Friday, January 13, 2012

Science/Culture Friday: Munich in Fall 2011

NPR has a show every Friday called science Friday.  I thought I might start something similar, but a little broader than just science. For example, I've started reading a book called, The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century.  But today I thought I would give some final reflections on the city of Munich as I experienced it in the Fall of 2011.

Any number of words and adjectives might immediately come to mind: Bavarian, artistic, historical, beer, catholic, cultured, scientific, expensive, bursting with people and foreigners, uncrowded for a big city.  But the peril of such words and phrases is always close at hand. A place has a past--things happened there, people wandered through there--but it is not inevitable that the past determine the future, at least not as far as conceptions are concerned.

And designations like this are often at best majority reports.  At worst they are individual impressions or the perceptions of those with the power to communicate their points of view.  There were Germans here who despised Hitler in the 40's, Germans who went to Dachau.  University students who were beheaded.  They just weren't the ones calling the shots at the time... literally.

So Munich is in Bavaria, and Bavaria is typically conservative.  But Munich is full of foreigners like myself as well.  Sometimes I have wondered how many actual Bavarians have handed me those precious baguettes, Schokocroissants, and Kirchtaschen.  It's not unfriendly for a big city.  I've experienced both friendly and unfriendly.  I've both had someone switch into Bavarian dialect to give me a hard time, and I've had a hard time getting away from an enthusiastic Elvis fan on a tram.

I loved the Pinakotheken, the art museums.  Munich is full of art from the Greeks to Cy Twombly, but I met a very educated German fellow here who has never visited them. The buildings are marvelous; the churches are everywhere, and they are all magnificent.  I am glad for the penchant the Bavarians of the past had to build them.  They are beautiful... and unused, and no doubt a less than helpful use of money the many centuries during which Bavaria was in horrible debt.

Munich is a great place to live if you have a good job, like big cities, and have the leisure to enjoy soccer ("football"), art, opera, history, ballet, theater, and like to reflect on culture and the meaning of life.  It's a good place to put a scientific research company.  It's a nice place to visit if you like Oktoberfest and Fasching.  It has great public transportation, great suburbs, and plenty of reasonably priced restaurants to fill your stomach with every form of pig intestine imaginable.

It is a place like no other place I've visited on earth.

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