Between rural tranquility and modernity – Discovering southern Lower Saxony

I am back home again – at least from my longer trips this summer. The last two weeks now I spend in the far north, at least in what southern Germans see as the far north. In many cultural aspects – food is of course a not unimportant one – Southern Germany is more similar to Austria or Swizerland than to the Northern Germany. Perhaps this can’t be sayed to be a rule, but for me Vienna f.ex. feels more familiar than Hamburg or Berlin. So, the world I discovered during the last two weeks –  between Luneburg Heath and Harz mountains, near to the former inner German border – was indeed foreign to me in many aspects… which does not at all mean that I didn’t like it.

When we arrived at our holiday home in a little Rundlingsdorf (a typical village form of this region, where the farm buildings of the old village are build in petal way around a central square) near Wolfsburg, we were just overwhelmed. We had seen pictures of the apartment placed in an old farm building on the internet, but when we entered the beautiful courtyard of the farm created with love and full of flowers, fruit trees, old farm tools, several cozy garden chairs, a hammock… it was much more than we expected – an out-of-this-world retreat!

The hosting couple which lived in the same building was busy to make us feel at home right from the beginning. We were invited to pick mirabelles from the trees and herbs from the little herb garden as well as to use the solar shower in the middle of the garden. We were supplied with fresh homemade mirabelle jam and invited to a glass of white wine in the evening. It was made very easy for us to fell in love with the region and their people.

As the region is a very rural one – apart from a few cities – little farm shops that are selling potatoes, eggs and blueberries from their own production can be found all around. One of my first trips was to the nearby farmers market where I bought some local vegetable for our home cooking. The variety of potatoes did indeed overchallenge me a bit. The results of my little market shopping were a butter cake with blueberries, oven tortilla with bacon, a delicious pumpkin tarte with thyme from our hosts herb garden and a mirabelle blueberry streusel cake. Some of our regional culinary experiences were Harzer cheese – a regional cheese speciality made of low fat curdled milk – and Sauerfleisch – cold pieces of pork in aspic that are made by cooking the meat in white wine vinegar  and  cooling it down, served with fried potatoes and gherkins – a experience my taste buds had to get used to…

On of the natural highlights during the year surrounded by a lot of festivities with parades, fares, etc. is the heath blossom season in late august and september. Then the landscape turns into an impressive sea of violet colour, that we were lucky to see as well!

We also made a little trip to the former german-german border and the little formerly divided villages Bökwitz and Zicherie – the traces of this border that are still obvious… an impressive experience in a disturbing and sad way.

The days I spend in Wolfsburg, especially in the Autostadt” and the “phaeno” museum, were a totally different kind of experience. The city which developed into what it is today only after the Second World War in close connection to the expansion of the “Volkswagen” group feels like an artificial modern alien set into a rural region. Modern urban architecture concentrates on both sides of the Mittellandkanal – not a river, but an artificial water course, that was build around 1900 and was perceived as a great victory of human technical progress above nature. The Allersee – a swimming lake and local recreationa area – was one of the side products of this water course contruction.

The Autostadt” – a theme park centering around “people, cars and what moves them” – as well as the “phaeno” museum – designed by the award winning Zaha Hadid – on the other side of the canal represent some great pieces of modern futuristic architecture and urban landscape design. Impressive too, but in a totally different way than the surrounding region …

Last but not least it was the contrast of this artificial showcase of modernity and technical progress and the tranquility of the traditional rural surrounding that made this two weeks so interesting.

Next stop: London!

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