Thursday, June 17, 2010

City and country

Last night and the night before we spent in France. Rural France. In fact, apart from Munich, all of our holiday has been in the country. And even then, most of that time we spent on day trips out of the city. Also, Munich is unbelievably bike-friendly, which is so unlike any Australian city and the other European ones we've seen.

This time in the country is not what I'd imagined or planned; Europe being so full of culture and history, and me wanting to see it... So it wasn't just a surprise that we spent so much time in parks, gardens, on winding roads and in hamlets and only a little in churches, and none (yet) in museums, it was also a surprise that I liked it.

Without the ugly suburban sprawl that Australia does as well as America, the villages though only 10 or 15 minutes ride or walk apart (and most people don't drive) each have their own character, maintained by the open spaces or forest between them.

The cities we went through might not have the sprawl but they still have the suburbs in some ways. On the one hand, aspiration drives conspicuous consumption and on the other, marginalisation is marked by a lack not only of consumption but colour. In the cities it seems, there is only luxury or poverty, glamour or dullness. Particularly striking were the bland (always only ever grey) apartment blocks that looked like they were made by communists.

Add to this the difference between city and country hospitality, and I think I'm a convert to rural life.

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