Monday, December 29, 2014

Some Like It Cold

Let me first say that it is not cold in Germany, at least not where we are. I'm cold pretty much all the time from September to mid-June, but technically speaking, it doesn't get very cold here - at least not in relation to the artic chill of winter in Wisconsin.

I don't bother converting degrees Celcius into the Fahrenheit I'm used to because math formulas and I have never been friends. I just know that double-digits are pleasant, high 30s is blazing hot, single digit temperatures are manageable, and negative numbers are below freezing. Good enough.

We keep our house at about 20 Grad (68 °F) during the winter, and it usually stays around that in the summer, too. Each room has a radiator that can be adjusted as needed, or turned off altogether. We don't have air conditioning and don't need it because our walls inside and out are made of concrete. Our basement is always cooler, so on extraordinarily hot days I have the option of going down there and rearranging the storage shelves. We do have in-floor heating, which I must admit is quite nice in the winter. We're not sure why those who built the house put the in-floor heating in the living room and Wohndiele (foyer) and not the bedrooms or the bathroom, but oh well.

I should point out - because that's the point of this post - that most of our house is kept at 20 Grad. M likes to sleep with the window open even in the gray dead of winter, so it's decidedly colder in our bedroom. I brought a thermometer in there today, and the mercury stopped falling at 11.9 Grad (53 °F). This was before the sun went down. The window stays open all day long because we're never in there during the day and it would therefore be silly to close it and turn on the heat.

Is this a crazy German thing? His mother does it, too, and she grew up in northern England. Do all Europeans do this? M says he gets headaches if he doesn't get fresh air while he sleeps, and I surely don't want that.

I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but despite the shock-freezing horror that has become what I used to call "getting into bed," I actually have grown to like sleeping with the window open. Our Federbetten, which I have written about before, are fabulous, and while mine is 55° when I first force myself in, it warms to the temperature of my skin 'round about the time I stop screaming and thrashing around. The thrashing probably helps to warm up the blanket; at least that's what I tell myself. And I've always liked cold pillows. It's the cold nose that I don't really enjoy.

Early this morning I woke up with my right hand sticking out of my blanket and dangling off the side of the bed like a piece of frozen meat. I dragged it back under the blanket to thaw and went back to sleep. But not before I noticed both of my husband's feet sticking out of the end of his blanket, toes pointed to the ceiling, like Pore Jud from "Oklahoma". He says this is how he regulates his body temperature and doesn't get too hot while he sleeps under his thick blanket.

As if this weren't enough, we also air out the house periodically. M does this daily when I'm gone. No matter how cold it is outside, we need to exchange the bad, stale air for fresh, by opening the damn windows. All of them. In every room. Naturally the Germans have a name for this madness - it's called Lüften. In the U.S., we just live with the bad air until Spring. But not here. We go to each room, open the window and turn off the radiator. I then retreat to the sofa under my warmest blanket and wait for M to say, "That's probably long enough, don't you think?" Then I dash from room to room closing the windows (except in our bedroom, of course - I just shut the door) and turning on the radiators again. He usually plans this for when I'm gone so he doesn't have to listen to my bitching.

This was my daughter today during our Lüften:

I guess cold is relative. My mom has mentioned a few times how cold our house is (she and my dad were here in the winter of 2012), and my Schwiegermutter just said today that she knows our house is cozily warm. When she slept at my parents' house a few winters ago, she was unable to close her bedroom window one morning because a foot of snow "got caught by the mosquito screen!"

Despite our arctic igloo bedroom and the periodic Lüften, M gladly makes me a fire in our Kachelofen whenever I ask him to, so I'm not really complaining. This is just another one of those charming differences between life in the northern U.S. and life in southern Germany. Or maybe it's life with my husband. Hard to say.  :-)


  1. One of my colleagues sleeps with the window open... unless it actually gets down to around -11°C (which is rare in these parts). We sleep with the windows closed, except in summer. And Jan rarely does the Lüften thing. Except in the bathroom. He's a terrible German ;-)

    1. Funnily, after he read this M closed the window the next night, and I was too warm in the morning!