‘Alles ist eine Frage der Haltung’ – Tollwood Festival!

Alles is eine Frage der Haltung! 

It’s all a matter of attitude!

Tollwood Christmas market was my favourite part of Christmas in Munich and now summer has rolled around, I’m lucky enough to be able to say that the 25 day summer Tollwood festival is happening right in my back garden – the Olympic Park.

In my eyes, the festival is nothing short of incredible.  Tollwood is a forum for environmental conciousness and a platform for many other social campaigns. Through being so mulicultural it promotes tolerance, internationality and openness.  Although Munich is a big city – it doesn’t always feel multicultural in comparison to cities like Berlin.  Hearing any other language than German on the train is very rare so it’s great to see Tollwood promote so many other cultures in this festival.

Tollwood also campaigns for an end to intensive animal farming.  We saw this yesterday whilst wandering around the Markt für Ideen (Market of ideas):

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Giant breathing bratwurts in pig cages.

There are so many different types of food and countless food vans serving every type of cuisine from every corner of the globe.  That’s already cool in itself – what’s even cooler is that all of the food on offer at Tollwood is Bio (organic)-cerfitied. Even the beer is organic. Chinese, Bavarian, Turkish, Indian.. all the food is there! I personally enjoyed some crepes and vegan ice-cream made only from cashew nuts, strawberries and dates.

Also, more than 70% of the events are free of charge!  It’s such a cool day/night out and we saw some amazing performances completely for free.

I dare anyone to visit Tollwood and not be transported into the best mood – you just feel as though you are celebrating the very vitality of life when you are there. There’s such a buzz and every corner you turn you see something different- from giant people dressed as birds to break-dancers to indian drumming groups.

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‘You’re right.. But I like my opinion better.’
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If anyone has any idea as to what this might mean please enlighten me.

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Sometimes hippy-ish events like these can sort of feel like they are trying too hard.  It’s hard to explain but you know what I mean – like they are doing everything they can to be different and to superficially care about charities and the environment.  But it’s different at Tollwood.  It is so relaxed and you can see every type of person there having fun – from young kids to old Bavarian men and women.  It’s not an alternative crowd – it’s totally mainstream and everyone fits in. It’s anything but try-hard and you just get the feeling that the organisers of this amazing festival really actually do care. You don’t have to dress a certain way to feel accepted or cool here.

I see countless blog posts all about ‘how to fit in in Berlin’ or ‘how to act like a Berliner’ and the posts then begin to set out how you should wear mainly black, listen to techno music, become a vegan etc etc. You have to try so hard to be not mainstream that in actual fact you end up the same as everyone else. In my eyes, Munich as a whole just isn’t like that. You can do whatever you want and feel normal.  And Tollwood festival embodies this!

Tollwood’s social committment is so refreshing and just wandering around the festival for a few hours will thoroughly renew your faith in the human kind. 

If after watching the news in the recent weeks and seeing all of the horrendous things happening, you’re suffering from any sort of Weltschmerz (a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness) then a trip to Tollwood is what I would prescribe. Get down to the Olympic Park for a yoga massage, a colourful braid in your hair, an organic Thai meal, a refreshing beer, a music show, a glass of Prosecco, or some Indian dancing…. The list could go on and on and on!

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Eintritt Frei! Free entrance to most of the events.
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‘Green energy only here’

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I really believe that Munich doesn’t get enough credit for stuff like this – as it is so prosperous and expensive, it is often seen as a stuck up and conservative city but I haven’t experienced that at all.  Tollwood feels so effortless and just adds to what Munich has to offer – other than Tollwood, this weekend the Olympic park has seen the Munich Mash event as well which involved an international BMX tricks competition and bike polo matches as well as a huge inner-city waterslide! I’ve also tried slacklining (like tight-rope walking) and watched some cool stand-up paddle boarding and trampolining. I don’t think I even need to go into how hard it has been to revise….

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Denn Kultur, Lebensfreude und Engagement für eine bessere Zukunft sind eine Frage der Haltung – der eines jeden Einzelnen.

“Because culture, joie de vivre and commitment to a better future are a matter of attitude and everybody is responsible.”

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Confessions from a Person Living Alone for the First Time Ever

During my 21 years in this world, I have never lived alone.  I have also never lived in a foreign country. Up until this year.. where I am currently doing both.

