A German model village

by Matthias · 12.04.2013 · Places · 6 comments

In order to take a week­end off from bust­ling Ber­lin, we decided to allow ourselves a calm hol­i­day at the Baltic Sea. We hoped to find some rest in a small ham­let on the island of Use­dom, but little did I know that I would also find the staid and sed­ate model of a typ­ical Ger­man vil­lage: our lovely retreat turned out to be the stage of a pecu­liar play.

The plan was per­fect: To rent a hol­i­day apart­ment with a mag­ni­fi­cent sea view, leave the city behind and go there and then relax for a while. We’d have a walk at the beach, rest for a piece of cake and have a simple pizza in the even­ing before going to bed early. Enjoy­ing ordin­ary things in an ordin­ary vil­lage. Well, the ham­let was quite suit­able. Soon, I noticed it was even bet­ter than that, it was the arche­type of a Ger­man vil­lage, an authen­tic spe­ci­men of rural life in Saxonia, Swa­bia, Rhine­land and, of course also Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. A model vil­lage, built accord­ing to the very con­struc­tion manual that is the blue­print for the spirit and char­ac­ter of Ger­man life.

I might have been the only one in our group who was excitedly rush­ing through the sleepy streets, at least I was the only one to find this dull­ness thrill­ing enough to take more than hun­dred pho­tos per day. It was right there: everything Ger­mans hate and love about their cul­ture assembled in one place. I was fas­cin­ated. Once a townie, always a townie.

This Ger­man state of mind wasn’t just a brief notion, it was built real­ity. Gray rough­cast one-story houses, a peaked roof on top, neatly trimmed con­ifer hedges lin­ing the low wooden fence, a sol­it­ary fir tree and a per­fect grid of fruit trees on new-mown mead­ows – if you know one of those prop­er­ties, you know them all. The dif­fer­ences were small: The 1997 model home stood beside a spe­ci­men of the 2002 sum­mer cata­logue, fol­lowed by a 1988 ver­sion and sev­eral oth­ers of what could’ve eas­ily been a dis­play on a fair for cheap single-family houses. The uni­form­ity was over­whelm­ing. Only the man­dat­ory floral cush­ions on the rusty garden swings brought some col­our into this tightly con­trolled realm of the right angle. The Ger­man homeowner – or, for the love of this bald and blunt lan­guage: the Ger­man Eigen­heimbesitzer – is not the king of his castle, no, he’s the dic­tator of his leased land. He estab­lishes and keeps his self-made order scru­pu­lously – and if a neighbour’s apple tree casts leaves on his vestigal veget­able patch, the Ger­man Eigen­heimbesitzer defends the wire mesh bor­ders of his empire until the first branch or the first blood is shed. When a Ger­man gets hold of just a small patch of land, he is as pedantic as unforgiving.

This is the Ger­man Gothic.

And I was the observer who con­duc­ted a field study of the Ger­man model vil­lage. But it told me more than that. We came across a com­plex of hol­i­day apart­ments that was up for sale. The price was incred­ibly cheap, how­ever, nobody seemed to live there. All shut­ters were down, no fur­niture on the porches: a per­fect, almost aseptic, white facade. How long did this build­ing stand there untouched? How long did the brand-new, shiny doors wait for the first key to open them? I didn’t know. This was not the time for invest­ments. Once there was a time of hope, when a con­struc­tion boom washed up money ashore. But those times were over and, to cap it all, it was also winter and nobody was around.

How­ever, the rest of the vil­lage was only hibern­at­ing. We barely saw any­body. Even the tiny police sta­tion seemed to be aban­doned. But those few loc­als, whom we met, were scep­tic. Of course. We, a bunch of Ber­liners, dis­placed into their calm winter world. I didn’t mind. I tried to get in tune with them, to get a sense of what seemed only dull to me. The approach to this secluded world might’ve been ironic, but the interest and enjoy­ment was genu­ine. After we had din­ner at the most ordin­ary Italian Res­taur­ant “La Res­id­enza”, my efforts to have a per­fect rural even­ing, were suc­cess­ful: We ended up at the local place-to-be, the Orange­Bar, where the vil­lage youth – ten storybook-chavs and both the bore­dom and sus­pi­cion on their faces – gathered for a label night (which was in fact, an aston­ish­ingly good one-man-show of a local DJ). I ordered a Sex on the Beach. The cock­tail was ordin­ary, but the night was per­fect. I had bonded.

A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village

A German model villageA German model villageA German model village

A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village A German model village
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6 comments
  1. I´m sorry you paint the wrong Picture…of course every Resort Town is empty & quiet dur­ing OFF Season…go to Use­dom in 3 Mothn, you can call your­self happy if you get a tiny Spot for your Tent on the Campground…

  2. Well, that’s what I wrote, the vil­lage was hibern­at­ing. Of course it’ll change com­pletely for sum­mer. That’s per­fectly clear, but not the point.

  3. where have you been, mat­thias? looks like karlsha­gen?! i am a nat­ive vor­pom­mer and just from around the corner… 11 years ber­lin now and i still heart­break­ingly miss the hori­zon on your last pic­ture. i love the off-season!

  4. Andrea, you’re right, it’s Karlshagen!

  5. Stun­ning pho­tos. It’s on the list.

  6. Lieber Mat­thias, sehr schöne Fotos und ein beeindruckender Beitrag. Habe beides mit großem Interesse und Emo­tion ver­folgt. Ein wenig neidisch war ich auch. Häbe ähnliches in Rerik erfahren und wäre auch in Karlsha­gen gerne dabei gewesen. Aber viel­leicht wäre es dann nicht dasselbe, Ein­samkeit und Stille um einen ist doch für Tiefe manch­mal notwendig.

    Spitzer, Heidi