Munich - Annual Events
Munich has a reasonably sports-conscious population, both in participating and spectating.
During Summer there are many different events. These include 'Blade Night' every Monday night during the Summer months when 1000s of rollerbladers take to the streets on specified routes. There are also triathlons, half and full marathons, which everyone can participate in.
International, professional tennis tournaments and golfing tournaments are also played in and around Munich.
In Winter there is always some sort of snowsport competition in the nearby Alps, from ski-jumping to bobsledding and other scary sports involving people plummeting down a mountain at break-neck speed but in a controlled fashion.
Munich and its neighbouring areas offer many yearly festivals. As the weather gets nicer, numerous Frühlingsfests (Spring festivals) and Sommerfests (summer festivals) occur in the suburbs and surrroundings. These festivals all have a 'sameness' about them: lots of typical arcade side shows, (dodgem cars, shooting galleries with big, fluffy animals as prizes), food stalls (selling heart-shaped gingerbread, fruit on sticks smothered in chocolate, roasted nuts), rides (that spin you around very fast - so not a good mix with the food mentioned previously) and of course a large, white tent, decorated in blue on the inside, serving the beer of the season and traditional Bavarian dishes, all to the tune of an oompah band.
A good way to find out what's going on is to look at the posters advertised on bollards at various locations around the city. These often have "Kultur", "Szene" and the universal lower case 'i' for information written around the top. There's usually one every block or so. The posters stuck to the bollards advertise new movies, special museum exhibitions, outdoor and sporting events, theatre performances and TV shows.
Last two weeks of September, finishing on the first Sunday in October
Oktoberfest is the generic festival described above, only 50 times bigger. It is like a regular state fair or agricultural show, but the only 'agricultural' produce is beer! All the Munich breweries have one or two giant tents accommodating thousands of patrons at a time. Beer is served by the litre (known as a "Maß"). Everyone dances on the benches to the sound of an oompah-esque band, which plays "Oktoberfest" music, generally the most popular pop songs of the Oktoberfest season over the last 10 - 20 years. In 2002 it was "The Ketchup Song" which was ideal because it had basic dance movements and it wasn't in any decipherable language, so perfect for drunken choruses.
Beer aside, Oktoberfest is actually lots of fun if you like going to state fairs. Entry is free, and you can walk around sampling the food from various food stalls between rides on giant roller coasters and topsy-turvy rides. There is a giant ferris wheel which affords great views of the city by day and by night.
The festival is opened on Saturday at 12pm, when the mayor taps open the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. This event is preceded by the brewers' parade through the city, which is basically lots of horse-drawn carts of kegs of beer, beautifully decorated with bunches of flowers, with the brewers sitting upon the kegs in the traditional Bavarian dress - Dirndls for the women and Lederhosen for the men.
Last drinks are at 11pm, and the tents get emptied at 11:30pm. It's a good idea to go home before this, as alchohol and crowds often lead to violence (author's comment: generally blamed on tourists - the traditional Bavarian breakfast is beer and sausage, so the Bavarians can handle their alcohol!).
Fri, Sat, Sun, first 3 weeks in July
The Kaltenberger Ritterturnier is a classic medieval festival, held in Kaltenberg, about half an hour's drive south west of Munich. The castle grounds are filled with authentic medieval artisans' crafts. You can see blacksmiths making weapons, basket weaving, medieval musical instruments being made and played, medieval jewellery, and of course medieval and Bavarian food stalls.
The highlight of the afternoon is the Ritterturnier (the Knight Tournament) which takes place in the main arena. The tournament is preceded by a parade of people in medieval dress on foot and on horse, playing instruments, juggling and carrying birds of prey! These people also parade around the arena and put on a performance. Each year has a particular theme, and the performance, as well as the design on the beer mugs, is centred on this. The knight tournament itself shows displays of horsemanship, but no real jousting. Commentary is in German.
You can buy tickets just to the grounds or a grounds plus arena ticket. Make sure you get a seat in the shade!
Mid-June to mid-July and December
Tollwood is on twice a year, in Winter and in Summer. The Winter festival runs throughout December at Theresienwiese, and the Summer festival goes for a month from mid-June to mid-July at Olympiapark.
