Millionendorf: the village of a million people

To be quite honest, when I found out that I was required to write a blog about Munich, I was a little less than excited. While I know that each spot we will travel to on Cultural Routes is going to be amazing, I haven’t been the most excited to visit Munich. Maybe it’s because Munich is one of the lesser “famous” cities that we are traveling to, or maybe it is because I didn’t have the best time when I visited Munich in the 4th grade.

When I was in 4th grade, my family went on an incredible trip throughout Europe (we actually visited many places that we will go to on CR), but what can a 4th grader truly understand when immersed in European culture? When I visited Munich, all I can remember is dreary weather and accidentally stumbling into the Hofbrauhaus trying to find a nice place to eat dinner. For those of you who do not know, the Hofbrauhaus is a very large beer hall. And as an American family desiring a peaceful dinner, you can conclude that this was not the Beasley’s scene (I’m pretty sure we ended up at the Hard Rock Café…). I also remember encountering some less-than-friendly Germans in Munich, and as a boy used to southern hospitality, I wasn’t the biggest fan. Honestly, other than these three things, I can’t remember much about Munich, but for some reason, I have a tainted view of this city.

After spending some time researching Munich, I’m honestly unsure why I have had such a negative, skeptical outlook on Munich. Truthfully, I am now excited to explore this city. From what I have found, Munich seems to have the best of both worlds. It’s historic, yet modern. It has deep religious and historic roots, but it is also home to booming industries, like BMW.

I also discovered that the locals in Munich are very proud of their city. They take pride in their customs and traditions, which I appreciate, especially for a city that has become a tourist destination. It is refreshing to hear that this city sticks to its “routes” and doesn’t easily compromise its traditions (or so it seems). From what I have begun to understand, I believe that Munich truly is a German city, quaint but full of character and culture.

After World War II, Munich was damaged horribly, but the city had a choice to make regarding its future. Interestingly enough, Munich decided to rebuild its old town, conserving the architecture style of its historic buildings. In fact, prior to its destruction, the Nazis photographed the entire city, and the city was rebuilt based primarily off these photographs. There were even strict regulations put in place to maintain the style of Munich’s Old World, such as buildings could not (and still cannot) exceed the height of the church spires. The people of Munich remembered their city’s former glory, and they desired to maintain its status as one of Germany’s cultural, economic and touristic capitals. Through all of this, it is evident that there is a strong sense of community among the people of Munich (something that I am obviously attracted to, due to my love of people and community). This explains why a nickname for Munich is Millionendorf, which means “village of a million people”.

After learning all of this, I am truly curious to understand the people of Munich. Why are the people of Munich still proud of their city? I understand why the citizens of the 1950s would want to keep the traditions alive, but what continues that desire? Why is there this sense of community among the people of Munich that appears to be dissimilar from other cities? I am also curious of how Munich has maintained the quaint, small-town feeling, despite its large population (about 1.5 million people). How does this city maintain that balance?

The obvious answer to these questions will require observation. In order to understand this sense of pride and community of Munich, I am going to have to observe the encounters that the locals have with one another. Are they friendly with each other, as they appear to be based off my research? Do they take pride in the historic buildings they pass by? I will need to observe these basic tendencies and lifestyles. I also assume that I am going to need to actually interact with these people. I need to ask questions, and actually seek to understand why they are so proud, and why they are passionate about the traditions and cultures. Even as an extreme extrovert, interacting with local Germans frightens me a bit. I am intrigued to understand these people, but interacting with complete strangers from a foreign country is definitely out of my comfort zone.

I guess we will eventually see. But for now, my goal for Munich is to prove my 4th grade self wrong and begin to see what Munich really is all about.