Regret moving to the suburbs

(SZ from January 29th, 2001) - The house doesn't look like the trailer of the TV lottery, but it hides a dream apartment: three rooms under the roof, kitchen and bathroom with window, fireplace, large balcony, a huge storage room on the same floor, more than 100 square meters of living space. Plus a garden so big that mowing takes four hours. The neighbor has already offered shared use of the swimming pool and tennis court. And behind the high triangular panes of the living room window, clouds slide in front of the Alpine ridge.

But unfortunately the house is not in Munich: The Michael family has moved out.

Shortly before the birth of their now eight-month-old son Merlin, Juliane and Oliver slammed the door of their old parquet apartment in Haidhausen for the last time, left the S-Bahn stations behind and drove their things to Unterzeismering.

Her new home is two kilometers from the Tutzing train station, but it is affordable and family-friendly: 1900 marks rent, only 300 marks more than her smaller apartment in Haidhausen.

"We saw how the neighbors' children let their little cars drive on the stairwell, how they played in a sandpit that looked more like a litter box."

The 33-year-old pediatrician almost shudders at the thought. "Here," he says, "you can let the children out into the pasture like cows." Oliver and Juliane want their son to be able to climb trees barefoot, to roll snowmen and poke roses, to have his own experiences as soon as he walks and not always have to be supervised.

In Haidhausen, the playground was across the road from a car. The dream apartment is off the route towards the mountains.

Houses here rarely have more than two storeys. Fir trees grow behind fences and signposts are carved out of wood.

It was a coincidence that the young parents realized an old idea here of all places. Oliver had placed a thin three-line ad in the local paper - as a test balloon.

At the same time, the previous tenants considered looking for a larger apartment and responded to this one advertisement. Then everything happened very quickly: The Michaels never got around to finding a family apartment in Munich that would suit their taste and budget.

It would have been difficult enough, and both of them could well remember the tedious search for an apartment during their student days.

Longing for an English garden

A lot has to be planned and organized now because the Michaels only have one car. Going out spontaneously has become more difficult, and the cultural offerings are meager. "We used to take the tram down briefly in the evening and see if there were still student tickets in the opera," says Oliver, somewhat wistfully.

He, who grew up on the other side of Lake Starnberg, felt comfortable in the big city. "It's a bit of a shame."

Sometimes he longs for the hustle and bustle in the English Garden on the first day of spring: "In Unterzeismering, only the cows come out."

Juliane, who takes care of Merlin all day and stays in the village without a car, sometimes feels underchallenged: "In Munich you would have packed up your child and gone to an exhibition," she regrets.

Sunrises

Shortly before the move, Juliane had often remembered the forests of her childhood in the Düsseldorf suburb of Ratingen-Hösel and longed for the day when she would arrive in the country.

She is now familiar with the more difficult aspects of life out here - but she makes one caveat: Many changes in her life are more likely a result of having a child than of living in the country.

"Our theater and our opera, that's what we have here now," says Juliane, pointing to the mountains in front of the window. The sunrises, she says, "they're really cheesy here."

The two young parents rave about the four farms in the neighborhood, about the farmer who immediately knew who they were. "I don't think that will happen to you in Planegg," says Oliver.

You remember May 1st, your first day in Unterzeismering, when a maypole was set up. Apart from amenities like the open fireplace ("I would never have dared to dream of that"), the lake a few meters below and the milk fresh from the cow, Juliane appreciates the sociability in the village. "I talk to other people here more often than in Munich."

In contrast to many other young families, they have the advantage that life in the country shortens their distances: Oliver has been working at the Starnberg Hospital for four years, and when the two of them want to go to Munich in the evening, they drive against the current in the car.

They have never seriously regretted the move: "Living in Munich was a phase," says Oliver. Are you at the goal of your dreams? "Who knows what will happen professionally," he says, "maybe we'll move back to the city at some point."