Thursday, October 30, 2014

The "Dorf" Explanation

Last night, I sat and watch HR (our Hessen state-run TV network).  The highlight of the evening was a brief eight-minute news piece on these "dorfs" in the state.....which now have no 'services'.  By 'services', I mean no butcher, no baker, no grocery, and no bank.  A "dorf"? American would typically call it a one-dog town, where there's one stop-light, one gas station, and any gossip concerning anyone in town is five-star gossip.

It's a odd trend.  Years ago....most small towns of fifty homes....always had a butcher and baker.  If you had a village of a hundred-odd homes, you tended to have a small grocery operation and at least one bank.

They went through several Hessen towns which had seen fairly sharp downward trends over the past twenty years.  Their rail service?  Gone.  Their post office?  Gone.  Grocery?  Gone.  Some had an ATM machine still around but admitted they continually waited each day for it to be reloaded with cash.

Germany, since the wall going down in the early 1990s....has been on an urban trail.  Young people finish up their education, and if you live in a "dorf" find a job in a significant town forty to sixty minutes away, and then you move there.  The older folks stick around, and just always thought general services that they enjoyed for fifty years would be there.

What ends up happening?  Based on the way that the journalists told the just end up accepting this, and going on drive (maybe ten minutes.....maybe twenty).  What they didn't say.....was if gas stations were part of the deal.  I'd assume that a "dorf" of fifty residences.....would be sufficient for one gas station to survive.

For an American, it's part of the same thing that you'd see in rural areas of the south.  A bank might leave it's branch to shut down and just run an ATM machine.  The gas station?  It'll expand into a marginal grocery/gas station, which is just enough to make locals happy.  Post offices are fought over with intense commentary and political dialog.

It'll be curious to see how Hessen "dorfs" survive in twenty-five years.   If you have a community with no services, and nothing for at least thirty minutes driving.....why stay?  I could see vast areas of Hessen.....a town of fifty homes....just left to a dozen occupied houses, as the older folks die out.

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