Almost a year has gone by since my last post, the most discouraging article I have written so far but also a very real endeavour. What happened since then? Did my struggle to find a flat in Munich proved fruitless? Did I end up moving somewhere else? Well, I kind of ended up cheating the system a little. Here is the story of how I ended up living in Ottobrunn (a commuter town near Munich).
After a month or so of actively looking for flats and getting nowhere, we decided to hire a private agent to do the job for us and use her contacts and influences. It was not cheap, but thankfully we had some money on the side and could afford it. She would apply for flats in our name and get us visits, while privately we didn’t get many visits, as soon as a professional agent took care of it, we were getting flat visits almost daily. That however was just the first step, our combined salaries back in October/November of last year were not the greatest. We just arrived to the city so we both (my partner and I) had temporary contracts, and we were moving with 2 cats. Those factors did not help at all and we were not willing to break up our little family and move in without the cats. So we had to compromise, the agent told us, compromising in location was the best option for us to get a flat as quickly as possible. It was like this that we started getting visits outside the city, and landlords started to give positive feedback and show interest.
One of the first flats I visited with the agent, stood out to me for some reason. It was filled with ugly and outdated furniture and even had carpet in the bathroom (carpet! in the bathroom!), but for some reason, I saw a lot of potential in it. Although I got frustrated with our agent several times because I felt powerless and with no control over the situation nor the negotiations, she made a great effort into convincing the agent working for that place to take us. A couple of days (that felt like months) later, we got a yes for that flat, and we had to give a quick answer since other people showed interest in it too. We were starting to get confident that maybe another flat in the city would be available for us but we had to act fast and considering how the housing market is in Munich, we had to take it. Ugly furniture, carpet, and all.
Another thing to know is that since the demand is so high and the offer so scarce, landlords can impose basically anything on you because well, if you say no, there are like 20 other people that would be happy to take it. We had to sign a 2 year contract (2 years!) and accept that all the (old hideous) furniture in the flat should stay. Luckily the place came with a storage room in the building’s basement and we moved everything we didn’t want down there. The (very ugly) sofa was impossible to get out the door though so we have it now on the balcony (like real hipsters). The very first thing I did once we got the keys was ripping off that horrible carpet from the bathroom (why? oh why!).
We managed to turn the decor around and we are very proud of our flat now. It feels like a huge upgrade from the one we had back in the UK (don’t get me started on the quality of flats there) and our cats love it too.
The commute to work is not that big of a deal and getting to Munich’s city centre by public transport only takes about 30 minutes. The flat also came with a garage so we can now have our car (we didn’t have it in the UK) and do weekend trips to the amazing Alps or go to the stadium to watch a football match.
Was it then worth it to move to Munich? Absolutely. The stress and the pain of the first months here was nothing compared to how our quality of life has improved.
Now that I am back to the blog, there will be more chapters to the “Moving to Munich” category where I promise I won’t be talking about real estate anymore and I will go through all the things I’ve discovered, what’s different, what’s a shock to me, what’s better, and of course, where to go when visiting.
For the last couple of years in the UK, I have been daydreaming about moving to Munich, Germany. I would picture myself riding a bike along the Isar river, having a beer in the English Garden, working in a multicultural environment (specifically in something related to tourism), having a cute little flat where my partner and our cats would greet me when coming from work, enjoying weekends by a nearby lake or mountain. You know, the good life.
My partner got a job offer and we didn’t think twice, we jumped on the hype train, resigned from our jobs in Cardiff, and packed all our stuff. Merely two weeks after the news, everything was sorted and we were out of the UK.
I am not new to starting over and moving to different cities and countries so I thought that given all my experience and adaptability, this would be an easy enough transition. It is not.
Job seeking proved easy enough for me even without being fluent in German (yet) since I speak 3 other languages. At the moment is not a full-time job but I will get there (hopefully) soon. The big challenge, however, is finding a place to live.
It’s been a little more than a week since I arrived and at the moment I feel very nomad, but not at all homey.
Finding a flat in Munich
One of the many aspects that give Munich this calm and relaxed vibe, very rare in big cities, is the fact that there are not many high buildings and the streets are wide, green, and open. This, of course, is also a disadvantage when it comes to finding a flat. There is a huge demand due to the beauty and apparent quality of life of the city but not much offer because of its wide streets, green spaces, and lack of high buildings. Therefore, not only is it hard to get flat viewings but once you get them, the requirements are crazy.
