Thursday, September 15, 2005

Shopping in Munich

We have a Wal-Mart! OK, great, so we came all the way to Munich, Germany, and we're still shopping at Wal-Mart? Where's our sense of adventure, you ask? Aha. Here's where curiosity meets economy. The curiosity question is... Are all Wal-Marts created equal? We found it to be an interesting mix of the American "all-in-one" superstore and the European minimization of shopping space. As a result, we have sort of this "mini Wal-Mart" which you don't want to visit during busy hours, and you'd better be really skilled at driving a European shopping cart. As far as economy, it actually has the lowest prices on some things, but you have to watch it. It definitely has a great selection, so it's our default for things we have a hard time finding other places.

On the other end of the spectrum is the "Flohmarkt" (flea market), which is the German term for any informal or seasonal second-hand sale. We visited a Flohmarket which sells "der Abfallwirtschaftsbetrieb gut erhaltenen Troedel von den Muenchner Wertstoffhoefen" which, as best as I can translate it, is something like "the waste management 'junk in good condition' from the Munich recycling center." And that's exactly what it is. We went there one Saturday and were pleased to find several food storage containers (hey, they're quite washable), and a few books. Other Flohmarkts are organized periodically -- usually people wanting to sell their stuff, basically a "yard sale" but in a public area, either for themselves or for some charitable cause. We went to a couple of those as well. One was really nice; the other was very strange. That level of variety can be expected, I guess.

Somewhere between these two shopping styles is the way most Europeans shop: small stores along the main streets of town. In our town, Pasing, we have several streets which host some apartments, some churches, some government buildings, but mainly a mixture of grocery stores, drug stores, cafes, dry cleaners, banks, and bakeries. Most don't have free parking for cars -- just a few paid meters along the street, but bicyle "parking lots" are everywhere. Some bike; some take the subway, train, or bus, and just walk the rest of the way. Hey, how about all those bikes parked in front of the grocery store? I'm just building your curiosity for the posting I'm going to do very soon (I'm building up my photo gallery) on transportation in Munich... featuring the bicycle, of course. : )


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