After spending quite a bit of time on trains traveling through the rural forested areas of south-western Germany, I’ve seen a lot of different small towns, and if ever something has tempted me to go off on Platonic metaphysical speculation, it’s these small German mountain villages. They’re so eerily similar that it seems like neither the strictest of German building codes nor the geography could have created such remarkably uniform instantiations. The Idea must be something like this: every town will sit in the valley in between at least two, if not mountains, than high hills. The houses will be huddled together in these valleys like cold people huddling together for warmth and safety, and will bear roughly the same color pallet. Always pale colored, plaster walls, ranging in color from a washed out red that looks like a muted pink, to grey, to similarly washed out versions of light blue and light green. The rooves will always be clay tiles of dark red or orange, and slanted steeply as to bear the load of snow more easily. The background of the village, no matter where you stand, will always be a forest of evergreen trees and other green vegetation, and you will find a few dispersed throughout the town as well.
The only things that interrupts this almost uniform description are the splashes of vivid color on franchised grocery stores and advertisements. I know there are literally armies of Marketing teams that test these color schemes for companies to get the perfect combination that stands out without being too gaudy, but it seems to me that no matter what the design, these splashes of color will always stand out too much in these little towns. I know the intended effects: have a design that stands out from others, that distinguishes your store from the others, that entices people to enter with promises of quality and consistency. But out here, “auf dem Land,” these bright colored advertisements and logos are bound to seem gaudy and out-of-place. Designed to compete with each other in urban environments, where there are a thousand more distractions, these splashes of color on the landscapes of these small German towns just look like unnecessary highlights.
In a more sober and scientific mood, I can imagine perfectly reasonable explanations that explain this uniformity: everything looks washed-out because it has been washed out, no one wants to spend extra money on ostentatious decoration, the houses have been around for a long time, there is social pressure to conform (just like there is any- and everywhere), and one of the last concerns of a grocery store chain is how a bunch of people in a rural village will feel about the change in color pallet of their town’s landscape. But I still find it fascinating that this is what necessity has produced here in southern Germany, and not something else. Whether divinely inspired or naturally mechanistic, it’s still unique.