Photo: Frank Stolle
Reflections on the Isar

An alpine river in the heart of the city

With the successful renaturation of the Isar, a piece of nature was brought back into the city. We asked Munich residents why they like coming here and what the Isar means to them.

Jens (49), Munich:

“For me, the renaturation of the Isar has been a very successful policy from the city authorities. By taking the decision and going on to implement it, the city has done something that benefits the entire population, not just individual interests. Where concrete industrial aesthetics once ruled, visitors are now indulged with a sensory experience as clear water rushes over pebbles, and dippers dive into the river. Clearly the new wilderness is also attracting people. But that’s no bad thing, as it’s how new, democratic spaces are created – and every city needs those. On the banks of the Isar people can share ideas and get to know one another, reminiscent of the polis in ancient Athens. I feel that this is an extremely good thing for a big, hectic city like Munich. In winter I love watching the hordes of seagulls that gather here – they are truly artists of the air. And when they let themselves get carried along by the river’s current, they look like big paper boats.”

Verena (32), Munich:

“I lived abroad for a few years, and when I came back to Munich the Isar had had a makeover. It flows much more freely and quickly today, contains much less algae, has a new pebble shoreline, and even has a new island. Its renaturation is incredible. The fact that so many people are lounging on the banks of the Isar, sunbathing, relaxing and chatting, shows that the project has been a huge success. But there’s one issue I must highlight: people, please take your rubbish home with you! I work for an agency that organises the annual Isar clean-up. This year, 120 people took part and we collected half a tonne of rubbish in a single day! It’s important that we reach the point of understanding how carefully we must treat nature. My goal is to have 300 people taking part in the 2020 clean-up, and collecting just one bag of rubbish!”

Ben (36), Munich:

“Because I don’t live too far from the Isar, I have established a nice morning ritual in the summer: I make myself a coffee, take the three-minute walk down to the banks, and jump into the river just across from Weideninsel island. Afterwards I feel refreshed and wide awake – it’s an auspicious start to the day. Back when the riverbed was still canalised, swimming was not so appealing; the water contained quite a bit of algae and getting in was not pleasant. Given that so many people in the city crave a piece of unspoilt nature, I am definitely all for the plans to build a swimming pool in the Isar. They could even build two or three; there is certainly the demand for them.”

Joana (25), Munich:

“One of the things I like about the new Isar is the terracing – I used to sit here with my friends quite often. The river also makes me think of toasted marshmallows and trips on rubber dinghies – I’m very happy that we have the river here in Munich.”

Chris (26), Munich:

“The Isar reminds me of my childhood – after all, I grew up in Unterföhring [a district in northern Munich on the banks of the Isar], where you can find the oldest-known bridge crossing the river. Taking my first steps, going out for walks, riding my bike to Freising – all of these memories are tied to this section of the riverbank. Now I’m in South Munich, on Marienklausensteg bridge. Until today, Joana and I had never been to the Isar together – pretty hard to believe, considering we have known each other for two whole years. Although we have been to the Maria Einsiedel outdoor pool a few times, and water from the Isar flows through that. So that counts, right?”

Benjamin (26), München:

„In summer I come to the shore south of the Wittelsbacherbrücke almost every day. Why? I enjoy the view of the fast rushing Isar, the slightly cooler air and on hot days also a little refreshment in the water. I think it's great that the Isar has been designed to be close to nature again. Which other big city has such a beautiful alpine river to swim in?“

 

 

Interviews: Nansen & Piccard; Photos: Frank Stolle