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June 2000

Picnic spots in and around Munich

Wending your way through Munich's picnic areas

Now that summer has arrived, it’s time for us to rush outside and make the most of the long warm days before the cold weather forces us back inside again. With beer gardens bursting at the seams with tourists and locals, why not grab a big blanket, pack your own lunch and head for one of the many beautiful picnic spots that Munich and its environs have to offer.

The classic place to go picnicking in Munich is, of course, the English Garden. Although this green oasis in the heart of the city attracts up to a quarter of a million visitors on sunny days, you will still be able to find plenty of space to spread your blanket. The park is an impressive five kilometers long. Its southern and central parts, between Schönfeldwiese and Kleinhesseloher See, are the most frequented. If you prefer to mingle with the sunbathing crowd, the sweeping lawn at the foot of the Monopteros, a small hill crowned by a round temple, is the place to go. But be warned: also known as the hangout of Munich’s nudists, it attracts a steady stream of gawking tourists, which can make your picnic a rather surreal experience. Another popular spot is the large meadow next to the man-made Kleinhesseloher See, where you can rent a pedal boat to paddle around the three tiny islands and feed your leftover baguette or Brezen to the ever-hungry ducks. Once your basket is empty and you are still craving a icy cold brew, you can choose between three nearby beer gardens — Seegarten, Osterwaldgarten and Chinesischer Turm. If people- (and fowl-) watching is not for you, head north, across the Isarring, where the English Garden offers plenty of secluded paths, especially along the rippling Eisbach.

Another ideal place for alfresco regalement is the Olympiapark. Though best known for its sporting facilities, its landscaped hills, lakes and greens offer many great grassy respites to unwind and savor. All through the summer, the open-air stage Theatron, situated on the edge of the Olympic Lake, offers free concerts in the evenings. Arrive early to stake your claim to a seat on the stone steps of the amphitheater — don’t forget to bring a cushion for extra comfort. There, you can happily munch on a sandwich while listening to live music. If you don’t mind a short hike, it is always worth walking up the 50-meter-high Olympiaberg, which affords fabulous views of the Olympic grounds and beyond. The hill, which is actually the beautified version of a gigantic heap of rubble left over from World War II, is especially popular during concerts at the Olympic stadium. Although the acoustics are certainly not the best, the view and atmosphere are all the better.

Barbecues are not permitted in public parks, but, if you think that a picnic should include some grilled ribs, fish or steaks, head down to the Isarauen, the riverbanks of the Isar, starting behind the Deutsches Museum. You can find many quiet niches in the Isarauen, but Munich’s biggest summer party scene is no doubt the Flaucher, near the Hellabrunn zoo. Dozens of barbecue parties, fully equipped with tables and benches, beer barrels and grills, jealously defend their territory. Arrive early, that is well before dusk, to reserve a place. In the afternoons, the Flaucher sometimes has the feeling of a Mallorca beach party, with lots of beer being consumed before sundown. Once it gets dark, though, when the sound of guitars wafts through the air and campfires illuminate groups of peaceful nature worshippers, you know why this is such a popular place. Whether you prefer the party scene at the Flaucher or a quieter place further south, don’t forget to exchange the picnic blanket for some folding chairs. The river’s gravel banks are advisable only for hardcore fakirs in training.

Although there are plenty of picnic places within Munich, sometimes it is nice just to pack your basket, take a blanket and head out of the city. Only about a 45-minute autobahn drive away from Munich is Oberschleissheim, where Schleissheim Palace is located. Germany’s Versailles sits among beautifully manicured Baroque gardens with fountains, a carp lake and several canals running through them. You can walk around the palace, which is certainly a worthwhile undertaking, before heading outside to select the perfect picnic spot. The park features a number of nicely landscaped areas to prop open your basket of goodies. By following some of the tracks off the central axis of the grounds, you will discover even more attractive possibilities. Here, it’s an early supper — the gardens close at 19:00. Several car parks are on the grounds, but you can also take the train (S1 Oberschleissheim).

Munich’s lakes are always a good choice when planning a day out of the city. One of the smaller, lesser-known lakes, Simssee near Rosenheim, is a good alternative to larger, more popular lakes, as it does not seem to attract large crowds and offers many amenities. Dive right in — the lake is clean and well maintained for swimming. Hiking trails, which encircle the entire lake, lead to an abundance of “uncharted territory.” From certain points around the Simssee there is an excellent view of the neighboring Alps.

