"If you climb the tower, you can look up to the North Sea in the blue sky today." An elderly gentleman approaches the cycling tourists, who take photos in front of the town hall and the Moritz church. With a vigorous nod, he confirms his statement. The tourists look incredulous. After all, you are in Ingolstadt, in the middle of Bavaria - the sky cannot be so blue that you can see the German coast from here. "Yes, yes," replies the man mischievously, "the North Sea is right up there." His joke worked again: The "North Sea" is a branch of the fast food chain of the same name and less than 50 meters away.

With other shops such fun could not be done - or no more. Many traditional shops have closed in downtown Ingolstadt in recent years. Some have been empty for a long time. Cheap brands moved into others, often quickly leaving, followed by another junk. Now the department store Galeria Kaufhof is supposed to close. As one of 62 houses in the bankrupt retail chain Karstadt-Kaufhof nationwide. After 68 years. "A disaster," says Thomas Deiser, owner of a shoe orthopedic company in a nearby side street and director of the IN-City dealer association. On the other hand, something needs to be done, after all, Galeria Kaufhof represents around a quarter of the inner-city sales area. 

In the Galeria, customers with arm guards push their way through the rows with reduced goods. Every now and then a few sympathetic words are addressed to the sales assistants. Meanwhile, they are looking for a way out in the nearby town hall to save the store operation. In May, the new SPD Lord Mayor Christian Scharpf wrote to the Executive Committee for the preservation of the Ingolstadt branch. Now he should try to change the owners and insolvency administrators in a personal conversation. The second mayor, Dorothea Deneke-Stoll from the CSU, says: "We have not given up hope that something can still be turned there." Deneke-Stoll is responsible for economic matters. In the event that nothing can be turned anymore, she says, the city is "quite open to innovative concepts".

A municipal department store?

An idea for an alternative use would be a municipal department store, operated independently by the city. The proposal comes from the district management of the ver.di union, and it is spontaneously accepted by passers-by. "Ingolstadt is one of the richest cities in Germany," says one with reference to Audi. The car manufacturer is the main employer in the region. Trade tax revenues are good - at least until now, until the Corona crisis. With the money you can do something "clever", says the passerby. Older people in particular, who still know the Galeria in Ingolstadt under the names Merkur and Horten and thus associate childhood memories, such as the sausage stall in the entrance or the purchase of school bags and communion candles, are now calling for the city. 

Another possibility would be that the city buys the building in the best location in the pedestrian zone and then moves in shops, apartments, offices and offices. IN-City board member Deiser is for the purchase. Like Oliver Munz, chairman of Ingolstadt, friends of the city center, who are also committed to a lively city center. If the city does not make an offer for the Galeria building to the department store group, a private investor could win the contract, Munz fears: "If someone builds apartments for a few hundred students, this is an advantage for them - but not for the city center."

The question is whether your wishes will be taken into account. The building is almost entirely owned by the Austrian Signa group owned by the Karstadt Kaufhof owner René Benko, who currently does not even want to grant rent reductions to his department stores. Munz from the inner city friends still hopes: "If the city wants, then it will get it."

He sits on the terrace of his son's wine bar, which could be located just south of the Alps - like so many buildings in Ingolstadt's old town, built centuries ago by builders who brought ideas from their travels in Italy. In the pedestrian zone and the alleys around it are pastel-colored houses with the typical stepped gables of the Baroque, elaborate and sometimes restored with a tendency to kitsch. The castle on the banks of the Danube, with which Duke Ludwig VII sweetened his farewell to the French royal court in the 14th century, and the cathedral are powerful eye-catchers.