Monday, September 24, 2012
I've been living in Horb (southern Germany) for about a week now. I am originally from Wisconsin – grew up in Sheboygan, went to college in Appleton, and lived and worked most of my adult life in Fond du Lac. My husband is German and has lived in southern Germany all his life. We have been good friends for 22 years. He and I were married in June 2006 and have been living apart for more than 6 years, with one or the other of us flying overseas several times a year for visits, holidays, family occasions, and so on.
But now, after what seems like a very long wait, we are starting our married lives together in a lovely little house Martin found for us in the perfect location. It's about a 4-minute walk to his office, where he spends most of his daytime hours, and a 20-minute walk for me to the shopping area where I can buy just about everything we need for day-to-day life. We have a rather elaborate garden with roses, lavender, mint, rhododendron bushes, a fountain, and an angry artificial owl that sits on a stone pedestal and oversees the goings-on of the yard. The garden and yard are surrounded by a tall hedge, so typical in southern Germany, to prevent passers-by from peeking at one's lawn. We also have a pergola on the far side of our patio – a 3-sided garden shed in which we store Martin's Weber grill and the lawn furniture when the weather is bad and during the winter. It's a lovely place to sit during rain storms, as well.
Our house has three bedrooms and an office, so we have more space than I would have anticipated. Nearly everything here is on a smaller, more conservative scale than in the States. Kitchens are smaller, bedrooms are smaller, and yards and garages are tiny in comparison. There is just not the space to spread out here as there is in America, and land costs much more. Still, our yard is much bigger than we need, and I'm not complaining - until it's time to do yard work, which I've never enjoyed. Perhaps I can learn to enjoy it here.
The garage makes me laugh. We have a two-car garage, which is not at all common here. Most homes have a one-car garage, and some also have a carport. German garages are just a bit larger than their cars. One has to squeeze into the driver's seat and hold one's breath backing out (at least I do, fearing what will happen if the wheel was turned at any point after entering the garage). If one has a car of a reasonable size, there may be some space in front of it for a bike. Germans must be flabbergasted by American garages and the junk with which we fill them. When we put our house in Wisconsin on the market before my move here, one of the things we were told was that our 2.5-car garage was a negative point. Americans buying houses today want 3-car garages, because even if they don't have 3 cars, they have another garage-full of stuff they need to store in there.
We have a Wintergarten (sun room) on the south side of the house with windows as three of the walls (two face outside to the back yard and patio and one faces into the living room), and I'm sure we'll be using that room often during all seasons. But perhaps the best feature of the home is the very German Kachelofen (tiled stove or masonry heater)! This is in the Wohndiele, which is the main entrance area, or foyer. Martin has made a fire for me in there nearly every night since I arrived. The wood goes into a little metal box inside the tiled "fireplace", and once it's burning the box is closed – so unlike fireplaces in the States, one doesn't see the flames. They heat up the tiled walls of the heater from the inside, and the heat from the tiles warms the whole room. When I get a slight chill, all I need to do is sit down on the bench of the Kachelofen and lean my back against it. Hmmmmm…. it warms me straight through in no time. I'm very lucky that Martin has not yet tired of building me fires.
One last interesting feature of German homes is that when a buyer moves in, he typically finds the rooms empty. Totally empty. There are few – if any – closets, and the sellers usually take the lights, including the ones fixed to the ceilings. The sellers usually take the kitchen cupboards and counters with them, and often the sink as well. A buyer may come in and find only a faucet sticking out of a kitchen wall. This is the case in the bathroom as well. There are no cupboards under the sinks, or counters - those go with the sellers. In the bathroom are only sinks, the toilet, and the shower and/or tub. The woman from whom we bought this house was down-sizing to an apartment, and she included the kitchen sink, cupboards, and counter tops with the house. She also left the curtains in all the rooms, which was really nice for us. We can change them gradually as we like, but at least we didn't have to add those expenses to our move right away.
This week has been mainly about getting used to the house and making it feel like home even though our shipment from the States isn't here yet. I'm getting there, and once the shipment arrives, I'm sure the house will feel completely ours. There will be plenty of work to do, and I'm looking forward to being productive and truly settling in.