A mere 18 miles from the bosom of the German Alps, on the banks of the river Isar, is the capital of the German state of Bavaria: Munich. It is also the spiritual home of BMW and the ever-successful football team FC Bayern Munich, but moreover it is a city of verdant and extensive parks, beer gardens and a civic architecture that survived (or was rebuilt after) World War II, giving it an air of a well-preserved, affluent market town rather than Germany's third-largest city.
It is fitting that Munich should host the X Games, as it has a long and intimate relationship with sports, both extreme and mainstream. It was host to the 1972 Olympics, and it is within this historic facility -- the Olympiastadion -- that the X Games will unfold.
Get your sweat on
The Englischer Garten -- aka the largest urban park in the world -- is a hive of activity. Stroll through on a weekend and expect to see a Sunday softball league, regular touch-rugby games, plenty of strap lining and Munich's most unusual activity: surfing.
There are two standing waves in the city: Eisbach, in the Englischer Garten, and Flosslände, which is in the 'burbs. Both crowded, Flosslände is the mellower of the waves but also more fickle and a little out of town, while the Eisbach is meaner, better left to experienced surfers and sits in the middle of the city. While Flosslände is more of a summer wave, the Eisbach is surfed year-round, the only restrictions being the winter chill and sometimes the flow of water being diverted by the city.
There are also a ton of skate spots around, both purpose built and "natural." They range from fun -- like the miniramp and street zone of the Feierwerk Skateplaza and the Dachau Bowl -- to frightening, like the steeps and deeps of the Keyhole and Hirschgarten bowls. If you're going to skate street, watch out for the local 5-0, as they like nothing more than busting skaters.
If you are short of kit for any board-related sport while in the city, fear not, as countless shops sell the relevant hardware. These include Santo Loco, which is more surf oriented, and the superstore-size Planet Sports.
Finally, if you're sick of city life, the mountains are only a short train ride away. Pro snowboarder David Benedek, a Munich local, recommends Wallberg or Alpspitze as two less-crowded winter resorts close to the city, but his resort of choice for riding would be Zugspitze. (Zugspitze's lifts are open during the summer, but due to the depletion of the glacier, you can no longer snowboard there in the summer months.) Groups of five or fewer can travel by train anywhere in the state on a Bayern Ticket, which costs 28 euro per person and enables ticket holders to ride the lifts once in the mountains.
Be a tourist
There are three main ways to get around Munich: subway, tram and bike. The city is crisscrossed by cycle lanes, and other road users treat cyclists like sacred cows.
There are two main zones to chill outside of the Englischer Garten: Gärtnerplatz and the banks of the Isar. Both require a stop at the kiosk at the bridge end of the Fraunhoferstrasse U-Bahn station to buy your favorite tipple and enhance your lounging time.
Culture vultures should make a beeline for the arts district of Schwabing, in the northern part of Munich, which features everything from Romanesque sculpture in the Glyptothek to modern masterpieces at the Pinakothek Der Moderne. This is also the main student neighborhood, so there's no shortage of bars and cafés.
Other museums worth a visit are those of BMW, on the west side of town; the Deutsches Museum, the world's largest museum of technology and science; and the sobering memorial site of the Dachau concentration camp.
Places to stay
If you have money to burn, check into Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski on Munich's swanky Maximilian Strasse. Alternatively, save your pennies and stay at Motel One in Ostbahnhof. There are also loads of hostels downtown, with Wombat's taking in its fair share of stray skaters and snowboarders. Or pitch a tent at the Flosslände campsite and get the wave to yourself at dawn.
Places to eat
For organic food with big beers, visit the open-air beer garden of Muffatwerk or take a walk up the hill to the Hofbräukeller for some meat and dumplings. But Munich's best-kept secrets are Chopan, an Afghan restaurant on Rosenheimer Strasse, and the central Indian cuisine of Taj Mahal on Nymphenburger Strasse.
Meandering around Munich
Munich -- about to become known for hosting the X Games and some of the best skateboarding on the planet -- has long been synonymous with Oktoberfest, the biggest beer festival in the world. Here, local skateboarder Daniel marries the two concepts seamlessly. Having just come from the fall festivities, wearing traditional Bavarian clothes, he was all hyped up for a late-night session. He pulls off a frontside air in Munich Hirschgarten Bowlpark.
No overview of Munich is complete without at least passing mention of Oktoberfest, which runs Sept. 21 to Oct. 6 this year. More than 6 million revelers descend on the city annually to drink a whopping 7 million liters of beer -- brewed to exacting purity specifications and only within the city limits.
Whatever your taste in sports, food and culture, Munich can feed your need. Stay tuned to XGames.com for information on live competition, music and all things X. We'll see you June 27-30!