Expat tales: Cheers to beers Andechs

GOING LOCAL: The family on the train heading to Oktoberfest.
GOING LOCAL: The family on the train heading to Oktoberfest.

Bavaria is a place of great ales and hearty food, according to Kiwi expat Nicholas Halsall.

Why did you move to Germany?

Initially I moved to Munich because of the sports company I was working for at the time and I have now settled in Germany with my wife and son.

BEER CAPITAL: Munich is famous for its beer and beer gardens.
BEER CAPITAL: Munich is famous for its beer and beer gardens.

We were back in New Zealand on holiday in Christchurch visiting family and friends when the February 2011 earthquake hit. We had to change our plans and that meant staying on in Germany.

It made our decision easier to move out of a city apartment to a beautiful Bavarian village called Andechs - about 40 minutes away from central Munich and a much better place to bring up our son.

What do you do there?

I currently work as sales and marketing manager Europe and Middle East for Contiki, the youth travel company.

What do you like or dislike about life there?

As Contiki was started in Europe by a New Zealander, I feel especially privileged to do what I do and where I do it. Oktoberfest is always great fun and I love attending the summer festivals and events.

Winter can sometimes mean up to six or seven months of snow, though - that I don't like so much.

How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?

Pretty good. Germany has an excellent healthcare system and most people, even if you were on government welfare, have enough money for food and drink.

Rent in a city like Munich tends to be higher but that's more of a European trend. Electricity, gas and petrol are all reasonable enough.

What do you do on weekends?

Andechs sits in a region they call Funfseenland or Five Lakes District.

As you can imagine, with five lakes nearby, there's a lot of activity based on and in the water and swimming in summer is high on my agenda.

It also sits on a hill and is surrounded by forest so I enjoy getting out and running, sun or snow. I also have to mow the lawns and that takes a while.

What do you think of the food?

Bavaria is famous for variations of pork and potato. So you can't beat a big pork knuckle with potato salad (schweinshaxe and kartoffelsalat).

However, I have to admit that when we have sunshine (and even not) I try and barbecue. In fact, Germans love a "grill" and in summer you smell them cooking everywhere... especially "steckerlfisch" or fish on a stick (often trout).

What's the best way to get around?

Munich and Bavaria are simple and easy to get around. Overland trains and undergrounds are frequent and run on schedule. Munich centre itself is quite compact and nice to stroll around.

What's the shopping like?

Shopping in Munich is great. Many tourists come to Munich for the shopping.

What's the nightlife like?

The nightlife in Munich is varied. You have your traditional beer halls which are great fun and a must, then you have places such as KultFabrik which is Europe's largest clubbing and entertainment area for after the beer halls close.

What is your favourite part of Munich?

Definitely where I live in Andechs. You get all the advantages of village life but in reality we are only 40 minutes from the 1.2 million people in Munich.

What time of year is best to visit?

Munich is definitely a destination of two seasons. Winter has Christmas markets with mulled wine (gluhwein) and skiing, while summer has the beer gardens and grills.

Also in summer every town and village has its own festival (volksfest). For my vote, July to September are the best months to visit, simply for the summer lifestyle.

What's your must-do thing for visitors?

Munich, Bavaria and Germany really are famous for beer and beer gardens. You simply cannot go past drinking great beer, eating tasty food in an amazing setting and experiencing the "gemutlichkeit" - this is a word used to describe traits unique to Germans and German culture.

What are your top tips for tourists?

One of the favourite days in my calendar is the day I get to do the Flossfahrt. Back in time when Munich was being built they used big wooden rafts on the Isar River to carry everything needed to get the job done and supply the population.

At the end of the trip the rafts were then taken apart and the timber used to help build the city. So on this day we travel the traditional route along the river from Wolfratshausen to Munich.

Onboard the raft we have 50 people, food, some great German beer and a four-piece band. The journey takes about eight hours, is great fun and the raft still gets taken apart at the end and the timber used to build in Munich!

And my village, Andechs, is famous for having a Benedictine Monastery which actually houses relics from Christ. However, the even bigger attraction is the Andechs monastery brewery started by the monks back in 1455.

Using only the German Purity Laws for brewing beer (called Reinheitsgebot), Andechs is most famous for its beer and amazing views over the surrounding countryside and out to the Swiss and Austrian Alps.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand? It's not a problem with plenty of flight options.

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

Sunday Star Times