Wednesday, June 20, 2018

My Frankenstein Story

There's a general rule that you can apply across all of the German landscape today....large urban areas grow.....smaller rural areas shrink.  It's been going on for several decades. 

I used to live down in the Rhineland Pfalz (the state) area of Germany.  About 30 minutes away was the village of Frankenstein.  Yeah, it has a unique name and character. 

The best description of Frankenstein is a road leading through a valley, in the middle of nowhere.  The train-line goes through the village and stops....an handful of folks get on each day....either going to Kaiserslautern or Bad Durkheim.  The road?  You have to drive from Hochspeyer through some winding points to reach Frankenstein, then the road splits off and goes into some extreme twists and turns to reach 'civilization' on the other side of the forest.

You are in the middle of nowhere.  The population of the village is around 950 residents.  If you wanted a ultra-quiet village without any thrills, Frankenstein would be it.  Up on the hill overlooking the village is the remains of a smaller fortress building.  They have a unique name and most Americans who got based in the region....will drive up and make the 15-minute walk up to the remains of the mini-fortress.  They do it to say they've been to the castle....beyond that it's not much of a tourist hot-spot.

This week, the village got itself into the Pfalz news.  An era has ended....the local elementary school will officially shut down this week, as school goes into the summer break.  Reason?  Well....they were down to 15 total kids in the village, attending the elementary school.

Journalists don't sit there and spend time looking at the character of the village or what's really going on.  I think if you gathered all of the statistical data....the majority of residents in the village are over the age of forty, and most folks don't see a reason to settle in this highly rural village in the middle of nowhere.  I will admit, you are about fifteen to twenty minutes away from the edge of Kaiserslautern, but it's mostly dying out because of a lack of jobs. 

Local parents?  SWR, the regional TV network, covered their frustrations.  Without the elementary school, you basically have to accept the decision to put your kid on a bus each morning and send them through the hills on a ten-minute ride to 'civilization' (meaning Hochspeyer).  Most locals in Hochspeyer would laugh over the description.

Six twists on the B37 and you arrive at Hochspeyer.

Across Germany, you find literally thousands of communities like Frankenstein, which are downsizing year by year.  Grocery stores shut down.  Banks close.  If you are lucky....the ATM machine remains and gets filled twice a week. 

In another ten years?  Frankenstein will probably drift down to around 650 folks, and likely continue to lose twenty to thirty folks a year....mostly by those dying off.  The school?  It was built as a typical elementary operation....first grade through the fifth, and had some upgrades done every decade.  But once you get down to fifteen total students....it's just not much on the common sense scale to keep something like this going.

It's a trend that isn't stopping.

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