Ask any German what they like to do in their free time (and you will have this conversation at some point, because hobbies and free time is a conversation topic oft enjoyed by the Germs) and there is a good chance he or she will answer, ‘I like to be in the nature.’ There are variations on this answer, like ‘I like to enjoy the nature’, which is a lovely hobby when you think about it, or ‘I like to walk/cycle/hike/ride/grill in the nature’, but the central role is unwavering; the nature. Germans love the nature.
As a result of this love of nature, parks and public gardens abound in German cities, as do, often, small areas of wald (forest). It means those of us not gadding about the countryside on a daily basis have access to big, beautiful green parks, sometimes with a little lake or two and always well maintained. Here, one can partake in the holy trinity of German leisure; strolling, grilling, enjoying the nature. There is also the fourth option of Nordic Walking, if that floats your boat, and it floats many boats in these parts if my eyes are to be believed.
As an Australian, I also love the nature. And as an Australian, I take it and the type of weather that permits me to be in it whenever I like, entirely for granted. I also grew up with a lot of space around me, I never noticed being in the nature as any different to being at home. Australians are often outside – we have space, we have mild weather, and these two things generally collide to provide a type of lifestyle that sees a great deal of time spent outdoors. Moving to a geographically smaller and far more densely populated country of apartment-dwellers was the first time I heard ‘enjoying the nature’ as an actual thing.
And thank God it’s a thing. This enjoyment means Germany manages to house 80 million people, but retain a forest area of around 31% of its land area. It means you can live in a city of hundreds of thousands and still slip into vast areas of meadows and trees and green. All of these people, plenty of industry and still, 11.1 million hectares of forest. There is plenty of space to play and read and lie in the sun. There is plenty of green.
Now I find myself enjoying the nature. An apartment dweller in a mid-sized city, not a few days pass where I don’t seek out these quiet, leafy oases – Botanic Gardens, protected Wälder, the waterfront, big old sweeping parks made for Danish Kings (or for the general population to use) – where it’s just me and the birds. My child may not grow up on acres of land like I did, able to disappear into bush-land with nothing but a pair of gumboots, a slick of sunscreen, and the guidance of an older sister – but, just minutes from our seemingly urban life, she will be able to get lost in these glorious green places, in a country that loves, with all its heart, being in the nature.