In March, my husband and I will be heading back to the U.S. after two and a half years in beautiful Bavaria. We’ve been living in a town that celebrated its 800th birthday last year and boasts being the co-home of a local, regional beer called zoigl. Our city’s name translates to New City on the Waldnaab, and sits in a valley between family farms and pastures. We have little industry here, but our town of 12,000 is home to some of the most beautiful crystal that’s produced in Germany.
As most who move abroad, our time overseas has been enriched and dynamic. We’ve visited countries and cities that previously seemed inaccessible and have learned so much more about the world in the process. Coming from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Germany was our first choice for our next installation. My sister lives in Frankfurt, and my husband grew up in Europe. Being here has felt as much like coming home as it did a chance to enliven and enrich our lives.
Now, as we’re preparing to PCS again, I’m preemptively nostalgic for so much that Bavaria has offered us. Here are the top five things I’m going to really pine for once we’ve moved on to our next installation.
Everything is closed on Sunday
Having traveled in Europe, we knew to expect that everything would be closed on Sunday. What we didn’t expect was how magnificent it is when the world forces a reset. Sundays used to be all about scrambling to get last-minute errands and chores completed for the week ahead. Since we’ve lived here, Sunday has become a real day of rest.
For us, it’s been invaluable in helping remind us of what really matters – which is spending time together and giving ourselves permission to rest. The tempo of my husband’s unit, and Army life in general, is all about going full throttle for weeks and months on end. Having a no-work Sunday rule means that we’re both forced to slow down and reflect on the week ahead.
Local, sustainable food and strong sustainability community
For the first time in my life, I have access to raw milk, fresh cheeses, and organic pasture-raised meats and poultry. Even better, I don’t have to go out of my way to find these products. They’re all grown and processed right here in my area.
Food shopping is different here, too. The only fruits and vegetables available are whatever is in season. Not only does this reduce carbon footprints by lessening the distance from where food is grown, but it also helps me create meals that are fresh and in season. The result has been a more elegant approach to my meal planning efforts, which has resulted in lots of fun new recipe creation.
Recycling is required by law here in Germany. We have to separate our biodegradable waste from paper, plastic, glass and metal. It’s so ingrained in the culture, and each neighborhood has multiple recycling depots to bring the materials. Not only has this made me much more aware of my own waste production, but it feels like I’m actually doing something to help reduce waste overall.
Lush forests and mountains
The air here is so clean, partly because Germany is basically a massive forest. We’re fortunate enough to live right next to a bike path that stretches all throughout the Oberpfalz and most Sundays, we’ve taken advantage of a leisure forest stroll. The most amazing part about these walks is that we invariably end up discovering something new about our town and area. The hiking that’s available in the area is fantastic, even for someone who isn’t much of a hiker. It’s just beautiful to get out into nature to pause and reflect. Germans love cycling, and the trails are always well populated and very safe. The Bavarian Alps are close enough for day trips and offer so much to do both in winter and in summer.
The pharmacies here all offer a variety of herbal and homeopathic remedies for common ailments like colds and touches of flu. Since living here, I’ve discovered amazing treatments for all sorts of conditions. Now in my home apothecary, I have tinctures and salves all made from locally-sourced ingredients. It’s really a refreshing and fantastic experience to walk into a pharmacy and get an herbal remedy instead of something full of chemicals and other questionable ingredients. I’ve loved getting to know the herbalists in my town and learning to rely on their suggestions. It’s equally exciting when I’ve been able to recreate their tinctures at home, which has blossomed into a brand-new hobby for me.
Living in Bavaria wouldn’t be complete without a robust experience of fests. Sure, there’s beer and bratwurst, but these events are so much more than that. They’re truly a time for the community to come together. Our town recently hosted its annual Harvest Fest, where vendors from all over the region converged to sell products made with materials found in the area. Talk about shopping local. We found an elegant wreath made from local grasses and a candle holder made with clay from a local quarry. These are artisan keepsakes for sure, but they’re also reflective of the broader culture in which we’re immersed – one that’s built on traditional practices and sustainable economies.
Bavaria is beautiful, and unlike any other place in Germany. It’s small, safe, and has a quaintness that’s hard to find elsewhere. Part of the uniqueness of this region is that Bavarians love everything Bavarian. The traditional dirndl and lederhosen that so many of us associate with Germans are in fact traditional Bavarian clothes. I love how much everyone here has kept to their traditions because it helps to reinforce the charm of the region. Taking time to stop and breathe – literally – is engrained in the Bavarian culture, and this approach is one we plan to incorporate into our lives no matter where the Army takes us.