I have lived enough places to know that no place is perfect, and I certainly miss my home country and especially beautiful Michigan. However, after two weeks here (and also recollecting my previous three- and five-months stints over the past two decades), I’ve noticed three things that Germany definitely seems to have figured out: 1) Urban Planning, 2) Recycling, and 3) Food Costs. I’ll write about each of these discoveries separately. First on the list– Urban Planning!
Smart Growth fans will love what I can walk to in five minutes:
-An U-Bahn stop (that’s a railway station in Stuttgart’s extensive train system; I can get downtown in 10 minutes)
-A grocery store
-Two public parks
-A field (probably at least ten acres) full of apple trees and grazing cows
-A walking/bike path
-A bakery selling fresh bread
-A dairy farm selling its own yogurt, milk, and produce (OK, so that’s more like a 15 minute walk)
I realize that plenty of people who live in cities don’t have cars, but rural Americans would have a very hard time without a car. What strikes me here in Stuttgart is that the line between city and country is blurred. Not only do I not need a car to go to work and complete daily “urban” errands, but I also don’t need a car to have a “rural” experience. I live in a city of half a million people, but I can be standing in a cornfield, watching a farmer milk cows (and then buying the very milk they produced), or cutting my own sunflowers in the time it takes to get to an ATM machine. This kind of mixed-use city structure really defies the very separated zoning regulations we have in the United States (you’re either residential, commercial, or agricultural, and ne’er the three shall meet).
In the attached picture, I’m smiling because I’ve just finished a very pleasant walk down a little path that cuts through a field and winds its way towards town. I get a kick out of the sign you see over my shoulder because it clearly depicts a woman and a child (no men allowed? Oops, M. was there too). I recently picked up a health magazine in town and read an editorial by someone who was criticizing Germany for not doing a better job integrating urban and green spaces. Has he ever been to Stuttgart?!