BUEDINGEN, Germany — Sixty-two years after they arrived in this medieval village — and 17 years after it ceased to be the front line in the Cold War — U.S. troops are leaving and preparing to hand their base back to the town.
The 640 soldiers in the 1st Squadron of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Regiment will be gone by mid-August. Most have already left, the latest in a rush back to the States that's seen American troop levels in Europe fall by about a third since 2005. The U.S. also is shutting down bases this summer in Gelnhausen, Darmstadt and Hanau and a barracks in Mannheim.
At a time when two-thirds of Germans view the U.S. unfavorably, it sounds like perfect timing. That's not the view in Buedingen, however.
"I can't think of a negative thing to say about America," said lifelong resident Ursula Schmueck, who helps run a 1950s museum in town. "I don't know anyone who could. We all love America here. I think that's because we know it."
Buedingen is a fairy-tale town of 8,500 people. It has its own Witches Tower, a Jerusalem Gate and Schwan (Swan) Inn, all dating from before 1600, as well as its own legend. According to the story, 500 years ago a new countess refused to consummate her marriage because of the din from the croaking of frogs. That set off a wild night of frog-catching by the entire town.