Do you ever experience the somewhat pleasurable dilemma when a beautiful image gets stuck in your head? It’s sort of like that favourite photo you snapped on holiday on the Amalfi Coast that’s pinned to your bulletin board (remember when you used to print photos?), only this one is stuck on the inside of your forehead and it’s with you every waking minute and occasionally in your dreams. For some it might be a picture of a loved one on a special occasion, for others it might be a snapshot of a favourite dish but in many cases it will be an image that represents a place that made them particularly happy.
Do you have such a picture filed away that you reference when you think about a little corner of the city or slice of the countryside that made you especially happy? If you couldn’t share it physically and had to describe it, what are the elements that would make it stand out? Is it a big vista with buildings, a coastline and a sunset or is it a much tinier tableau with only a few details such as a doorway, pavement, some elegantly potted plants and late-morning shadows?
In mid-May I swung through Munich for an event we hosted with our friends from the Geneva-based bank Pictet and managed to miss my flight to Sydney via Dubai. Munich is one of those cities where I’m always happy to have a few extra hours to explore, so I was thrilled to spend a bit longer with guests and colleagues at our event and then have the following morning to run around before heading to the airport. While I wasn’t all that fired up about a stopover in Dubai, I was most definitely looking forward to being in Sydney for a few days and escaping the slightly heavy yet chilly weather that had settled over the Bavarian capital. En route to the airport I asked the taxi driver to make a stop along Leopoldstrasse as I wanted to check out a café/bar that had long been on my “to visit” list but I’d somehow managed to miss. Already late for my flight, I told the driver this would be a flying visit and that he should drop me off and then turn the car around so we’d be in a position to make a snappy dash to the airport. As this particular establishment was part of local hospitality man Rudi Kull’s empire, I was pretty sure I was going to like what I saw but also wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The name Bar Giornale already offered plenty of promise and I had images of regulars sipping coffees and fresh orange juice, reading copies of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, faz and Die Zeit and easing into their mornings.
As I walked across the slightly damp terrace, a couple of staff in nice aprons were mopping off chairs and setting up for the day. Surrounded by greenery and protected by a canopy of enormous trees, the sprawling terrace was cut off from the traffic of Leopoldstrasse and was like its own little world in the heart of the city. The outdoor furniture was a mix of classic, mid-century Swiss spaghetti-strap chairs in yellow and green and local Biergarten tables and chairs in dark, army olive. I paused to smell the warm, moist notes as the sun started to peek through and heat up the shrubs and trees and pictured what the terrace would be like in seven hours when people would be pulling up on their bikes, greeting friends and ordering tall beers and Aperol spritzes. I wanted to be part of that scene.
Stepping inside the bar, it didn’t disappoint. The lighting was low, the decor was woody and dark and, as predicted, there was a pleasant hush as people read their dailies and sipped cappuccinos. In the far corner the wait staff were having a late-morning briefing and a smiley Italian girl manning the bar asked me if I wanted a coffee or juice. It was hard to resist and as I looked at my watch and considered my flight to a distant continent, I nodded to her and she set about grinding some beans. I knocked back the coffee, poked my head in the dining room and then went back outside for another look around the terrace. What was it about the setting that made it so inviting? Was it the combination of sensible outdoor furniture and mature greenery in the heart of a well-run city? Was it the promise of a beautifully run bar filled with equally beautiful patrons? Or was it the simple fact that so much emphasis had been placed on creating a civilised place for people to either start or finish their day with proper newspapers, good beverages and nice food? Whatever the combo, this is the image that I’ve been living with for the past few weeks and that helped guide this issue to press. When we think about what makes our cities work, it’s not just the shiny trams and good housing stock that tally up to create liveable cities but also the entrepreneurs who create the businesses and the buzz that define and often reinvent whole neighbourhoods. I hope you’ll enjoy this bumper summer issue and ensure you speak to your friendly, local newsagent to reserve your copy of the escapist – our new launch out on newsstands from 16 July. Thank you for your support and have a lovely summer.
For more from our editor in chief, read his column in the ‘FT Weekend’.