So we live in Fladungen.
Here's the wikipedia entry for Fladungen. Go on, click.
Not much, right? About the only thing that catches the eye is that map on the right. Check it out: we're almost exactly in the middle of the country. At the same time, we're right by the old East-West border: the scar from the old Grenze still runs across the hills, visible from our window.
So what's there to say about Fladungen?
It's small. The current population is around 2,200 people, which is not a lot. It has a supermarket and a small downtown with some shops (bakery, stationers, two butchers), and that's about it. There are a couple of playgrounds and a (surprisingly large) swimming pool. A couple of doctors offices, a couple of dentists. The local school system goes up to 8th grade (the school is right across the street from us) and then you're getting on a bus.
It's old. The town has been here since forever. Many of the buildings in the center are over 200 years old. There's a chapel on a hill outside the town that was built in the 1500s. The city wall dates from the 14th century.
It's kind of isolated. The surrounding region is very rural, all farms and small towns. The nearest large town is Bad Neustadt (population 16,000), about 20 minutes away by car. Bad Neustadt is where you go to see a movie, buy Pokemon cards or eat at McDonalds. The nearest city is Schweinfurt, about 50 minutes away. The nearest major city is Frankfurt, almost two hours away.
It's very Catholic. Bavaria, right? The Catholic church dominates the town -- you can see it from miles away -- and it's not an empty shell; it fills up every Sunday. There's a Kreuzweg, stations of the cross, going up the hill across the street from us. There are a lot of crucifixes around in public spaces. The boys' kindergarten is Catholic, and while there's not explicit religious instruction there's a certain amount of reference to Jesus and such.
It is, by German standards, very friendly. This is not exactly the same as American friendly, though I'm hard pressed to put my finger on the difference. Maybe it's that people greet you but don't smile quite so much? Anyway, everyone is very nice.
It's a bit of a backwater. Economically, there's not much going on. Fladungen exists today because the local farmers need a town around here. For industry, there's a construction company, a little stone quarry, and a small cement factory. (The cement factory is behind our back yard. The boys like to climb on their sand piles.) Young people tend to leave after high school. Some come back later to raise families; most don't. Most people have a few words of English from school, but nobody speaks it well.
It's Germany... which is another way of saying, backwater or not, it's First World. You can drink the water from the tap. Roads are smooth and well designed and people follow the traffic rules. There's no litter. There's good high-speed internet. The lights stay on, lawns are neatly trimmed, everybody recycles.
It's cold. Fladungen is only 400m above sea level, but it's in a microclimate -- a degree or two cooler than towns just a few km away. It's the coldest corner of Germany between the Alps and the Baltic. Snow falls well into April. We were putting sweaters on the boys until just a week or two ago. The house has no air conditioning but does have an impressively large oil tank for heating.
It's pretty. Not beautiful, but pretty. Lots of trees. Lots of flowers. It's in a bowl of low green hills that pretty much cry out for walking. A stream runs right through the middle of town, and there are watermills. The one growth industry is tourism -- there are a couple of small hotels and about a dozen pensions. I suspect that tourism is going to grow, because Germany's population is aging, and Fladungen offers the sort of pleasant, low-impact tourism that older folks tend to like: some nice walks, some light shopping, nothing too strenuous.
There are a lot of birds.
I could go on (there are a couple of museums, and a local beer, and a steam locomotive on summer weekends) but you probably have the idea by now. It's quiet. A great place to be six years old, probably not so great to be sixteen. If we were staying here for years... but we're not. In a few months (three? six? more?) we expect to be packing for another assignment (one year? two, three?) somewhere (no idea).
So for now, we're enjoying Fladungen.