Thursday, June 4, 2015

In a German Bed

This is a topic that many expats write about, but somehow it just never gets old. I wrote about it already as well, in my second year here. Recently BerLinda at Expat Eye on Germany covered the topic, and the ensuing discussion M and I had led to this post.

Ordnung muss sein

I have to admit, I love our separate Federbetten (duvets). There is no way M and I would ever have the same thickness of blanket at any time of the year - while I am snuggling under a thick fluffy blanket (even still, and it's June), he's bursting into flames under the thinnest blanket we have. He probably doesn't even need the actual Federbett and could probably just use the empty duvet cover during all but the coldest of months.

Theoretically the husband is never in danger of having his blanket stolen, because the wife has her own all to herself. But I did actually steal M's once, so the German system isn't fail-safe. I had kicked off my own blanket one night during a warm spell, and when I got cold I grabbed the nearest one (his - I apparently tore it right off his peacefully slumbering body), burrowed in, and went back to sleep. I woke up when he started fumbling around, asking if I knew what happened to his blanket. I cosily said, "Nope."

Some people have wondered how a couple snuggles when they each have their own blanket rather than one double-wide that spans the whole bed. We have no trouble snuggling, but since my college-age kids read this blog, I don't want to go into detail. To be honest, snuggling is nice and all, but we both need our own space when we're sleeping. I like to be warm at night, but cuddling with M is like cuddling with the smouldering embers of a camp fire. It's best that we have our own blankets.

The thing that causes more confusion than the separate blankets is the separate mattresses. We also have this - a double bed frame into which are nestled two single mattresses, each with its own fitted sheet. This system allowed for us to get two different grades of mattress with the firmness we preferred - the poor man's Sleep Number bed!

This is Germany, where lines are clearly defined and property borders are marked by hedges, fences, or stone walls. "This is my dance space, that's your dance space," Baby. If you're coming over into my space, you better have a good reason."

I know this looks like 2 single beds pushed together,
but it's one frame with edges to keep the mattresses where they belong.

And guess what? There's a German word for the cravasse between the mattresses. No lie - it's called the Besucherritze (visitor's gap or, if you prefer, visitor's crack). If you check out that link to the online dictionary, you'll see that Besucherritze is officially defined as "the space between two double [sic] beds; humorous suggestion that a third person could sleep there."

First, they're not two double beds - they're two single mattresses. In a proper frame the two beds are held together, so they don't slide apart like they would on American-style bed frames and box strings.*

Secondly, M said last night,
"It's not about a third person. It's that if you want to visit the other person, you have to cross that canyon first." 

A college friend of mine who works for a German company once told us his understanding of the pillars of German engineering, which fit to the German double beds thing pretty well, I think, especially the first one.

The Three Pillars of German Engineering:

  1. Why would you do it any other way?
  2. If we don't make it, you don't need it.
  3. It was difficult to make, therefore it should be difficult to use.

So there you have it - your guide to spending time in a German double bed. This is all I know here (except in the fancy-schmancy hotels where the Federbetten are still separate but the king-size mattress is one piece), and it never occurred to me to be troubled by it. [Pillar #1]  When we bought our bedroom set, this two-mattress thing was all we saw in the furniture store. [Pillar #2]  The furniture makers put a lot of thought, time, and effort into creating a bed that is practical and functional, and if we have to put some effort into learning how to use it effectively, that's ok with them. [Pillar #3]

M pondered last night writing a guest post about how much he hates sleeping in American beds. I will happily publish it if he writes it!

*We did stay once in a hotel that didn't have the mattresses fitted into a frame that held them together, and...well...that didn't work well for anything besides sleeping.


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  2. So if you are swabian, you should know the swabian word for it: "Gräbbele". As children we used to sleep there when we awoke and came to our parents bed.

    1. I'm not Swabian; I only live here and am learning as much about the Swabians and this wonderful part of Germany as I can. Thanks for (new for me) word. I just looked it up, and apparently it was used recently with the Kirchentag in Stuttgart - "Alle Gräbele g'sucht"! - letting people know how they can offer extra space in their homes (on sofas or extra beds, not actually in the Gräbele!) and apartments to overnight visitors.

  3. We have a king size quilt on a double bed. Also only one mattress. Apparently I found the least German German in the history of Germans ;-)

    1. Haha! You've said that a few times - you must have found a unique one! Some of my local friends have been telling me the other advantages of the two-mattress system, and I just found out that years ago each single mattress was divided into three pieces as well - so a double bed had six mattress sections!

  4. Ha ha - I love your description of the German bed! Don't even get me started on the pillows! :P

    I nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award (kind of like the Liebster Award)! Here's the blog post link with the award details:


    1. Hm...I thought I replied to your comment. I was in the U.S. when you wrote about the award, but now I'm back. Thanks for the nomination! I've actually already written my answers except one, and I'll have it up in a few days.

  5. I didn't realise the separate blankets was a German thing at first and just thought it was my German boyfriend being fussy!

  6. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
    much for a mattress