Sometimes I feel like we’re living in another decade in the past. The other day when I was looking at eltern.de, the website for Eltern (Parent) Magazine, there was an ad for the new Volkswagen Sharan model. The Sharan now has an electric sliding door. Although I’ve only recently submitted to the fact that minivans might be relevant to me, I seem to recall that this feature has been around in the minivans sold in the U.S. for a while now. This thought made me think about other aspects of our village life.
As I’ve blogged here before, my husband and I live in a small city in the southwest of Germany. I liken Aalen (population 66,503) to a large village rather than a small city.
My family and I shop regularly, every Wednesday and Saturday, at the local market, where we buy our fresh vegetables, fruit and poultry. Often, we run into friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. We buy our meat at our favorite butcher, where we are greeted by name, and usually buy our bread at the excellent bakery closest to us. But if I need white bread to make stuffing, for example, or prefer the house specialty of walnut bread at another bakery, I’d go there or if I want to buy my kids organic soft pretzels and raisin rolls, then I’d go to yet another bakery. In this respect, we are spoiled for choice. And I think we are spoiled by the fact that these small shop establishments are still very much in operation thriving from the business of our fellow “villagers” who place a high value on quality food.
And even though the minivans only now have automatic doors, village life is good for kids. Kids walk to school when close enough and small children even walk to kindergarten. When my friend told me that her son was starting to walk to our kindergarten by himself, my jaw dropped in amazement and refreshing surprise.
This past Saturday, after walking to our nearest playground and playing there with our kids, my husband and I spontaneously decided to go out for dinner to our favorite, local restaurant called Zur Schättere, also called a “Vesperstube.” In the winter, they serve a delicious roasted half duck with red cabbage and “Semmelknödel.” You need to order this in advance since the duck is freshly slaughtered at a local farm that day. When my parents visit from the US, we often order this duck as a special treat.
We were pretty sure that they didn’t accept cards of any kind as payment, not even EC cards (banking cards). Although I seem to have finally gotten used to carrying around enough cash with me, I hadn’t brought my wallet with me thinking we were just walking to the playground and back. My husband had his wallet but didn’t have any cash. Since we were already in the car having returned bottles at the Getränkemarkt (beverage store), we decided to drive the short distance to the restaurant anyway and pop in and ask. My husband and the kids were waiting in the car as I went inside to ask Herr Boger, the owner and chef. He always recognizes us since he and his wife greet every patron personally. Once I confirmed that they didn’t take cards, I said that I’d have to come back with my family after getting some cash in order to have dinner there that evening. Herr Boger didn’t seem to understand what the problem was and said matter of fact that we could just come in now, dine and pay the next day! I didn’t think we ate there often enough to be Stammkunden or regulars, but I guess we are!
I miss the big city for lots of reasons. Just to mention a few: a greater diversity of people, access to a variety of cuisines, an opera house, more obvious job and career prospects, and lots more shopping possibilities. I have also in the past gotten frustrated with the fact that plastic only gets you so far here in Germany and that sometimes it seems difficult to spend money with limited opening hours and unwelcoming customer service. But actually, with all of these perqs in our “village,” it can in fact be easy to live within its limits and enjoy the things we have.