Monday, July 16, 2018

A Lovely Discovery of Ingolstadt

There is more than one way to refer to Ingolstadt, Upper Bavaria's second largest city: the city of origin of the still religiously respected 1516 Bavaria Beer Purity Law or the location where Mary Shelley's Frankenstein created his monster or the place where the Bavarian secret society Illuminati was created in the 18th century, being some of them. For me, I will always remember this city for the strong fragrance of lime trees in full bloom that accompanied us a long way from the train station.

We arrived from Munich after a 50 minutes ride, in a train full of commuters. Bavaria's capital city may be prosperous, but Ingolstadt also has its share to the local economy, here being located the headquarters of the German automotive brand Audi (the automotive industry was relocated here in 1945 after the war following the destruction and requisition of the factories from the then Soviet-controlled areas of Zwickau and Chemnitz) or the defence aircraft giants Airbus, as well as of the electronics shops MediaMarkt and Saturn. The industrial and economic dvelopment of the city started at the beginning of the 20th century, when the rail and transportation connections included it on the greated map of German industrial development.

With plenty of time to spend, we decided to take a relatively unknown risky way and made a little detour from the way to the center.  A good occasion to observe the local housing architecture and take a little walk through the park in Maxilimianstraße, with its deserted outdoors sport facilities.

After asking a couple of locals, we were directed to the right way to the central/historical area, which involved following the Donaudamm, crossing a small forest where our only travel companions were bikers on the way to work or for the early morning tours. But I had eyes only for my very old Danube/Donau friend.

I stalked the Danube in so many places: from Bratislava to Vienna, Budapest and the Romanian Danube Delta, Bulgaria or Serbia, but also Regensburg. I've seen it tired by the illogical human intervention - like in the case of the Danube Channel in Romania - or wild - at the border between Serbia and Romania - or a bit muddy and dirty, as seen from the Bulgarian shore. In Ingolstandt, it is just quiet, decent yet overwhelming, a display of grandiose majesty.

As we are approaching to the central/historical area, multi-storey buildings and touristic directions abund. I've seen so many images and read quit a lot about Ingolstadt, but I was not sure what exactly to expect here. Granted city status since 1250, it was a stronghold of Catholicism - as many other Southern German territories - during the Reformation, and a former fortress city. However, as we advanced to the city center we noticed a mix of buildings typical for the 1960s, made of concrete cheap materials which reminded me a bit of Pforzheim or the outskirts of Stuttgart.

But first thing first, let's have a short breakfast, at the Cafe Mohrenkopf on Donaustrasse which pleasantly surprised us with a fast service and a nice outdoors ambiance. The breakfast is served there between 8 and 15 o'clock and includes various variants, with boiled eggs, butter, bread and jam as the minimal offer. Near us, at a long table, some locals were loudly and with animated hand movements sharing experience about the habits of the different nationalities to whom they were renting rooms for the summer time. The conclusion: Ingolstadt seems to be well sought around the globe as a summer destination. 

But people are not only visiting Ingolstadt, but also living and settling here. In the front of the historical City Hall, a couple just celebrated their moment of 'yes', with flutes of champagne and enthusiastic friends' support. 

Some streets were full of life, people or bikes, some were just quietly waiting probably the middle of the day for more animation. Part of an initiative of the local authorities, blue and green chairs are spread all over the city, inviting for a moment or two of rest, especially recommended during the shinning summer days. 

The small central area is bordered by both modern and classical architecture, where the new style and the consumerist cities of the modern citizens harmoniously meet. Ludwigstraße area is also the host of the Thursday evening market, every day from April to July and September to October, between 15 and 20 o'clock, a good opportunity to check some local Bavarian products - and eventually some great beers too.

A couple of meters away, the white triangular-roofed building of the Herzogkasten dominates the area. It is the oldest non-religious building in Ingolstadt, nowadays the state library.

The Viktualienmarkt, a local variant of the homonymous Munich's Oktoberfest headquarters is inviting the visitors for a pint, an opportunity which I promise to not miss the next time when visiting Ingolstadt.

From the other corner of the square, German-speakersculture lovers are invited to the Stadtheatre, whose brutalist architecture reminds me of the similar institution from Stuttgart.

With some more things to see on our travel agenda, all we can do is to have a short stroll along the green area in the front of the castle, for a tour and more observation about the architecture before heading to our next destination.

