Where’s it better to live – town or countryside? Growing up in a quintessential English village only a few miles from World Heritage City Bath, I’d always believed it were possible to have the best of both worlds. Enjoy attractions and services of the loveliest city in Britain, yet wake up every morning to the sound of “cockadoodeldoo!”
That is, at least, till I moved to bucolic Bavaria. First home here was in a faceless dormitory village in the “Dachauer Hinterland”. The name says it all. When an opportunity arose to move to the Hallertau the first thing we did was change car number plates.
I’d say we’ve found our little piece of heaven here. Bordering the garden is a little stream, behind which hops fields fan out far into the horizon. As I write the “green gold“, as it’s called, is being harvested and tractors trundle by, bursting full with this aromatic crop. Being surrounded by wildlife’s also fun. Yesterday we spotted a hedgehog circumnavigating the lawn, and only just managed to stop Matilda giving it a well-meant prod in the stomach. Just over the stream in a small enclosure our offspring is also able to stroke goats, pot-bellied pigs and - if she’s quick enough – bunny rabbits too.
But living in Lower Bavaria comes with a caveat. The lack of shops is a major let down. Especially if you run out of butter at the weekend. Speeding off to purchase some from the neighbouring village bakery (we have zilch stores in Puttenhausen), I ran up against a sign saying “Offen Samstags 8 bis 10“. Rough translation: we open only for a peep-squeak moment at the crack of dawn on Saturdays, so tough luck if you work every God-given hour of the week and have the temerity to treat yourself to a short lie-in at the weekend). What the heck happened to customer-friendly shopping hours in rural Germany?
Ten miles further down the road in a two-horse village, I was relieved to find a shop still open mid-morning. A yellow postal-horn hanging in the window made it appear like a post-office cum general convenience store. Imagine my shock-horror to discover all it sold was wines, spirits and – hold your breath – stamps too. Had I run out of petrol during my wild-goose-trail tour of the Hallertau, I would have been left hanging high and dry. They don’t do filling stations in rural Bavaria, it seems, but you can buy Briefmarken in the boondocks.
Munich’s “Abendzeitung“ this week celebrates the Bavarian capital as most popular German city after Berlin for Zuagroasten (local word for those persons not from Munich or removed to Munich). Small wonder – plenty jobs, abundant leisure facilities, petrol stations on every corner and, you’ve guessed it, shops still open for business when you get out of bed in the morning.
Not for the world would I exchange the house of our dreams here in the Hallertau for a concrete pile in Munich. But oh how nice it would be just to pop down the road for daily essentials, without clocking up miles and more to the nearest town.
Before I start sounding like a windgemop I’m off to the neighbours to scrounge a packet of butter.