‘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.”

Lake Garda’s Lure

Land of sunshine and wine, I discovered last weekend that Italy seem to have it sorted.

On the bank holiday weekend last week (hold on.. is every weekened in Bavaria a bank holiday weekend?) we packed our rubber rings and our suncream into our Skoda Superb (yes.. we were the coolest kids on the Autobahn) and embarked on the road trip from Munich to Lake Garda in Northern Italy.

There were a few obstacles to this trip by road, namley having the ‘avoid Autobahns’ setting turned on on the Sat Nav, not realising, and adding a good few extra hours onto the 30 degree heat journey in a black car. However, due to this pesky setting we did end up taking a mountain side tour of Austria (this invloved lots of ‘heart-in-throat’ and ‘hanging-on-for-dear-life’ moments on my part caused by some rational vertigo and a lack of crash barriers). During this scary mountain goat drive we were forced to take an hour break in a mountain side town to let the Pfingst parade (pentecost) go past. It was a strange experience and I personally thought that we had landed ourselves on an episode of Derren Brown and that we would never get out alive. However, we did and there’s nothing like a roadtrip that can bring you closer to friends – 5 people squished into a car and 5 hours of conversation.

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Parade in Austria that caused the traffic jam

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Situated between Milan and Venice, Lake Garda itself is spectacularly beautiful. With a dramatic mountainous backdrop and clear blue water, you can see why it was a favourite destination of the famous German poet Goethe. The sheer size of the lake is breathtaking – it is 160km around and at 17km wide you really feel like you’re in the ocean (hence why I refused to jump off of our hire boat as I couldn’t shake my inherrent irrational fear of sharks).

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Our Ait BNB house was huge! The balcony went all the way around the house!

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The hire boat in itself is a story.  We, despite having no experience whatsoever, decided we would like to get further out into the lake and hire a boat.  It went a little bit like this:

Boat hire man:  Ok girls! This is your boat.

Emma: Emm. Ok.. Do you need our details or anything?

Boat hire man: Emm ok .. first name?

Emma: Emma

Boat hire man: Ok great Anna!  This is how you go forward, this is how you go back, please bring the boat back with a full tank of petrol, the petrol station is over there *waves vaguely out to one side of the lake*.  Off you go!

As you may be able to tell already, this did not go as smoothly as planned.  After attempting to get out of the harbour and doing some crazy out of control donuts which involved a lot of screaming and getting beeped at by a huge passenger ferry, we managed to sort-of learn how to work the thing.  Filling up the fuel was a ridiculous task, it turns out that reversing into a lake side fuel station apparently isn’t that easy!

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I caught the whole reversing into the petrol station disaster on video.

The trip involved lots of red wine and lots of good bread. We found the Italians to be wonderfully friendly even although our Italian was more a mixture of French and Spanish with a hint of Robert di Niro. On our last night we enjoyed some cocktails by the lakeside and the owner of the bar kept pouring Peach Schnapps into our cocktails and exclaiming ‘Salute!” while we tried to sip our now- confused Mojitos without grimacing. Not the cultural highlight of the trip but a highlight nonetheless.

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Our house in Italy.

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I think it is impossible to visit Italy and not fall in love with the culture and the mentality. The Italian people are the most chilled and relaxed people I have ever come across. Choosing between pasta or pizza at a restaraunt was the most stressful thing I endured all weekend.

Plus, Antipasto is a way of life.  Italy,  I’ll be back!

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Frühlingsglück!

The Semesterferien (break between Jan-April in the semester) are coming to an end and it is almost time to start my second semester here in Munich.  Despite still not knowing some of my exam results from first semester (German efficiency – a myth?), I’m really excited to get back into studying.

Easter weekend has just been and it was certainly a HUGE deal here in Munich.  I don’t know if that’s due to it being a really religious area – or just due to their love of bank holidays?  THREE bank holidays in four days.. I mean.. come on Germany.. I’m really not sure that’s what Jesus would have wanted. And the one day out of four that wasn’t a bank holiday was a SUNDAY.  And if you’ve read my previous blogs or ever been to Munich you know that nothing happens on Sundays and everything is shut anyway.

Anyway, this semester should be great.  I’m really glad to be beginning to feel properly settled here. In the beginning it just felt like I knew Munich quite well but know it feels like Munich sort of knows me too. I’m also currently lathering on the after sun after slightly underestimating the Bavarian sun.