The first thing I noticed about living alone was the amount of STUFF you need.  SO MUCH STUFF.  Bin bags, basins, hand soap.  They didn’t just magically appear like they have done most of my life and I actually had to go out and buy them instead of spending my extra money on hummus and avocados, how mundane. This is what it means to be an adult in the technical sense of the word, I think.

I’ve had some times where I’ve been scared of the late-night creaks and shadows.  There have also been times where I have slipped in the shower and imagined them finding my body, days later.  But all in all, when it has rained it has not poured, it has merely drizzled. There have also been times where a sharing size portion of ice cream has found its way into my freezer and I have told myself that I want to be healthy and shouldn’t scoff it all, but on the other hand I really like scoffing ice cream – and in the end the latter has proved to be the more deeply held conviction.

I’ve learned that I can entertain myself for a few days without even seeing another soul. I have also become a master of Ikea flat-pack furniture. I have also learned that spiders are the enemy. But best of all I have learned that whilst I am a very sociable and chatty person, I am extremely comfortable in my own company. Life is all about lessons, they do say.

This is a very strange camera angle but I wanted you to get a feel of just how teeny weeny these little houses are in the Olympic Village. This is upstairs in the bedroom of my appartment. Small, but then again, I’m probably under 5 foot so I can’t complain.

Of course there are some disadvantages to living alone. You do have to be quite self-disciplined in your routines as it is much easier to press snooze on your alarm for the 4th time when you can’t hear anyone else up and about and burning their toast – 9am lectures are definitely a bit more difficult.  I can imagine that being a girl in a city isn’t exactly safe if you have to come home alone late at night after meeting friends at the pub but I am quite lucky in that all of my friends are also my neighbours here in the Olympic village.

I also don’t have to miss out on the cooking together with flatmates part of living alone because myself and my direct neighbour Emma do our weekly shops together and cook together a lot. SO because I do have really close relationships with my neighbours, I maybe haven’t quite gone the full way of living alone.

However, I have moved to a new country and moved into my own place and I have managed not to be lonely (even without a TV).  Pretty cool for someone who slept with the light on for 3 years after watching Paranormal Activity.  It is definitely a liberating thing to have done (even if liberating only means singing extra loud in the shower without feeling embarrassed.)

I can’t see myself living alone for the next few years either, this summer I’m going to live with my Granny whilst I do an internship in a law firm in Edinburgh, and then I’m heading home for a couple of weeks to my family home and then I will go straight back into Uni flat sharing for the next few years. However, I’ve proved to myself that I can do it and Die Zukunft steckt voller Fragen (the future poses many questions.)

Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher. Yes that is an actual word.

I spent this past weekend with my Bavarian friend in her family home situated on the lush green land that is Bavaria. And I couldn’t help but get the feeling that her family literally personified Germany for me so I thought I’d write a little about my time there. As well as learning that an Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher is the tool you use for taking the top off of your boiled egg (my love for this gutteral, overly precise language grows every day) – I experienced many new things.

From the cow outside the house with the bell around its neck who wouldn’t sit still the whole night to being served a basket of bread (pretzels, cheese rolls..you name it) with every single meal.. it was an experience. And I am slowly becoming OK with the combination of carbs and..more carbs. Not so much OK with being kept up all night by a large cow who has to wear a bell incase it wanders up into the Alps and gets lost.

(Kuh is the German word for cow. And it is pronounced koo – just like how the Scots say cow. I notice hundreds more links between Scots and German all the time and I will probably write a blog post on that in the future for all you etymology enthusiasts.)

I know I keep harping on about the whole ‘Germans and their directness’ thing, but I think my British self still isn’t quite used to it. When they answered their house telephone, they just picked up the phone and barked ‘Wolf” into the mouthpiece (Wolf being the family’s second name!) Not even a Hallo. I would have personally found it quite terrifying to be on the other side of the receiver. Side note – the family call themselves the Wolfsrudel which translates to the Wolf Pack. How cool is that?

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Amazing Autumn colours on our walk on Saturday.

The weekend was lovely and the beautiful weather provided us with an amazing display of colours. Every morning her little brother proudly wore his Bayern Munich Tshirt as he sat scribbing away trying to make sense of his English homework (one girl, two shes?) and we set off to embark on some outdoor activites, as the Germans love to do, such as hiking and walking around a lake. Her little sister who is 16 attended a club in the nearest town on the Friday night and I couldn’t help but think how weird that seems to me – with the age for clubbing being 18 in the UK. Her Mum expressed her dissapproval on the lower age limit for drinking but I’m not so sure.

