Munich - Modernity, beer and cultural tensions

Trip Start May 05, 2008
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Trip End May 09, 2009


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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Munich is a large cosmopolitan and happening town and it dazzled us a little bit, since we had spent the past 10 days in small and medium size towns. There certainly is a lot to see and do here, and like a few other cities on the trip, we´re leaving tomorrow feeling that we simply missed out on a lot. The town is steeped in history, from its gothic town hall, to its majestic Baroque churches and a variety of 3rd Reich architecture. But Munich does not feel like a city living in the past: it is a quite happening place. In some ways, it reminds us the most of North America since London, though there are some important differences. The city´s throbbing hearts are its beer gardens and halls, where many hundreds of inebriated and correspondigly happy people gather round giant 1-liter mugs of excellent beer served by waiters wearing lederhosen and listen to oompah bands dressed much the same way. We wouldn´t have believed the sterotype, had we not gone ourselves to about 3 of these gardens to check it out for ourselves, including the one beer hall where Hitler launched his failed ´´beer hall putsch´´ (after which he ended up in prison and wrote Mein Kampf, and everyone knows the rest...) Once you´re there you can see why the place is a riot in the making, though only a fool would not realize that people who drink as much beer as in that place would be easy to rouse but would forget in about 5 minutes why they are in the rabble in the first place, which is probably why the putsch failed, even if racial tensions must have been prominent enough back then.
Speaking of racial tensions, we noticed a fair bit of that in modern Munich. We have never seen such a concentration of fundamentalist muslims in any western city to date, and they do not seem to mix very well with the germans. The city seems to be going through a new bout of ghettoization, which is evident downtown in the fact that cafes are the almost exclusive domain of muslims while the germans congregate in the beer gardens. It doesn´t take a genius to figure out that communities which have a very different culture, live side by side but don´t mix in social situations will sooner or later come to a conflict. Which considering the historical precedents of this place can be quite worrying.
On a lighter note, we also happened to visit a very large English-style park in the heart of Munich, where as the urban legend goes, otherwise very respectable Germans go sun-bathing in the full monty. Again we can personally attest that this is not an urban legend, and that the kind of people (men) engaging in this practice are not exactly the type who add to the natural beauty of the park... Anyway, it does make this country seem a little bit more puzzling, since we have seen evidence of other such contrasts. Tomorrow therefore will be auf wiedersehen to Deutschland but not forever, since we intend to come back and visit the rest of it.
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