The Chickens and the Eggs

It’s rent day. Our landlords came to the door bearing two gifts: a bottle of local Franconian red wine (which replaces the South African bottle we drank last night) and a dozen eggs fresh from the farm.

I’ve been meaning to write about life in Franconia. It would be redundant to say “rural Franconia,” because except for Nürnberg the entire region is pastoral. If we ride 20 minutes from our apartment in the Old Town we find ourselves cycling through rolling hills and fields filled with veggies, orchards, and grain. That grain makes its way into the bread baked by local bakeries and into liquid bread, our beer.

Last week we took the train down to Munich, which is a three-hour journey south and into the heart of Bavaria. Past Nürnberg around the city of Ingoldstadt I woke up Josh with one happy word, “HOPS!” There we were, in the heart of Hallertau country. Rows and rows of the bright green vines shone in the morning light, every bit as beautiful as a vineyard.

Speaking of vineyards, Franconia is a fertile wine-producing region. Franconians are almost as proud of their wine as they are of their beer; vintners probably more so. The bottle of wine our landlord gave us came from somewhere not too far from here, and the dozen eggs did too. In fact, we could probably ride our bicycle to meet the chickens that gave us our eggs.

Who cares if it’s romantic to live in country and eat things that you can see growing? You can do that in California or upstate New York. But every day we ride our bikes I marvel at the differences between a place like Franconia and California, let alone Florida. For one, there is no politics in this way of life. There are no class-based choices in what people eat or how they travel. Ordinary people have solar panels on their houses. In fact, solar panels are everywhere! The market isn’t a weekly farmer’s market because it’s the everyday outdoor market where people buy fresh food. No “Critical Mass” bike ride needs to exist either because it isn’t necessary. Even the Franconian suburbs are attended by a network of bike trails and people use them—young, old, fat, thin, and not just hipsters on cruisers and nerds in bike shorts.

Restaurants in Franconia don’t announce they serve “locally sourced” food. That would be ridiculous. No traditional German restaurant has to buy anything outside of Franconia and at some restaurants the ingredients all come from that very village. So unless a place is serving specialty cuisine, you can be sure everything is locally sourced and not just the beer. No Sysco!

Another thing that surprised me is how many composting bins are placed in public spaces and in areas with residential pickup. But what I find most impressive is that there are no hippies here because they aren’t needed. Everyone is doing it because it makes friggin sense!

I find this intelligence remarkable and admire it more and more each day. Simplicity is embedded in one of the most technologically advanced and prosperous cultures in the world. It’s like “Duh, this is how things are done because it works and it makes sense.” No one is trying to prove moral superiority, no one is proselytizing, and no one is sacrificing anything. And no one is being stupid. It’s one of the many reasons why I really love it here.

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