I’m happy to be getting back into a routine again.  However I have no intentions of becoming one of those people who settle into a routine and nothing upsets them and nothing excites them.  I mean the sort of.. 10 hours a week routine.. and the rest can do what it wants.

I’ve done a load of stuff with the time off uni but last week I travelled for the third time to Neuschwanstein on Monday.  Neuschwanstein is King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s most famous castle.  We were lucky enough to experience it in the snow and it was definutely magical. (Yes there was snow last week and then 20 degree sun this week.. to say April in Munich is unpredictable would be an understatement. I sort of sympathise with and have an appreciation for this unpredictability though as I was an April baby and see a lot of April’s qualities in myself).

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If you can endure the journey from Munich and then the hike to the top of the hill to see the castle you’re doing well – even writing about it is wearing me out. King Ludwig, the so-called fairy tale King, was a mysterious man.  His history is so rich (also in the literal sense of the word) and interesting and if anyone is interested in royal history it is definitely a must read.

Apart from that, I don’t really know how to begin an update of all the stuff I’ve been upto in the past three months – but it has involved working a lot, being visited by friends and family, two weeks of modelling for the uni magazine (LOL), working, teaching, getting employed to teach body language (LOL x 2), finishing 5 amazing books (left 3 more unfinished.. life’s too short to read books you don’t like I always say), getting on the wrong U-Bahn numerous times, rollerblading, discovering the wonders of garlic salt.. and apparently not a lot of blogging! But we shall fix that in the coming months.

I have also discovered a whole new world of DOUBLE DECKER TRAINS. Such fun.

It is my 21st birthday on Monday.  At home lots of people regard the 21st birthday as a big one which deserves extra celebratory fun.  I’m not really sure exactly why.. 21 doesn’t hold any significance in terms of ability to do more things or having any more rights in the UK.  Anyway, a birthday is a birthday and this year my birthday happens to fall on the day we go back to Uni after our three month break.. An unhappy coincidence! Hope to enjoy it all the same and don’t imagine I’ll feel any older as normal – except for the fact I like red wine now.. mature?

Anyway this has been a rather rambley blog! Hope to gather my thoughts a bit better next time.

OH and I managed to secure an internship in Edinburgh in the summer in a law firm! Very happy. Time to buy more adulty type clothes now though.. sigh.. 

P.s If you ever come to Bavaria.. beware of the WEIßWURST! (white sausage).  I know that Münchners love it and that its part of their tradition to eat it with a pretzel and some mustard but.. I mean STRIKE ONE: it’s boiled!! A boiled sausage. You also have to REMOVE THE SKIN before eating it.  And its SOFT.  0/10.  I was told it is the Bavarian equivalent to our Haggis but in no way whatsoever did it fill the Haggis shaped whole in my heart that has formed due to missing Rabbie Burns night.  

(bear in mind that I had to eat this sausage for a uni magazine shoot, whilst pretending to laugh and smile and enjoy myself. Let’s just say that I wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy). 

Ljublijana – No, I’m not sure how to pronounce that either.

I was so lucky to spend a weekend with the best company in the Republic of Slovenia, which borders Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary.  And although I was a bit apprehensive at first because of the sheer amount of consonants in the capital city Ljublijana –  it a totally unique charm and I dare anyone to visit and not fall in love.

Having been told it was ‘the sunny side of the Alps’, we were seeking to rid ourselves of our vitamin D deficiency and set off.  The bus journey through the alps was beautiful.

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As promised, there was a warmth to the sunshine that was thoroughly welcomed when it kissed our cheeks as we got off the 6 hour bus. It was officially that type of ‘sunglasses and scarves’ weather we all love.  As it definitely isn’t the height of the tourist season right now and Ljublijana doesn’t have the same coverage in the media etc as Rome or Paris, we were able to enjoy a really local experience. I really can only describe it as an (relatively) undiscovered gem.

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The river flows silently through the heart of the city centre and the cafes and bars alongside it could easily be in Amsterdam or Rome.

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As a country that I previously could not even point out on a map and knew even less about its history – I was fascinated with it by the end of our trip. Slovenia is the furthest east in Europe that I have ever been (despite it being slap bang in the middle of the continent).

