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July 01, 2008


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Noel Maurer

I assume you'll be keeping the house, right?

How many children are there in the town? I know dying Spanish towns full only of elderly, and exploding American and Mexican ones that seem little emigration factories. Where's Fladungen on that spectrum?


God, my heart aches for Germany. Is it possible to be homesick for a place you only spent three years of forty in? (Clearly it is.)

Ponce is like the unGermany.

Noel Maurer

UnGermany? Ponce? Nah. Ponce is clean and somewhat dull.

Mexico City, maybe. Santo Domingo, certainly.

So what do you miss about Germany?

Doug M.

Noel: I'm not sure. We see plenty of kids, but that's because we're parents of small children.

My tentative impression is that Fladungen's birthrate is higher than average for Germany, but nevertheless still well below replacement level. (Replacement is 2.1 kids per woman, and Germany is currently around 1.3, so there's room.)

At the same time, there are defintely a lot of old folks around, and a distinct shortage of young adults -- as mentioned in the post, most people leave after high school, with a few gradually trickling back years later. So, the Fladungen age pyramid would probably look rather odd.

Doug M.

Dennis Brennan

Michael-- if you're pining for Germany, there may be a bit of it closer than you think:


Granted, it's DDR, not the Germany that we currently know and love.

Mike Ralls


I definitly think it's possible to get homesick for a place you only lived in for a few years. It all depends on weather you ever though of it as "home" or not.

I only lived in Japan for two years, but those were pretty full years and while living there I thought of it as "home."

Now, 5 years later, I still sometimes miss it. Humans are funny.


This year it is 19 years since I lived in Germany, but the more-or-less three years I lived there were, in a sense, my coming of age. I think they were a lot more formative than I gave them credit for at the time.

Mexico City might be further away from Germany on the Germany/unGermany axis, Noel, but I've never lived there.

What do I miss? Let me count the ways. I miss singing Bach cantatas with the Stuttgarter Oratorienchor (a good tenor walks into any chorus, so I sang with a lot of different groups, but mostly with them).

I miss cold air.

I miss forests that aren't these weird tropical scrubby-looking big-leaved palmy growth. All the trees look different from one another here, and they're all weird. Some days that's good, but we're talking right now about what I miss.

I miss *songbirds*. Thank God for mockingbirds. Where do they learn their songs, living on an island? It's a mystery, but I'm not complaining; every time I hear one, I stop in my tracks and breathe it in.

I miss Ravensburger board games.

I miss being able to bicycle everywhere (part of that's missing being single and childless, of course, so it doesn't count.)

I miss bookstores.

I miss knowing I can get in a train or a car and be in a different place tomorrow. Not actually *doing* it, that's not the point. I never really grokked the word "isolated" before.

I think I miss living further up on the secular/traditional values axis.

I miss bakeries that have more than one kind of bread.

I miss long summer days.

I miss being an expat in the way that an American is an expat in Europe, which is entirely different from the way an American is an expat in Puerto Rico. I miss not standing out, racially. I've never been a minority before, and even being a privileged racial minority is a really bad feeling. (It's given me a smidgen of empathy for American blacks, though -- to grow up feeling like this, only far worse, in your own home? Horrible.)

I miss intellectuals. I thought Wayne County, Indiana was bad. I was wrong.

I miss ethnic restaurants that aren't Mexican. I miss ethnic diversity, period. I joke that when my wife and I came to town, its ethnic diversity rose perceptibly. People laugh, but agree. (There is another Hungarian in town, though. 2 out of 200,000.)

I miss the rest of Europe, arranged conveniently around Germany. I miss Budapest at least as much as Germany, but I haven't lived there much (two long summers, and months here and there; my wife has a definite love/hate relationship with her home, so about three months is all she can take.)

I miss theatrical performances in languages I can understand. (Although there again, since we've had kids, there's a lot less time for theater. Still -- knowing it's there makes a difference.)

