Tag Archives: munich

Perlacher Forst – Munich, 2015

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Winter landscapes in Munich’s south end. A journey that starts at dawn and extends into the afternoon.

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Copyright A. Sepi

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Awestruck – My evening with the Cirque du Soleil

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The sleet hit my face, dabbing my winter coat with a zillion tiny wet spots, as soon as I stepped out of the underground station at Theresienwiese. The tent was white, rather tall and easy to identify. The only one there, this time of the year. I located the entrance and made my way around and sometimes through the puddles that were beginning to form on the asphalt. If I was walking fast, it was because of the cold. I had no idea what time it was. I don’t wear a watch and my smart phone was turned off, in my purse, because it was Sunday. I didn’t see any crowds. If anything, I thought I was too early.

So when I entered and the lady at door 3 kind of blocked my path and said, ‘they are having a dark phase now, a phase where it has to be dark, please, you need to wait 5 minutes’, I smiled, completely relaxed. I loitered around their lobby and checked my e-mails as men and women were sweeping the floor. Not once did I check the time. I didn’t buy any popcorn. Not for this kind of show. Other people came. A few were still buying tickets. I heard devilish shrieks from inside, music and drums, yet suspected nothing. They’re probably still rehearsing, I thought.

And then I was allowed to walk to door 3. Climb the stairs. A thick, dark curtain slit open for a second, with a young lady in black clothes beckoning me inside, through the darkness. And suddenly, there I was. Explosion! Of sound, of light, of color. Things were happening on the stage that I never would have imagined. Contorted bodies in refined, glittering fabrics, throbbing and moving to the mesmerizing music of mermaids. It was surreal. I had entered a dream. People, lots of them, sitting down, wide-eyed in the dark, and me, standing alone in the aisle, close to the stage, still not figuring out what had happened. I slide into my seat and think to myself this was intended. They do this for their guests, to add to the mystery. They let you in at different stages, depending on how expensive your ticket was. To confuse you. To shake you. To sweep you off your feet and take you on their journey.

Kooza, Cirque du Soleil’s latest tent production, is an exuberant journey where you will see flying men on stilts, bikes on a tight rope and acrobats with wild manes. Where blood-curdling fiends stare death in the face and 1001 oriental fantasies lash your senses, all exquisitely choreographed, to a background lyrical story. Where time and reality are suspended, where kings turn to fools and fools are crowned kings, where fairy tales exist for grown-ups too, and where the child inside you just received a new pair of wings.

It was only after I settled into my seat that I furtively opened my purse and glanced at my phone. It was a quarter past 5. I had arrived late…

Kooza by Cirque du Soleil – and the magic lives!

Kooza

 Source: deviantart.net

 PS. If you have a serious heart condition, or if you don’t want to be dragged on stage as a volunteer by two shamelessly horny clowns ;-), I suggest buying a ticket further back. Some of the acrobatic performances are really scary – and they sure know how to add drama and glamour to them. But if you don’t mind your palms getting sweaty at times only to experience the artists’ sweat-laden breath upon you as they tumble through the air, as they twitch and bend and twirl, then the first five rows next to the stage are great for that extra closeness and intensity. I was in row E, central area, and I loved it! In Munich, where Kooza is currently touring until March 2nd, tickets are still available (either through eventim.de or directly on cirquedusoleil.com, or even at the Abendkasse, if you’re lucky). However, these are dispersed tickets, you won’t find two next to each other. Prices around €80 – 90 apiece. Well worth it. Great gift idea.

PINING FOR A PINT? The romanticized history of Oktoberfest

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Lederhosen und Dirndl erwünscht!“, reads the big sign in my son’s kindergarten. It is a mild but grey autumn morning and the children are celebrating “Wiesn Breakfast”, one of those many strange offshoots of Oktoberfest which testifies to its local appeal and international success. Little blond and dark-haired children of German, Russian, Turkish or Balkan origin all dressed up in Bavarian folk dresses and leather shorts eating heart-shaped gingerbread with gaudy sugar coating. This is Munich 2013, after another weekend that has seen 1,000,000 visitors and 1,000,000 beer mugs sold on Theresienwiese –  the real Wiesn, that is.

Bavaria is no stranger to folk festivals. In fact, some variety of it, whether it be the church anniversary, parish fair or the annual meeting of the local marksmen’s club is present in all but the smallest villages. Most of these events take place in autumn, traditionally the harvest season, when the brewers need an excuse to empty their kegs of last year’s production and make place for new beer. Oktoberfest is special because, in its 200-year history, it has muted from sporty wedding festivities to the largest folk festival on Earth. With beer at its core. Its number one attraction. After all, an alcohol-free Oktoberfest seems barely plausible.

And yet.

