After nearly a year of living in Munich, when someone asks me why I love living here, my response is pre-prepared. It goes something like this: “It’s clean, it’s safe, everything works, and it’s pretty much right in the middle of Europe.” That’s right – pretty much anywhere you could think of is a two hour flight away. I mean you’ve got Venice 300 kilometers away, Paris 680 kilometers away… even London is only 900 kilometers away. The distance between Sydney and Melbourne is actually slightly more than this at 960 kilometers.
When people ask me what I miss most about Melbourne, my response is just as consistent: shopping on Sunday. Shopping on Sunday is a privilege I once took completely for granted. When I lived in Melbourne I didn’t wake up on a Saturday in a cold sweat from all the groceries I needed to buy before 1.00 pm. When I lived in Melbourne I decided spontaneously what I would cook on Sunday night (and if I was missing an ingredient I would just drive to Safeway to get it). Hell, I would even go to Knox City to indulge in a bit of Sunday retail therapy without sparing a thought for those less fortunate than I.
So, when my friends and I decided to hire a car for the weekend, two things were clear: 1. We would drive to another country for lunch 2. This country would offer shopping on a Sunday. Simple. As. That.
On Saturday we headed to Königssee, a lake in Bavaria’s south-east close to the Austrian border. We were joined by our Bavarian friend Elisabeth (who was able to provide many local insights) and my Australian-now-living-in-Malaysia friend Michael (whose presence inspired my increased use of Australianisms – some favorites were “sanga” and “take a wiz”).
Coming from Australia, where the native trees are evergreen and only introduced species lose their leaves, I have been expecting a lot from the European Autumn. For the past few weeks I have been eagerly (and impatiently) watching for the Autumn leaves to transition from their insipid yellows and oranges into fiery reds and golds. I can tell you that the leaves on show for us in Königssee did not disappoint. And the mist left at the foothills from the morning’s light rain only added to the drama of the scene. I think I used the phrase “SO beautiful” at least 50 times. I was like the emoji with love hearts for eyes.
On Sunday we had a bit of an interchange: Elisabeth and Michael out, our Dutch friend Suzanne in. The plan was to drive to the Northern Italian town of Balzano for lunch (yes, that’s right – we went to Italy for lunch! ;)) and then to head back to Munich via an Outlet Mall on the Austrian / Italian border (which was open on Sunday, obviously).
You would think that borders are pretty artificial but it is surprising just how quickly the landscape changes from country to country. Once you get into Italy the architecture changes (I don’t know enough about architecture to describe the change specifically but the buildings seem squarer and more terracotta in colour) and there are vineyards everywhere (even against the most precarious hilsides). Once you get into Austria, all the Aldi’s are suddenly called “Hofer” (true story – very strange!)
Lunch in Bolzano was totally worth it. I mean, it was already worth it just for the sake of the story (“So I went to Italy for lunch on Sunday, what did you do?”) but we also happened to find a very cute Italian seafood restaurant. The place was completely deserted, so we had free choice of our table. Naturally, we chose the table tucked away in a strange grotto-like structure in the corner of the restaurant. The pasta and risotto was fresh and the wine was from Tuscany. It was everything we dreamed it would be…
As for shopping on Sunday, maybe our expectations were a little high. At first we were so excited to see an actual shopping centre, but after a couple of minutes we realized it was actually pretty small and crummy. That didn’t stop us from making some bargain purchases (when you are shopping on Sunday, you DEFINITELY need to buy something). The personal favourites from my loot were some pink fingerless gloves with a kind of “full glove” attachment you can cover your fingertips with, and some fluffy earmuff that double as headphones (yes, I bought fluffy earmuffs that double as headphones… How awesome is that???)
So next weekend I’m off to Portugal (please, no one visit my apartment this week, it hasn’t been cleaned for over two weeks now..Eek!) I haven’t really had time to research things to do there, so I am looking forward to just immersing myself in the city with no particular plans. I have taken this approach a couple of times so far this year and I have found that going to a city with zero expectations always opens you up to being completely blown away… Watch this space.
What about you – did anyone else go shopping this Sunday? Could you ever live without shopping on a Sunday?