Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.
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Fondly dubbed the “German Slums” (because lines of shacks can been seen from various places along the highway), these gardens are officially termed Schrebergärten (Allotment Gardens). I meant to use them as one of my Favorite German Finds earlier but never got around to it.

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The sight of them baffled and fascinated me more than almost anything I had seen in Germany.

To understand why they are so foreign to me, you should consider the fact that when my Dutch native friend came to live in my rural Utah home town as an exchange student, she asked, “What do you do with all this empty space?”

I think the answer went something like this: “Why of course, you climb trees, play in the clay dirt with your motorized or non-motorized vehicle of choice, jump your banana seated bike over the Potgut holes. Or you drive for hours and hours and then wander for hours and hours hoping to discover ancient pictographs in sandstone cliff walls. Or you build huts out of old rusty farm equipment, attempt to grow crops and/or gardens, and you pretend that old dead tree out back is a whale that flies.”

Anyway, when I was 17, my friend’s question was as equally foreign to me as seeing the little garden plots in Germany.

The allotment gardens have an interesting history that dates back to 1828 and can be found in more countries than just Germany. There is even an official European organization of three million gardeners which collaborates on the laws, regulations, and promotion of the gardens. Their purpose is to foster community, environment, family togetherness, children play, relaxation, the integration of immigrant families, and for the unemployed, disabled and senior citizens to feel useful and productive. In light of the way Germans are so particular, I imagine it also promotes some mighty good citizen rivalry.

I was always intrigued to see how the garden plots were used. Most often, they were empty but nothing seemed out of place or overgrown. So German.

When there were people in them, I saw groups sitting around a camp fire while shirtless kids followed a meandering horse, adults sitting around laughing with drinks in hand, kids playing on small slides while the adults tended to the chickens, rivalry country flags posted on top of the neighboring shacks, and most often I saw elderly people taking care of their plants.

Some slums, eh? Those chickens live in luxury.

6 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

  1. I was once a visiting teaching companion to a woman who grew up in war time and post WWII East Berlin. She was very young, but she remembers her brother in Hitler’s Youth, and she remembers their allotment garden. It was out of the city, and she said it saved their lives. When the fighting was bad they would go live at their garden. Although her brother’s death later in life was a result of malnutrition during the war, all their food came from the allotment garden. Every time I see them from the highways I think of this sister and her story. Me? When we finally settle I want to take a garden house kit with me and make a “cousin cabin” out of it.

  2. I just randomly came across your blog when googling Heidelberg and wards and was wondering if you still have connections there. I am moving there with my husband and 5 kids in a few months and am curious about where the best areas to live with this many kids would be.

    • Jenny,
      Yes, I still have connections. The Relief Society President is a good friend of mine. I will email you directly with her contact information.
      I’m glad you stumbled onto my blog. Thanks.

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