Postcard from Munich

Munich’s another of my regular stomping grounds. I know it well so any trip here gives me a welcome opportunity to check out some of my favourite haunts and see what has changed since my last visit in December 2017. I was particularly keen to see the area behind Marienplatz which has been under reconstruction for some time and would surely be finished by now.

When you say “Munich” most people think of the Oktoberfest (Beer Festival) or the Marienplatz, home to its Christmas market, a large open square named after the Mariensäule, the column in its centre, flanked by the Old and New Town Halls. One of the most famous features of the latter is its elaborate Glockenspiel cuckoo clock where a carousel of figures dance at 11:00am, midday and 05:00pm.

Torrential rain meant my trip to Munich took an unexpected turn. My beloved had dropped me off at the Bayerische Hotel (header photo) where, after using their facilities, I walked out with one of its loan brollies. However, not even this, combined with my raincoat, was sufficient to keep the pouring rain at bay.

Fortunately, many of Munich’s shops are in small undercover galleries and arcades but once those were exhausted I decided to pop into one of Munich’s many art museums to shelter from the rain and see an exhibition of Japanese armour. The gallery was largely empty – just the way I like it – and the exhibition was absolutely fascinating!

The collection was started by Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, a Swiss property developer, now based in Dallas who, with his wife, has carefully amassed the collection over the past 25 years. Art collecting is a family tradition, with four generations of avid art collectors who’ve previously established museums in Europe and South Africa, prior to the one in Dallas, which focus on ancient and non-western art and African gold.

I often wonder what it would be like to amass my own private art collection and donate it to a museum for others to enjoy in perpetuity? Sadly, I will need much deeper pockets than I possess to achieve this.

After I’d whiled away a few hours at the exhibition, the rain had abated sufficiently for me to investigate progress on the works for another underground line opposite Dallmayr and behind the Town Hall. I’ll be honest, it looked pretty much as it did two years ago. I can only assume that they’ve uncovered some important archeological remains which have slowed progress on the project to a snail’s pace. Either that or they’re using the same contractors who are undertaking Crossrail in London!

Now, the thorny question of where to have lunch. It’s Spargelzeit (asparagus time) in Germany but they (sadly) are most often anointed in melted butter or hollandaise sauce (eggs and butter) so I settled for a selection of salmon and salad at Dallmayr with a glass of Prosecco.

While I’d been enjoying lunch, the heavens had once more opened so I legged it back to the hotel to return their umbrella where I lingered over a pot of coffee in the lounge until my beloved picked me up. Not quite what I’d expected but a delightful day nonetheless.

A tale of two deliveries

I have a favourite brand of coffee. I’ve dallied with others but return time and time again to my favourite. What can I say? I’m the faithful type. Living as I do in the south of France, you might assume that my preferred brand would be French or, at the very least, Italian. But, no, it’s German. Over the years, I’ve been able to satisfy my coffee cravings thanks to regular trips to German speaking countries where the product is freely available. In recent years my beloved has made bulk purchases from their airport shop which I store in the freezer until required.

In the past six months or so my beloved has made fewer business trips to Germany, specifically Munich, and I’ve turned to their on-line store which ships worldwide. I placed my first order for 6 kilos earlier in the year and it arrived by courier within 3 working days – excellent. At the beginning of last month, when supplies were rapidly dwindling, I placed another order. Three days later I was advised it had been shipped.

I waited and waited, but no delivery. I contacted the company’s customer services (luckily I speak German) who advised it would be with me shortly. A week later and still no sign of my coffee. Suffering severe withdrawal symptoms and desperate for my fix, I recontacted customer services who explained that DHL, their preferred courier service, had been unable to effect delivery because of a problem with my address. I checked on my account, the address was correct. Obviously, the parcel had been incorrectly labelled. Given that they had my email address, my landline and mobile, why had no one thought to contact me? DHL passed the problem onto the French Post Office and their Colissimo service.

Customer services provided me with a 12-digit reference and suggested I contact Colissimo. I did. The French parcel service works off a 13 digit reference and my package could not be located without the full reference number. Believing customer services had made an error, I recontacted them but no, that was the reference provided by DHL. They could do no more. I left for my trip to Paris and New York. Maybe, in my absence, matters might be sorted. In hope, rather than anticipation, I sent Colissimo an email explaining the problem.

I returned from my trip to discover the staus quo unchanged. I politely but firmly gave the company 5 working days to deliver my goods after which I would require a full refund. An apology wouldn’t go amiss either. They said they thought that this was not an unreasonable request and they would be happy to give me one. But, of couse, what I really want is my coffee fix. Undaunted, I have continued to bombard Colissimo and finally I have a 13 digit reference for my package. The problem is that, by my reckoning, the package has been on French soil for at least 15 days. I’m going down to the post office this afternoon but fully expect to be told that my parcel of caffeine has been sent back. The coffee in question comes from Dallmayr’s a venerable German institution.

It’s a delicatessen, restaurant and catering service based in Munich dating back to the 17th century. The main store, after being destroyed in World War II, was rebuilt in 1950 complete with its former neoclassical facade. Dallmayr’s went on-line in 2000 to increase its product distribution and, in 2003, opened its first branch store in Munich Airport’s Terminal 2.

The store was started by Christian Reitter and settled in its current location, near Marienplatz, between 1671 and 1700. His two daughters inherited the store but the name comes from its 1870 owner, Alois Dallmayr, a Bavarian merchant. Dallmayr sold the store in 1895 to Anton Randlkofer, who died two years later. His widow, Therese, took over the store and managed the business very successfully, significantly improving its reputation through leveraging her not inconsiderable social contacts.

In 1930, to cushion itself post the Wall Street Crash, Dallmayr’s expanded its product portfolio with coffee. By 1933, a fully fledged department within the store, including electric bean roasting, had been established by a 19 year old coffee expert, Konrad Werner Wille from Bremen. The unground coffee beans, mostly from Ethiopia, are still stored in hand painted porcelain Nymphenburg jars and quantities purchased are still measured on historic balances.

The main brand, Dallmayr Prodomo, and my favourite, was created in 1960. Over 200 tons of coffee are roasted daily in their coffee roasting premises in Munich and Berlin and sold worldwide. The coffee business was further expanded postwar to include a vending machine service, initially in collaboration with BMW, another famous Bavarian brand, for which Dallmayr remains the German leader.

In 1977 Werner’s son, Wolfgang and Georg Randlkofer took over the management of the family business. In 1984, Nestle purchased a 50% ownership of the coffee division, to establish a foothold in the German coffee market (reduced to 25% in 2003), and in 1985, the coffee division was established as a separate company under Wolfgang Wille. Today Dallmayr is still one of Germany’s premium brands. No visit to Munich, in my opinion, is complete without a visit to their store. It’s a gourmet’s delight. I have also dined in their delighful restaurant.

Postscropt: Fruitless trip to Post Office. The 13-digit number has been assigned to send the parcel back from whence it came. It’s currently in Paris en route to Munich. Coffee anyone?