The East-West Peace Church is hidden in a grove of trees in Munich’s busy Olympic Park. Most visitors will walk right past the little forest, but you should in fact make a beeline for the historic homestead — a teeny village with several homemade buildings, gardens and even a church and a small chapel.

Timofej Wassiljewitsch Prochorow arrived in Munich in 1952 at the age of 58, a Russian immigrant fugitive. A former Russian soldier, he had fled his homeland in the then-Soviet Union in 1943 seeking a place of peace, the story goes. According to stories, he was “sent” to Munich by higher powers and was even told where to build a church, which became the so-called “Ost-West Friedenskirche” (East-West Peace Church) – the website is only in German. Along the way he met his partner-to-be, Natasha.

Homestead construction materials came from garbage

The homestead hidden behind trees, unvisited by most tourists and even unknown to many Munich residents, was built by hand by the couple using a lot of leftover debris from WWII. Over the decades, Timofej and Natasha gathered junk, even dragging a lot of it from a nearby landfill mountain of garbage (“Schuttberg”) that became Olympic Mountain for the 1972 games.  Think of the glittering foil from chocolate bars lining the ceiling and rusty pails decorating trees.

Munich Peace Church inside with foil ceiling.

HITT Tip: The organization that maintains the Peace Church grounds and buildings has an extensive website with pages and pages of very long stories, although the site notes that many stories have changed over the years. HI Travel Tales admits that some of the stories sometimes sound a bit far-fetched, but his tale is an interesting one. If you don’t speak German, try a translation engine to help you get some idea of what (allegedly) drove Poppa Timofej, and how he was – and still is — the beloved hermit of Munich.

Timofej’s peaceful oasis hidden from tourists

If you are in Munich, after visiting the Olympic tourist sites, save time for a side jaunt to take in this peaceful collection of hauntingly beautiful buildings, lush and shaded under a canopy of trees. The Peace Church and grounds is where “Väterchen Timofej” lived — illegally, actually — but with the city’s and citizens’ blessings and love for 52 years until his death at about 110 in 2004 (His exact birth date is subject to some debate). Timofej became known over the decades as “Väterchen,” which loosely translates as “Poppa” or “Daddy” – kind of like any dear elderly man down the block who is everybody’s favorite uncle.

His lovingly hand-built and meticulously cared-for (but illegal) residence was smack in the middle of plans for the 1972 Olympic Park. It was to be bulldozed for an athletic stadium, and he would have had no place to go. But protests saved him. Indeed, planners moved the park slightly farther north, leaving his “village” intact! Few among the international crowds for the 1972 Games even knew he existed in the shadows of athletic pomp and circumstance. But there was Timo, living peacefully just outside the glaring media spotlight. Still, publicity of his near-miss, which was covered broadly in the media, brought lines of people to ask him for help and healing, and thus came the name “Ost-West Friedenskirche.”

Father Timo studio at Peace Church grounds

Munich hermit Timofej still brings peace

Now quietly maintained by a volunteer group of citizens, the Peace Church grounds are magical, with winding paths leading to the doors of buildings, past broken bird houses decorated with strands of beads or a doll, and wind chimes made from metal or pottery scraps. Despite being in the middle of open fields used commonly for crowded festivals such as the popular Tollwood festival in July held each year, the grounds remains a hidden gem – and protected.

HITT Tip: You’ll need to have ingenuity to get there since most information on the web is in German. Here is a bit on the official Munich tourist website, but we guess they don’t think non-Germans will care for this little gem. The East-West Peace Church, buildings and gardens are open every day, free of charge, although donations are accepted. Just take the U3 or U8 to Olympiazentrum station, where you will then walk through and check out the Olympic Park. Then you keep walking south from there toward the FC Teutonia Stadium, past Olympiaberg (Olympic Mountain, really just a little rise in the grassy meadow). Use our map to help you get there. The official address is Spiridon-Louis-Ring 100, Olympiagelände Süd.

Father Timo Chapel in Munich