In order to get as many flat viewings as possible, you need to make finding a flat your full-time job. Keep refreshing the sites as often as you can and send applications like if there was no tomorrow. Once a flat appears on one of the main sites, and without even looking at the pictures or reading the full description, you must apply. You need to be as quick as possible since they get a tremendous amount of applications in record time and usually close it after 20 minutes of being online.
If you get lucky and are able to go to a viewing, have your folder prepared, wear your nicest socks (most visits will require taking your shoes off before entering the flat), and be everything but yourself.
Since they have so many potential tenants to choose from, you become a folder filled with work contracts, payslips, recommendation letters, and credit scores. There is absolutely no chance to make an impression because of your story or your charisma (and that sucks). My story and charisma are the things that have always helped me get through life in a more or less comfortable way. Now I am reduced to numbers and papers being checked by ruthless real estate agents that don’t have time to get to know you whatsoever.
Not only that but since they have so many people to choose from, if they even pay attention to you as a person and not just to your folder, all they look for is how boring and potentially ‘trouble free’ you are. I feel forced to dress in the most conservative way, I need to make sure I don’t smile too much or talk too loud (something very hard for a Spanish person, dare I say), and I need to project that I basically don’t take any joy in life and my favourite hobbies are being quiet and working hard.
It is extremely discouraging and it will drain you very quickly. But you need to keep strong, consider all the options, have patience, and at some point, you will be such a pro in this finding a flat mission that you might get what you want or maybe you will just give up and move somewhere else, whatever comes first.
If I ever find a home in Munich I will dedicate a whole article on the complicated matter, but for the time being, I don’t feel like giving many tips or a pep talk since I am far from my objective.
I didn’t mean to write such a negative post but this is how I feel at the moment, and I hate when people online depict everything as marvellous and carefree. Life sucks sometimes and that’s OK.
Forget about the boring 3 ingredients flatbread (flour, water, salt) this one is as simple as that but 10 times tastier!
I came across this recipe years ago and have been experimenting and altering it ever since. Versatile, cheap, easy and quick, no oven required, and healthy. What else could you ask for?
You can shape it however you like. Turn the dough into thick oval pieces to go with a tasty curry, or small stripes to dip in hummus, or small circles (no need of a cutter, you can just use a glass upside down!) to make appetisers, or my favourite one: big thin circles to use as a quick alternative to pizza base.
Natural Yogurt (a 500g container is ideal)
Flour, whichever you like (same amount as yogurt plus some extra for shaping and rolling the dough)
Yeast (if you are not going to use self-raising flour)
Seeds (As many as you like! Fennel seeds, Poppy seeds, Flax seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds; play around and try different combinations)
Salt and Pepper
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients with the help of a spatula.
On a clean surface, knead the dough, adding more flour until it feels more firm and not that gooey. Tip: dip your hands in flour before working the dough so it won’t stick to your fingers that much.
Place the flatbreads on a hot griddle pan. On a medium heat, turn them around when you start seeing bubbles. Then leave it a couple of minutes on each side.
Served hot, or cold. Enjoy them with anything you like.
Let me know what seed combo you used, or what did you have the flatbreads with!
As a child, I used to love going through my grandma’s pantry and being awed by it. From very traditional ingredients from the area to good quality Spanish delicatessen, my grandma’s kitchen had it all. She used to tell me: “you never know who is coming unexpectedly and you need to be prepared if you want to be a good host”. She would have big bottles of extra virgin olive oil (from my grandpa’s little olive plantation), jars and jars of preserved tomatoes (that she would make herself with her friends once a year), olives (marinated the traditional regional way), onion and garlic, potatoes (in a proper sack), very good quality tinned Atlantic bonito, plenty of other typical Spanish canned seafood (e.g mussels, cockles, clams, razor shells), cured meats such as blocks of Serrano ham and diverse Iberian sausages, and so much more.
