A few months after I moved to Münster, I met a German man who came to be rather significant. He is known, on this blog, as the Significant German (SG). His job is a rather inflexible one, for a rather unyielding institution and this little fact, combined with a few others, led to the Second Big Life Change.
I am moving. To Bavaria. More specifically, to a region known as Franken and Oberpfalz. Even more specifically, to a town called Weiden. Let me tell you a few facts about Weiden.
– It has a population of around 41,000 people.
– It is 35 km from the Czech border.
– The city has been around since 1241.
– The US Army has a base there.
– Weiden means ‘pasture’ or ‘to graze’ in English.
– It has long, hard winters. Which is great, because Lord knows I love winter.
Here is a handy map that I borrowed from the internet and defaced:
When I have told my German friends where I am bound for, most of them have looked at me strangely and repeated ‘Weiden’ slowly and clearly, a few times, then admitted to not knowing where it is. Upon hearing where it is, they have all warned me, without fail, about the following:
– the dialect.
– the fact that Bavarians are, essentially, not Germans.
And after this, they have all said, ‘but … why?’ This is perhaps the best question of all. Why Weiden? Why a town of 5 people with an unintelligible way of speaking when, for the past few months, I have been missing my town of 4.5 million and can only just muddle along in a conversation with clear, ‘high German’ speakers? Because I am mad? Because I have completely relinquished any control over my life? Because Weiden is actually one of Europe’s glittering, unknown gems? Because I am being paid millions to write a novel set in Franken and Oberpfalz?
Yes, yes, no and no.
For a little while now, I have been feeling that a new adventure is in order. I love Münster (on particularly rainy days when the bus driver is an arsehole to me, I have less positive feelings towards it) I have some extraordinary friends here, and I love my job. Münster has been the host city of the original Big Life Veränderung/change. It has officially lodged itself in my heart and I hope to return to it time and time again. But I didn’t move to Münster to settle down. It was the first stop on an adventure that, sure, had no specific stops beyond it, but stops nevertheless. The UK was in the running for the next stop, as was Berlin or Hamburg, somewhere in the Mediterranean and Shanghai. Even home, for a little while. The marvellous thing was, I didn’t know. I would make that decision when the time came.
But the time, when it came, coincided with the SG and I beginning to talk seriously about what was next for us. He had to move to Weiden for three years. What was I doing to do? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wanted to try a new city, that my time in Münster was up. But, as it became more and more clear, my time in Germany wasn’t. Suddenly Shanghai, with SG in Bavaria, lost a touch of its lustre, particularly when the idea of flying back and forth regularly for the sake of our relationship entered the equation. No problem, it would have to be a German city. Hamburg? Berlin? I could move to one of Germany’s bustling metropolises and we could take turns travelling back and forth to each other on weekends. 600km between Weiden and Hamburg and about 100€ one way on the train in in petrol, so 200€ and about 12 hours round trip every weekend, for one of us. Berlin was a couple of hundred kilometres better. We could do it – we could bank on having every weekend free to travel to one another, bank on not being too tired or too poor to make the trip. Where there’s a will, quite often, there is a way.
The more we spoke about it, the more living 600km apart in the same country sounded pointless. Expensive, stressful and pointless. SG is what is keeping me in this country – why orchestrate it so we are so far apart and it is so costly and exhausting to maintain the relationship? Why not try living together in Weiden. Sure, it’s in the back arse of beyond, miles from nowhere, it will be another culture shock and difficult to find work for me. But we would be remiss not to give it a go.
Weiden isn’t as bad as it sounds. It is actually a pretty little town, and because it isn’t a bustling metropolis, the rent on a very spacious, very central apartment is very reasonable. And it’s 2 hours from München, 2 hours from Prague and in a whole new area of Germany I have never explored. It will be, as we have come to call it, The Weiden Adventure. Who knows what it will hold? Most likely a lot of Czech beer and even more meat dishes, but also trips to Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic. New people. New friends.
So A Big Life will soon become a Big Bavarian Life. I am as terrified as I am excited. I will not understand a word anyone says to me and probably eat schnitzel everyday. But I am so, so ready for something new and this tiny little border town is just the ticket.