Munich on (busker's) budget
January 1, 1970
It is rather odd to use in the same sentence words “Munich” and “traveling on budget”, because according to popular opinion, Munich is considered rather expensive city. Looking around you see all kinds of fancy monuments, the landscape is well taken care of and who could possibly forget the magnificent Olympic park?
My goal was to survive with more or less nothing and if you practice any craft profitable on the streets and know the right places, you could get living costs ridiculously small. Even for a city, where people pay over 500€ for a 10 m³ room in a basement. But you need to know the places and of course, the rules.
Every backpacker knows that the highest costs during travels are transportation and accommodation. Solving those two little problems might save you a few quids. So as I was biting into my apple, trying to figure out where I could lock up my guitar, I got a text from a friend of mine. I had visited him three years prior and already then he mentioned a place called “The Tent”. Fast google, found the address and took the tram 17 from the main railway station. The place is rather far away from the city center, but to be honest, nothing is too far away in that city. It is big enough to have it all and small enough so you don’t have to take two hours to commute.
So, there I was, next to the botanical garden and saw those two white tents. Basically, this place is open from springtime till the end of Oktoberfest. After that they shut down since it is too cold. They have two tents, one filled with 100 bunk beds and another where you can sleep on your own mattress. Also, you can bring your own tent and camp. Unless it is during the festival, they are happy for all the walk-ins. I rarely book anything online, I just show up. There the staff looked at me as if I was an unicorn.
Overall I lived there for two weeks and this is really good school of life if you need to get used to stuff changing around you. Imagine: you meet some nice people. You hit it off and have wonderful conversations and laughs together around the campfire that is lit every evening at the sunset. You take your instruments, sing together and after three days, they move on. Or back to wherever they came from. This is happiness and sorrow hand in hand. After few days, it repeats itself. People come and go. I stayed. This teaches perfectly to live in the moment.
Munich has a really good transportation network. subway, trains, trams and buses. Also, it is a city where you are far more likely to be run over by a bike than any other vehicle. I can swear, three years ago there weren’t that many.
So I ran my calculations: day ticket with the transport costs 6€60. Since I could get a nice meal for that (if I cooked in the guest kitchen) I decided to find a way to bring it down and it appeared sooner than I expected. There is a flea market every Sunday at the Olympic park. There are few more around the city, but this one is the biggest with the whole parking lot full of merchants selling old PlayStation, vintage dresses and bicycles.
I managed to get my hands on a backpack (that thing saved my life), a pair of parrot shaped earrings and my new Dutch two wheel cruiser. Since it was the end of the day and people wanted to get rid of their stuff, I managed to snatch this baby (I named him Ferdinand, very German name, I know) for 70€. It is never a bad idea to invest in something that saves you money and runs on fat.
Bike lanes are clearly marked and pedestrians usually keep away from those. Even though I had an accident few years ago, I felt safe riding on the streets of Munich. Still, a bell and lights for the dark are good investment, since the bikes from flea markets might not have those.
The most important part. Munich is really strict when it comes to busking. In order to do it legally (in the pedestrian area), you need to obtain a licence from the city hall on Marienplatz. There is a tourist information center and you have to play three songs (I am not sure how auditions for living statues and bubble makes go though) and then they decide if you are worthy of the licence. There are given 10 each day for the pedestrian area, 5 for the morning (10 AM-1 PM) and 5 for the evening (2 PM-8 PM), one licence is for one day only, costs 10€ and you may get up to two per week. Except Sunday, which licence you must get on Friday and it counts as extra (not included in those two per week). It is worth it sometimes. If you’re good you might earn up to 150€ per afternoon without an amplifier (amps are forbidden actually). But I considered getting one every time too much hassle and decided to go and discover the “gray areas”. And I figured out a few.
The tunnel under the Neues Rathaus and Odeonsplatz are on my map the gray areas. They are the borders of the pedestrian area and if you are annoying people or just making noise, then the guards will come rather sooner than later and politely tell you to move. If you are really good, then you might get away with it, but then you have to be sure in your abilities to entertain people. One day I decided to go rogue and play on the Kaufingerstrasse, since I hadn’t seen any police officers around. Turns out they are everywhere, but not wearing an uniform. I could sing one song and they told me that they had seen me previous days at Odeonsplatz too, but this one was crossing the line. So beware of that.