The elegant curved roofs of the houses on Dollstraße are by far my favorite sights, with their small restaurants and coffees, some of them with people waiting in line during their lunch break.

Newly renovated, few of them display bold colours which bring more visual dynamism and surprises to the urban landscape. 

As I am further walking on Theresienstraße, I am easily caught into the cozy ambiance of this place, and the sunny days are a good incentive to add another star to my rating of Ingolstadt.

The remaning city walls and towers, such as the Kreuztor, make you efortless think about shifting between centuries.

Some corners are too beautiful to not stop for a couple of minutes, and on both Kupferstraße and Harderstraße, we stop more than once for just another picture or for trying to figure out the history of a place.

There is one little cute place where since visiting the Bicester village in England, wanted to check in Germany. It is not a museum, or a memorial house, or a high-cultural attraction: the lovely Ingolstadt Outlet Village.

We arrived there with a bus from Ingolstadt's second train station, Nordbahnhof, with the no.20 bus. As we've been there during the week and the summer holidays in Germany and the world are a couple of weeks away, the ambiance is relatively relaxed, populated mostly with locals. As I've been in Germany before to the Elstal and Wolfsburg outlets, which I've found rather modest in terms of brands, I can rate Ingolstadt with a geneorous 5 stars.

The reason I place Ingolstadt so high on my shopping outlet list is not only for the variety of brands and the sales of as much as 80% - from Prada to Jimmy Choo, Missoni, Cavalli, Gucci, Versace and Armani - but also for the stylish design of both shops and the outdoors.

The food offer is relatively limited compared to Bicester Village for instance, with a lot of fast food places to grab some sandwich before the next purchase, but with plenty of cozy stops surrounded by luxuriant vegetation.

Not to forget about the flowers' arrangements, which make it into the perfect background for fashion bloggers and Instagramers, some of them working hard their next post while we were there.

While we are heading back to the train station for the 4-hour trip back to home, sweet home Berlin, I realize that although I am living Ingolstadt with a long list of things to see, I am given enough reasons to appreciated what I've already seen. Although less picturesque and spectacular than most of the Bavarian cities I've seen before, it has a homely charm that would love understand better one day.

As we cross the Charles de Gaulle Bridge - the French president and WWII hero was a WWI war prisoner for a short time in Ingolstadt - we wave good by to the Danube, sure that it is only a matter of months until I will buy my next train ticket here. Or to any other place in the Bavarian part of Germany.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Exploring New Areas of Munich

I've lost count how many times I've been to Munich in the last 10 yearas, but every time I am back I realize how much more I need to know about this city. Every time I'm leaving with a completely new agenda of areas to see and places to check. 
This time, I am back in one of my favorite German cities busy with work again, and after spending a lovely time at the Linderhof castle, I am settled for anything but meetings. As usual, though, I am accompanied by my camera and my eyes are ready to spot the new.

My office location for the day is situated in the Eastern part of the city, near the Riem metro station. Although a bit far away from the central hip area, it surprises by the massive gigantesque architecture. The area between the Arcaden Shopping Center, Willy Brandt Square and the International Center for Exhibitions is overwhelming, with the fine concrete cranes taking over the open squares.

There is a special geometry of the architecture, first time encountered by me in Germany, which filled up the space with human works without any other clear aim but to show off. Art in itself has a strong gratuitous reward, isn't it?

The area around Platz der Menschenrechte - Square of Human Rights - is more humany scaled and around lunch time busy with corporate businesspeople hurrying up to grab a lunch while debating the last company reports.

Two steps away, the wild park invites for a break from the loaded agenda, even for a couple of minutes only.

As an observer always in a hurry, I use my very limited time around for taking more visual notes of the architectural conceptions where nature is left so wild among more and more concrete giants. Definitely, it is a more bold style than in Berlin, where the business architecture seems so shy to express its own self-awareness. Munich has many years ahead in this respect too.

A little bit of irony is good for the business, besides the endless views of uncut grass and rows of trees.

It is not my first time at the International Exhibitions Center and as the last time I've been there, over 4 years ago, I am walking slowly enjoying a bit more the sunny reflections into the surrounding lake, taked over in its corners by lily pads, ducks and swans.

The industrial style and size of the works of art in the very middle are the gentle reminder that nature and business can somehow coexist, for the well-being of each and every side of the equation.

It is up to you to focus your sight either on the gentle lily pad and imagine with your eyes and mind a Zen poem...

