On the numerous occasions I tell people that I’m hoping, one day, to move into the countryside, they roll their eyes.
“But, you odd person” they say. “Apart from the fact this is a village of five thousand people, albeit only fifteen kilometres from Stuttgart, how will you live in the countryside without a car? There’s no public transport…”
I don’t know where people got this idea. Of course, I come from the UK, where the village bus turns up at half past three on the second Tuesday of the month*, hangs about for exactly seven and a half minutes and then disappears, but I’ve found the local public transport in rural Germany is pretty good, and in some cases better outside the towns, especially if you want to combine it with using a bike. Okay, so you need to pick your future abode carefully to be near to a link, but still.
Take our village as an example. We’re within the Stuttgart urban transport network with all the convenience this implies. Except that our village is served by a bus which runs to our county town of Esslingen, stopping on the way to deliver people to a Ü-Bahn (light rail line) to Stuttgart. Alas, the bus goes on a 40 minute mystery tour to Esslingen, and doesn’t connect very well with the Ü-Bahn either so we often end up waiting twenty minutes at the station for a three kilometre bus journey home. We can’t even cycle home because there’s no secure bike parking at the station. I used to get around this by parking the bike at a friends apartment, but then he went and moved and I lost my exclusive parking space.
Contrast this with the time I needed to get home quickly (another badly timed bike ride) from Obermettingen, a village the size of ours out in the allegedly public transport-free countryside. I got on the local train, which had a large, dedicated bike space, ran as frequently as the bus in our village, and got me 20km closer to home, whereupon I had to cycle the rest of the way because there’s no train to our allegedly well served town and the buses don’t take bicycles except off-peak. Elsewhere I’ve travelled on local trains which start hundreds of kilometres apart and meet at remote junctions to allow direct transfers for through passengers, something apparently impossible for our bus and metro system. And there’s secure bike parking in these places. And there’s less traffic so it’s more pleasant to cycle.
On the other hand, the cost of living in these allegedly transport-poor areas is much lower than it is here, because everyone believes that it’s more convenient to live in the suburbs of Stuttgart, so if you don’t mind, I’d prefer you to keep this to yourselves. That way, when we finally do manage to move out there, this urban myth will work to our advantage…
* In August