Heidi Trautmann

Visiting Munich in December 2015 - Or: Where would we Germans be today without Spaghetti and Döner

By Heidi Trautmann

We had packed heavy boots and winter pullovers, took gloves and scarves with us as we expected the winter to come with snow any moment but it was not so during the two weeks we stayed in Bavaria; we had spring temperatures while in Cyprus heavy rains came down, 100 mm on one single day, I heard.

We had the opportunity to visit the old centres of Munich, Rosenheim and other smaller places during weekdays and were expecting to see floods of refugees but we saw only masses of people as usual. Since the sixties Germany got used to a colourful variety of people coming from Italy, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Vietnam, to find a better work, but it came gradually - not as such a tsunami of refugees who have lost their homes due to wars all around our globe. Many of those stayed here and make now part of our communities.

On our walking tours through the cities, in the subways and train stations, in shopping malls, different shades of people walked side by side, accepted each other….and all of them enjoyed walking along the hundreds of Christmas market stalls. I did not see any hateful stares or mistrust in faces, and if I saw beggars sitting in gateways or entrances to churches they were certainly our own people. We saw many musicians of different countries and I saw their cups being filled with a smile. I cannot and will not judge the problems for refugees, social workers and authorities, which are certainly not to be underestimated, and we did not have the chance to come close to a refugee camp but I wanted to study the attitudes of ordinary people, their faces and I did not see or hear any sign of annoyance.


The advantage of being old is to have a rich treasure of memories, to remember things the young generation does not even know of. When we grew up, people were vehemently resisting the flood of Italians coming to Germany in the 1960s during the improving economical era with humiliating words such as:…. what do they want here, these wops…..(Spaghettifresser). One did not eat spaghettis, nor garlic or any of the unknown vegetables …..

But it did not take long and Italian food became part of German eating culture and that made many Germans spend their very first post-war holidays in Italy and a vivid exchange started to take place; the same happened with workers coming from Turkey, the two being the most important immigrant groups, and look at us now: Today they are all Germans and many children of the former immigrants are now in high positions, we have them in politics, elected into parliament, in science and the arts, and they have certainly had an important impact on our view of the world.

In all the places we visited we discovered Döner places all around town frequented by young and old, huge shopping malls had at least one Turkish delicatessen shop, but also Vietnamese, Chinese, Greek shops and so forth.

One of the last evenings we went to a small Italian restaurant in a suburb of Munich and we had the most delicious mussels cooked in white wine - they are also famous for their paper thin pizza - and I heard many languages spoken and laughter and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously, the Italian wine was perfect  and the dessert hmmm. At that moment I sat back in my chair and asked our guests around the table: “Just tell me, what would we be without our immigrants?” 


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