Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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March 2005

People Watching

Munich's Colorful Characters Give the City a Special Charm

It was a story to knock all others off the front pages: Rudolph Moshammer, Munich’s fashion tsar, murdered in his Grünwald villa. As murders go, it wasn’t a particularly grisly one and it wasn’t loaded with intrigue. I mean, we’re talking € 2,000 for some seedy sexual dealings. Not exactly a glamorous way to go. And yet it almost sparked the sort of outpouring that we saw for Princess Diana. Why? Because the world needs colorful characters, whose mad ways give those of us with less eccentric lives something to talk about.

So now that Mosi’s gone, who’ll take his place as Munich’s Queen of Flamboyance? A tricky one, especially for anyone who’s new to the city. Until you’ve lived here a while, it’s easy to think that most Münchner look the same. On the surface, the men are well-groomed, with a bit of a quiff, clad in pink, Ralph Lauren shirts, with a handkerchief knotted around their neck and wearing brown Italian shoes. The women seem to prefer pink, v-neck jumpers, a white blouse, a string of pearls, pearl-stud earrings and have their hair pulled back in a blonde ponytail. But after a few months you become blind to these folk, and you start noticing the city’s true characters—of which there are many. Ok, so they may not be in Moshammer’s league when it comes to social standing. But money doesn’t buy fame. Look at Väterchen Timofej, a Russian exile who hit the headlines in the 1970s, when building plans for the 1972 Olympic Games had to be altered because he refused to move out of the hut he’d built in the Olympiapark. By the time he died last year, Munich’s oldest citizen was known across Germany, and was even described by the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a legend. Way to go!

My personal selection of local odd-balls would include the largish gentleman with a beard Santa would be proud of, who braves the elements in his short Lederhosen and waistcoat with not a stitch underneath and can be seen propping up his bicycle at the Viktualienmarkt, dunkles Bier in hand. Another delightful couple are the long-haired blonde bearded guys who spend their lives in tiny satin running shorts, with go-faster stripes down the side. I’ve never seen one without the other, and I’ve never seen them without a selection of bulging carrier bags, taking the steps of Fraunhoferstrasse underground station two at a time. Forget celebrities. If I had to pick my ideal chat-show guests, those would be the characters I’d go for. What are their stories? It was once said that clothes maketh the man. But these men maketh the city. Yes, there are many fascinating things about Munich—its galleries, museums and natural surroundings. But without the people to bring these things to life, they’d soon lose their interest. Take a look at the people featured in this month’s magazine. Each has a story to tell—the New Zealand ballerina (p. 12), the characters at the city’s International Ski Club (p. 40), the man who created a Bavarian malt whisky (p. 20) and the artist who tried to hide his talent from the public for 10 years (p. 33).

They, like you and me, are the people who have made Munich such a lively, cosmopolitan place and, to a large extent, who have influenced the way the city’s developed. See, it’s your city. Get out there and enjoy it. <<<

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