recycling, especially that we now have the ability for composting, but we did literally double the number of trash cans in our house. So, some adjustment was required! If you’re new to Germany, I found this website to be incredibly helpful.

Food Costs are lower, but not at the markets.

If you’re new to the blog, then check out my ‘Dear Holland‘ post. For everyone else, it goes without saying that we LOVED our market in Groningen. I am sad to report that while our new local market is very cute, it can’t compete. Less variety, higher prices. Sigh. So, we’re back to shopping at grocery stores.

Plus side. The grocery stores are very nice with varieties comparable to that of an American grocery store. It’s honestly, kind of overwhelming. The one exception being produce… We’ve had a tough time finding things like fresh broccoli, cauliflower. Another missing item? Canned salmon. Tuna, anchovies, herring? Yes. Salmon? No. We have noticed that a lot of the produce originates in Germany, some even Bavaria – which is fantastic! – and might be the reason why we’re not finding certain items. They just aren’t in season! Relatedly, with our market in the Netherlands we were able to shop ~80% waste-free with re-useable bags, re-useable egg cartons, etc. So far, that’s not possible here, but all the plastic is recyclable (so they say). So, while I would prefer to be as waste-free as possible, until we nail-down our stores-of-choice at least there’s comfort in the fact that it’s not all going in the landfill.

We’ve shopped for two weeks now, and both weeks we’ve been under our normal food budget. Let’s hope that sticks!

Munich has a nice biking culture.

It’s common knowledge that we’ve adopted the biking lifestyle. Shane heard during his interview that the biking culture in Munich was really good – maybe not Holland good – but good, nonetheless. We moved here with the intention of buying bikes, and we did just that during the first week (and both struggled through a one-way English – German conversation… please refer to point #1). Similar to the Netherlands, there are several bike paths that keep cars and cyclists separated. Unlike the Netherlands, about 40% of people wear helmets.

Soon, we will be going on our first real biking adventure into the city center (~30 min away by bike). For now, we are in the helmet-less crowd since that’s what we’re used to, but if there are a lot of interactions with cars then maybe we will join the helmet-people.

An upgrade from his old bike. It has 21 gears!
My new bike needs a name. I’m open to suggestions!

Beer gardens are everywhere!

Shane and I always joke about the fact that, as an American, there is this mystic of the autobahn. THE AUTOBAAAHHHNNN (said like “the claaawwww” in Toy Story) – this magical road where you can drive any speed you want and not get a speeding ticket! Then you drive in Germany and you realize that autobahn literally translates to “highway” and the glass shatters. It’s just like driving on the interstate in America. I’m sorry if I just shattered your glass.

Well let me do it again, folks, ’cause the famous Bavarian biergartens are well… just terraces!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love it. In no way am I sad to see a beer garden at every turn. It was just one of those lightbulb moments.

I am under the impression that if a restaurant has outside space, then that space is called a biergarten. I am also under the impression that each biergarten exclusively serves one of the six main Munich brand beers: Löwenbräu, Spaten, Hofbräu (from the famous Hofbräuhaus), Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Paulaner.

Just for you, lovely readers, I promise to dedicate some time to properly research beer gardens and Münchner biers. You can expect a full write up later.😁

Overall first impression? We like it, and it’s not so far off from living in the Netherlands. We’re still working on transitioning life (gym, phone number, bank accounts, etc.), but for now, Germany, and Munich in particular, seem like they have a lot to offer. I’m excited to start exploring!

I’ve also learned that auf weidersehen does not mean goodbye, but literally translates to “to see you again”. Seems strange to sign off a blog this way. Instead, I defer to the more informal and commonly used…

Tschüss (bye!),

Whitney

Hello, Munich!

Tot ziens, Holland. Willkommen in Deutschland!

Moving day, 27 May 2020.

We did it, we made it to Munich!

