Our European travels may have begun in France, but they quickly moved on into Germany. Not Germany proper (with all of its organized thriftiness) but instead the dark & wooded corner (where organization gives way to shadows and thriftiness to cuckoo clocks).
The Black Forest was amazing. You can imagine that before guns and artificial lights it would have been an imposing if not terrifying place to be. Full of wolves and bears and witches in Candy Houses designed to trap and eat children. After you’ve been in Germany for a while you realize that Disneyland is just a cleaned up version of the Black Forest. If you don’t believe me go back and watch Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Bambi. Things only shift to more of a ‘1950’s US National Forests’ feel later when Mickey starts going camping and those two little chipmunks start stealing food from Donald Duck.
Anyway, despite the regional variations you find in the countries you visit, there are usually a few key things that help tie them all together. This was also true of Germany, in a few different ways, but I’ll limit myself to an ‘Internet List’ of three:
Three Things that all Rental Homes in Germany have in Common:
1. Giant, Giant Homes – German housing, especially in the countryside, tends to be oversized. Your rented part might not be huge, but very likely the overall building will be a giant wooden fortress, designed to go to war with winter. Here is an example of a relatively small German house (from Google, not from our travels):
Yes there are four floors, and probably a basement also.
YOU: “Yikes, the heating costs…”
ME: “They seem to mainly heat with fire. When we were in the Black Forest, the locals were doing their best to cut it all down and chop in into firewood to burn through the impending winter.”
YOU: “Oh no!”
ME: “Don’t worry, the Forest seems to be winning, it’s pretty massive.”
YOU: “So they keep their homes pretty toasty?”
ME: “They have to, because everywhere you go you will also find…”
2. Bisected Bedding – I’m not sure what the state of marriage is in Germany, but there is this weird thing where technically you’re in the same ‘bed’ as your spouse, but in reality it’s just two smaller beds bolted together (a fact that is often hidden by a joined headboard / footboard). And this would be totally fine, except that they forgot to bolt together the duvet you sleep under. You have separate ones, that match your separate (yet together) beds.
YOU: “Is the top-sheet joined or split also?
ME: “There isn’t at top-sheet.”
ME: “You heard me: No. Top-sheet.”
So all you get to sleep with are these giant throw pillows (one each) and half a duvet:
So I guess if you’re having ‘relationship issues’ you can just unbolt the beads and push them apart, and then conveniently your top-quilt is already split down the middle. How prepared.
It’s like the bedding equivalent of a prenuptial agreement.
The practical out working of this austerity of bedding is a complete lack of coziness. In a ‘normal’ two-person bedding arrangement, cold air can only come at you from one side. Now all sides are at risk, and even at the foot of the bed because the duvet is just long enough to go to the end of the bed but not long enough to hang over.
The general feeling is what you get when you try sleeping under a beach towel.
However all of this is somewhat compensated by:
3. Extremely Friendly Hosts
This was the most true in the Black Forest. Shortly after arriving, and just after I had finished unpacking the truck and was about to go back outside, I heard voices outside our exterior door. The owners lived in another part of the giant wood and stone complex we were in, and apparently one of them had come over to meet us. I heard hilarious laughter, impossible to replicate but high-pitched and German sounding.
Not being a people person, I didn’t want go outside to meet anyone. I waited for a couple of minutes, but they didn’t seem to want to go away. It was like they were waiting for us to come back out.
I sighed and opened the door.
I was greeted by a very nice man, who indeed had a musical timber of voice and a crazy laugh. We still think on it regularly as a family. He said his wife usually did the hosting stuff but she was sick, and so he was filling in.
He then pressed us to accept an invitation to come over later for ‘schnapps’. This was a liquor he made himself, and very much wanted us to try. We said that we would be out grocery shopping this evening but maybe another night.
The next morning at 8:00 AM he was at our door. We were not quite up yet.
But there was paperwork to be filed and so that took place in our sleep clothes. The paperwork was some tourist stuff for the German police because they want your passport number everywhere you stay so they can track your movements exactly while you’re there. That was the first time we had heard about this, but it would not be our last.
Once the mandatory paperwork was completed, the invitation for schnapps was re-issued. We said maybe later tonight.
As I loaded the truck for our outing to the cuckoo clock museum, he called down from one of his balconies:
“Schnapps, later? Yah?”
“Yah…I mean, probably!” I replied awkwardly.
(Being introverted is such a handicap when you’re staying in AirBnbs in twenty-five foreign countries for nine months.)
Unavoidably, we joined him for schnapps that evening (delicious). It became clear that the arrangement between him and his wife is that she did all of the AirBnb administration and hosting and then he was in charge of drinking schnapps with the guests. It seemed to work for them.
Though if ever there were issues, they could aways just unbolt their beds for a while.