Christian Wittmann is one of the founding members and head of the association "BesserGemeinsamLeben" in Friesenhausen, Germany. We became interested in the village of Friesenhausen, as we heard about their proposals for a future of comfortably living together in old age. Their concepts for senior cohousing are based on a strong sense of community, which Christian Wittmann not only explained to us at length, but also expressed, radiated and clearly lives on a daily basis. He quit his city life in Munich to fully live in Friesenhausen now. He has found friends and like minds and can no longer imagine to live anywhere else.
The beauty of Friesenhausen lies not only in its picturesque geographical location, among extensive green fields in the Bavarian countryside, but rather in its extremely welcoming spirit. We were warmly welcomed, despite certain difficulties, due to the first Covid-19 summer of 2020. Friesenhausen seems to be an exemplary social village - inhabitants cook and bake together what they grow and harvest and exchange recipes and tools for repair. What might seem antiquated is quite the contrary here. Cleverly combining the old and the new, such as old vegetable and fruit species, dehydrators, solar panels and Teslas, this village stands out as a special species of itself.
Various concrete motors arguably make this village so successful in its social aims of fostering authentic community. One of these motors is Café VeReNa. Christian Wittmann shared the ideas behind Café VeReNa with us, a café installed in the village’s center, whose name stands for its three pillars: vegetarian, regional and natural (or sustainable). Locals and guests come together to eat, drink or simply for exchange. In addition, the community has established a small adjacent stage, where local performers or guests can recite for a curious audience. Culture is just a step away. Furthermore, the spirit between the houses is one of conviviality and support. Friesenhausen opened itself up to us, to show us how people can be at the forefront of social change, working together to create an atmosphere by collectively helping one another out and sharing their interests and skills.
Wittmann also told us that the association visited Tiedoli in Italy, a small village, acting somewhat as a model for Friesenhausen and - why not? - other villages. It is a community of less than ten people living together in old age, one close to the other, in order to be at hand, when one needs support. These alternative methods of shared commons were exciting for us to see first hand. We remain inspired to spread the word and carry some of the techniques and philosophies with us and out into the world.