ACCESSORIES When it comes to choosing picnic accessories, prices vary. To be the envy of your blanket neighbors, head to Kustermann next to the Viktualienmarkt. Although the baskets sold here are not inexpensive — prices range from DM 419, for a basket for two, to DM 609, for a four-person basket — they are of a high quality and will serve you well for many years to come. Both the four- and two-person baskets by Optima come with china plates, wine glasses, real cutlery, a bottle opener, a flask and plastic food containers in a tastefully lined basket. Kustermann also sells its own house brand. At DM 289 you can purchase a pretty lined basket containing mugs, plastic boxes and plates. For the slightly lower price of DM 217, you have the option of a clever picnic basket in a rucksack. Inside the waterproof bag are plastic glasses, metal cutlery, plates, a chopping board, a sharp knife and salt and pepper shakers — ideal to pop on your back when you are cycling to your chosen destination. Other helpful items include a leather-seated, tripod fold-up chair for DM 98, a set of four wine glasses in their own basket for DM 85.90 and a wine bottle holder with carrying strap and bottle opener (DM 25.90). Kustermann, Viktualienmarkt 8, Tel. 237 25-0.

If your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, there are also some great buys in the camping section of Kaufhof (locations throughout Munich). At this large department store, you can find stylish, yet reasonably priced items ideal for your open-air adventures: 28-liter cool boxes (DM 39), Coca-Cola cool bags (backpack style), china design plastic plates, plastic glasses (DM 2.50), large flasks from DM 10.95 and colorful, thick blankets in a handy carrying bag (DM 89.90).

WHAT’S FOR SUPPER? You’ve chosen a spot and packed your blanket and sunscreen, but are still unsure what food to take. Though some choose to spend Saturday in the kitchen preparing salads and hamburger patties for an outdoor Sunday feast, Munich’s Metzgereien are a great source of ready-made picnic treats. Most butchers carry wonderfully spiced cutlets and kabobs for grilling, as well as Fleischpflanzerl (meatball-like, pre-cooked burgers), potato salad and Fleischsalat (julienne sandwich meat mixed with mayonnaise and chopped pickle — not exactly healthy, but delicious as a bread spread). Of course, copious sausage choices are the pride of most of these shops. Bockwurst, Knackwurst, Bratwurst, Wiener and Thüringer are excellent barbecuing sausages, as are Nürnberger (though these are small and can fall through the grate easily). Grocery-store counters offer Obatzda (a soft cheese mixture of Camembert, caraway seeds, chives and paprika) and prepackaged salads. Pricey gourmet lunchboxes can be ordered from Munich’s elite catering firm, Käfer. Custom-designed smorgasbords start at DM 120, and include an array of creative deli creations, or, if you place an order well in advance, you may request specific items. A reminder: beer gardens require patrons to purchase beverages on the premises. If you plan on taking a basket to one of these establishments, tell Käfer to skip the bottle of champagne.

Featured Recipies: Potato Salad with Beer Dressing
Serves 4
6 medium-sitzed potatoes 4 bacon slices 1 tablespoon onion, chopped 1 celery stalk, chopped 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons unbleached flour 1/2 teaspoon mustard, dry 1 tablespoon sugar 1 cup beer, any brand 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Boil potatoes in medium-size saucepan until just tender. Peel and slice. Fry bacon until crisp. Break into small pieces and mix with onion, celery and salt; set aside. Stir melted butter and flour in a small saucepan until blended. Add mustard and sugar. Slowly stir in beer and Tabasco sauce. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Pour over potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley. Toss lightly and let stand 1 hour. Add bacon mixture; toss gently and serve.

Deviled Eggs with Curry
Serves 6
6 large hard-boiled eggs, shelled 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1 tablespoon minced green onion 3/4 teaspoon curry powder 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley Olives (optional)
Cut hard-boiled eggs lengthwise in half. Scoop yolks into medium bowl. Mash yolks with fork. Add mayonnaise, minced green onion and curry powder; mix well. Season yolk mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Divide filling among egg halves, mounding slightly. Arrange eggs on platter. Sprinkle with minced parsley. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Garnish eggs with olives, if desired, and serve.

Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup ketchup 1/2 cup dry red wine 1/4 cup corn oil 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon dry mustard 1 tablespoon paprika 2 teaspoons black pepper 4 garlic cloves, crushed 4 teaspoons dried oregano
Blend all ingredients in processor until combined. Transfer to bowl. (Can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Cover and chill.) Brush this peppery sauce onto beef, chicken or pork during the last 15 minutes of grilling.