Munich Trade Fair: That’s what it’s like this year at the Free – Munich leisure fair

The Bundeswehr is recruiting at the back left in Hall A6, right next to the children’s play paradise. Lieutenant Colonel Dominik Schwez is easy to see despite the camouflage, but difficult to understand. He has to speak loudly to drown out the shouting coming from the ping pong table. “The trade fair management assigned us the space,” he says. The offer can be flexibly adapted to the visitors here at the stand. “The little ones are far removed from our target group in terms of age.” Julian, Elias and Sonja’s parents take note of this with reassurance. Your children are kneeling over a malady plastic comrade: first aid crash course with soldiers. “It’s much more exciting than at school” here at the Free leisure fair, they say.

Free is Bavaria’s largest travel and leisure trade fair. Until Sunday, around 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries will be promoting tried and tested and new products in eight halls at the Munich Trade Fair: three of them for camping and caravanning, three for travel near and far, one for cycling and half for water sports. The remaining half of Hall A6 is occupied by outdoor and fitness providers – including the Bundeswehr. A good starting point for a tour of the Free.

If you follow the ricochet balls from the children’s paradise, you have to be careful not to run into the climbing tower of the German Alpine Club. Children clamber up there all the time, ring the cowbell and then abseil down again. Even on this Wednesday, the first day of the Free, there is already a considerable queue waiting in front of the tower. Families with children who want to avoid the hustle and bustle on the weekend are here.

The carnival holidays are a good time to plan your summer vacation. At least that’s what Kilian’s parents thought, but they have completely different worries at the moment. Kilian is already wearing his change of swimming trunks. He stands alone on a stand-up paddle board in the middle of the large water basin in Hall A6. “The water is really cold!” he calls out to his parents, grinning. What Kilian doesn’t know yet, but certainly suspects: in three weeks he will get exactly this board for his birthday. In summer we continue on Lake Chiemsee or in Greece. Vacation planning is going slowly – “You can’t get very far at the trade fair with a child,” complains Kilian’s father, laughing.

You can take a first aid crash course with soldiers at the Bundeswehr stand.

(Photo: Catherina Hess)

Free leisure fair: You can try out stand-up paddle boards in a large water basin.Free leisure fair: You can try out stand-up paddle boards in a large water basin.

You can try out stand-up paddle boards in a large water pool.

(Photo: Catherina Hess)

The next hall already offers a variety of possible answers to the question of where to go this summer. It smells like sausage in A5. Kabanossi and Kletzerl, which are raw sausages from Austria. All travel destinations that are easily accessible by train are represented here: from Styria through the Zillertal, over the Neckar up to Cuxhaven. A longer stopover is planned in Upper Bavaria, the partner region of this edition of Free.

On the edge of the “Bavaria event area” stands “Bayern Ambassador” Bernhard “Ludwig” Rieger, middle name and beard in Kini style. With the color palette in one hand and the brush in the other, he traces the gold decoration of a window frame. However, it is only painted on, “purely decorative, as we know from the facades south of Munich,” explains Lüftlmaler Rieger. And in his free time? Trail running between King Ludwig’s mountain huts.

Choosing Upper Bavaria as a partner region, i.e. showing yourself as locally connected, has a strategic background. Sustainability is considered a trend in the travel industry. However, if you walk from Upper Bavaria over to Hall A4, you will see a completely different face of the Free. The stands of Aida, Dream Yacht Worldwide and MSC Cruises are lined up here. Right next to it there is a “cruise talk” with a primarily older audience. One more stand further: the “Cruise Café”.

Leisure Fair Free: "Bavaria ambassador" and Lüftl painter Bernhard "Ludwig" Rieger.Leisure Fair Free: "Bavaria ambassador" and Lüftl painter Bernhard "Ludwig" Rieger.

“Bavaria ambassador” and Lüftl painter Bernhard “Ludwig” Rieger.

(Photo: Catherina Hess)

Free leisure fair: At Free you can find everything you need for camping.Free leisure fair: At Free you can find everything you need for camping.

On the Free you will find everything you need for camping.

(Photo: Catherina Hess)

After a refreshment in the beer garden in Hall A3, we head past the Seychelles and Munich Airport to the B halls. Through B3, the world of tents, B4, the van paradise, and B5, where the really big boxes live. A child on a neon-colored hoverboard zooms along the paths, deftly dodging the couples checking out the luxurious RVs. A scene that happens all the time at campsites.

In the late afternoon the crowd of visitors thins out. Only in A5, in Upper Bavaria, is Gaudi still reigning. Christa Schmidt and Georg Sedlmeier are sitting under the Erdinger maypole, each with a beer. “Everything has become much more expensive here, but we got the wheat beer for free,” says Schmidt. She has been coming to the Free for many years and we know the two of them here. They also went to the leisure fair in Stuttgart just to see their friends from Erding. By motorhome, of course.

Next to the table there is a rolling suitcase with numerous travel brochures sticking out of it. When a woman’s voice booms through the hall at 6 p.m. sharp and asks the last visitors to go home, Christa Schmidt takes a small sip. Her glass is still half full, she is in no hurry. That’s what leisure time is all about, enjoying the peace and quiet.

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