Thursday, 1 July 2010

Rural Bavaria

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For a country with only a little more land area than my own and twenty times the population, it has always surprised me that there is so much open country in Germany—where the silence is so heavy you can feel it, and the pace of life is slow and settled. This can be explained in part by the presence of apartment blocks even in rural villages, and of course the high density of the cities.

Country folks speak different dialects to city folks; they often travel far for school and work, and the young people move out when it comes time to take up tertiary study. A transport network of occasional buses links up the tiny townships with their little supermarkets, fire departments, and primary schools.

The larger villages also offer amenities along their tiny main streets: perhaps a baker, a butcher, a hairdresser, a driving school, and most likely a restaurant or two of the type where retired farmers are likely to spend the day nursing a pint of local beer and talking politics. The food available in such establishments is simple, filling and good value—even if it can be on the heavy side with its dumplings and gravies.

Cycling from village to village is a singular experience in Bavaria, as the edge of the settlement is clearly defined: one minute you’re passing tall housing blocks, and the next you’re in amidst the farmer’s fields with nary a soul in sight.

In the summer, the dry heat wafts up from the reflecting earth, and fields of corn and hay ripple in the breeze while dark conifer forests loom beyond the warm haze. Village dwellers can be found fishing in tiny lakes and walking their dogs on farm tracks between the fields, dotted here and there with a pilgrim’s cross or tiny chapel shrine to a saint. The hills of Bavaria are gentle, providing an easy walk for hot days.

In winter, blankets of snow intensify the silence until it becomes almost a personality in its own right. Fresh-tilled soil soon freezes solid. Out the window, the forest trees and the icy fields turn the world into a black and white movie, and you could easily believe you’ve travelled back a hundred years in time.

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1 comment:

M Pax said...

Sounds wonderful.