48.7665° N • 11.4258° E

Mending things – and lives in Ingolstadt

The setting of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the old fortress city of Ingolstadt must be about as German as they come. There are gabled merchants’ houses. Military grounds turned into parks. There is beer and there are cars – the Bavarian regulation on the purity of beer (it cannot contain just anything!) comes from here, and the city hosts the Audi HQ.

Unemployment is not high but it can be almost double in certain areas, namely those where more people (over 70%) have a migrant background. In one of them, Susann and Kenneth visited a super initiative called QuartierWerkStadt which helps people find or create jobs for themselves while also strengthening ties within the community.

The project is linked to the global recycling movement Repair Cafés and teaches practical and social skills to long-term unemployed people and single parents hoping to get back to work with a view to a job in services, home economics, horticulture or repairs. A catering service working with local companies offers qualifications in food service industry.

Syrian food Road Trip

And it was in the kitchen where our travellers had their most amazing encounters. A group of refugees from Syria who learn and work at QuartierWerkStadt prepared a traditional meal for them and told them their harrowing stories of fleeing a war-torn country. Stories of destruction, lucky escapes and survival against the odds that clearly had left deep scars.

The refugees have integrated well into Ingolstadt society, most speak German very well already, and have started or are looking forward to start work again soon. Some still have close family internally displaced in the Middle East and are hoping to be reunited with them soon.

Before sitting down to relish their delicious Syrian meal (lamb and lentil soup, and traditional sweet and savoury rice!) two of the refugees, Mustafa and Refaat, asked whether their German teacher could join them as he had helped them more than anybody to integrate.

Naturally, our travellers were keen to meet him. It turned out to be Jean-Pol Martin, a retired French language professor  who has developed a now widely used method of language teaching!  

After this memorable lunch one of the two small Repair Cafés of the project that specialises in bike repairs had arranged for a bike ride along the Danube. Sadly, it was raining, in fact, it was pouring (perhaps the sky over Ulm was crying about the elimination of the German team from the football world cup the day before?). Susann and Kenneth didn’t mind too much. It had been a very moving and inspiring day already.

See also

A cycling day trip upriver

Kenneth and Susann spent the day cycling along the famous EuroVelo route 6, which stretches across Europe from France’s Atlantic coast all the way to the Black Sea, covering 3 653 kilometres and ten countries.