Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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October 2002

Golden Oldies

Munich - a city for the young at heart

When people discover that I've chosen to spend my retirement years in Munich, the reaction invariably goes one of two ways. People who've been here and enjoyed the experience say, "Great! How did you manage that?" But others—by far the majority—are taken aback. I patiently wait for them to formulate what is clearly a pressing question, a carefully phrased version of, "Why would anyone do that?" The short answer? Love—the source of so many seemingly unexplainable things we do in life. Actually, the woman in my life came along a bit later, but the first time I walked along Ungererstrasse toward Münchner Freiheit, I knew that someday I would live in Munich. It was a long commute from my base in New York, but worth the pain and effort. On the descent to the Frankfurt airport early one morning, a fellow passenger asked, "Does it really feel like you're coming home?" I could tell that my answer befuddled him. "Yes." I was home.

Right from the start, I found Europe much to my liking; vintage, staid, steeped in history and tradition, these things that Europeans take for granted. Paris in spring is intoxicating and not cliché, the opulence of Vienna in early autumn spectacular. And both cities are easily reached in a few hours by car or train from Munich. The Alpine foothills, less than an hour away from our apartment near Rotkreuzplatz, affords delightful places to walk or cycle. Tegernsee to Siebenhütten is a favorite, as are the areas around Mittenwald, Ehrwald and the moorlands near Murnau (with cuckoos in May), all accessible by train. The Colorado Rockies, my former home, were never this easy to explore. Nor do they offer the requisite number of benches and Gasthäuser conveniently spaced for those with my attention span and athletic ability.

Munich, it seems to me, is a city full of historical contradictions. As I peel back each layer of its past, I discover new and exciting facts. Few tourists know of Kurt Eisner (even if he is spread-eagled on the sidewalk of the Kardinal Faulhaber Strasse) and the Bavarian Republic of which he was founder and prime minister. For a short time socialists and fascists and even Bavarian royalty shared this city—albeit in an uneasy truce. Another oddity is the obelisk on Karolinenplatz, placed there by Münchner to commemorate the dead from Napoleon's ill-fated foray into Russia. Yet it’s not all history and tradition that makes Munich what it is. Out in Martinsried, a crop of new companies specializing in biotechnology are probably trying to clone the perfect Bavarian or perhaps a Weisswurst that has no sell-by date.

I can't imagine myself retiring in Phoenix or Miami with all the Sunbirds in my family who live there; but I dutifully visit, even in summer. White shoes (with the requisite tassles) are well behind me, thank goodness. Shorts are worn in Germany, but rarely with argyle socks! A quiet evening of Kegeln in the church basement appeals to me more than bowling and I'm not a bridge or bingo kind of guy. I want to travel about the countryside with friends, not be part of the car-bound culture of the States.

One difference between working life and retirement is a regular income, or the lack of it. Converting retirement benefit funds was profitable until recently—if one had dollars—a no-stress process that may soon change. Does anyone remember when the Deutsche Mark was 4 to 1 against the greenback? A plunge in the market can be guarded against, but devaluation is an altogether more serious worry for someone on a fixed retirement income. Even so, Munich is not always the expensive place many people believe. Careful planning can save money, and compared to other major cities around the world, Munich has some real bargains. Monday movies are inexpensive, local restaurants serve filling, fairly priced dishes, even public transportation is kind to retirees. The group rail price on the Deutsche Bahn is a good example. I consider my Ruhestand Karte a privilege and I don't get out before 9 am anyway. In a house full of working women (three), I'm last in line for the bath.

Overall, Munich is a wonderful retirement city. The mild weather, offering more of a seasonal change than, say, Miami, is invigorating. Winter afternoons spent with friends in Gasthäuser by the warmth of a tiled stove, or summer evenings spent chatting in Biergärten under the gently swaying, candle-laden "Bavarian palms" are pleasant and relaxing. If you leave, you'll come back some day, just like Munich's guardian angel, Alois. Then you'll find both of us here—at home.

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