In an age where children are more obsessed with television, video games and iPads, it was refreshing to come across a fabulous kids project with a 40-year history in Munich which has kept kids both entertained and educated, with not a television in sight.
As soon as I heard about the Maulwurfshausen project, I wanted to visit. At 45, I am perhaps a little old to be an active member, but with my daughters coming at Easter, I was keen to find some cool things to entertain them in Munich.
And Maulwurfshausen project IS cool, a ramshackle collection of wooden buildings in a park by the side of the road near Quiddestrasse in South-East Munich.
It looked like a poor man's Disneyworld, as I entered, my single status without accompanying children understandably raising some suspicions, especially when I started to take pictures.
And it may look like a poor man's Disneyworld, but as an educational and recreational tool in the heart of city known for its technology, it is an absolute jewel. As I understood it from one of the very helpful adults at the centre, the project is a serious attempt to help local children express themselves, learn some skills and responsibility, by being part of a community to which they can contribute.
Central to the concept is the Maulwurfshausen citizen's ID, a passport of sorts. Entry to the site is free for all, but the intention is NOT to function as a free kindergarten. With an ID, contact details of the child's parents are included and the child can use the ID as a deposit to borrow tools, teaching a sense of responsibility. There are skilled adults on site, and children - under supervision - can learn skills such as sawing and building. Many of the eclectic wooden constructions on the site have been built by the kids themselves over the years.
It is open daily from 13:00 to 18:00, but it is important to note that the project, which is partly financed by the local authority, is aimed at providing an educational platform for local kids from the area - some 40 - 50 are regulars here. The project has gotten a lot of publicity in recent times, and the summer months can see as many as 300 kids descend at one time, which renders the aims of the centre useless.
I spoke to some of the adults and children, and I was struck at the sense of community and adherence to nature in the middle of a big European city. As a way of keeping kids off the streets and away from the trappings of modern technology, here was a healthy and educational alternative.
And Maulwurfshausen is not alone. My very helpful tour guide provided me with a wonderful map of 11 other such centres in and around Munich (see below).
A wonderful initative and one I would like to get to know in greater detail, although I can fully appreciate the arrival of lots of kids not from the area is detrimental to the project.
To learn more about the project, visit the Maulwurfshausen website.