Perhaps it’s time we had a chat about Weiden in der Oberpfalz, or, as the Weidenites like to call it, The Max Reger Stadt. Max Reger actually grew up and composed music in Weiden, as opposed to Goethe who spent one night on one of his journeys and now has a plaque outside that very room, engraved in his honour.
Why ‘in der Operpfalz’ I hear you say? My friend, you need to read this.
So, Weiden. We’re talking about a town that has around 40,000 people dotted throughout it – but a catchment area of around 300,000 people. Not too bad. We’re talking about a town that has been around since 1241 or so – lovely and old – and was a pretty important stop on a trade route in the 1500s … until a fire burnt down essentially the entire town down in 1536. Seven houses survived. Four years later, during reconstruction, the town burnt down again as a result of a fire caused by the reconstruction. 1634 was a tough year, marred by capture by the Swedes and the plague, and by 1661, some years after the close of the Thirty Years’ War, Weiden was a town of just 316 families, down from 530.
A few hundred years, a railroad, some industrialisation, some incorporation of other small towns and villages later, and by 1919 Weiden was thriving once more as an independent district. Post WW2, Weiden’s population continued to grow, and the latter half of the century brought more regional expansion, Deutsche Bahn connections, a university, a hospital, and a postal services centre.
And here we are today.
We have a funny relationship, Weiden and I. Moving here signalled a lot of good changes – moving on from Münster, moving in with SG, seeing more of Germany. Fattening up the experiences book, so to speak. But it also presented challenges I wasn’t particularly equipped to handle the first time round, namely a type of isolation that compounded an already serious case of homesickness. Moving to Weiden in 2012 ultimately drove me back to Australia in order to solidify and clarify a few things before, with a clear mind, I could commit to making Germany more than just an experience; instead, to making it a permanent home. It wasn’t Weiden itself that put me back on a plane – things were more complex than that – but it was Weiden I ran from and thus the town itself has, perhaps unjustly, taken on a negative association.
But even when one is being kind to Weiden, which I try to be for the most part because that means I am kinder to myself and more likely to be positive, which is important, oh so important (it’s a slippery slope that negative one and it only gets slipperier the colder and greyer it gets – I’m stockpiling summer for when it’s dark at 3pm and the sun doesn’t rise until after my second cup of tea in the morning) there isn’t an enormous amount to be overly enthusiastic about. Weiden suffers a little from the indignity of being in a region full of beautiful Medieval towns (Regensburg, Bamberg and, in the next region on, Rothenburg) yet possessing the least remarkable vestiges of its own Medieval history. It has a gorgeous little Altstadt with tiny old buildings, stone alleys and a Rathaus that may or may not be a doll’s house, that much is true, and the surrounding countryside is classic Bayern – green, rolling, forest-covered. But beyond that, Weiden’s hodge podge of square buildings, which get a fresh lick of pastel paint every now and then, and rather modern churches, seem to indicate that for most, the closing of the 90s (maybe even the 80s) seemed to pass by unnoticed. Only the night clubs crawled into the 2000s and stayed somewhere around 2002. So did the music tastes of the Weiden youth who drive around the streets with their specially installed sound systems shuddering.
Nevertheless, if it is hard one must look to appreciate Weiden for all it has to offer, then hard I shall. And if it is positive I must be, to stay away from that slippery slope, then positive shall be the filter I slap on all I see. Weiden isn’t my favourite place in the world but it isn’t forever. It has revealed a lot about what I do and don’t want from a home, and provided the first home SG and I have created together. It has been a small, quiet, removed place in which to learn a lot about and reflect deeply upon myself, my relationship, and my choices.
It isn’t all good but it isn’t all bad.
So, about that positive filter, otherwise known as Instagram…
See more of Weiden on this blog: