I’ve mentioned it before, maybe one or two
read 100 times that I live in rural Germany. Well, we’re officially a city and not just a town but town sounds more homely to me. We’re just shy of 100,000 inhabitants according to the last census which is sad because apparently 100,000 is the magical mark where a city becomes a big city in Germany. To even think for a minute that my city is a big one is ridiculous. Sure we have lots of industry, some of them international leaders in their field but we’re still a rather small city and I like it that way. I wouldn’t want it any other way despite all my complaining. Though that rather has to do with Germany being Germany and not this place. The fact that I can’t watch shows on TV in their original language or that things like Netflix aren’t available here drives me mad on a regular basis because I can’t understand why I’m supposed to wait a year to see a show dubbed when I really don’t want to do that.
What I can do is go to one of the markets in different parts of the city to buy fresh produce all year round. Sure, some of the fruits and vegetables come from way overseas as the old man standing next to me at the meat vendor was kind enough to remind me of last Saturday. He told me I shouldn’t have bought those grapes because they probably came from halfway across the world. I didn’t respond because by that standard, I shouldn’t buy a lot of things.
My interaction with this very specimen reminded me though how sweet small town (and yes, I say town because it doesn’t feel right to say city to my part of the world) life can be. Sure his words were unwarranted and stupid but it got me thinking about all the things I like about my Saturday morning routine.
Like the fact that I go to the same bakery, the one my mother used to go to, whose owner she once dated. I’ve known these people all my life and they have known me for as long. They know my family. When I go there to buy myself a piece of cake to celebrate my own birthday and I happen to mention it’s my birthday, I won’t even have to pay for it. When they saw that Mom was getting progressively worse every week (before she stopped coming along) they were kind to her, talked and tried to help. And in the year since she passed, they have reminded me time and again that I could come to them for help. When they haven’t seen my Grandma around town in a long time, they ask if she is ill. I know it would be easy to interpret this as nosiness or at least some of it, but to me it feels more like general interest.
Of course there are not that many of those kind of institutions left in my town, it was different when my grandparents were my age. Back then my grandpa was a good entrepreneur and valued member of the town, everyone knew him. I’m not saying big city life can’t be like that. Even they divide themselves into smaller entities and there are probably stores and establishments one frequents for years and becomes friends with the people working there. Here I go to my favourite produce stand every week, I know where they travel to when they take time off. During the winter the husband works at the Christmas market selling bratwurst and I feel good about knowing where I spend my money and am even willing to spend a little bit more just because of the familiarity.
It takes me 5 minutes from my doorstep until I’m in the forest and I cherish that. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sure, better public transport would be nice but that’s a small price to pay for basically living in The Shire. When asked about this region, most natives will tell you how ugly this city is; that it constantly rains even during the summer; and how unfriendly the people are. Some of this is true as it is for a lot of places all over the world. It does rain a lot, sometimes. There have been summers where it was cold and wet for weeks on end but it doesn’t have to be like it. The downtown area really is not pretty. Most of the city was destroyed during WW2 and hastily rebuilt in the 50s and 60s where nice architecture wasn’t important so much as functionality and it being fast to build was. Nobody will tell you about all the good aspects. My favourite local author explained it like this, we won’t tell outsiders how pretty it is or otherwise everyone would like to come here and it would lose all its charm and beauty. Who wants an overrun city? None of us do. We keep quiet about all the great things so we can keep them to ourselves. I always liked that way of looking at it.
I guess what I’m saying is that I am a small town girl through and through. I could never imagine living in a city with millions of people, where traffic is so bad it takes you hours to commute to and from work. People are different but this is me.