Hardly a day goes by that I don't marvel at our fortune of living here in Bavaria where nature is so abundant and accessible. But for a few moments walk outside our front door, we can be immersed into settings like the one above of the river Würm that meanders throughout Munich. These idyllic panoramas crop up at the most unexpected times. At the turn of a path, at the bottom of a foothill, and even in your own backyard.
When my family and friends ask me why I want to continue living in Germany, it is difficult to explain the part nature plays in my decision. Nature appears almost everywhere, so why Germany? I think it is because the Germans learned to respect nature and protect it long before the Americans did. Because the European cultures were developed far ahead of America, the idea of conservation in the rapidly developing nations took place in the early 1800's, especially in Germany. They learned early on that their resources needed to be protected and cultivated lest they lose them altogether.
Bavaria was one of the frontrunners in terms of forestry. With the Alpine lakes and streams providing the cities with the most crystal clear mineral water, Bavaria has taken measure throughout the centuries to protect their natural environment.
Nature play an enormous part in the lives of Bavarians. They are avid hikers, bikers, and skiers. Rafting, canoeing, and water sports of all kinds are popular here. Alpine walking is growing in popularity and has captured the imagination of the over 60 set with it's great benefit of helping to reduce the side effects of aging such as arthritis, muscle and bone degeneration, and heart disease. On any given day the amount of people out-of-doors would put most American cities to shame by comparison. It is sad that we, as a nation, have given up our connectedness to nature and have allowed ourselves to be prisoners in our own homes and slaves to our automobiles. I know I sound like Thoreau, but living in Germany has created a need that I never knew existed in me. A need to be a part of my natural environment.
Here in Bavaria, the Bavarians take every opportunity to provide natural beauty around them to coerce them to appreciate what nature has to give. From small gardens, to ponds, to little vignettes such as the cascading water over stone steps, they care for and nurture what has been provided for them.
I am certain that it is because most Germans live in small apartments and prefer to be outside that they have been diligent in creating spaces where people can congregate outside. Small cafes with outdoor seating, fountains with stone stools and steps for people to rest, and benches tucked alongside of paths cutting through forests and prairies are plentiful and attractive.
It amazes me the number of walkers or bicyclists who will stop in the forest, on a mountain side, or alongside a castle grounds somewhere and pull out a blanket with a picnic basket and enjoy the day admiring the view. I have purchased a blanket with a plastic backing for such a purpose. I have also bought a picnic satchel for my bike with one side for storing plates, utensils, and the all-important wine bottle, and the other side that is insulated to store cheeses, bread rolls and fruit.
But, if we hop on the bikes and forget the bike satchel, we know that we can always find a neighborhood beer garden along the way. The trouble is to decide which one to try,-- there are so many to choose from. For example, we can choose Nuremberg sausages, roast chicken, pork ribs, or "frikadelle mitt baguette", a German type of hamburger.
Either way, we will be spending our days outside enjoying the fresh air and hearing the birds sing until the sun sets. What can be better than this?