A night hike in Munich aims to bring members of the refugee community closer to local employers. The experience seeks to facilitate new ties and friendships between the participants.
A Munich-based initiative focused on integration as well as cultural and community projects hosted a night hike for the second time. Dubbed 'Walk into the Light', the event first took place in July last year and brought together people who were born in Munich, some who have long made it their home and those who have just arrived.
The event, organized by artist and social worker Paul Huf, is aimed at those who have an active interest in being involved in the community and supporting refugees. The goal of the event is to allow people to get to know each other and to find friends, potential colleagues, employers or employees.
Equipped with food, backpacks and headlamps, and following a round of introductions, the group had dinner together in the backyard of Bellevue di Monaco before embarking on a 31-kilometer journey through the night. This year, 85 people attended the dinner, 40 took part in the hike and 26 of them completed the full journey until after sunrise.
The route followed the river Isar upstream through Munich and toward the town of Wolfratshausen.
Many people fleeing violence walk through forests and dense areas at night. For some, the night hike experience is a way of changing the association with these memories of their escape.
Hafez, a 33-year-old art student from Syria, described how the experience brought back memories of his journey to Germany. "During my escape, I had to hike many nights and was very scared. Now with the project 'Walk into the Light', I hiked a whole night with friends and discovered the beauty of the world".
Most of the participants have fled to Germany, some have already found work, and others are still looking. Other participants were Munich residents who work in managerial positions and are looking for motivated trainees, municipal employees, sponsors, volunteers, friends etc.
Jon (58), originally from the UK but who has lived in Munich for several decades, explained why he participated in the hike: "This was my second Walk into the Light. Night-time intensifies the feeling of being a part of nature. Sharing this experience with so many wonderful people brings me great joy."
In the morning, the group was able to experience the sunrise together in the beautiful meadows of the Isar river, make contacts and forge new friendships.
After a joint breakfast at a bakery in Wolfratshausen, where the baker was rather surprised to see such a large group of hikers at 7:30 am in need of strong coffee, the group took the suburban train back to the city.
After walking through the night, everyone was very tired, but this didn't stop them from dancing together at 6 am on the banks of the Isar, just before reaching Wolfratshausen.
"The night walk was a great experience and I am glad that I came along," Caroline, 35, from Munich said. "I especially liked our dance at 6 am to African music to loosen up the muscles."