The main point of Tollwood is the music and theatrical performances. Artists come from all over the world, and include old-time rockers like the Beach Boys through to performance dance troupes from Romania.
There is also an international art and craft market, and international food stalls. Entrance to the grounds is free, but you need to book and pay for each performance separately.
During December, Marienplatz and most other Platzs (squares) around Munich sprout small wooden huts that sell traditional Christmas decorations, toys, food, and of course Glühwein (mulled wine) by the mug. The Glühwein is necessary to keep you warm as you shop for Christmas goodies. The Kriskindlmarkt in Marienplatz is officially opened on the last Friday in November when a large Christmas tree, decorated with 2000 bulbs, is lit.
There are also various Kriskindlmarkts around Bavaria, including Nuremburg and Bayreuth.
Mid-November to the day before Lent begins.
Fasching is carnival time. Although it starts at 11am on the 11th of November, the festival doesn't really come into full swing until the last two weeks. Köln (Cologne) is really the place to be for the big street parties, but Munich gets into the party spirit too.
The final Thursday is called "Schmutziger Donnerstag" (literal translation 'dirty Thursday', although also known as ladies day). Women traditionally steal the keys to the city, and cut the ties off all their male workmates. The tie-cutting tradition is definitely maintained, so if you wear a tie to work that day, make sure it's an old one! Nice bosses give the women the afternoon off work, but this very much depends on the boss!
Partying (mainly costume parties) continues the whole weekend after Schmutziger Donnerstag, although the biggest party day is Faschings Dienstag (Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day). This is traditionally a half-day at work (most businesses close down at midday). There are big street (costume) parties in the Viktualienmarkt (with live radio broadcasts and lots of dancing) and Marienplatz. All the fun comes to an abrupt halt at 5pm when the music stops.
Lent is traditionally a time of fast and abstinence, so the Munich beer-brewing monks took it upon themselves to brew a beer that would contain all the calories they'd need to make it through the 40 days of fasting. This is called Starkbier (strong beer) and is much darker, sweeter, and alchoholic than normal beer. Every brewery makes a Starkbier, but Paulaner is the one to drink.
The first of May is the labour day holiday throughout Western Europe. In Bavaria this holiday is celebrated with the erection of blue and white-striped May poles in every town. The May poles have wooden figures up the top, traditionally showing the produce the town is recognised for.
Lange Nacht der Museen
Once or twice a year Munich is host to "Die Lange Nacht der Museen" (the long night of the museums) where the purchase of a single ticket gains you entry to as many museums and galleries as you can squeeze in between 7pm and 2am, including free shuttle buses in between the exhibitions. Keep your eyes open for posters advertising this event.
Lange Nacht der Musik
Munich also hosts "Die Lange Nacht der Musik" (the long night of music) which is the same idea as "Die Lange Nacht der Museen", but the buses shuttle you to various musical performances.
Last week of June/first week of July
Munich is host to an international filmfest each year. The main venue is Gasteig (Rosenheimerstr 5), although many other cinemas participate. Further information is available under website: www.filmfest-muenchen.de
Open Air Kino
Muenchners like to make the most of the Summer weather while it lasts. Many would not consider seeing a movie during Summer, as you have to spend hours in a dark, stuffy building when you could be outside in the sunny, fresh air. The answer to this is Open Air Kino (outdoor cinemas) which screen at various places around Munich, including Königsplatz, Westpark, and even some of the outdoor swimming pools! (Movies are generally in German.) See website: www.kinoopenair.de and website: www.kino-mond-sterne.de for the programs.
Mondays from 8pm in Summer
Munich's flat roads are ideal for cycling and rollerblading. Once a week, on Mondays that are not too hot or too wet, Munich's rollerblading community takes to the streets for Blade Night. The event starts at Theresienhöhe. The routes are varied. It's worth checking them out either in the free magazine "in muenchen" or on the web at website: www.muenchner-blade-night.de even if you're not participating, as this is a formal event and the effected streets are blocked off.
Local Association Events
These are very localized and cover a huge range of interests. For instance, there is a beer festival for every season, many street and local town festivals are held from Spring through to early Autumn, cultural and sporting groups also hold events at particular times of year.
We therefore request you, our members, to contact us, with a concise description about the association events you enjoy and consider appropriate for other expatriates.