My mum’s pantry was also impressive and had very similar ingredients but also some more “exotic” ones. Next to the essential spices and herbs from my region (black pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, paprika, bay leaves and saffron) my mother stored cloves, cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. With my grandpa’s extra virgin olive oil, she would fill up glass bottles and add herbs and chillies to infuse the oil. Together with the usual canned seafood, my mother would also have sea urchin roe and more adventurous versions of the normal preserved mussels and clams.
When I first moved out, my pantry wasn’t very impressive. Since I was a student and I had other priorities and not a lot of money to spare. It was as basic as it gets: cheap pasta, cheap rice, cheap tinned tuna, and not much else. I didn’t really care about it until I officially (officially in my mind, that is) I became an adult, about 6 years ago. I was already living in the UK and my palate was by then much wider and extremely curious. I started experimenting with different flavours and diverse cuisines and needed to start paying attention to how to store all the new ingredients appropriately.
It has been 6 years of adjusting, trying, and testing, but now I know exactly what I absolutely need in my kitchen to be able to cook on a daily basis without having to rush to the store or spending silly money unexpectedly.
This is a pantry for a household of two with a minimal meat consumption but no allergies nor other diet restrictions.
Here are my essentials:
Pasta: I like to change pasta shapes often so I rotate a lot. Also, I absolutely hate the taste of whole-wheat pasta, so you will never find that in my pantry.
Rice: Arborio or Carnaroli (mainly for risotto), Basmati or Jasmine (for anything really), and Bomba (mainly for paella) are always in my cupboard.
Oil: Extra Virgin Olive, Sesame, Coconut, and Sunflower.
Vinegar: Apple Cider, White Wine, Balsamic, and Rice.
Seeds and Nuts: Pine Nuts, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, and Almonds.
Spreads: Peanut Butter, Marmite, Apfelkraut, and Honey. All great not only for bread but also for cooking.
Spices and Herbs: Oregano, Black Pepper, Cumin, Garam Masala, Ras El Hanout, Dill, Rosemary, Thyme, Turmeric, Paprika, and many many more.
Flours and such: I’m not much of a baker so my essentials are Basic Flour, Whole-Wheat Self-Raising Flour, Baking Powder, Caster Sugar, Demerara Sugar, Muscovado Sugar, and Polenta.
Cans: Chickpeas, Red Kidney Beans, Butter Beans, Corn, Diced Tomatoes.
Fruits and Vegetables: Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, and Lemons.
Others: Eggs, Mustard, Tomato Paste, Soy Sauce, and Lentils.
In the freezer: I always make sure I have Peas and Spinach.
I also keep a little herb garden in my kitchen with mint, basil, rosemary, and sage.
Cardiff (Caerdydd in Welsh) is the capital city of beautiful Wales. It’s always ranked amongst the best cities to live in Europe, but often disregarded by travellers. Cardiff has a lot to offer, whether you are a sports enthusiast or a Doctor Who fan, a nature lover or a history nerd. This multicultural city has you covered.
After living here for almost 5 years, working with tourists and enjoying every corner of the city, I have made a compilation of the things I love the most about The ‘Diff. It’s a very personal list, not a generic one listing only the main attractions the city has to offer. These are things I absolutely adore about Cardiff and I hope visitors can discover and cherish.
I know, I know, it’s a really obvious one but it is so obvious for a very good reason. Cardiff Castle is the heart of the city. It looks beautiful under any type of weather and gives the Welsh capital a magical ambience and a lot of character.
From the Romans to the Normans and the Bute family amongst others, the history of the castle is a fascinating one. You can literally see the layers from different times; a Roman wall, a Norman keep, Gothic towers, opulent interiors. This castle has it all!
Castle’s tickets are a little pricey (£12 for the adult one) so it really depends on your budget and your priorities. In my opinion it’s absolutely worth it, specially during the months of March and April when the grass gets covered in white and yellow daffodils. If you decide against visiting the Castle, I would recommend to walk around its walls. Go inside Bute Park and get a gorgeous view of it.
What brings me to…
2-Parks, Oh So Many Parks!
Cardiff has more green space per person than any other city in the UK. It’s an absolute delight to hop from one park to another on a (rare) sunny day. Thanks to the great amount of parks, you can enjoy the change of seasons fully. There are so many different types of trees, plants, and flowers!
The most iconic parks in the city:
Bute Park:right in the heart of the city, surrounding the river Taff and part of Cardiff Castle. Plenty of events happen inside the park all year round. It looks specially beautiful in Autumn and Spring.
