Elderly couple who built a house in a remote part of Ireland admit they don’t know who to leave it to
A couple who have dedicated their entire lives to looking after a home they built in the Irish countryside have moved Ben Fogle to tears after admitting it has become too much work for them, but they haven’t “no idea” who will take over.
Austrian architect Georg and German-born teacher Bettina left Austria in the 1980s and bought 20 acres of land in a secluded bog in the bogs of County Mayo with Bettina’s inheritance, where they built their home and raised their children, who now live in Germany.
Speaking on tonight’s New Lives in the Wild on Channel 5, presenter Ben Fogle explained that there was no running water, electricity or telephone line for years after they moved to a remote place.
Now both in their 60s and having retired from their part-time jobs in architecture and teaching, the couple rely on a small pension to survive and spend their time taking care of the house and cooking. to fix.
But as the twilight years of their lives approached, Bettina and Georg confessed to Ben that they were too tired to run the house on their own and are now ready to embark on the next chapter of their lives, even if they don’t know who will take over. on their house when they leave.
Austrian architect Georg and German-born teacher Bettina left Austria in the 1980s and purchased 20 acres of land in a secluded bog in the bogs of County Mayo with Bettina’s inheritance. They told Ben Fogle on tonight’s New Lives in the wild that they don’t know what the future holds
Georg and Bettina remained optimistic about the future, although they admitted they didn’t know what was in store for them.
“A cycle has ended again,” Georg said, adding that the couple faced “a sea of possibilities.”
They admitted they had no idea who would look after their land when it came time to vacate it, and were not actively looking for someone to take over the house, with Bettina saying their children “n were not interested”.
“We weren’t looking for you either and you showed up,” Georg told Ben, adding, “Life presents surprises and opportunities once we open ourselves up to them.”
Bettina added: “Part of me says ‘You have to organize this, you have to plan it, you have to be sensible, bring people in, educate this audience’
‘Another side believes when I’m ready it’ll just come our way, so basically we don’t know, we just know we’re getting too old, we can’t take it, we can’t handle it,’ she said.
Georg and Bettina met in the 1970s and immediately felt at peace with each other. They moved to Ireland in the 1980s
The couple laughed when Ben asked them where they would go once the house was no longer theirs, and said life would give them “an ocean of possibilities”.
Georg said he hoped the couple would find “something new”.
‘For the last phase of our life, something exciting and surprising and the right thing for this phase of our life.
“I want life to be lighter, easier and freer, with less things to do,” Bettina said, her husband adding that the couple want to enjoy “the fruits of their lives” because they don’t have much left. of time. .
Their honesty moved Ben to tears as he was amazed by Georg and Bettina’s serene and upbeat demeanor.
Ben heard how the couple built their home from scratch in Ireland after leaving their life in Austria behind
The couple met in Austria in 1975 and it was love at first sight. At the time, Georg was working as an architect.
Bettina having just inherited from her mother, they bought a house in the Austrian countryside, but they wanted to live an even more remote life and ended up moving to Ireland.
There they purchased 20 acres of land in the bogs of County Mayo and set about building their home.
Georg designed the plans for the house, but Bettina helped him with the design and construction.
Georg told Ben that for the first three years the couple had no electricity, and they had no water for four years, and no telephone for five years.
He said those years spent in “survival” mode had been an important phase in his life and that of Bettina.
These days, the couple grow their own vegetables and fruit, use compost toilets and chop their own wood for warmth.
The land around the house is a fruitful garden which Bettina spends her time nurturing, although she admitted to Ben that she was growing tired.
The couple shared how they felt when they visited the land that would become their home for the visit.
“There were no boundaries here, it was a foggy day, I had no idea the view, I turned around and saw a flash of light on the lake and it was so pretty “, recalls Georg.
“Unknowingly, I longed for healing, inner peace and something new,” he told Ben.
Bettina and Georg admitted on the show that they now feel too tired to take care of the house like they used to
The presenter said he was fascinated by both Georg and Bettina and was looking forward to learning more about them.
Georg was born after World War II in Austria and admitted he grew up in a home that was “abusive in many ways”.
He declined to go into further details, saying he had forgiven his parents and felt “deep love for them”.
“So I don’t want to reheat something that’s gone,” he said.
After completing his studies in architecture, Georg married his first wife, but he admitted he was too focused on his career and the relationship fell apart, leading to a separation.
He met Bettina through a friend and said he immediately felt at peace with her.
“When I met Bettina, we both felt a kind of peace that was so deep that we thought ‘we want to put this into our daily life’,” he says.
Bettina also had a conflicted childhood, being born in post-war Germany.
“It was a huge art of my life, growing up in this destroyed country that was being rebuilt with all the shame and the rubble and the history and I didn’t like it, I didn’t like growing up there -down, I didn’t like like the country, I was ashamed, very ashamed,” she told Ben.
The couple remain optimistic and told Ben they face an ‘ocean of possibilities’ for the next chapter in their lives
“I imprinted, saw the Holocaust movies, then my mother died and my childhood home was sold,” she said.
“I felt free and open to a new life, I met Georg at the same time, we had money so we said to each other, put our lives together and seek peace and happiness,” he said. she adds.
But she went on to tell Ben how Ireland had helped her reconnect with her German roots.
“Today I have a strong feeling for Germany, it was a journey home, looking for a home,” she said.
“It’s no mistake that I ended up here, Ireland is a country of exile, back home, always wanting to come home, I feel a huge connection to that past in this country “, she added.
The couple said that while it was difficult to move to Ireland and build their home from scratch in bad weather, they grew up with the land.
“I have a relationship with every square meter,” Georg told Ben.
Bettina added: “I feel like I live in this land and this land lives in me.
And while they admit taking care of the house has been hard work, they don’t regret the lifestyle.
“One of the reasons I left Austria was that life was too comfortable,” Georg said.
“I needed to go the extra mile, because that extra mile is life in all its opposites and in all its fullness,” he said.
However, Georg became emotional telling Ben that he regretted polluting the Earth.
“When I look back 40 years ago when he decided to move to the countryside and I realized this pollution we were doing, I think it had to do with me feeling disconnected,” he began, before bursting into tears.
“I didn’t know what I was doing to the earth,” his voice cracking, before admitting that he was surprised to cry, but that knowing he had harmed the earth was painful.
“I have hope: I have changed myself, so I see that it is possible to change,” he told Ben.
Ben Fogle: News Lives in the Wild airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.