Other places that I tried out, worked very well too. If you go further away from the Neues Rathaus tunnel, towards the river Isar, there are two bus stops, both rather good spots. Noisy, but good. The first one is right after the tunnel, but there beware of standing in the archway. It belongs to the businesses inside and if you try to play there, you are asked to move a step forward to the pavement. It is not their jurisdiction anymore and there you also don’t need a licence. Also the next bus stop, Tal. It is next to Rewe (a supermarket) and has a few benches. I made some new friends just there.
In the same area is Hard Rock Cafe, where I also saw some buskers who claimed that this is a no-licence area. Further north from there is the pearl of Munich: Englischer Garten. Huge park across the subway line that starts from Odeonsplatz and runs up to ten train stops. The part next to Odeonsplatz is called Hofgarten and people were playing petanque there. This part of park is connected with a small tunnel to the Englischer Garten and I played in the tunnel every day. Rather good acoustics, cover from the rain, close to the city center and people chilling out. It is busy with bicycles but wide enough to fit a musician among them.
Further north, three stops by train is a small square called Münchener Freiheit. I saw a guy playing an accordion at the subway entrance. Few more spots that I tried out were near the cafes on the side of the square and across the entrance to the Karstadt. Choosing the last place keep in mind that stay about two meters away from the wall of the mall, since there the security have no power to chase you away. Unless someone complains, of course.
This is by far my favorite place on the planet Earth. Can you believe, built for the ‘72 Olympics, the facilities are still in everyday use. Compare that to the ghost towns Olympic villages in, say, Sochi and Athens have become. During my stay in Munich I visited the place almost every day. It is good to busk near the subway entrance and I saw some other musicians also along the way. The park is full of surprises, musicians, bubble makers etc. The acrylic glass roof of the stadium is a spectacle on it’s own alongside with the Olympiaturm, TV-tower that contains a museum dedicated to rock music. Of course it has a magnificent view over the city and also an outside terrace. If you don’t want to pay the 7€ entrance fee, then climb the Olympic hill. The view is as breathtaking as the one from the tower and I enjoyed it for few hours before heading home. The hill was built of the rubble left from war, just to remember that there can sprout something beautiful from something as horrible as a World War.
Right next to the Olympic park is the BMW factory with a museum and I bet if you didn’t like BMW before, you are going to want at least two after visiting those places. Entrance is 11€ and it takes at least few hours of your day.
What else takes few hours is Deutsches museum, the world’s biggest technical museum. With German precision it follows all the steps through every exhibition. If there is something to know about electricity, then there is everything down to the smallest details. Trains and planes? They have it! Shows, workshops and exhibitions are in such a variety that it might get confusing. We went there with six people, paired up in two and went to different directions. After five hours when we met again, it felt as if we had visited totally different museums as everyone was talking about different things.
The museum is located by the river Isar which is popular place for people to meet and hang out. Grab a grill and put your toes into the cooling water! During hot summer days it is difficult to find a place to sit down, even after the sunset. So a good place for making friends.
During weekends, not far from the island and Marienplatz is Viktualienmarkt, a marketplace with everything fresh, cafes and people hanging out. Best time to visit that is Saturday morning, around noon, give or take an hour. If you are looking for nice casual vibe and a bagel alongside some street performers then you don’t want to miss that place.
Huge park across the city of Munich that I already mentioned before. It is so quiet, you forget you are in the center of one of the biggest cities in Germany. The river that is running through the park is also used for swimming and surfing. You have to be careful though since the flow is strong within this one. After refreshing swim you can buy an ice cream or grab a pint in one of the taverns hidden in the trees. But don’t worry, they aren’t that difficult to find.
Munich is definitely worth a visit, even when you are on a budget. Plenty of activities for free and the ones with an entrance fee will entertain you for the whole day. Also people there are really into good arts, so if you are wondering if you’d ever become a musician, take your instrument and take the next flight/bus/train/ride share to the capital of Bavaria. People there are straightforward. If you are any good, they will tell you. And if you aren’t, you’ll know soon enough.
Some phrases in German:
Hello, my name is x! – Servus, mein Name ist x!
One cold beer, please! – Ein kaltes Bier, Bitte!
I lost my friends. – Ich habe meine Freunde verloren.
Thank you! – Danke dir!
Goodbye! – Auf Wiedersehen!