August 2009


Skewed Perspectives: Thüringen & Wyoming

One of the interesting things to me is how perceptions about time, distance, and population have varied so widely in my life.

When I lived in Wyoming, it was reasonable at 11:30 to say to friends, “Hey, let’s have lunch in Cheyenne,” and be on the road 15 minutes, driving 45 minutes for lunch, a little shopping, and then drive back to Laramie, another 45 minutes. Weekend trip to Denver, were just over two hours—and although I did not make the trip too often, it was a frequent destination for many.

That said, while working for Sagebrush News, a newspaper distributor, the owner would occasionally pay for me to drive to Denver and work on the weekends—which I might note explains why I was driving to Denver the day that Jessica Dubroff had her plane accident.

Living in Indiana, I was a mere hour away from Indianapolis, and after a couple years of living in Bloomington, I knew two facts about driving: (1) spending an hour behind the wheel was undesirable; and (2) Indianapolis is a pretty sad little city (it has a lot in common with Frankfurt).

Now that I live in Germany, although I have a driver’s license, I have not been behind the wheel of a car since last November, when I drove around Denver. If I had to hazard a guess, the longest I have driven in a single stretch since my May 2007 vacation in South Africa, is no more than 90 minutes.

Honestly, when I start thinking about my trip to Wyoming, the driving aspect scares me a bit: there is no passenger train service across or within Wyoming, so I will be relying upon my driving abilities. I’ll be driving long distances—my first day of driving, from Colorado to a small Wyoming city, will entail some eight or nine hours behind the wheel.

To boot, since I’ll have an American auto rental, I’ll be driving an automatic with all of its inherent disadvantages. Rough, considering that I’ve always been a stick man.

In preparation for my trip, I hopped on to a gay-dating site, and took at the look at the Wyoming offerings—seeing if there was anybody interesting out there—and I got into a conversation with somebody—which brings me to the point about population differences.

Listening to Germans describe Thüringen, my home state, one gets the distinct impression that it’s a rural, backwater, conservative state. The rhetoric Germans use to describe Thüringen is oddly similar to the rhetoric used by Americans to describe Wyoming. In fact, without my noticing it, or considering the implications, I started describing Wyoming to Germans as being like Thüringen.

Of course, after I started conversing with this rural-state guy, I was asked to talk about where I lived, and my first sentence started out, no joke, “I live in a small city.”

Honestly, in the German context, this is an honest and true statement.

But Weimar has a population of 65,000!

Weimar is the fourth largest city in Thüringen after Erfurt, Gera, and Jena. Thüringen, itself, has a population of 2,278,136 people—a population density of 141 per square kilometer (365 per square mile).

In comparison, Wyoming’s largest city, Cheyenne, has a population of 53,011 while the state’s total population is 532,668—or 2.08 per square kilometer (5.4 per square mile).

My “little German city” is larger than anything in Wyoming.

1 comment to Skewed Perspectives: Thüringen & Wyoming

  • I know what you mean about driving. I used to think nothing of getting off work on Saturday morning, rounding up a couple of friends and driving down to Key West (between 60 and 100 miles) for the day, returning that same night. Now, I don’t even want to drive a couple blocks to the grocery store.