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June 2007

How to BBQ

As with many other cultural institutions, Americans often believe that we both invented and perfected the art of barbecuing. In fact, there are few other culinary traditions that can be said to have such global reach. The word “barbecue” comes from an indigenous Caribbean term for sacred fire pits. Today, Australians love to eat off the barbie, Japanese are crazy for Yakiniku, and here in Munich, summer nights were made for grillen. For a large urban area, the popularity of grilling in Munich is striking, but a wealth of regulations keep the fires from getting out of control. It may be true, as the joke goes, that Germans like to have a rule for everything. In the case of grilling, though, following the established guidelines is not just a nod to authority, but a way to protect Munich’s greenery and yourself. If that’s not reason enough to mindfully tend your fires, the police could show up to slap you with a heavy fine that might just ruin your appetite.

Grilling on balconies or in gardens is regulated only by your peers: Homeowners may grill to their stomach’s content as long as neighbors do not complain. Other outdoor grilling spots, however, require a little travel. The Isar is convenient to everything in Munich, but grilling on the banks is prohibited in the entire inner city area (between Brudermühlbrücke in the south and Oberföhringer barrage in the north). Such regulations protect the greenery that is a precious rarity in most large cities. They also protect city residents: Smoke keeps local residents closed up in air-tight apartments through the summer. Waterside dining is possible, however, at other points farther north and south along the Isar. Signs clearly mark appropriate areas.

There are, of course, other waterside options nearby. Many local lakes are abutted by signed grilling areas: Langwieder See, Feldmochinger See, Fasanerie See, and the Lerchenauer See, for example. Other settings appropriate for a barbecue include Westpark, Ostpark, the Hirschgarten, and the Neuhofener Berg in Mittersendling. As with the lakes, grilling areas in each of the parks are clearly demarcated. City planners carefully chose spots in which grilling presents the least risk to wildlife and other park patrons, so be sure to stay within those areas.

Once your setting is established, it’s time to get into the heat of things. As fueling up a fire is obviously the most dangerous aspect of a barbecue, use common safety sense and keep flammable objects far away. Consideration for others, though, is just as important as for yourself. Use dry wood coals or gas to minimize the smoke produced. Once your party is burning out, place trash and cooled embers in the provided receptacles. You can further reduce your ecological footprint—and costs to the city—by taking waste with you. Contracted firms clean the parks on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Last year, the cost of this grill-related cleanup was more than € 5000 in Westpark alone.

This past April, more than 2500 concert-goers were evacuated from Gasteig, as clouds of smoke began to fill the hall. The curtain rose again forty minutes later, after the source was determined to be nothing more than an illicit grill on the nearby Isar banks. This anecdote proves that the possible consequences of grilling can exceed the bounds of imagination. City officials have established these rules to deal with potential scenarios, and it’s best to follow their guidelines. A brochure about grilling—including maps of the allowed areas—is available in City Hall, or in the foyer of the Baureferat (Building Department) on Friedenstrasse 40. Would-be-grillers with specific questions can call the Munich Grill Telephone at 089-233 279 00.

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