Roath Park: beautiful Victorian park with a gorgeous lake full of ducks, swans, and other birds, where you can hire rowing boats and pedalos. My favourite season to come here is Summer.
Top Tip: Follow the river up from Bute Park and hop from one park to another until you reach the beautiful Llandaff Cathedral.
*find out what my favourite park in Cardiff is at #6*
3-Arcades and Antique Shops
The Welsh capital is best defined by its labyrinth of Victorian and Edwardian arcades that connect every corner of the city centre. Here you can find all sorts of independent businesses like; a traditional second-hand bookstore, a coffee shop that roasts its own coffee, the oldest surviving record store in the world, and the cheese extravaganza that is Madame Fromage. Cardiff Arcades are beautiful to look at and exploring them, specially on a rainy day, is a must when visiting the city.
But not all the quirk in Cardiff is reserved to the Arcades, antique shops and markets can be found all over the city, although nothing compares to Jacobs Market. 4 floors of peculiar objects, e.g. military paraphernalia (way too much in my opinion), vintage clothes, and collector’s items. Make sure to check the website before you go since the opening times are as unusual as what they have in store.
The National Museum of Cardiff has it all; geology, archaeology, natural history, and of course, art from famous European artists to Welsh painters less known to the general public. It is a really impressive museum, well kept, and most importantly when travelling on a budget: free. It’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours, or the whole day if you wish. If time is an issue for you, make sure you check a museum map at the entry and choose the areas you don’t want to miss before venturing in.
Cardiff caters for the most alternative art lovers too, and has fantastic little art galleries and exhibitions all around the city. Chapter Arts Centre being the pinnacle of artsy venues in town. In there, you can find anything you need. The heart of the place is its café/bar/restaurant, a great open space perfect for socialising. But Chapter is so much more than that, it has a cinema, art exhibitions, and dance and yoga classes amongst many other activities.
Cardiff’s indoor market is probably the place from the list where I spend more time in. It has a very special feel to it that takes you back in time with its beautiful Victorian features and friendly and local vendors. It has everything you need and if like me, you don’t like to buy in big supermarket chains and prefer to support local businesses, Cardiff Market is a great place to go to.
Apart from great vegetable and fruit shops, fantastic butchers (A&S Griffiths being my favourite), you can find all sort of things there: textiles, souvenirs, vinyls, flowers, tools, etc. My favourite aspect being the food stalls on the first floor: delicious melt in your mouth Welsh cakes at Bakestone, the best vegetarian take-out and spice vendor Clancy’s, succulent pad thai at Thai Asian Delish, and so much more!
Top Tip: you can get very cheap and decent traditional Welsh breakfast and proper greasy British comfort food on the second floor with views over the whole market.
Considered one of the hippest neighbourhoods to live in the UK, the Canton/Pontcanna area is a must for the hipster inside you (you know it’s there, don’t lie to yourself).
The neighbourhood is home to Chapter Arts Centre (expanded at #4) but that is only the cherry on the top of the cake. From multicultural Canton to calm and green Pontcanna, this area has a lot to offer and is perfect for urban explorers who look for something off the radar that very few tourists get to enjoy.
Here are some of my favourite spots:
Craft Beer: Pipes is a small artisan brewery situated in the heart of Pontcanna. Some of their beers can be found on tap or bottle in selected places around the city. Every Saturday, they open a little stall in their HQ and sell their delicious craft beer by the bottle, and on the first Saturday of every month, together with the bottle sale, they also open a bar so you can enjoy them on site with a juicy burger.
Delicious Coffee: Next to Pipes, there is a little and very special coffee place called Lufkin. They roast their own coffee and are really passionate about the whole process. You can buy their 250g bags to enjoy at home or as a present for your favourite coffee lover friend. Have a coffee inside and experience a chilled and friendly atmosphere while drinking an honestly unbelievably tasty coffee.
Thompson’s Park: my favourite park in Cardiff. It feels a little bit like a secret garden since the pond and the bronze statue seem a bit forgotten and decadent. The flower beds are beautiful to look at and there is plenty of grass space to lay a blanket and enjoy a picnic, specially on the higher level of the park, where you get a stunning view in a peaceful and hidden corner of the city.
