Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Da 'hood

The coming first of May will mark two years tenancy of my tiny Munich flat, a compact studio on a quiet, unassuming street shorter than a football pitch.

Only gradually have I become interested in knowing more about the neighbourhood, the western sector of Schwabing.

Of the residential buildings which comprise my street I'd guess that over half are post-war construction, replacing second world war bomb damage.

But the large photo at the top of this post shows but one example of the fabulous century-old architecture which still dominates the area.

(The 'U' at the bottom right is the entrance to my nearest underground station!)

The magazine Die Jugend was founded in Schwabing in 1896 and was published until 1940. Devoted to the arts and literature it gave its name also to the German flavour of Art Nouveau, in German termed Jugendstil. And all the streets in the immediate proximity of my flat offer glorious examples of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century architecture, many beautifully restored to their original opulence.

Inglorious was the fate of those who were rich enough to cause such buildings to be created. Many belonged to affluent Jewish families whose faith in western Schwabing made the neighbourhood what it was and who suffered so tragically when the Nazis came to power.

After the war the neighbourhood became an increasingly sought-after residential area. Apartments in the renovated Jugendstil town-houses, with their high ceilings and quirky details are much coveted and insanely expensive. Quiet streets, buildings which if they could talk would have so much to tell us about the first half of the twentieth century.

Nothing much to tell of the post-war years, though.

Except for what an aged taxi driver told me about last week. One of these Jugendstil villas around the corner from where I live was in the 1960s and 1970s the largest and most notorious brothel in Munich, a favourite of the the US Armed Forces personnel who were in those days garrisoned in the city.

In dem Etablissement und den umliegenden Straßen war am Wochenende der Bär los. In den Nachtstunden musste die Trambahn oft etwas warten, bis Fahrgäste aus den Taxis entfernt wurden, oder Polizei und Krankenwagen ihre Missionen erfüllt hatten. Auch stürzte schon mal ein Gast nicht ganz ohne fremde Hilfe über das großzügige Treppenhaus in die Tiefe.

Now the building in which I live (with Murphy... thanks, the back injury is on the mend!) was built in 1961. Were my 25 square metres perhaps home for a while to some Munich Sally Bowles?

In a way I like to think so.


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