Readers of this journal could well be forgiven for thinking that I am not a fan of Göttingen. I have ranted and raved about grannies on buses and been snotty about the Christmas Market. I could fulminate at length about the preponderance of shoulder-bargers, kamikaze motorists and cyclists with entitlement issues or grizzle about the non-service which is common in shops and cafes here. I also don't get the whole deal with the dog owners here - I mean people either go for some variety of quasi-horse with a bark like the clanging chimes of doom or else choose some manner of rat-on-a-rope but seldom any size of breed between. But I am actually rather fond of the place.
I have a long-term history of quibbling with my place of residence. I grew up in a pleasant but rather dull town in the North East of England called Darlington and, at about the age of 15 or 16, it dawned on me that it simply wouldn't do. Leisure-wise one had the option of going swimming, going for walks along the riverbank, going shopping or getting drunk. The architecture was uninspiring and culturally it was moribund. When I was growing up there were no art galleries in the North East and any time I made the escape to distant London, I spent my spare time there doggedly and determinedly traipsing round galleries and museums attempting to take in whatever painting, sculpture or fol de rol was on display, whether I could appreciate them or not. No good bands came closer than Edinburgh or Glasgow. The local cinema only ever showed whatever was big in Hollywood at the time. Going to the theatre necessitated a trip to York or Newcastle unless I could cope with the postmodern posturings of such luminaries as the Chuckle Brothers whooping it up at the Civic Theatre. The town possesses a fine Arts Centre and I earnestly attended writing and drama classes until I became too old for the kids ones and too young for the adult ones. At about the age of 15 my activities in the Arts Centre became not entirely socially acceptable as my peers saw it as a venue for meeting and getting off with lads called Phil. So I took to wearing black, doing a great deal of homework and gratefully skedaddled out of town university-wards when I was 18. Bye-bye Darlo, eat my dust! I'm off for aa bigger and better life.
Of course I was wrong. I have lived in a number of places since and even spent 2 years in the fleshpots of London, a city replete with everything of which my adolescent self dreamed (sadly more) and I have never found anywhere quite as nice as Darlington. There are good schools there, no more ASBO artistes than anywhere else its size and it's well-positioned. If you drive off in one direction for a little while you hit the Lake District. In another direction there are the North Yorkshire Moors. The countryside around Darlington is wild and beautiful and hotching with Norman castles and Roman ruins. The town isn't too far from the seaside and places of interest such as York or Durham are within easy reach. If suitable work were to come up, this would be the kind of place that I would choose to raise a family, what with all of the healthful and educational excursiions available to a potential Jenny or Andy and all of the places where one could safely walk Bonzo (that would be Jenny or Andy's dog).
Göttingen is like that only better. The German standard of living is much higher than the British one and fun things such as housing are cheaper. Göttingen is a university town, which means that there is always something going on and something to do. My 15 year old self would have had the choice of 3 theatres, an orchestra and 3 art house cinemas for entertainment. There are music venues galore (although no-one exciting comes to them!) and street festivals are a regular occurrence. Although an awful lot of Götingen was bombed flat, there are still a great many half-timbered houses and baroque buildings around. Plus, should I ever feel the urge to do so, I can go wandering in the forests and hills around the town. And we are within easy reach of the Harz, of Hannover and Hamburg and various other cool places beginning with H.
I have tried big city life and discovered that I am not cut out for it. In London, I could see every last band, every last exhibition and eat every last type of cuisine if I had wanted to (or could have afforded it...). But I never met my neighbours, never spoke to the people with whom I shared my morning commute, never saw birdlife more exotic than pigeons and never felt either completely safe nor yet comfortable in my skin (even my version thereof!). In towns like Göttingen and Darlington one actually has the opportunity to speak to other people and not fear that they are about to mug you. In London, when an announcement comes over a railway tannoy that the train will be delayed due to there being a body on the line, 10 people will switch on their mobile phones and complain about the selfish sod who has prevented them from getting home quickly. Here or in Darlington, people might actually (gasp!) give a damn about the person who had died. And big cities are dirty! Give me litter-free pavements and breathable air any day!
So my conclusion is this - I like Darlington as it feels like home and what I like best about Göttingen is that it shares the positive attributes of Darlington.