I had a few thoughts, driving down south last Friday afternoon.
1) “God, it’s getting dark early these days.”
2) “Why doesn’t the autobahn have streetlights?”
3) “So this is it. My soon-to-be surrounds. Rather hilly. And genuinely in the middle of nowhere.”
Come next year, I shall be moving. To the middle of nowhere. SG has been posted to this particular location for his job and, because I am more than ready for a new adventure and it makes all sorts of sense for this new adventure to include my reason for remaining in Germany, I will join him in a few months.
More information will be forthcoming, but for now, all you need to know is that this particular town is 30 minutes from the Czech border and its name translates to ‘pasture’. And the US army has a whole lot of soldiers there. Take a moment to conjure up whatever images you will. They’ll likely be fairly accurate.
Last weekend SG and I went down to our future home to suss out apartments and generally get acquainted with the area. Because he’s a typical German in many, many ways, SG had planned 7 appointments beginning at 8am on Saturday morning. He even had a spreadsheet. The previous evening we had driven from Cologne to Fürth (5 hours) and slept on a friend’s floor and the alarm had trilled that morning at 5.45am. It was therefore in the highest of spirits we crawled into the town of Wonders Too Numerous to Mention, under the cover of morning darkness, and availed ourselves of McDonalds’ breakfast menu. We joined 4 American soldiers in kicking off the day with a McMuffin and filter coffee. One of them burped loudly as he disposed of his garbage. SG sipped his coffee and said, ‘Oh, thank you America.’
The first apartment was opposite Burger King, Subway and a mattress outlet shop, down the road from McDonalds and 250 metres from SG’s future office. As we walked towards the front door, he said ‘I am not living that close to work.’ I said, ‘I am not living that close to so many fast food outlets.’ Everyone knows clumps of fast food restaurants = depressing.
The man who greeted us at the door and ushered us upstairs went by a peculiar name which translates relatively directly to Mr Booklet. With Mr Booklet, we entered the apartment and surprised the first of the (we estimated) 8 Polish tenants, who was in the process of sneaking, lightly clad, out of his bedroom and into the kitchen for a smoke. We said good morning and Mr Booklet promptly began the tour with the bathroom. Throughout the tour, I largely kept it together. There were the buddha and marijuana transparencies artfully decorating one bedroom’s walls. The ‘baby’s room’ sticker on bedroom 2’s door and the four steel frame beds crammed within it. There was the moment SG, desperate to do something to inch the tour toward completion, said he would just take a few photos of the rooms and walked in on one of the tenants in the bathroom. My composure was momentarily threatened by the prevalance of porn posters decorating one of the room’s walls – it was an excess of vagina for 8.30 in the morning and Mr Booklet and SG casually discussing measurements and paint-jobs with a labia hovering over Mr Booklet’s right shoulder was almost too much – and it essentially broke when Mr Booklet began talking to me. I could not understand a word he was saying. Not one. It is my belief he was actually speaking Japanese. I was ready for a different accent, but a different language? Do people from the south even speak German? Is the language one and the same? Is it? Would it hurt the to move their mouths? We bid the Polish workers farewell, thanked them for allowing our early intrusion and they returned to bed. Mr Booklet closed the tour by taking us outside to reveal the advertised balcony which will exist as soon as work begins on it in the near future.
Afterwards, we sat in the car in silence for a little while. Then SG quietly started the car and we drove off. We had time and the town is small, so we killed 4 minutes by checking out the addresses of our later appointments. It appeared the worst was over. We were mildly cheered by this and continued onto appointment 2.
It had everything. It was big, it was being completely renovated, it had an enormous living area and a husband and wife landlord couple whose combined dream was Australia (just Australia. As a country.) It even had a view of a rolling hill and the forrest.
Delirious with relief there were more accommodation options in this Town of Twenty, SG was ready to sign on the spot. I was concerned about the small kitchen (not because I feared my stellar cooking would be compromised, but because the kitchen is where everyone gravitates to and I couldn’t imagine having spirited discussions around the kettle in a shoebox) and the distance from the town centre – 5km out is fine when you’re in the hubbub of a big city with a railway system, it’s a rather nice balance. Not so when you don’t drive, don’t cycle and will need to walk to the main (and only) station everyday for work.
Promising SG we would accept this place if the four remaining appointments all went downhill, we moved on. Besides, we still had Apartment 6 to visit, pegged as the ‘Ideal Apartment’ based on the recommendations of a friend who had already seen it. We couldn’t leave without seeing the Ideal Apartment, we had spoken about it all week.
But then we met it. The Ultimate Apartment. In the centre of town. 5 minutes from the train station. Big. Renovated. Clean. Extremely well cared for. And with Santa Claus as a landlord. He came, fittingly bearing a gift of a 2012 planner, to inform us of the Bavarian public holidays in 2012. Thoughtful. He monologued, at length, about meat – schnitzel, wurst, saturday markets, the price of meat, the size of meat dishes available compared to those in Munich and whether those dishes were accompanied by pommes or not. He explained how he had made sure the shower was bigger than average when it was built because, as a larger man, he hates not being able to fit into standard sized hotel showers. He pointed out each and every power point. Buoyed by my overall affection for him, I felt confident enough to ask him a question in German and understood the first twenty words of his response, before I became lost again, in a sea of Bavarian (Japanese, honestly).
Burger King received our custom for lunch. The same one opposite the McDonalds we had breakfasted at. We weren’t proud. We were hungry and after getting stuck in a traffic jam and realising this modest town was where every single inhabitant from surrounding, even more modest villages came to spend their Saturdays and we were never going to find a park and get something to eat before our next appointment, we agreed BK was the best option. So did, as it turns out, many more of the aforementioned ‘surrounds inhabitants’, and it was in BK that I began to realise what it was that had been niggling at me all day. Aesthetically, the town to which I will move, seems to be stuck in the 90s. It’s like the millenium never happened. BK itself has this bizarre interior theme of American football, with huge, framed, faded posters of players in action and booths of a similar ilk to those I’d imagine the Wakefield twins slid into at the Dairy Burger.
We didn’t end up seeing the Ideal Apartment. We didn’t even make appointment 5. We went to number 4, glanced at it and walked back out. We were too distracted. Our hearts had already been captured. By Santa Claus. We didn’t need the Ideal when we had the Ultimate and so we called and cancelled the appointment to see the former and accepted the latter.
I may be moving to a town in the middle of nowhere, that looks and feels like it’s rocking 1996 as if it never ended, but at least I’ll have a big shower. And the schnitzels are cheap and come with large servings of pommes.
I can live with that.