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Our little house in the Garden for the weekend. Many cows outside.

I didn’t have much phone signal out in the countryside but it was nice – when you finally get to put your phone down and only have the people in front of you to talk to. However this was very tiring – and at the end of a whole weekend of speaking and thinking non-stop German, I lost the ability to speak English. For example I tried to construct a sentence in English when I got back and ended up saying ‘because I the toilet need’. For all you grammar geeks out there (oh.. just me then?) the Germans put their infinitive verb to the end of the sentence after a subordonating conjunction like ‘because’.

It was also nice to not have a phone all the time because this meant I did not have to get reminded constantly through Twitter and Facebook that I was missing out on Guy Fawkes back home! I surely can’t have been the only one who didn’t click that I’d miss out because Bonfire night is obviously only a British thing.. actually let’s be honest, I probably was. Embarrassing.

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Neuschwanstein castle.

There have been countless more events in the past week or two – from an unexploded WW2 bomb having been found near the University and no body thinking it was a big deal to someone stealing the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Dachau concentration camp (blog about my experience at the camp can be found if you scroll down the homepage a bit!)

And as I saw on the train back to Munich (which was exactly like the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter with cabins and everything..yes I was delighted) I couldn’t help but be shocked by that typical ‘time is going too fast!’ feeling. It just felt like the day before I had sat on the train going to the girl’s house.

I have also discovered that the childhood curiosity of discovering new things and exploring different places most definitely does not go away just because you’re a so-called adult. I went to watch the Bavarian Orchestra perform today in the Residenz and at one point the conductor stopped the music, turned round out of the blue and said to the audience – ‘find a connection to the music and just stop, and feel and experience everything you hear.’ And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with everything before my time is up.

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Watching the Bavarian Orchestra in the beautiful Residenz.

The weeks are just whizzing by with only 5 weeks before Christmas and I can’t do anything to slow down time but I do know that I am definitely being challenged – and becoming more aware of myself. I would never say that dreaded clichéd phrase that I am ‘finding myself’ because I don’t think life is about finding yourself at all – it is about making yourself. Doing the things that you choose to do and that you love so that you can build yourself into a better person every day.

Tip of the day: never buy a stool the same colour as your carpet. As it will camouflage into the carpet. And you will fall and cry and not be able to walk up stairs for 1 week (and counting).

On Contradictions

The more time I spend travelling around Bavaria, the more I can’t get away from the fact that there are so many beautiful contradictions in this corner of the world.

It’s the perfect mix of old and new – from forward thinking green renewables and recycling to picture perfect castles nestled in the alps. Where I live in the Olympic park, swans glide around a lake placed in an unspoiled landscape – next to an impeccably maintained Autobahn filled with brand new, top spec BMWs zooming along at 120km/hr.

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A mountain top tiny village we stumbled upon, just after we walked through the Partnachklamm gorge on Sunday.
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Porsche Pavillion
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Bavaria is a Catholic state and the place is brimming with breath-taking cathedrals.

Shops that shut on a Sunday to mark the day of rest and the lack of wifi connection everywhere you go is just unimaginable in the UK, with our 24 hour Tescos (Germans gasp in awe that these exist) and internet in almost every shop and cafe. In Germany there are butchers and bakeries on every street corner, and they’re busy. There can be upto 4 bakeries on the same street, and they are all full of normal people. I always just grab my meat and my baked goods at a supermarket back home, it’s sort of sad. I feel like Bavaria is better in touch with its past than we are in the UK.
However this massively contradicts with the clean, futuristic environmentally friendly techonolgy and amazingly well thought out ideas and projects that the place has to boast. The modernity of the area is clear. Just one example being the astonishing transport system around Munich – it is faultless and everything runs like clockwork, with your ticket you can enjoy the underground, the trams, the buses and the overgrounds trains.  The train stations are all decorated differently – flowers for one station, a mosaic for the next.  All so that illterate people can differentiate between stations.  Its little things like that that are so impressive.

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A tiny and traditional beer garden, equipped with lederhosen and music, we found at the top of Eckbauer – a mountain we climbed yesterday.
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Nymphenburg Palace – where King Ludwig was born and spent some of his childhood. I can only hope that the buildings we build nowadays will hold so much beauty and be enjoyed as much by our descendants as we enjoy the buildings of our ancestors.
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Two towers displaying brand new Volkswagen cars.
Motorway under the Olympic Park
Motorway under the Olympic Park

I could go on all day about the different contradictions that I have slowly come to love in this place. But I won’t. It just seems to me more and more than these contradictions compliment each other beautifully and go in hand in hand – there is no conflict.

I feel that we, as humans, are also full of contradictions and are not one thing or the other and that this is why I have become so fond of this region. I’m having such a good time but I know it is going to fly by and that before I know it, it will be over.  I’m making memories that I can’t wait to feel nostalgic about. I think I’m going to have be dragged kicking and screaming back to Scotland at the end of next year.

Wenn dir das Leben eine Zitrone gibt…

Mach Lemonade daraus.. oder frag nach Salz und Tequila?

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… or ask for salt and tequila?

So there have been more trials and troubles for me this week. From cracking my uninsured iPhone screen whilst leaving the Apple shop (ridiculous I know), to getting served Earl Grey tea passed off as normal black tea (why do Germans not drink normal tea?!), to getting caught dancing in my room to ‘Come on Eileen’ due to a misplaced mirror in my room being angled in such a way that my neighbour has full view of my bedroom from her balcony. Can I be blamed though? The song is a true Ohrwurm (ear worm – how the Germans brilliantly describe a catchy tune..).  With an ever growing to do list and a very unhealthy ‘stuff to do’ vs ‘time left to do stuff’ ratio, life is most certainly giving me lemons.

Anyway, I’ve already said in prior blog posts that on Sunday all the shops are closed.  On the signs in the windows of the shops’ opening hours it doesn’t just say ‘geschlossen’ or ‘closed’ next to the word Sunday.. it says ‘Ruhetag’ which literally translates to ‘day of peace.’  I love this German outlook on the day off.

So, on Sunday it was 24 degrees and we therefore decided to take the long trip to hike up to the the so-nicknamed ‘Eagle’s Nest’ just outside of Berchtesgaden. The journey included train strikes, a good few wrong turnings, trekking through private property with scary Bavarian farm owners, plenty of Google mapping and a lot of guessing – but we did in fact make it to the top of the 1,834m high mountain. The view was stunning – you get a real 360 degree view over Austria and Germany: Berchtesgaden, Salzburg and Königsee.. I think that the idea was that Hitler could have a full view of the ‘Vaterland.’

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At the top there is das Kehlsteinhaus. This beer garden/resteraunt was orginally a 50th birthday present for Adolph Hitler in 1939 and it was to be his retreat. Hitler loved this area and even built his own home lower down the slope. The beer garden is so peaceful and idyllic. Its difficult to compare this unspoiled, peaceful landscape with the evil atrocities that Hitler brought upon Europe during his time of power. Whilst we sat at the top chatting happily with a beer and a Schnitzel, it was strange to think that perhaps Hitler had once done the same.

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Me looking rather dishevelled at the top after a long journey.

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But I do not think that this amazing mountain and area should continue to be associated with Hitler and the many awful plans he hatched here. It really is an area of complete beauty and deserves to be known for this.

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das Kehsteinhaus. Hitler’s retreat in the mountains.

The week also ended nicely including a trip to the top of St. Peter’s Kirche and a visit to an ice cream parlour Verrückte Eis (crazy ice cream) that served flavours such as Champagne and Beer (however I did get served lychee tea when I asked for a cup of tea… LYCHEE flavour! Come on Germans, you need Tetley’s).

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View of Munich from the top of St Peter’s Kirche. Had to climb 306 steps to reach the rickety platform on top and my fear of heights took over just after I got this snap.

SO  I’m still hoping for a change in luck when it comes to the frequency of my stressful situations. However as Autumn hits you in the face here due to all the trees, you really can’t but help but feel the change that Autumn brings about. The leaves are now a rusty brown, the air is now crisp and colder (very cold in fact – I’m currently waiting on a care package shoe box from home full of winter goodies including some ‘Handschuh’ – hand shoes. Yes, that does mean gloves. I really do love this language sometimes.) Change is definitely necessary – without it we’d be stuck with the sweaty summer forever … or in my case with bad luck forever. I’m hoping you carry me along with you Autumn and I can experience some of your change too.

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The town hall earlier this week on a cold but sunny Autumn day.