DOWN TO NATURE
THERE is no real translation for the Kleingarten.
The literal "little gardens" is a better stab than the dictionary
"allotments". You may see the occasional row of spuds or sprouts
tucked into a corner but these are secondary.
They are nothing like the open plan rectangular plots separated by mud paths,
each dedicated to the single-handed production of an EEC vegetable mountain,
its command post a shed made from old doors off a building site held together
with string and the odd nail so familiar in our cities as a solitary male
refuge from wife and kids.
By our standards the Kleingarten are often rather large. Each has its garden
house, often a sturdy and well-built affair, with room inside for armchairs
and a dining table for the family, and outside it a lawn. They are fenced
just like we would fence our gardens, with neat stone or concrete paths from
the front gate.
Perhaps the, simplest way to describe them is that they are like an English
garden in which the house has shrunk.
Someone has to cut the grass and tend the flowers, but the important thing
is the sitting - and then there's the eating and the drinking too. But one
garden intrigues me; covered with small Christmas trees. In a few years the
family Braun will have their own small but private forest.
A few kilometres from town we come to the real forest. The road is straight
and wide with little traffic, and fortunately none of the tanks or lorries
shown on the military road-signs with their two speed limits; for one-way
use, attack or retreat, and for two-way when they are not quite sure.
Our purpose is no more cold-war-like than a trip to the country and we stop
at the parking place. Here part of the forest has been cut down and rearranged
to make swings and climbing frames and a wild-west stockade for the kids.
Then, just to make sure they don't just play and forget that competitive spirit,
there is an obstacle race track.
When we get bored to tears with watching the kids play we decide to take
the woodland trail. This is not quite what we expect.
Germans surge past us at a brisk canter, leapfrogging posts, climbing bars
and ladders, performing pull-ups, swinging along monkeybars, lifting weights,
hurdling fences and kicking balls into holes as we take the easy way round
at a moderate stroll.
Despite the obvious signs of Waldsterben, with many dead or dying trees,
the woods are still pleasant to walk through; the spring of pine needles,
light through the branches, the occasional bird or flower or lichen to admire
and the smell of apparently clean air in a pine forest.
Refreshed we reach the parking place where further refreshment awaits us
in the of beer and sausages in the cafe.
All pictures and text © Peter Marshall, 1985, 1997