The year is 1810. Europe is in turmoil. The French Empire has reached it peak, Russia is battling Persia, Spain is occupied by Napoleon. Only three years earlier, the relatively small principality of Bavaria had become a kingdom in its own right. And against the backdrop of a restless international stage, on October 12, 1810, in Munich, its Crown Prince Ludwig marries Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Among his subjects, an ambitious banker and cavalry major, Andreas Michael Dall’Armi, who well knows His Royal Highness’s taste for ancient Greece and Olympia-style contests. The wedding celebrations last for five whole days. On the last one, October 17, 1810, Dall’Armi throws his monarch a party that Munich had never seen before. He organizes a horse race on a field then still outside city limits. Immediately, the field is named in honour of the Prince’s bride and becomes Theresienwiese. It is the birthday of today’s world-famous Wiesn. Ludwig and the citizens are delighted. He suggests repeating the celebration the subsequent year, a suggestion accepted with some enthusiasm at the time. And so the tradition begins.  And no, there is no hint of beer.

In 1812, France attacks Russia, and by 1813 Bavaria is too involved in the Napoleonic Wars to feel much like celebrating, so that autumn the Oktoberfest is cancelled altogether. It carries on, however, the following years and it keeps getting bigger. Jungle gyms, bowling alleys and swings are added to the horse race track. 1818 sees the inauguration of the first merry-go-round. The city’s poor inhabitants get drawn into the festivities – but not by beer. Lot booths and raffles offering prizes in china and silver are the real attraction. In 1819 Oktoberfest becomes a fixture and its organisation is taken over by the Munich City Fathers. In 1824, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution, Dall’Armi, now 59, receives the very first Gold Medal for Civic Merit issued by the City of Munich. And all of this, without any (yet) drop of beer for the public.

But times are changing. Despite being now guarded by a gigantic bronze statue (the Bavaria, erected in 1850), the festival has some inauspicious years.  In 1854 and 1873 it is the cholera epidemic, in 1866 and 1870 war that dampens the mood. The frigid October weather doesn’t really help either. Gradually, the festival advances into the last weeks of September, known for milder temperatures. In 1880, Prince George of Bavaria, the favourite grandson of the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, is born in Munich. In the same year, Carl von Thieme establishes the Munich Reinsurance Company, or Munich RE, later made famous by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. And lo and behold, that autumn at the Oktoberfest, the Munich city administration allows the sale of bier for the first time! By next year, beer shacks and barracks have turned into enormous beer halls and electric light illuminates over 400 booths and tents. Sobriety is defeated and inebriation becomes the rule.

Fast forward to 2013. Theresienwiese is now a 42-hectar paved estate in the heart of Munich. The city has grown and engulfed it. There is no more horse racing, but if you want to make your heart race, there are plenty of roller coasters that will do that. 6 million visitors spend about 1 billion Euros in Munich each year for the Oktoberfest. 1800 toilets take care of the 60.000 hectolitres of beer imbibed. And in kindergartens around Munich, blond and dark-haired Germans and immigrants alike nibble on heart-shaped gingerbread with gaudy sugar coating, prancing around in Bavarian leather shorts and pastel folk dresses.

St. Patrick’s Day 2013

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Shamrock, flutes and black bier on the streets of Munich.

St. Patrick's Day Munich 2013

St. Patrick’s Day Munich 2013
Foto: Andreea Sepi

Forget for a second that it’s a frigid mid-March afternoon. Try to ignore the whizzing wind too, although your nose feels like it might fall off any minute now. The sun has slashed its way through the ceiling of aubergine-colored clouds, and – perhaps even more oddly – the Germans are willing to behave like the court jester all of a sudden. There aren’t that many occasions during the year when both of these conditions are fulfilled simultaneously. So odds are, it’s St. Patrick’s Day again.

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Ludwig’s subjects turn to Guinness
Foto: Andreea Sepi

Several thousand friends of Ireland have gathered in Odeons Platz in the heart of Munich on Sunday, March 17, to celebrate the one party where you have to wear green to fit in. And, in an attempt to be as close to the Parade as possible, they’re defending their turf on the curb of Leopoldstrasse like it’s the family inheritance dating five generations back. If you want to sneak a peek, you have to be either:

a) taller than their Guinness hats,

b) willing to wiggle your way between their armpits, or

c) down on all fours.

I was neither, but all that tasty thick bier is bound to make people a little wobbly after a while. That is when I took my chance, stretching out my smartphone-carrying hand and thrusting it in front of the front-liners. At last the parade arrived, complete with drums, leprechauns, dancers, bagpipes and flags. A long-haired fellow dressed as St. Patrick in bishop’s garments opened this procession, which always includes the blessing of the shamrock, the Irish national symbol. Marching right past us came people in traditional gaelic clothes, skinny ceili dancers on tiptoes, enormous, purple-faced and fur-clad warriors brandishing swords, and people dressed as sheep, baahing their way through the ranks.

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Herd them sheep!

As the parade drew to an end, throngs of revelers began to line up for black bier, bringing the waiting time up to a staggering 20 minutes. What better indication of a good mood than people willing to queue 20 whole minutes for a glass of bier?… After a few greetings from the guests of honor, it was time to get the party started with Caladh Nua, Blackie O’Connel and Connor Keane, Bunoscionn, Mutefish, the Munich Ceili Band, and the Tir na nOg dancing ensemble among the highlights. Here’s a taster of what they can do.

The Munich celebration of the Irish National Day will continue with an Irish Mass in the St. Michael’s church at 18:00. And, to crown the festivities, the Allianz Arena will shine a bright green tonight – as part of a worldwide Irish “greening” offensive. Enjoy!