I consider international travel a perk of my job. I joined Steelcase just over two years ago and I'm starting to run out of fingers to count the places I've gotten to travel. Last week I flew to Munich, Germany where Steelcase is putting the finishing touches on our brand new European headquarters. It's been nearly 3 years in the making and this month I coordinated a local video crew to capture it all as we cross the finish line.
In between work days, I got to see some of the city. The highlight was, without a doubt, Oktoberfest. Lucky me HAD to be in town during the world famous Oktoberfest and holy moly was it an experience. Sure I expected beer and pretzels but no one warned me just how massive the event really is. The tradition is over 200 years in the making and in most recent years over 1.8 million liters of beer is consumed by the more than 6 million people who attend. There are 14 major beer tents that can seat an average 6,000 people each. In addition to the mile long massive boulevard where the tents are constructed, there's also a section of the festival completely dedicated to carnival rides and games. Everywhere you look are people in traditional Bavarian attire wearing cookie necklaces, eating pretzels and singing in German. Needless to say, I was completely entertained.
I also spent some time in Marienplatz which is the city's center. Lining the pedestrian street that leads to the main square is storefront after storefront of everything you'd ever want or need and in the center you'll find the New Town Hall. City government meets there and it's where the office of the mayor is located. The second day we walked through the square we happened upon Angela Merkel, German chancellor, giving a speech. The square was packed with protestors waving flags and shouting into megaphones. We snapped a photo and got (bleep) outta there - the air felt pretty thick with tension which made me nervous. But the day before I went with two German co-workers who were kind enough to let me play tourist and I 100% used my selfie stick.
Just around the corner is another Munich must see: Munich Frauenkirche which translates to The Cathedral of Our Dear Lady. It's another demanding piece of architecture and if we had more time I would have been interested to go up in the towers for the view of the city that surrounds it.
The same night my co-workers took on the walking tour, we also stopped by the Jewish Museum, checked out the Open Market which doubles as the Christmas Market come December as well as walked through two of the 4 main arches to the city. It's was a huge advantage to have a local give the quick tour. I felt like I saw a lot in a little amount of time.
While in town I stayed at the Ruby Lilly Hotel which is just one block from our new office and walking distance from anything you'd want to see including Oktoberfest, Marienplatz and (if you wear comfortable shoes) the English Garden. The Ruby Lilly is a boutique hotel with an interesting style - think trendy hipster meets modern room decor. The lobby has no check in desk, but instead you use the touch screens at the bar to get your room key which pops out of an ATM-like hole underneath the bar top. The walls are decorated with random items and they've got quite the selection of mixed cocktails. The rooms are very clean, comfortable, simple... and bonus, it's one block away from Lowenbraukeller, one of the major brew houses in the city.
I was in town for 7 days and had the chance to observe a bit of the culture there - I swear, should have been an anthropologist because this stuff fascinates me. Here are a few of the things I found interesting about Munich and the folks that live there:
- The Bike Culture is extremely strong there. Pretty much everyone owns a bike which is a no brainer with the incredible bike lanes that run everywhere in the city. If I had more time I would have taken one of the bike tours to see more.
- Credit cards aren't a thing there. Everyone uses cash. I got caught a few time needing cash that I didn't have.
- Germans are serious about their sweets, which for those of you who know me well... put me deep in sugar dept. They have a social hour tradition that revolves around coffee and cake, um, yes please.
- Audis and BMWs are EVERYWHERE! Both brands are German and their headquarters are both located there. Even their cabs are all BMWs.
- Overall, Germans are very straight forward and not initially 'warm' in nature.
It's likely I'll return to Munich with Jeff sometime in the future for leisure and when we do, I look forward to spending more time exploring the city. In the meantime, check out more of our travels on Our Travel page. Auf Wiedersehen!