...or to move a bit your eyes in the middle where you are reminded that time has come to set your feet on the ground and get started with the serious work.

When the busy time is over, with my 6.70 EUR. day-ticket I am back to revisit old places and if lucky enough, to discover new ones. Regardless how set I am for new, I cannot ignore the Odeonplatz, the large square that since the 19th century is a landmark of the city. A popular meeting point for first-timers and locals too, it is also a concert hall where I would love to go one day.

The old city of Munich is, as usual, full of life, with visitors, tourists and locals filling the streets with life and a Babbel of languages. Elegant passageways which remind of Italian secret small hideouts, like this one at Preyising Palais, are always a pleasant surprise.

The architecture around follows the classical directions of the Italian architecture, with a touch of humour and surprise, as some funny statues set at the edges of buildings and narrow streets.

As it happens often to see a place more than once, I am always hungry for new perspectives and angles. For instance, the very touristic City Hall, another local landmark, can offer a completely different view, which reminds me a bit of some noble Madrid buildings, when seen from Wienerstraße.

I couldn't miss though, to have a snap of the famous city hall, from its main square splendor front view.

Viktualienmarkt, the traditional Oktoberfest meeting point is bubbling with healthy life and busy vendors selling their home-made products and fresh veggies.

Grotesque figures are arising from small squares in the front of post-war standard - read, ugly - buildings on back streets, only minutes away from the glowing old city streets with their shining shops and elegant customers. 

Only a couple of streets away, well-dressed couples are hurrying hand-in-hand to get in time for the Opera.

Other, a bit vane - as we do - are envious on the extravagant range of luxury stores (Jimmy Choo is here; and yes, I am that vane, thank you very much). 

In the Regierungsviertel, museums and official institutions are hosted in Florentin-villa look alike buildings, guarded by mythological stone creatures.

As I am passing along Maximilienstraße, one of the five royal avenues, I make a mental note to return the next time to visit the Museum of 5 Continents, Germany's first ethnological museum opened in the second half of the 19th century.

The weather is too beautiful and the time too short for museum visits this time. As I am passing the many bridges over the Iser, I feel the call for more journeys around the city.

My steps are leading me close to the area where the locals enjoy the sun on small strips of sandy - or pebble - lands. Everything is after all a matter of creating your own comfort.

The Greek Gods and Goddesses guarding the Maximiliansbrücke are just another example of how the human mind and work needs to be always intrusive to the natural environment. Sometimes it matches, sometimes it may create completely adverse effects and there is usually no winners out of this fight.

The imposing building of Maximilianeum, currently the local parliament, is dominating the avenue from its green promotorium. The historical episodes displayed artistically on its inner arches and fassades are worth probably a special article that need to do one day, maybe when I will be back the next time. 

This trip is everything about enjoying the moment, and especially the great weather. Alongside with us, there are plenty of tourists and locals who are using the long summer days to fill their lungs with fresh air, eithr by biking, walking or jogging.

This part of the English Gardens was completely unknown to me and until my heart will beat hard for new discoveries, would be my favorite part of it from now on.

The beach alongside the Iser looks very busy those days and I can even spot some of the rafters which are jumping through the waves nearby.

The view is so quiet and painting-worth that I slow down to have more pictures and admire the view into more depth.

At the Kulturstrand, culture lovers and local bohemians are slowly transposed into the rhythm of late evening blues concert.

Once I am pass the Ludwigsbrücke, I am slowly returning to my place for the nigh, before taking off the next early morning, but the monumental apparition which makes the human presence so insignificant in both time and space brings me back to enjoying the moment. Sometimes, you need more than one reminder to focus on the present second.

The sun is about to set, sending sporadic signs of light reflected on the buildings.

Time for Munich to start its completely different night life, when those elegant squares and fountains are buzzing with the late disputes between lovers or students practising for their next day dissertation duel.

Since the late Middle Ages,  Isartor - the Isar Gate -is there, nowadays separating different newer or older parts of the city. It is a time to travel and a time to find the pace of your home, a time to enjoy and a time to reflect or mourn. Some cities are inspiring enough to bring you through different ages and emotional stages in only one trip.

I am about to leave Munich again, with a long to-do-list for my next visit. Among my priorities, as a lover of metro stations, to spend more time underground documenting the different histories and views of those transportation nods.
Meanwhile, I am still staying in Bavaria for another day, for exploring a destination that I had on my agenda for way too long. To be continued...