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A Munich Vacation: A Racism Nightmare/Amazing City

Updated on February 12, 2009
Lemonade Beer!
Lemonade Beer!
The german countryside at sunrise
The german countryside at sunrise
A view of downtown from the Englischer Garten
A view of downtown from the Englischer Garten
Greedy Ducks
Greedy Ducks
Pirate Graffiti! How else did it get there?
Pirate Graffiti! How else did it get there?
Inside 'the tent'
Inside 'the tent'
The Chinese Pagoda w/beer garden
The Chinese Pagoda w/beer garden
A marathon in the olympic village
A marathon in the olympic village
End of the marathon
End of the marathon

Demonstration AGAINST Neo-Nazis in Munich

Neo-Nazi demonstration in Munich

I guess I should have expected it from the city that brought us Hitler. But I was not really expecting much when, early in the morning, I got off the night train and walked the short distance to downtown, the Marienplatz.

Munich is a wonderful city. It’s one of Germany’s hidden treasures. Berlin is nice. Frankfurt is dangerous. But Munich is a strange little town that seems to live in a world all its own.

From the Marienplatz with its animatronic Rathaus-Glockenspiel to the magnificent twin towered Frauenkirche to the Englischer Gartens to the old ruins of the infamous Munich Olympics, the city has much that the avid site-seer would enjoy, but its when you get off the beaten track that you discover some of the more interesting things Munich has to discover.

Your first stop should be the Englisher garten: a massive botanical garten that sits within walking distance of the downtown area. The Englischer garten has everything you need, statues, running tracks, teahouses, duckponds (with very pushy geese. Don’t feed them or they’ll bowl you over) but in the centre of the park is what you’re really looking for, the Chinese Pagoda (it’s a massive structure made to resemble the great pagoda in China) and underneath this pagoda is one of Germany’s famous beergardens. Get a rack of ribs and a litre of beer and sit back to enjoy the oompa band and some unbeatable atmosphere.

But caution, in Munich its common to find a particular beer infused with Lemonade. Or in other words, lemonade beer. What at first sounds like two incompatible objects, like broccoli and cheese, but which instead turns into something you truly have to taste to believe. However, my caution is this: lemonade beer is so good, you wont realise you’re drunk until its all over. Don’t be like me and wonder aimlessly until you stumble into the Olympic village in the midst of a marathon and have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

The thing about Munich is that it always surprises you. A Chinese pagoda rises up out of a park. Beer is made with lemonade. Racist Irishman assault you at every corner. At so point during my visit, (while being mostly un-inebriated) I was walking down the street and a German man, seeing me with my map, asks me in English for directions to something, but before I can say anything, another man buts in to supply the information. From his accent, I gather he’s Irish. The Irishman is older, with silver hair, a red face and quick eyes.

He gives directions then turns to me. “Nice day it is,” he says.

“Sure,” I reply. A few more lines of small talk later he launches into a racist tirade. He tells me about the coming civil war between Europe and its Muslim immigrants. He tells me the police are prepared. They’ve (keep this to yourself) built police stations like bunkers to repel the menace when it happens. I keep going, “uh huh uh huh,” while slowly edging away.

Then he says to me. “Sometimes, these people make me physically ill. I just want to do something about it, you know.”

At this point, I get a little scared. I tell him perhaps he shouldn’t be hasty. Then he does the strangest thing: he quickly agrees with me, says goodbye, then pivots around and darts off down an alley. I am left standing there perplexed and uneasy. I try to put him out of my mind and start walking down the street, but I swear, not five minutes later two police cars and an ambulance go roaring in the direction of the Irishman and I think Oh god, what did he do? (I searched the papers afterwards but didn’t hear about any Munich hate murders, so its okay. Sort of).

The odd thing was this wasn’t the only incidence of racism I encountered in Munich. I don’t know whether it being the city that launched a thousand Nazis, but the place seems to affect or draw people of that sort into it. There was the Munich massacre at the Olympics in 1972, too. The place seems a racial hotbed. It’s something to watch out when travelling there. Even to this day, Munich is the seat of demonstrators pro/against neo-nazis and their supporters. I came across a demonstration on the second day. It was a march down one of Munich’s famous wide street lanes. My German being bad, I couldn’t exactly tell whether the demonstration was for or against racial intolerance, but from the signs, pictures and the way they were dressed, I know they were made about something and willing to disrupt downtown traffic to tell people about it.

Places to stay: Munich has plenty of old world hotels which will no doubt suit all your means, but if you’re on a budget or looking for something a little more adventurous, consider, “The Tent.”

The tent is a massive hostel with a capacity in the hundreds. It’s a giant tent about a fifteen minute tram ride outside of downtown. You store your valuables in nearby lockers and everyone sleeps together in double decker beds in a communal space underneath the giant tent. And for 10 euros a night, the price can’t be beaten. (I couldn’t do it) And its fun too. Beer is cheap. And on good weather nights, most of the lodgers gather around a giant campfire and share stories of their travels, reminisce about old times, and try to convince girls to accompany them to someplace a little more private.

One thing I did notice was again, the tent’s inhabitants were mostly white, American, European, Canadian and Australians. The only exceptions, a young Asian couple and few black Americans kept mostly to themselves, even in the bonfire area, never really opening up conversation with anybody else. It’s a small thing, but I couldn’t help noticing it after the past day’s events.

Yes there seems to be an underlying tone of racism in the city, but I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying the other wonders that travel to Munich can offer the wide-eyed explorer. It’s a city of contradictions with a racist past and a Chinese pagoda which seems at times kitsch and at times, a mockery. Munich has been a place of racial contention in the past and it may be again, but the city is an experience that any European traveller should take in at least once.


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