On Stereotypes / How to Use a River

I saw the phrase the other day ‘Berlin is not in Germany’ on some internet art or something. I can’t quite remember. Whilst this is geographically demonstrably untrue it was getting at the idea that Berlin is culturally different to other Germany cities. It was a somewhat arrogant phrase, but there is some truth to it. Berlin is different to other German cities and does feel less stereotypically German. Berlin is my favourite city I have been to in Germany.

If Berlin does not represent classic German stereotypes then my next destination certainly does.; the Bavarian powerhouse of Munich. Associated in the mind with steins of beer, lederhosen, and brass bands these are all present in Munich, whether out of tradition or as a pastiche for tourists I’m not sure. I imagine the truth is somewhere between the two, although I still felt there were fewer of all these than I had imagined there would be. In 30 degree heat I don’t quite understand why lederhosen remains a outfit of choice.

I liked Munich although it isn’t the prettiest of places, the most vibrant of places, or the most interesting of places. The old town area is pretty, but not particularly so. However, it contains modern shops, which shows the area hasn’t been falsely preserved just for tourism. It is a city centre that retains the best of the historic buildings, but has made sure it is still living in the present.

Another thing I liked about Munich was how the Bavarian identity is still there. It is not overwhelming to the senses, but there is a cohesive sense that this is Munich, this is Bavaria.

The crucial reason I liked Munich though is its river, the Isar. This is not a particularly attractive river. In places it’s quite unattractive, but the big advantage over many city rivers it has is that people can go down to the banks where it is shallow and not fast flowing, and in the incredible heat they can play in the water, they can swim, float, splash. This means that there was scores of people there on the scorching Friday evening I went and on the Saturday afternoon when I wondered around the Englischer Garten (whatever that means), where the river and various streams also run through. This is the ideal use for a river in a city and it’s just a shame most rivers don’t seem to be suitable for this.

After Munich I left Germany for the final time on this tour and entered into a new country for me – Austria – and the home of Mozart – Salzburg. I can understand why young Wolfgang Amadeus became a rather good musician given that there isn’t much else to do in this city. That said, it is pretty, surrounded by mountains with a river flowing in the historic centre and some grand architecture scattered throughout. For grand architecture though, I’m eagerly looking forward to my next stop in Vienna.



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