12 Surprising Things about Munich

1: Escalators can go both ways – and they stop when no one is using them. This is so cool. You walk up to an escalator that isn’t working (reminds me of Concordia – for those in the know) – and when your foot hits the bottom pad – it starts. Like Magic. And it can be a foot race – winner hits the pad first! If it’s the person going down – then either you take the stairs – or wait till the escalator stops!

2. Outdoor cafes provide blankets on their chairs. Is that not the smartest thing? You can use the blanket as a seat – or drap it over your shoulders. Upscale cafes go for the fux fur look – exactly what you’d expect of course!

3. The city controls where Cafe’s can put their chairs – in a very subtle way. On the sidewalk outside of every food supply house are carefully painted, very subtle white circles. These paint splotches mark the limit of chairs and tables. You don’t have to put out any chairs – but if you do – don’t put them past that invisible line.

4. There are a lot types of BMW’s and Audi’s then we see in North America. I’m not just talking about the smaller cars – I mean options are different. The most suprising difference, and one I can’t figure out for the life of me – BMW owners can choose to not put the version of the car on the car. IE: you can’t tell a 350 from a 750 by the label. Odd, eh?

5. Bread can be beautiful. There are zillions of bakeries in Munich, so the competition must be fierce beyond belief. The solution – make yourself unique – and it helps if your bread looks pretty. Bow’s on pretzels, Gnomes in shop windows, Wedding cakes made from loaves of bread. If the imagination can think of it – the shop keepers will try it!

6. Grocery stores aren’t all the same. In Montreal, and most other cities in North America that I’ve visited, if you go into a Metro, a Piggy Wiggly, a Grand Union, a Price Chopper, or an IGA – the layout will look different – but the contents will be mostly the same. The same brands, the same sizes, the same selection – and sometimes even the same layouts. Some of the more unique Grocery Stores – Trader Joe’s say – make their mark by being unique and different – but those are few and far between. In Munich – all the grocery stores I walked into, even if the ‘brand’ was the same – had different layouts, different selections, different products. Amazing.

7. There are easily at least 15 different sizes/shapes/brands of Advent calendars. Not all stores have their Christmas goods on display – but in the ones that have gone Noel – the selection of Advent calendars simply blew me away. I don’t think I’m making out of Germany with out at least one.

8. The sidewalks are a lot cleaner than I remember. The last time I was in Germany there was dog poo all over the sidewalks – you literally couldn’t walk with your head up – it was head down and feet dodging all the time. That has totally changed. The sidewalks are completely clean. How neat is that.

9. Beware the Munich bike riders. Unlike Montreal, where bike lanes are carved out of streets – resulting in less room for cars – In Munich, the huge sidewalks have been subdivided clearly by lanes for bikes. And there are lots of bikes. And they go fast. And if you walk on the sidewalk and stray into their space – it’s not pretty. I’ve dodged the bullet several times – and Vic is getting very good at pulling me out-of-the-way of speeding bikes. The nice thing – the bike riders don’t yell at you – they might run you down – but they would be smiling while they did it!

10. The cheapest food is around the HautBanHof – that’s the main train station. Well, it might not be totally the cheapest – but the turn over is so fast – it’s clearly the freshest. Yum.

11: You have to pay to go to the bathroom. In one place – they actually had turnstiles set-up. Put in a Euro – or no pee-pee for you! At least they gave you a coupon good for .5 Euro off your next cup of coffee. Sort of feeding the system don’t you think. Even if they havent gone ‘mechanical’ – toilets almost always have a lady with her omnipresent tip plate. Often they use a coin to knock on the plate to remind you that it’s not there for food. In one toilet, there was even a conductor – she told you which stall to use, and walked in before you to wipe the seat – and hold her hand out for money.

12: Even king size beds have separate duvets – This has to be the oddest thing. You walk into a hotel room – there’s a king size bed. But on top are 2 duvets – one for him, one for her. It’s like having 2 sleeping bags on a king size air mattress. You only think you are sleeping together. But they are warm and cozy – and it’s so cold – I’ll settle for warm on cozy. In one hotel – I actually used 2 duvets!