Saturday, March 29, 2008


At the suggestion of Troy, from Munich Daily Photo, I went to see the last remaining units in the Olympiadorf.

I remember being slightly shocked and intrigued by this bunker style student housing when I initially came to Munich and went to the Olympic park. They were brightly colored and looked slightly decrepit. It's a dichotomy since Munich is known for being a posh and wealthy city and this looks like a small piece of rebellious Berlin within.

Seeing the reconstruction made me recall my own university experience with 'the ghetto', - an affectionate name for a fabulous neighborhood of university owned housing. While it is undergoing a facelift of it's own, it is an essential part of what gives the university a major sense of community.

When I went to see the Olympiadorf remnants there was a feeling of sadness and hope as I strolled through the blocks of housing. It reminded me of my university days and how it slowly has become less recognizable. During my visit students were moving out and talking to each other from their roof top patios and dogs scampered around as they waited on their owners to say their last goodbyes. The ivy on the buildings clung for life adding a beautiful contrast on the colors.

The feeling of hope radiated and I appreciated the unique artistic displays that the students had painted on the facades of their homes. Some were more literal than others with replicas of Piet Mondrian, Roy Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring.

The news hit that these units were going to be a thing of the past and students decided to have a party which quickly escalated into outsiders deciding they could help in the destruction. Sadly, broken windows, fist fights, and fires broke out and the party promoters had to call riot police in August of last year. Photos can be seen at Sueddeutsch Zeitung. Rather than renovating, it is less expensive for the units to simply be rebuilt.

Another unexpected shock to me was how it reminded me of a cleaner version of Christiania, the squatter type neighborhood located in Copenhagen pictured above. The colors of Christiania added to it's allure, however when curiosity caught the best of us and we decided to visit I was really disappointed. The concept of Christiania was to provide for each other, which sounds good in theory, but I couldn't really respect the conditions that these people chose to live in or their attitudes towards outsiders. I like to tell myself these people were so busy caring for each other that they simply didn't have time to care about their city. The area was litter filled and lacked the 'hippiness' I was told it was filled with.

Having visited the village of Yellow Springs, Ohio many times, I think I have a fair comparison of how a self respecting hippy village looks. It's a place of pride, natural living, and even draws free concerts from Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and other friends of resident celebrity Dave Chappelle.

I am intrigued to see if the new village, which is scheduled for completion in 2009, will have as much character as it does now.

Thanks Troy for the inspiration! Check out his blog, it's really informative, not only for Munich but many other European cities.

Another thing...if you are visiting Munich in the near future, there is a beautiful view from olympic tower B on the 15th floor. You can see the entire BMW plant, Allianze arena, olympic park, Frauenkirche, and on a good day even the Alps.


JoernandAllison said...

Yet just another example of the German desire to move on, and leave the past. Sounds like it was a good decision to go, if only to provide another view into the German psysche.
Oh, and thanks for the tip about the view from the tower. I am pretty sure that Joern and I will be making a trip to Munich in the near future, and will try to include this view :)

Abby said...

beautiful pictures of the vines on coloured walls x

Troy said...

Hello Emily,
First of all, thank you for the nice words about Munich Daily Photo. It was a very pleasant surprise when visiting your site again.
Second, thank you for the very thought provoking post on the Olympiadorf. It has been one of my most interesting experiences since arriving in Munich
One of the things that caught my attention about your post, was your comment about Munich being known as wealthy and posh. I had no visibility to this before arriving in Munich. In fact, after coming to Munich 6-7 times for business, the prospect of living there was not that attractive. My wife, who studied in Europe, remembers Munich as a dark and grey transfer point on the train to anywhere else wonderful in Europe.
Now that I live in Munich, I see the splendor of the city a lot more (as you can see in the blog). I think everyone shares this view, and they are very quick to mention it. Perhaps the most convincing experience is to bike through town on a sunny day, when you're tired there's always a beer garden within a few hundred meters, when you arrive people are friendly and sincere. To me, that's Munich. I wish you luck in your discovery of the city as well.