Unfortunately the country was hit badly in the recession. Fortunately, we managed to profit from this. This mostly meant.. FOOD.  As someone who loves to cook and is just an all round greedy person, sometimes it can be a bit ridiculous and I tend to have a habit of rating a place I’ve visited on the food. For example.. ‘Hey Jen, how was Prague?’ Me: ‘Oh my goodness it was amazing.. the Goulasch soup was UNREAL! And kit kats were only 9p!’  Them: ‘Right so.. how was the city though?’ Oops.

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We enjoyed huge portions of amazing food, for so cheap.

Even though there didn’t seem to be one type of food that was particularly Slovenian due to the country being so young, it was as though Slovenia had stolen all the best foods from all the surrounding countries and made it their own.. and we really loved it. Every dish was really made with care.

The architechture is striking to say the least and the city has been described as a ‘mini Prague’. While this has some truth, the city’s medieval fairytale feel has a charm all of its own. The city looked absolutely gorgeous all day long but in particular at ‘golden hour’ when the sun cast shadows on all the enchanting artwork across the buildings. Reason number 101 to love the sun: shadows.

We were lucky enough to spend 3 days there and saw the city in it full elegance. There’s a huge student population and that’s perhaps why the city has a certain youthful feel to it.. it feels alive. Although the city has an enormous beauty, it’s actually tiny with only around 250,000 inhabitants and feels really intimate.

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Watching the sunset over the city from the Stalin Grad (castle) which is perched above the city centre.
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We felt a sort of calm looking over the red roof-tops with a mountainous backdrop.

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There’s a buzz to the atmosphere as people wander along the ancient streets. The happy chatter fills the air.  It is very beautiful.. BUT one thing I would say here is that EVERYONE smokes! I really sometimes wonder if there’s anything worse than trying to enjoy a nice day and getting a puff of smoke blown in your face. (Obviously there’s things worse.. like world starvation and the greenhouse effect but you know what I mean, why clog up city air even more?!)

We also made the trip to Lake Bled. It was a romantic setting with a romanesque castle in the middle on a little island.

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I loved visiting this beautiful country.  I felt so ignorant about the fact that I couldn’t speak the language and wished that I had learned some Slovenian before travelling even though the Slovenians had great English.  I guess since there are only 2 million Slovenians althogether, they’re probably in a rush to learn other languages.  This doesn’t excuse my lack of knowledge though!

However, I have promised myself to see more of Europe before I hop back over to the more isolated and difficult-to-travel-from UK. But I have found that, in my case in particular, sometimes we make promises like we make sandwiches. With not a lot of conviction.

The Slovenians are welcoming people and they are really proud of their country. And so they should be.

Also, if I haven’t given you reason enough to move to Slovenia.. the retirement age is 57!! 

Vienna verified.

We spent a long weekend in Austria’s beautiful capital city, Vienna.

We began our journey on the bus. The bus driver apologised profusely that we were ‘behind schedule’ as we left at 1503 and not 1500.  Typical Germans.

We then arrived at our Air BnB flat (an amazing website that I would definitely reccommend!).  It was set in ‘District 1’ of Vienna which made me feel like I was part of the Hunger Games and it was beautiful.  We were extremely lucky to live like princesses for the weekend.  And this even included a champagne breakfast (admittedly Vienna is very cheap…).

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At the ‘Kantine’ in the Museums Quarter. Sunday Brunch is a huge thing in Vienna.  Vienna is really quite on Sundays, like Munich a lot of shops and places are closed.  But brunching is the Sunday activity as we discovered when trying to get in to any cafe and all the tables were reserved!

And of course there are the obvious differences like Vienna being hillier, it was a bit scruffier – not that it was dirty, more that it emphaised just how impeccably CLEAN Munich is.

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The very bright orange Ubahn has magazines that you can read.
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Baroque Cathedral

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It is obvious to see how the likes of Mozart and Beethoven found so much inspiration in this city. It is a very dramatic setting – think Sturm und Drang and you’ll get the idea.

