Cultured Landscape

Rural Black Forest hillsides near Sankt Märgen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. May 2014.

Rural Black Forest hillsides near Sankt Märgen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. May 2014.

My photo of the month for May 2014, from our trip to the Schwarzwald region, where we visited family. You can buy a print of this photo in my store (opens in a new browser tab/window).

May in San Diego was a strange month, and I didn’t make too many photos: we had two weeks of Santa Ana winds (the second one causing multiple wildfires in our area) and I didn’t get out much because of that, and because of the preparations for our trip, of course.

Late in May then, we visited the Black Forest region in southwestern Germany, and the contrast to Southern California couldn’t have been bigger: while Spring is essentially over here in San Diego (or what little we had of it, because of the ongoing drought), it is in full swing in Germany: trees have fresh green leaves and twigs, there’s an abundance of wildflowers everywhere, and the grass on the pastures is high (an unpleasant reminder of my pollen allergy;-).

But also, it is an old, cultured landscape – for centuries, people have worked and cultivated these lands. They clear-cut forested areas to gain pastures, and used the logged trees for construction and other purposes. Farm houses were built, and tiny winding roads lead to them. Then reforestation began, with faster growing trees for economic use. Spruce and pine replaced fir and beech, and small patches of old growth forest only remain in areas that were too hard to access for logging.

But most of all, the little villages and human settlements seem to be more “organically” integrated and part of the landscape – whereas the urban sprawl and suburbs of Southern California, with their artificial green and level plateaus often look like islands, or even alien intrusions to me. I like the cultured landscapes of Germany, but I think I like the remaining truly “wild” landscapes, and the possibility to access and experience some of them more. The only thing in Germany that comes close to this are perhaps the higher alpine regions of the alps. It only makes sense that I loved and hiked them so much in the past. :)

And who knows how the landscapes here in Southern California will look like in a couple hundred years, when settlements reach the same age as the ones in the Black Forest region now. With the mass-development of residential areas, where hundreds of houses pop-up more or less all at once, I doubt it will ever look as an integral part of the landscape like in Germany though. That’s unavoidable because building homes in fire-prone chaparral landscapes isn’t such a good idea anyway, and okay with me – as long as enough wilderness remains and is preserved for the future…

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