The Grocery list - Die Einkaufsliste 1/2

Today it is time for grocery shopping in Munich. It might seem a simple and trivial topic, but it is not when you are used to a completely different grocery-shopping culture, like I am.

The main two things that I miss more are:
  • Online shopping and home delivery: this is one of the best inventions of the 21st century. In Munich you can shop online for almost everything but food: from toothpaste and a frying pan to designer´s shoes and a new TV. However, when it comes to food, there are no good options for online shopping. Or at least I do not know of them. If you do, please let me know I would be more than thankful. 
  • Lack of Sunday shopping options: Sunday is “Ruhetag” in Germany, which means that all the stores close. But as always there is an exception to this rule, in this case, three exceptions: 
    • Gas Stations open 24/7 and they usually have a small food section, 
    • the Minimarkt supermarket in Haupbahnhof and 
    • the Edeka in the Airport, both open on Sunday. 
Nevertheless the range of options for grocery shopping here in Munich is overwhelming. I have read many comments in expat forums with complains about the short range of food options in German supermarkets, but in my opinion, the range is wide enough, it is just that you do not find it in just one store but it is spread across many. 

Here it is a sample, classified by me:

Expensive but super fresh: Viktualienmarkt (in Altstadt), Elisabethmarkt (in Schwabing), Wienermarkt (in Haidhausen) and Pasinger Viktualienmarkt (in Pasing). These are traditional street markets.

The first one is probably the most expensive, due to its location five minutes from Marienplazt. The second one in the heart of Schwabing is more economical, as well as the market in Wienerplazt and the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt.

The subsidiary of Frischer Paradies in Munich also fits in this category, although it is not a street market itself but more like a large supermarket. Their specialty is seafood and fish. The fruits and vegetables taste like just harvested from the orchard or the vegetables garden and there is also a bistro area for snack or a proper lunch.

Expensive but there is nothing you cannot find: the supermarket in the Kaufhof, Perfetto in Karstadt, the delicatessen store Alois Dallmayr and the Schrannenhalle in the Viktualienmarkt.

In Kaufhof you can find all the usual and regular items in your shopping list plus others more unusual such as: Spanish gazpacho (even in wintertime!); exotic fruits; a wide range of delicious warm breads; a large wine shop with worldwide options; a section with specialties from US, Asia and Mexico and snack bars to enjoy, for example, oysters and champagne while you shop. The only disadvantage is the price. 

Perfetto is small market inside the Karstadt that also has sections of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and cheese.

Alois Dallmayr offers the best of the best in delicatessen food from around the world in Munich. Its origin goes back to the 18th century with a family grocer´s shop and became famous in the 1930´s thanks to its coffee brand “Prodomo”.

The Schranenhalle offers an interesting range of delicatessen food products from all over the world, as well as the Käfer products. Feinkost Käfer is the current name of a very well known chain of delicatessen and food premium products in Germany. It was originally established by the Käfer family in 1930 in Munich and it has grown to become one German leader in quality and premium products with subsidiaries in Berlin, Frankfurt and surprisingly in the Bahrain.

Cheap as hell: this category includes: Penny, Norma, Netto, Aldi, Lidl and Edeka.

Sometimes I shop for the basics (such as milk, yogurt, etc.) in the Penny that is located in Gärtnerplatz. It was renovated during the Christmas period and therefore the aisles are wider and they managed to fit more product ranges, so it is worth to try. 

Medium-price range: Tengelmann, Rewe and Hit. I do not find any difference between the first two. But Hit, in Rosenheimer Platz is one of my favorites.

For wholesale: Metro Cash and Carry. This is only for B2B, so you need to register your business to get the member card that will allow you to shop in it.

For Bio lovers: Basics Bio is one supermarket chain in Munich for organic and bio food products. I do not usually shop there but while checking their website for this post, I learnt that they actually have a online shop and offer home delivery!

Besides the above, I have to mention Mittelmeer, the one and only supermarket with subsidiaries in Berlin as well, that sells Mediterranean specialties.

The two supermarkets that I have not had the chance to assess yet are: Real and Mini Markt, which, I guess from their flyers, both will fall in to the “cheap as hell” category. Or what do you think?

And finally, my last tip: bring your own carry bag with you. The majority of supermarkets charge for their plastic bags, apart from the expensive ones and the street markets.

Up until now, this list is the best I can offer you in terms of options for grocery shopping in Munich. Do you know more? Do you have a different opinion about any of the above? Which one is your favorite?

*** NEW *** The Grocery List - Die Einkaufsliste Part 2 with tips on small shops in Munich where to buy local specialties from Russia, Asia, UK, Canada and even Vegemite from Australia. 

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Recycling is a sport

And it is a sport indeed because you need three things to be successful at recycling here in Germany, the same three things that will make you good at any sport.

Rule number one: yes, follow the rules when you play and there are many rules when it comes to recycling in Germany.

You probably have three or four big garbage containers in your patio. You need to learn what goes where:

  • blue containers are for paper, 
  • brown containers are for organic waste and 
  • the grey ones are for “the remaining” household rubbish.

But hey, do not forget that some plastic and glass bottles (and cans in some cases) should not be thrown in any of these but brought them back to the stores where you bought them (most of the supermarkets have automatic machines to return them). 

What is the reason? You have probably paid an extra 10 to 20 cents when you bought the beer, the coke, the mineral water, etc. and you do not get this money back until you return the bottles to the store. This is called Pfand in German, something like a deposit and the goal is to make sure you recycle. 

For the non-refundable glass bottles (and cans), there are usually specific glass containers in the city. In Germany, you sort these by color, so each of them (green, brown and clear glass) has their own street container.

Rule number two: you need special equipment to recycle as well as you need special trainers to do jogging, a racket to play tennis or water glasses for swimming. And so it is, when you have to sort your garbage in different types (paper, organic, plastic and glass bottles and the remaining waste); for a start you need space in your kitchen and of course different and separate recycling bins.

Rule number three: plan you strategy to win. And by winning I mean to take out the garbage.

This is how I do it: 
  • I I know that Tuesday mornings is when the city services clear all the paper containers, so on Wednesdays they are likely to be empty and then it is when I go down to the patio and get rid of my bag of newspapers, magazines, etc. 
  • For the organic wastes, I take them out every evening when feasible, after all these are the most sensitive to stink in the kitchen. 
  • I go to the stores once a week to return the refundable glass and plastic bottles. And never on a Friday or during the weekend!
For more information, you can visit the official site (3 tonnensystem in German) or just do as I did and as everyone would do in any sport: training, training and training until you master it.

Now to dispose old furniture or home appliances you have two options in Munich:
  • You can take the old stuff yourself in your car to the designated facilities in Munich,
  • Or you can ask the AWM service to pick them at your place (at a price of course... check the AWM site to learn about the fees)
For more details go to the Munich waste city service (AWM), where you can find all the information regarding where and how you are allowed to dispose what and when and @ what price. The site is multilingual for the most important information.

In any case what you are looking for in German is called “Sperrmüll” (bulky waste) and this cannot be disposed at your home containers. An ironing table, a frying pan, a toaster or an old TV station are considered “Sperrmüll” and so must be disposed at the AWM facilities, never in your home containers!.

Happy recycling!

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Pancake day, Mardi Gras and Fasching Dienstag: it´s carnaval time!

What happens today on a regular Tuesday 21st of February that …
  • people get all dress up in costumes from 11am and head to the Viktualienmarkt? 
  • the stores and supermarket close their alcohol section and do not sell booze until 6pm but you can buy beer and cocktails at the street stalls? 
  • the Viktualienmarkt becomes a party zone with a stage in front of Nordsee and there are dance performances and presenters? 
  • the Altstadt is invaded by police officers and some streets are closed to cars? 
****It is the opening of the carnival season in Munich: Fasching Dienstag (Carnival Tuesday)**** ...and it takes places @ Viktualienmark, although the flow of people is such that they also take some streets close to Gärtnerplazt and Marienplatz.

It was announced to start at 11am, so I headed early but it seems like 45 min in advance was not enough early... When I got there, the market was already bursting and it was almost impossible to get close to the stage, where later on, there was a show called “Der Tanz der Markfrauen” (the dance of the market women), where performers and presenters dressed in funny and silly costumes make a comedy dance.

Instead of standing in the crowd with no chance to see what was going on on the stage (the Germans are definitely taller than me), I walked around and took some shots of the party vibes and positive energy. The street stalls were not only selling drinks but all types of sandwiches and small bites, some of them even had barbecues.

The majority were groups of students but there were also some middle age couples. On Fasching Dienstag it is common to get the afternoon off from work, so more people were expected join the party after lunch.

I leave you today with my best shots of the Fasching party @Viktualienmarkt.

I hope you enjoy them: happy carnival!:-)

Welcome to Valley street

Today I have decided to go for a photo tour along one of my favourite streets in Altstadt: Tal Strasse or Valley Street. Tal is a very short street that connects Isartor to the East entrance gate of Marienplatz, it will take you no more than 10 minutes to walk along it but only if you do stop to enjoy some of its odd and funny spots.

I start at Isartor one of the four Gates to the old medieval city of Munich that was built in the 14th century. Inside the Gate itself there is the first curious spot of my walk along Tal: the Valentin Karlstadt Museum, in honor of Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstad, two Bavarian comedians of the beginning of the 20th century that became popular thanks to their sense of humor, films and performances.

Just after crossing the Gate I see the Hotel Torbräu, the oldest hotel in Munich. His main restaurant the Schapeau is also well known and offers live music concerts on Friday and Saturday from 5pm. This week: piano and saxophone.

Moving forward along Valley Street, I spot the first of many (I count 5) stores selling traditional Bavarian Costumes: Dirndl (for women) and Lederhosen (for men). Both are usually associated as the national German costume, but the truth is that they are only a symbol of Bavaria. 

The full Dirndl consists of a blouse, a skirt, an apron and a bodice. The Lederhosen are knee-length breeches for men. They were originally designed for hard physical work at the countryside. However, nowadays Bavarians wear them at leisure occasions: during the Oktoberfest; at special family times (i.e. weddings) and sometimes even to the office on Fridays.

A Dirndl is not cheap, a good quality one can cost you a fortune but at the stores in Tal, I have found some from 70€.

A bit forward I pop in the second of the unexpected stores in Tal: a Cooking school (the Maggi Kochstudio). I mainly associated this Nestlé brand with mashed potatoes, but here in Germany their range goes from ready-cooked soups and other meals and spices to bouillon cubes. The studio offers a full program for special occasions (recently: cooking for Valentine´s Day), groups and parents with children.

I keep walking and I pass by the Electronic Giant Conrad; the German “Boots”, as I like to call it: Müller; the Spanish Bank Santander and a Rewe Supermarket. And just opposite to this last one, another odd store: Conture Make up. This store is a beauty centre for (semi) permanent make up and to my surprise, it is full of customers when I pass by. I am not a fan of tattoos, but I understand and can see the beauty of some in some people. However, when it comes to permanent make up, I have a strong feeling against it. But hey, it has to be something for everybody.

Tal is also known for its eating out options. The street offers a great range of yummy and economical bites, and so it is always bursting with students and tourists at lunch times and during the weekends. If you ignore the usual suspects, such as Sausalitos and the American fast food restaurants, which I do not personally like, then you have a whole new world to discover: delicious pizza triangles @ La Pizzetta; for the traditional German food lovers: Paulaner im Tal; Chinese @ Der Kleine Chinese; Dean and David for fresh salads and sandwiches ready to take; and for those who have a sweet teeth like me, just in front of Conrad there is a cake shop specializing in Krapfen. 

Krapfen are claimed to be typical from Berlin, they are a sort of doughnuts without the middle hole, made of fried yeast dough, filled with marmalade (the original recipe) and with sugar on top.

And to end my photo tour along Valley Street, I am closing with my final funny spot and suggestion for the day: the Toy Museum. It is not exactly located in Tal, but while strolling along the street you see this museum sign on the Entrance Gate to Marienplazt at the beginning of Tal. The Toy Museum offers a comprehensive sample of the most popular toys in Europe and America of all times. I have not yet visited it, but for 4€, I think I will try it one day.

On a Sunday: Why is it so cold?.. it is winter...

Good morning, it is minus 17 grads on a sunny winter Sunday and today I am going to be brave and I am going for a walk in the park. It is around 10am and the bells in Frauenkirche are ringing.

The streets are deserted, no cars, no people. Crossing the Viktualienmarkt, I notice that the fountains have not been protected against the ice with wood planks. However and surprisingly the water is running…

I keep walking just to reach Marienplazt, where I see the first two police officers and a couple of tourists taking photos. Going forward along Dienerstrasse I keep finding more and more police cars and vans. What is happening?

Ah! I remember now: the MSC (the Munich Security Conference) takes place this weekend at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel, probably the most expensive and luxurious hotel in Munich. This Conference is considered the most relevant event for Security Policy in the world. And therefore, high profile politicians and experts attend it every year. 

This weekend Munich is welcoming the former Australian Prime Minister and current Foreign Affairs Minister: Kevin Rudd and the US Secretary of State: Hilary Clinton, amongst others. As a consequence, it is hardly surprising that the city is invaded by police forces.

I arrive at Odeonsplatz, which is beautiful at this early morning hour, all covered in white snow and again deserted (apart from the police vans, I count 4). At Odeonsplatz I find the first arch gate to the Hoftgarten, one of the main parks in the city centre, built in the 17th century and host of the Regional Government of Bavaria. Still no sight of people and of course the Bier Garten is closed.

I move forward towards the Bavarian Staatskanzlei, the highest authority of the regional government of Bavaria. Before its destruction during the WWII, the Army Museum was located in that very spot. The planning for a new representative building of the regional government started in the 80´s and in 1993 the current building was opened.

I pass by the White Rose Memorial, which honors a non-violent student group of the University of Munich, known for their protests and campaigns against the Nazism. Their group members were arrested and beheaded in 1943. 

I move forward to the Englisher Garten, which some people claim it is the largest urban park in the world. I am unsure if this is 100% true, but I have checked and it is definitely larger than the Hyde Park in London and the Central Park in New York.

When I reach the Japanese Tea House, I spot a few more brave people jogging or walking their dogs. Impressive! I take my hat off to them! I keep walking, now it is the time, when the park is almost deserted and all covered in snow, it is gorgeous! I want to go further but the cold is starting to affect me and I think that my courage is coming to an end. It is time to head back home to sit cozy under a warm blanket with a hot tea and enjoy the feeling of the home heating.

Bye for now.

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It is culture time!

Now it is time not only to enjoy the shopping and night life but also to start discovering the culture of the city. So let´s have a look at the most relevant museums in Munich.

I have checked the official site for the city of Munich but I think there are more that the highlights they propose, so in the following list I have included suggestions from other sites like Tripadvisor and Best-of-Munich and of course, tips from my local friends!:-)

For the classic and modern art lovers: there are the following options: 

For geeks and science fans: 

For the Indiana Joneses or history lovers: 

For the nature and outdoor activities lovers: 

And finally: the odd and unexpected Museums: 

This is a very long must-see list, so I guess I should start planning when and which ones I am going to visit first. Which one do you recommend me to start with?

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