Schönbrunn Palace 

The castle
The palace

It is fabulous. Beautiful and enchanting – even although we visited at this kind of dull time of year; the snow is gone and the sky is a bit grey and the flowers haven’t yet bloomed.  These transitional months are sort of the worst and I hope they pass by quickly. The tour was great and it told the story of the families that lived there and I found that the story of Empress  Elisabeth of Austria (and Queen of Hungary) particularly spoke to me and I found her history so fascinating.  She was assisinated in 1898 and was married to Franz Joseph I.  She was born into Bavarian royalty and was therefore brought up quite informally but when she was married to Franz at 16 she had to coform to a much more formal way of life and suffered because of this which wasn’t helped with the occurrence of a million family tragedies such as a mysterious murder suicide of her only son Rudolph.  Franz Joseph was passionately in love with imaginative and artistic Elisabeth but this was unfortunately not reciprocated  and she is quoted:

 “Marriage is an absurd arrangement. One is sold as a fifteen-year-old child and makes a vow one does not understand and then regrets for thirty years or more, and which one can never undo again.”

 I mean, she was also first cousins with the main man Ludwig II of Bavaria (i.e. my favourite king ever) and he was her favourite cousin so I couldn’t help but love her.

BORING HISTORY LESSON OVER.

Vienna was beatiful and we really enjoyed our weekend there.  We managed to squeeze a lot into the four days and a personal highlight of mine was seeing the Opera – we got to listen to ‘an der schönen blauen Donau’ (on the Danube) in Vienna – too cool . Oh and the butterfly house is a must see if you like flying insects!

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I’m back in Munich now and enjoying it more than ever – even felt a little homesick for Munich when I was away. It is good to be back to the more direct Germans, the Austrians are definitely more laid back.  Last night I went to a bar and was stopped on the door by the bouncer – naturally I started fishing around for my ID and that’s the reason bouncers always stop me (I’m a mini 5 foot).  But nope, he simply said ‘No no, not ID, I just want to know.. HOW SMALL are your feet?!’ It’s great to be back Germany!

I am excited to take some time out now from travelling and just getting to see different places and eat in different cafés in Munich now. I do love travelling but I also believe that there’s so much value in staying still now and again.

But I am so grateful to be able to travel to so many places.  You got to travel now and do the things you want to do NOW – don’t wait til you have more money or til you have more time – just do it and make it work! Who knows what might happen next week and nothing is guaranteed. 

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Not sure what is going on in this photo and don’t suppose I will ever find out. But important questions go unanswered and we still live on.

60 hours in Prague

So I’m just back from a weekend away to Prague. The home of the birth place of Kafka, the home of the largest castle in the world, the home of the John Lennon wall and the home of many controversial statues.. as well as the home to many many other beautiful things. This gothic city with its Slavic language (it is like they played a game of: how many consonants can you squeeze into one word?!) is so close to Munich but feels like a different world.

It only took us 5 hours to get to the Czech Republic but walking around Prague’s old town is like being transported back in time. Or like you are a character in a fairy tale. This city centre was one of the only places in Europe to survive WW2 almost completely intact.

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However, amidst the beautifully old architecture popped up a Tescos, a TGI Fridays and Hooters and loads of other Western brands. These seemed at complete odds in the middle of a medieval and romantic city filled with Baroque clock towers. (Not going to deny the fact I squealed in delight at seeing a Tesco though.)

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We visited the Communism museum on Sunday and I really must admit that I did not know much about the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that took place in this little country before this trip. Can I use the excuse that I wasn’t born yet? It seems as though the city has really picked itself up and is home to a now wonderful atmosphere and I hear that it even won the European City of Culture in 2000. Although Prague is very geographically central in Europe, I did feel like I was in a much more ‘Eastern’ European country. I really felt abroad. But I think it was a great experience for me – being in an unfamiliar situation really keeps you on your toes. Being human is to feel things and that’s what we have to embrcace and not be scared of. But yes, I was definitely out of the comfort zone, so to say. I mean, c’mon, the post boxes were orange.

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We also visited the biggest nightclub in central Europe which featured an Ice Bar, an 80s disco room and a laser dance room. This night was full of laughs and absinthe but more and more on this year abroad I find that you can do silly things. And you can also do serious things. And those things are not contradictory.

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ice bar

I’m very happy to be back in my little house in Munich but I very much enjoyed my weekend away from reality (especially as the search for the perfect winter coat was also successful in Prague).

I’m also glad that I visited this beautiful city before it has entered the Eurozone. I’m just saying.. a Snickers chocolate bar was the equivalent of around 9p. I’m not joking kids. BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS.