Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scenes From Munich's Viktualienmarkt and an Avocado Brawl Remembered

When I lived in Munich the Viktualienmarkt was the place to find exotic spices and produce, the biggest array of cheeses, herbs, teas, locally made syrups and spirits, fresh meats, fish, fowl and flowers and lots of little restaurants, wine shops, and food stalls tucked into every corner. 

Cheeses From Britain

From weisswurst to falafel, there is something for everyone's palate here from many corners of the globe. For expats especially, it's a chance to buy a little taste of home. 

Turkish Candy

For me, this market has been the scene of so many fond memories of all those years I spent in Munich. Ordering our Thanksgiving turkeys, grabbing a nosh or coffee with friends, celebrating Fasching (Karneval in Munich) and numerous excursions to hunt for ripe avocados. I once had an epic fight with a vendor there over-ripe avocados.

A Horse Butcher. Never could summon the courage to go in there.

When selecting produce, one is not allowed to touch or squeeze. You point to what you want and the sellers pride themselves on picking the best available from the display. Most of us expats and tourists learned this the hard way, by getting reprimanded after handling the merchandise.

Bavarian Tea

A few times a year, my friend Erin and I would throw a Mexican fiesta for our friends. We both moved to Munich from years of living in Los Angeles and desperately missed California style Mexican food. So we would make our own nachos, guacamole, salsa, and fajitas, blend up a bottomless pitcher of frozen margaritas, invite about 30 friends and party down. One time we even managed to find a piƱata.

Dragon Fruit

Since all the ingredients for this fiesta were not readily available in Munich at one place, we would divide up the list and go on what always seemed to be a mad scavenger hunt. For at least two weeks before the party, texts were flying back and forth between us, "Found plain tortilla chips at Karstadt. Bought last 2 bags." or "Yay! Snagged 3 ripe Hass avocados at Tengelmann." and so on.

Wurst Stand

One time, a day or so before one of these parties, I was zipping by the Viktualienmarkt on my way to an appointment and spied some Hass avocados on display. I stopped immediately and asked the vendor if they were ripe. She said yes. I was psyched and asked for 8. She handed them over to me and the avocados were so hard I would have been charged with manslaughter if I hit someone with the bag. I immediately tried to pass them back to her and asked for ripe ones as there was no way the ones she was trying to sell me would be ripe in time for the party, let alone in the next year. She looked at me like I was crazy and insisted they were ripe. I insisted on returning them and asked again, changing the word from "ripe" to "soft" and tried to explain why I needed them soft, what I was making with them, blah blah.  Again, more crazy looks, she insisting these were ripe and we went back and forth several times with "ja" "nein"  "ja" "nein", totally like kindergarten. 

Wild Game Shop 
Smoked Austrian Specialties

She finally lost her patience with me at started yelling, saying these were perfect avocados I could eat immediately. In my experience, Germans don't get the concept of a ripe avocado. On the rare occasion you get served a slice of avocado in a restaurant, it is usually as hard as a rock. They throw out the soft, ripe ones. Go Figure.

Then she crossed the potential guacamole line, treated me like a stupid foreigner and told me I had no concept of fresh food or what a ripe avocado was. OK, that was it. I dramatically plunked the bag of avocados right on top of the rest of the pile at the stand and let loose. In my bad German and gesturing wildly, I told her I was from California, I had avocado trees in my garden, ate them practically daily, certainly knew exactly what a ripe one was and so on and so on. And because she was so condescending, she could stick her avocados where the sun could never ripen them. 

Very Phallic Looking White Asparagus
White Asparagus Wine

Did I mention a crowd had gathered at this point? Well probably not over the fight, they more likely were just trying to buy some produce from her. At least I provided some entertainment while they were waiting. 

I stalked off. I'm such a drama queen sometimes.

Spices, Herbs, and Nuts
Spanish butcher

I have traveled to over 50 countries and have never had a bad experience with a vendor except for this one. I am from the anti-ugly American school of travel. I don't do tour groups or big hotels, respect the locals and their traditions, dress appropriately and always learn a few important words of the language before I go. Good morning, please, thank you and where is the bathroom? are alway good places to start. I probably should have just told her it was a misunderstanding, apologized and walked away. 

Why did I feel the need to be right? Because she was so arrogant. It set me off. OK I was arrogant too. But her first. So there. The truth is, for Germany those were perfectly good avocados for immediate consumption. For guac eaters, not even close. It was a cultural culinary clash. I am not proud of the fact I lost it on her, vowed to do better next time but the story still makes us all laugh. 

News Flash: 

Crazy Redheaded American Pitches Epic Avocado Fit at Viktualienmarkt

The bottom line? Don't stand between me and my guac.

So Many Potato Varieties, So Little Time 

Back to the market. 

Dried Kiwis
Dried Pears
Decorative Easter Eggshells

In the center of the market is a beer garden:

German Businessman's Lunch

The market also sells tons of nonedible handmade items:


A gourmet paradise in the heart of the city, the market is a fantastic place to explore repeatedly. Every time I go there I find something new to buy or try. Here are some of the items I picked up on a recent visit to Munich:

Cheddar Cheese with Mango and Ginger
Dandelion Syrup
Truffle Bruschetta Mix
Just Add Water and Oil
Crosses Made Out of Pussy Willow. I Bought One as an Easter Present for my Devoutly Catholic MIL

Some Viktualienmarkt Facts
  • The name comes from the latin word victual which means food.
  • Established in 1807 by King Maximilian I, the market was originally a herb market.
  • In WWII the market was badly damaged and city officials briefly thought about removing it all together.
  • It has about 140 stalls and booths and covers 22,000 square meters or about 5.5 acres.
  •  The Market has its own website.

If you are visiting Munich, the market is hard to miss but don't miss it and if you happen to see an American fighting with a vendor over avocados, just roll your eyes and walk on by.


  1. Oh my gosh this is gorgeous! I would be so poor if I had a market this amazing near me...

  2. OMG I wish we had markets like that in Vermont. You'd think we'd have the most fabulous food here, but we don't. The Farmer's Markets are small, there's good food to be had, just not the variety that you've shown.
    I so want to try one of those Dragonfruit!
    I've never really thought about going to Munich. I'm always a sucker for France, but you've convinced me in one post to put Munich on the list.

  3. I studied abroad in Bonn in the Spring and this makes me miss Germany so much!!! Love the pics.

  4. It looks like a fantastic market and great place to shop. Were it close at hand I'd never get anything done. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  5. I know this comment is a few months late but regarding the Avocado lady - I feel for you. I live in Munich and often try American (I'm from PA) or French (My husband French) recipes for which I need something specific. I often get treated like a crazy foreigner except at Galleria Kaufhof where the butchers are always willing to help with special cuts of meat!


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