I'm spending a week in Germany, partly to do family research, partly to see friends, art, and culture; but also of course to observe the interaction of mobility and community here.
Many people who have been to Germany have commented to me that "of course" the public transportation here - especially rail - is great. Sometimes these comments are accompanied by a rueful sigh and a shake of the head, as if to say, "naturally, we'll never be able to do anything like this in the U.S."
Like Americans, German people are highly mobile. They love to travel, both within Germany and abroad. Their economy is prosperous, and many of them choose travel as a way to use their discretionary income. Most Germans are hard-working, well educated, and take an interest in world events. Mobility is a highly prized right for them, as it is for us Americans.
But land is very expensive everywhere: even in little Bad Rotenfels, the town where my German ancestors lived, I was informed that one square meter goes for about €400, which works out to more than $2 million per acre. As you can imagine, this has a profound effect on people's mobility choices: driving downtown and parking is an option one has to consider very carefully. And it also explains why so many Germans came to America in the 19th century: as their families grew, most couldn't afford to buy land for expansion.
So for the next few days I'll be blogging about how mobility impacts community in Germany. Stay tuned!