14 November 2009

Dangerous

Coming from a British city (or, since it is Belfast, an Irish city, depending on your politics) one of the first questions I ask when arriving in a new city is, Where should I avoid?

In Washington DC it was more a case of asking, Where can I go? since the list of places to avoid is long. In Tirana, despite the corruption, poverty and organised crime, no-one was ever able to come up with any suggestions so I happily wandered everywhere.

In Munich, the locals and the expats have tried to be helpful. After a few moments thought they will often tentatively suggest the railway station - a little pick-pocketing, some drugs perhaps. Typical railway station stuff - though I have yet to see any of it. Eventually I did manage to come up with a name of a 'bad' district: Hasenbergl. Naturally enough I decided to pay a visit carrying my big expensive camera.

A quick check of my U-Bahn map revealed that I had already been there unknowingly. Hasenbergl is right next to Feldmoching. I had taken the U2 to Feldmoching - the end of the line - and walked back into the city along the U-Bahn route, in the process walking through Hasenbergl.

I didn't remember any graffiti, burned out cars, bars on the windows, boarded up shops, intimidating gangs of yobs, and all the other features typically found in the dodgier areas of British cities, so I decided to go back for a closer look.

Once again I took the U2 to Feldmoching and started walking back into the city. A wide expanse of greenery forms the dividing line between the cosy low rise homes of Feldmoching and the tower blocks of Hasenbergl - presumably the residents of the former did not want the residents of the latter looking over them.

Hasenbergl seen from Feldmoching

Entering Hasenbergl itself confirmed my earlier impression - it's clearly not a wealthy area but it's still perfectly pleasant. The grass is green, there are plenty of trees lining the streets, there are shops and cafes. The apartment buildings appear well kept and clean - at least from the outside - and lots of windows are decorated with neat curtains and flowers in vases.

Cafe Am Hasenbergl

Back in Belfast I lived near a similar complex of tower blocks and it looked much worse, and was a great deal more dangerous, than Hasenbergl. Yet in Belfast, this particular area wasn't considered among the worst.

Hasenbergl's reputation perhaps has more to do with its past than its present. The complex was built in the 1960's to provide social housing for low income families and over the years it has attracted a higher than average number of foreign born residents. There have been social problems but the city has been working to address these, as have voluntary and faith based organisations.

More recently, the area's isolation from the rest of the city has also been addresed. In the 1990's the U-Bahn arrived when the U2 line was extended out to Feldmoching. Last year Munich's newest shopping centre, MIRA, opened at Dülferstraße on the edge of Hasenbergl.

Hasenbergl U-Bahn station

MIRA shopping centre

It's not a paradise, and undoubtedly beyond the surface appearance there are social problems. Yet if this is the worst of Munich then the people of Munich should be grateful.

2 comments:

Trothous said...

Nice to see you writing again, Olli!

Munich News said...

Hi, it is a great pleasure to read your blog! Thank you for useful and practical info for expats.