In Germany’s south-west, nestled between the alps of the Swabian region and the densely wooded Schönbuch nature park, lies Tübingen, a university city that would put most Disney locations to shame.
The city is built around the almost perfectly preserved old town, with its cobbled alleyways, old timbered houses and rippling canals. (While historical centres of most German cities were destroyed during World War Two, just one bomb fell on Tübingen.) The river Neckar flows through the city centre, forming a little island – the Neckarinsel – which is covered with blossoms in the spring and shines golden in autumn.
Tübingen lies in Swabia, a German region famed for its frugality – and which is also one of the nation’s sunniest spots, making it considerably more cheery than other parts of the country with more gloomy, rainy weather. Significantly, being an academic city, it is small yet dynamic. “For the size of the city, I find it incredibly international,” said Nele Neideck, who runs an expat community.
I first came to Tübingen eight years ago to visit a friend, and, on first impression, the city seemed like a fairy tale, with its idyllic landscape and youthful vibe; out of the 90,000 residents, more than 27,000 are students at the University of Tübingen. We waded through gushing streams, feasted on Swabian specialties and travelled to parties in buses full of students. When I bid goodbye to this quirky town, I never imagined that years later I’d be returning to make it home. But that’s what Tübingen does: it pulls you in, and before you know it, the ease of living in a place as small and vibrant as this makes you never want to leave.