A lot of my problems with Puerto Rico are really the fact that I've had so much work, online, since I've been here, that I simply haven't had time to learn Spanish, and frankly, no great need (and thus no sufficient motivation) to do so. I can get by with Spanglish, but I've *never* had the problem of being the monolingual Yankee, and I don't like it. My German was good enough that when I traveled in Germany, people knew I lived in Stuttgart. (When in Stuttgart, they usually guessed I was Dutch. Why Dutch, I have no idea.)

It's complicated. When I leave here, I'm going to miss it a lot (I already have missed it, when we left before.) Ponce es Ponce, lo demás es párkin. But when I think about Europe lately, my heart tugs.


Har, Dennis, only now did I click through -- yeah, I already knew about that island. (I follow the Strange Maps blog -- definitely one of the better corners of the Net.) Since I don't have a boat, the point is moot. But one day I shall have a boat! And then I'll go visit die alte DDR.

Here's a funny -- my wife and I married in 1989 in Germany, in the midst of History Taking Place. At the time, the only language we shared was, in fact, German. So one day we went into the bakery to get some bread, and they asked us, "Sind Sie von da drüben?" (Are you from "over there", for the non-German-speaking -- and at the time, there was only one "over there".)

I laughed, and said, kind of.

Doug (not Muir)

I think good German that's clearly not native (or local), but doesn't have an obvious origin, may default to "Dutch." I get that guess relatively often in Munich and Bavaria.


There's a lot I really love about this place, too. All the stray dogs that are practically communal pets. Walking on the beach every day with my dog (who used to be a stray.) Wild hermit crabs. That's freaky! The flat-out niceness of Puerto Ricans. Leaving your window open all the time, even in January (especially in January.) Knowing the cop is not looking at me. Manic traffic that's still considerate (takes a while to realize it, but it's true.) A lot of good friends. Knowing that no matter where you go or what you do, when you come back to Ponce, it will be exactly the same as when you left it. Those funky letters on the road into town (gigantic red-and-black iron letters "PONCE". What a magnificent boondoggle!)

Knowing that even though I can't make any appointment on time, that I count as fanatically punctual and reliable here.

So it's not unalloyed Ponce-hating that's going on here, lest anybody get the wrong idea. It's just been more than a year since we moved, that's all.

Tad Palac

Just found this post whilst looking for a place to stay for a couple of days in July. For many years Fladungen was home from home when we would come and stay with my in-laws for a week or two whilst on home leave and before going on to the equivalent in England. My wife is from Fladungen - as you say most young people leave and don't come back except to visit. Sadly we no longer have the family to visit (my mother-in-law passed away in 2003) but fond memories and some of my wife's friends bring us back from time to time.
Your description summed it up nicely. It hasn't really changed that much in the 30 years since I first went there except for the significant increase in tourists and the opening of the roads to the former GDR. Is the bratwurst stand up on the edge of the moor still there? Used to be part of the family ritual of arriving in Fladungen in the summer to have a bratwurst there before heading down to Dr Hofflingstrasse. It had grown into some sort of eco-GDR theme park last time we were there. The price of a bratwurst was also a reliable indicator of inflation...except that I could swear they started to make them smaller instead of increasing prices at one stage.
So what on earth brought you to Fladungen in the first place? Are you still there? Nobody ends up there by chance..only through cosmic coincidences of some kind. I met my wife on Lake Titicaca. The rest is history - 30 years of travelling the world with the UN before retiring to.. Vienna. (Fladungen was NOT an option! Nice to visit but..
Tad Palac
Vienna (Austria)

John Patrick Sullivan

My Uncle was shot down in WW II outside of Fladugen and was captured in the tower at the city wall. He carved his name and the date and the fact that he was from Chicago.
Funny thing, some would call it ironic, this is as close as Robert W Owens ever got to his grandfather. Catholics from Bavaria and Baden went to Missouri, USA, so too did his Catholic ancestors from Maryland, USA. What was their common bond? They were escaping religious persecution and sought good bottom land for farming. They met in Perry County, Missouri, USA.

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