city slicker Munich

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The Independent Culture
The capital of Bavaria, is currently celebrating Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival. We'll drink to that

Ambience: Munchners joke that Munich is an Italian town moved north across the Alps. And that's certainly the atmosphere imparted to it by the many beautifully imposing baroque buildings such as Schloss Nymphenburg (right).

Above all else, Munich is schizophrenic: at once, cosmopolitan European city (16 per cent of residents are foreign), heartland of lederhosen and sausage, and Europe's silicon valley. Quite a juggling act for one city.

Advice to residents: Be rich. Munich has the highest cost of living in Germany. The average graduate's salary on leaving university is pounds 24,000.

A brief history of beer: According to Graham Lee's Good Beer Guide, in 1860 the average annual consumption of beer in Munich was 535 litres per person. Mothers considered it desirable to drink up to seven pints a day while breast-feeding. By 1876, the state was encouraging them to cut down to a mere two pints a day.

The politics of beer: Beer has been a political issue ever since 1516, when Duke Wilhelm IV issued the Reinheitsgebot, the world's first food purity law, which still restricts the city's brewers to using traditional ingredients. So important is the idea of the beer hall to the city's self- image that Munich's most famous bar, the 4,500-seater Hofbrauhaus, is owned by the Bavarian state. In May, an attempt to bring last orders forward an hour at the city's most famous beer garden, the Waldwirtschaft, eradicated all other conversation for weeks, and brought thousands out in protest, including the German finance minister Theo Waigel.

Probably the largest carry-out in the world: With six million visitors a year at Oktoberfest (most of them Australians, it sometimes seems), some bright spark has had the idea of exporting the concept. From 1996, an Oktoberfest tent will be bringing a little Munchner oompah to a town near you. Offering space for 3,000 people, the tent will also provide space for a band, a shooting gallery and some spit-roast oxen. Genuine Bavarian waitresses wearing dirndls are also promised. You've been warned.

Brewer's droop: Could the beer be affecting Munchners' libidos? How else to explain the fact that 60 per cent of 20- to 30-year-olds are single?

Driving passion: In the home of the BMW, what you drive defines you. As JW Murray once joked in the Observer: "Bavarians say that the difference between a rich farmer and a poor farmer is that the poor farmer cleans his Mercedes himself." Talking about cars here is roughly equivalent to talking about the weather in Britain. Safety is an obsession. Understandably, when every third vehicle is a Mercedes built like a high-speed tank.

Pet hate: The Fohn, a warm, electrically charged wind that sweeps down from the Alps 40 miles away. It doesn't matter that it carries with it blue skies and near-perfect weather, city-dwellers blame the Fohn for everything from headaches to car crashes. It is said only to to affect people after they have lived in Munich for at least five years.

Last chance to see: The unique erotic museum, which attracts 20,000 visitors a year, including groups of priests and children. According to the owner it will close at the end of the year because of the "ignorance" of locals who "believe themselves cultural highfliers with no need to notice my collection". It has been sold for DM1m to a local sex queen who plans to move the collection to a more liberated city in the north.

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