Before I start, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge current world events – specifically the Black Lives Matter protests happening in America right now. As an American living abroad for the foreseeable future, to be honest, I feel a weird sense of disconnect. Maybe it’s the distance, maybe it’s jadedness. Black Americans being unnecessarily killed by law enforcement, for me, falls into the same category as school shootings: it happens far too often, people get angry, social media explodes, time passes, people forget, but nothing actually changes. This is inexcusable. Watching from afar though, this time feels different. It feels like people – all kinds of people – are finally fed up and mobilizing for change. As an American abroad, it’s hard to know what you should do in this situation, how can you help? As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, living abroad has instilled a sense of responsibility to understand other people’s viewpoints and acknowledge that the way I perceive the world can be vastly different from how you do. What we (Whitney & Shane) sometimes forget, is that sense of responsibility to learn should also include America. How we, as two white middle-class individuals, perceive America is vastly different than other communities. So, we’re reading, listening, watching, and broadening our perspectives to do our small piece to break the cycle. Black lives matter. People of color matter. What keeps happening in America is, without debate, wrong. If you’re an expat like me and feeling a little lost on how to support, a fellow expat and travel blogger has compiled a great post with a list of resources. It’s 2020, basic human rights – life, safety, healthcare, food – shouldn’t be a debate.

{insert clever segway}

Yeah, ok – I don’t have a clever segway. Back to the move!

Yes, that’s a big truck. No, Meatball did not ride in the back.

A lot of dominoes needed to fall for this move to be successful. We are, after all, in a pandemic and Europe still has some restrictions in place. Step one was to get to Leer, Germany – just over the border, about 40 min away from Groningen. Technically, the border between Germany and the Netherlands never closed, and we heard that people were still allowed to cross for gas & groceries (it’s cheaper in Germany), so we hoped for no problems and no problems we had (step 1 ✓)! Well, border problems I should say. We rented a cargo van. We got a small box truck (step 2 ✓). As you can see from the picture above, we had more than enough space…

Fun fact: my first time driving in the Netherlands was when I drove our (automatic) rental car from Groningen to Leer! Someone should really learn how to drive a manual car… OK but not really ’cause is 2020 and why do they even still exist?!

We rented an automatic. Obviously.

We did run into a small border problem on the way back into the Netherlands. Shane was stopped in the truck by border control. No worries, we had printed Shane’s job contract and our apartment lease as proof of essential travel. Where were those papers? In the front seat of my car about 10km ahead. 😑 All in all, it was ok. They asked to see the inside of the truck and Shane’s (now expired) residence permit. I guess since we were actively trying to leave their country they were cool with it. With minimal delay, we were back in NL (step 4 ✓), loaded & cleaned (step 5 ✓), and said goodbye to Oostersingel 72A (step 6 ✓)!

It’s ~8.5 hours from Groningen to Munich, and since we had the cat, we decided to stop a little over halfway. Luckily, as of 15 May, hotels were allowed to host tourists again, so we didn’t have to sleep in the truck on the side of the highway (step 8 ✓) and Meatball got to have her first hotel experience (fluffy duvet covers blew her mind). We were on the road early the next morning and arrived at our new home in Pasing (Munich) around mid-day.

Our new apartment building!

I’ll be honest, we were slightly nervous about the apartment: ~30 m2 (300 sq ft.), basement, only one sink – in the bathroom. Remember all that space in the truck and how it didn’t look like we had much stuff? Well, pack that into this apartment and we were slightly overwhelmed. But, we did as you do on moving days – drink beer and eat pizza as you unpack – and by the time everything was put away and organized it didn’t seem so small anymore!

Before…
and after!

We’re just about a week in, and I think we’ve found our groove with the kitchen. We were doing dishes by hand in our old apartment, so no real change there. And because the sink is right next to the kitchen area it doesn’t feel inconvenient. We cook all our meals, so there was some concern over the hotplate, but it’s been fine. The smallness honestly doesn’t bother us, but what may get old after a while is the lack of natural light. We get some indirect light from the window, but the view is blocked by a retaining wall. For now, it’s summer and the weather is lovely so we are using it as an excuse to be outside. Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives – the apartment has been recently renovated, our utilities are included, we have GREAT internet, covered bike parking (👍), and we are about 10 minutes walking to Pasing ‘city center’ (30 minutes to Munich city center by tram or S-Bahn). Ecuador has been postponed due to coronavirus until at least early 2021, so until we have a better timeline, this apartment will be fine!

Long story short, we’re on the way to becoming German residents!

This weekend we will be heading out to our local market and (if the weather cooperates) our first biergarten! Stay tuned for our first impressions of living in Bavaria!

Tired but unpacked.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Whitney