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Is Munich getting cool? Look for the boat on the bridge

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Munich has long been known for its embrace of tradition, including Christmas markets, rowdy old-school beer halls and the annual jamboree of drinking, rides and carnival games known as Oktoberfest. Much less has been said about its hip side. (Some, like many Berliners, might ask: “What hip side?”)

But those who want excitement beyond holiday shopping and mugs of hot mulled wine will be drawn in by several projects — including the latest buzzy one by a group of friends-turned-entrepreneurs who wanted to invigorate Munich’s nightlife scene.

Zum Wolf, a popular cocktail bar.
Zum Wolf, a popular cocktail bar.  (Louisa Marie Summer / New York Times)

Alte Utting, a decommissioned, land-bound boat that has been transformed into a bar-slash-event-space-slash-food-market, is the flashiest of their projects and has attracted lots of attention since opening in July. Built in 1949, Alte Utting was a pleasure boat that sailed for six decades around the Ammersee, a lake about an hour’s drive from Munich. Today, its twinkling lights are easy to spot from afar, since the 120-foot boat sits atop a bridge that hovers over a quiet stretch of road in southwest Munich.

On a recent evening, a woman perched on the bow of the boat, clutching a cappuccino and reading a novel. Two older women sat at a table on the open-air deck, flicking through a food menu, while a trio of 20-somethings sipped wine against a backdrop of low-slung houses and train cars.

Daniel Hahn, 28, the mastermind behind Alte Utting and various other cultural projects around Munich, was originally enticed by the boat’s history. “There are so many memories from so many people,” Hahn said. “People travelled on it, got married on it, celebrated christenings on it.” When Hahn found out about two years ago that the boat would be destroyed, he decided to give it a second life. “When we bought the ship, everybody said you guys are crazy and dumb, and it’s not possible to bring it here,” Hahn said.

But he and his friends had a plan. They cut the ship in half horizontally and transported it by night, an operation requiring a police escort. “They closed the autobahn for us,” Hahn said. When the 144-ton boat arrived at its current spot in Munich , they reattached the two pieces, added a couple of bars and invited restaurants to open stands.

Besides Hahn and his friends’ ventures, Geraldine Knudson, director of Munich’s tourism board, pointed to several other recently opened venues that are livening up the city’s night scene. The High, a 1980s-Miami-themed bar in the trendy Glockenbach neighbourhood, serves experimental cocktails. And Café Crönlein opened this summer in the Au-Haidhausen neighbourhood in a building that used to be a public restroom. The cafe has already attracted a steady stream of visitors with its unusual setting, craft beers and a weekly outdoor concert series.

Of course, despite its staid reputation, the Bavarian city has always had bars and clubs that deliver both atmosphere and worthy libations. Two are standouts: Zum Wolf, a cocktail bar that opened in 2012 and is styled with date-night lighting and touches of Americana, has a wide range of whiskey and serves a mean old-fashioned.

Over at the Haus der Kunst, a museum of contemporary art that was built in the 1930s to house Nazi propaganda art, Goldene Bar offers an airy space decorated with large-scale prints of antique maps, a patio among neoclassical columns and cocktails with housemade bitters. After the war, Haus der Kunst served as an officer’s club for members of the U.S. army and began exhibiting nonfascist art as early as 1946. The museum does not have a permanent collection, functioning instead as an exhibition space for rotating art shows.

For his part, Hahn, who was born and raised in Munich, has been steadily injecting the city with creative energy since 2012, when he and his friends founded Wannda, an event-organizing group. As one of their first projects, the group purchased two circus tents and began taking them to different locations, using them as space to run artistic workshops, holiday markets and more. That project, along with some of those that followed, helped them develop the contacts and know-how to convince the city government to approve of their plan to haul in a boat from the countryside.

“When buildings were taken down, we would use the time between the demolition and the new construction to go to this place and put up a tent,” Hahn said. “It was legal, but so difficult, so much energy and so much time.”

Eventually, they built on the lessons they learned and constructed Bahnwärter Thiel. The event space spreads out in an abandoned lot. Its indoor areas consist of a stand-alone subway car and several abandoned, graffiti-covered shipping containers, one of which hosts techno parties with a sound and light system that some of the country’s best DJs are more than happy to travel hours for. During non-party hours, Bahnwärter Thiel hosts flea markets, theatrical performances and exhibitions. Its yard is strewn with a mishmash of furniture — even a lawn mower can be found among the fold-up tables and chairs.

At the end of the day, Hahn said, what drives him is simple: “Theater people go to the theatre, flea market people go to the flea market,” he said. “But to bring the party people to a painting workshop or the flea market people to a theatre,” you mix the people and “show them different ways.”

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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