We got the Nymphenburg apartment we wanted, which makes us happy. But now we have to furnish it, from scratch, and we’re feeling overwhelmed.
On Wednesday, we met with the agent and the owner’s father, who’s a lawyer but was dressed in casual clothes and seemed like a very nice, down-to-earth guy. Apparently, he likes us — Torsten thinks it’s because we’re homeowners ourselves, and probably because we’re older. Or maybe he felt sorry for the homeless Americans, because he had some pretty biting things to say about politics in our former country.
Right after we agreed to meet on Friday to sign the lease, Beth started to panic. Now we have to buy EVERYTHING! For the second time in four years, we’re furnishing a home from scratch.
There were so many more resources for furnishing the Duluth house inexpensively: Craigslist, Savers thrift store (with a 40 percent seniors discount), extra things from our Seabury house and Target, which delivers to the door for free. At least there are two IKEAs in Munich.
We’ll also have to buy our own light fixtures and bedroom storage space — that’s the norm in Germany. We do have a built-in kitchen and a foyer closet; some apartments are just empty boxes.
Beth is especially worried about finding light fixtures. They’re so ugly in Germany! One popular style (she knows this from looking at countless apartment listings) looks like a cutout of a giant plastic snowflake:
We like the early 20th century Mission and Arts and Crafts styles, which are uniquely American and emphasize horizontal and vertical lines and natural materials — wood, glass, wool. Not only does that style not exist here, but it’s not that easy to find solid-wood furniture or anything in a style other than modern or Scandinavian.
Beth to Torsten: “How much did you say that shipping container would cost?”
On Ebay, Beth did find a beautiful solid-wood dining table, but it’s in a far suburb. How would we get it home, especially since we won’t even have a home till April 15?
These are First World problems, we know. Somehow we will handle the 10 million errands ahead of us, and then we can enjoy Munich.
There’s a lot to enjoy. On Saturday, the day after we first saw the apartment, we returned to cold-call the neighbors, because Torsten was worrying about the six crates of beer he’d seen on our next-door neighbor’s patio.
Amazingly, our upstairs neighbor let us in. The six crates were “ganz normal,” she said, and while the eight-apartment building is not totally quiet, it is fairly quiet, and she’d lived there 20 years. Okay, good.
We had lunch outdoors at the Nymphenburg Palace restaurant/beer garden Schwaige, which was delightful. To everyone who visits us: We will be taking you there.
Then we walked past the palace and along the canal to the Neuhausen neighborhood, where we stopped at a Hugendubel. Have we mentioned there are thriving bookstores everywhere in Munich? They’re even in the underground train stations — sometimes two.
Beth found a half-price 2017 Hagenberg calendar of Scotland, with a different photo each week (she hopes to visit Scotland with Madeleine this fall). She also found the textbook for her German class. It cost $16 — a lot more affordable than the $272 charged by the University of St. Thomas for a German textbook!
We got gelato at Sarcletti, which always has a long line, and when we got tired of walking, we zipped home on the subway.
On Sunday, we took the ICE high-speed train to Ulm, then a regional train to Singen, where Torsten’s parents picked us up. The trip took 3.5 hours, about what it would take to fly to Los Angeles, but it was a whole lot more relaxing. The trains purr along silently, the seats are comfortable and the scenery is beautiful — the trip passed in a flash.
We had a lovely visit with Hannelore and Gerhard. Hannelore made us home-cooked meals of salmon, pork curry and, on Tuesday, Gerhard’s birthday, Spargel with prosciutto in a butter sauce. It was the first time Beth had tried white asparagus, a beloved spring treat in Germany, and it was delicious.
Hannelore also identified the spring blooms in the cemetery that Beth hadn’t known: Glocken-Heide, or bell-heather, whose tiny fuchsia blooms look like bells, and Christrosen, which look a little like wild rose but mostly like trilliums.
On Monday, Gerhard drove us the few kilometers across the Swiss border for a walk around Stein am Rhein, a medieval town on the Rhine with painted houses, then up the hill to the castle Hohenklingen.
From there, he drove us to his hometown Radolfzell on the Bodensee (Lake Constance), where he showed us the provocative new Peter Lenk sculpture “Fight for Europe” on the side of a department store and we ate gelato while strolling along the lake. In the water, there was a sculpture of a naked young man, squatting to feed ducks, with all his lower parts clearly shown. Germans really have no hangups at all about nudity.
Our day was frequently interrupted by phone calls that made us a little giddy: one from the apartment agent saying the owner wanted to meet us and several from a tech agency with job possibilities for Torsten.
Beth also explored the Rielasingen neighborhood, admiring the spring flowers and following a beautiful creek-side walking path that was lined with sculptures. It led to a field with a view of Hohentwiel, the ruins of a castle first mentioned in the year 915, atop an extinct volcano.
Our trip back was almost as relaxing, but not quite, because we were lugging the contents of one of three boxes we had sent to Torsten’s parents. Opening them was like Christmas Day! Beth was reunited with her Filtron cold-drip coffee kit, and Torsten with a pair of shoes that weren’t sneakers.
Now we’re back in Munich. Torsten is continuing the job search, handling endless errands and correcting Beth’s German. That means forcing his brain to switch back and forth between tasks AND languages, which is exhausting.
Meanwhile, Beth tends to wake up in the middle of the night to go over every wrong thing she’s said in German during the day, feel embarrassed and think about how she should have said it.
This is life in Munich, second phase. It’s hard work, but still a thrill.