International Cuisines: the area is well known for its diversity and the food is a great example of it. Cowbridge Road East and its surroundings are full of tasty spots to eat like: Kimchi where you can experience a fun and delicious Korean evening, upscale Indian food at Purple Poppadom, Catalan cuisine at its finest in La Cuina, or Lebanese lunch paradise Falafel Wales.
7-Short Day Trips
Cardiff is a great city for The Base Camp style road trip. National parks, dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches, medieval castles, prehistoric monuments, and spectacular cathedrals are only a few hours by car from the city. However if your time is limited and you are not planning on driving, those trips can be a little too long and often expensive. But don’t worry, here I have 2 fantastic little short day trips for you.
Once the go-to destination for a Welsh summer holiday, it’s experiencing a resurgence in the last few years. The spotless clean sandy beach and its beautiful promenade make Barry Island one of the most attractive seaside little towns in the UK. Plenty of fish and chips shops, ice cream parlours, and arcades give an irresistible old-fashioned British charm to the place.
Barry Island is loved and enjoyed by Cardiffians all year round since it’s perfect for a calm and melancholic stroll on a winter morning, or for a fun-packed day with friends and family during the summer months.
How to get there: take the train from Cardiff Central station and get to Barry Island in exactly 30 minutes. Buy a same day return ticket for only £5.20 in the train station or go online.
Caerphilly is a town at the southern end of the Rhymney Valley, and in its centre lays the largest medieval castle in Wales and second biggest in Britain. It is one of the most formidable fortresses in the country and is said to have the most elaborate water defences in all Britain and a leaning tower locally known as the Pisa tower of Wales.
It is a very well maintained castle and the adult ticket price is £7.95. It looks gorgeous under any type of weather and comes to life once a year for The Big Cheese Festival, a great festival that celebrates the local culture and their famous cheese.
How to get there: take the train from Cardiff Central station and get to Caerphilly in exactly 19 minutes. Buy a same day return ticket for only £7 in the train station or go online.
I hope you come to visit soon and enjoy the area as much as I do!
I was recently visiting my family back in my hometown when my mother surprised me with this recipe. At the beginning I couldn’t believe what I was hearing “I now make a delicious Asian style chicken in a bao bun” she repeated to my shocked face. My mum, my amazing mum, that cooks delicious Spanish food was now playing around with Asian flavours and I had to try it!
“It’s very easy -she said- I was watching this cooking channel the other night and they were making some Asian chicken broth for noodles.” You know my inability to follow recipes, and now, you may also learn where it comes from. My mum, doesn’t follow recipes either, she takes ideas and then adapts them to her liking to the point that it barely resembles the initial recipe at the end. In my 30 years of life, I have never seen my mother eating noodles, and I wasn’t going to see it now either. Her take on the recipe had nothing to do with that, instead, she had changed it to the point that now it was Asian inspired shredded chicken in a bao bun!
This recipe also works for already cooked chicken leftovers skipping the boiling part.
Bollo de Pollo or Asian Style Chicken in a Bao Bun:
Small Whole Chicken
Red and Green Chillies
Salt and Pepper
Coriander (Or Parsley if you think Coriander tastes like soap)
For the mixture that will go into the bao bun:
Boiled eggs (optional)
Lamb’s Lettuce or Watercress to decorate
Bao buns can be shop bought. However, if you feel brave enough, you can follow this recipe. It is the best I have seen online and way easier than you would think.
In a pot, combine the whole chicken with every other ingredient chopped roughly. Fill with water and let it cook on a medium-low heat for around 2 and 1/2 hours.
Once cooked, turn the heat off and allow the pot cool down with everything still inside. This way the chicken will be juicy and filled with all the ingredients’ aromas.
Take the chicken and shred it once cooled. Don’t throw the broth, keep it in the fridge for other delicious recipes or freeze it for another time.
In a bowl combine the shredded chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, thinly chopped spring onions, pickles, and boiled eggs in cubes (if any) and mix. If using leftover chicken, add some fresh chopped chillies and a bit of grated ginger for an extra kick.
That’s it! Now you can just fill the bao buns and decorate however you like.
What to do with the broth you ask? I made noodles with it the other day. Added some vegetables and boiled rice noodles in the broth itself. It was yummy!