Apartment Therapy

The verb ‘wohnen’ in German means to live, as in to inhabit. Thus the noun ‘Wohnung’ means apartment, as in place in which you live.

But what do you call an apartment that has become distinctly unliveable?

Our apartment is kinda weird, but it’s served our needs for 7 years now. It’s broken into two different apartments, covering the whole ground floor of our building. The front unit is the normal apartment, with kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room, and it’s where we spend most of our time. The back is two rooms w/a sink, officially designated as storage in light of the fact that there’s no heat back there. It’s perfectly comfortable 9 months of the year, and for the other 3, there’s a space heater. We have the guest bed back there and Cliff’s home office setup, but for the most part we use as a storage/laundry space. Due to the unusual arrangement, our rent is very reasonable, probably some of the cheapest per square meter in the Altstadt.

There are some small issues with the place – crappy kitchen arrangement, no window in the bathroom, etc. – but due to how inexpensive it is, we’ve been willing to cope. We may have reached our limit though with the recent, ongoing drama.

We got back from Italy and about a week later found a water stain on the ceiling of the kitchen. It happened before a few years ago and there was about 6 weeks of seeking out the leak (from the bathroom pipes of our upstairs neighbor), repairing it, replacing the water damaged materials and running an industrial dehumidifier. It sucked, but we got on with it and eventually our lives went back to normal.

This time around, though, nothing has gone right from the jump. After informing the landlady about the reappearance of the water stain, she came over with a plumber from the company that repaired it last time. They looked at it, touched it and said ‘yep, it’s wet.’ They wanted to include another company that specializes in water and fire damage, so that company came two weeks later to look at the water stain, touch it and say ‘yep, it’s wet.’ Those guys decided to bring in the insurance agency (to give a coverage quote for the repair) and an inspector, who came to visit two weeks later, look at it, touch it and say ‘yep it’s wet.’

Do you see a pattern emerging? We certainly did, as the leak persisted, the stain changed and grew mold and eventually began to actively drip through the ceiling into the kitchen.

No actual WORK took place until 6 weeks later. It was a two-front attack, tearing out the damaged portion of our kitchen ceiling and our neighbor’s shower in search of the leak itself. And it was an unqualified disaster.

1) The guys who tore out our ceiling were contradicted by the insurance agent, who said they were supposed to remove the WHOLE ceiling, not just the damage.
2) A different company was working on the shower tear-out and leak hunt – the same one that failed to find the leak years earlier.
3) They found a TON more damage than they expected, including rotten building materials and a penicillin farm’s worth of mold.

They brought in an industrial dehumidifier and ran it for a week, during which we had no use of the kitchen and our neighbor had no shower. A guy came to tell us to stop running the dehumidifier (but left it in our defunct kitchen). The damage was considered so severe that they needed the insurance company to reassess the situation and come up with a new quote of what they would cover for repairs. Then the companies involved had to come up with a plan for how to perform the repairs within the budget. And the whole time, we had no kitchen, our neighbor had no shower and the whole apartment reeked of mold and rot.

We started to get really worried. Are these apartments even safe? Did we need to stay at a hotel while the repairs are ongoing? Is this a full tear-down situation? Do we need to MOVE? Then the most amazing thing yet happened.

Nothing.

Nothing for 2 more weeks.

Worry morphed into anger. If you’re reading this, you know how much we LOVE to cook. I sent a plea out to Twitter for decent slow-cooker recipes, because the stove and oven were off limits. Eating out everyday sounds glamorous until you actually have to do it, then it’s just another chore, an expensive chore. Our storage rooms in the back were now holding the bulk of our kitchen and it’s cramped and we can’t find anything. And none of the parties are speaking to us or each other AND NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE.

Finally, we had a date for the next stage. On Monday, they came to tear out the whole ceiling and the rotten wood supports and masonry and expose the giant beams that separate the floors. And the beams are soaked through. As an added bonus, they didn’t adequately seal the kitchen off and there is a revolting, choking layer of dust all over the living room and everything in it, since nothing was moved out or covered.

Given the extent of the damage, it’s possible that the entire first floor might need to come out and be rebuilt, if not the whole building.

So now we are looking furiously for a new apartment, preparing to move under duress. On the bright side, the kitchen is already half packed.

Some Notes on a Long Weekend in Rheinland-Pfalz and a Bridge Update

Rheinland-Pfalz Rund- und Mariä Himmelfahrt

Bavarians celebrated Jesus’ Mom’s Sky Trip on a Monday this year, so we did a road trip of our own. We got an invitation from pals in two different corners of Germany to meet up in a third corner to explore and enjoy. We’d been to a few wine festivals before (with thanks to the Heidelbergerin/Brummagemerin for introducing us to Neustadt an der Weinstraße and Freinsheim, which we loved so much we went back again a few years later).

We stayed in a cute little Ferienwohnung in Venningen, booked by our buddy in Flensburg through AirBnB. There was nothing happening in Venningen directly that weekend, but we drove around to a bunch of little towns and took the train to the biggest Weinfest in the area (thereby obviating the DD and allowing all of us to sample the wares).

Our AirBnB host, Fritz, gave us a little booklet with a listing of all the stuff going on in the area that weekend. We set courses for many of them. A few were wild-goose chases:

  • Roads leading to the villages were closed for construction
  • We got there looking for lunch, but the festival didn’t start until after dinner

But in the end, this trip was more about shooting the breeze with our buds, so it didn’t matter too much. Some highlights:

  • We attended our very first German tractor pull.
  • We were charmed by the half-timbered architecture of the smaller and medium-sized towns.
  • The Weinkerwe in Deidesheim was a particular treat. The town’s claim to fame is that Helmut Kohl introduced visiting dignitaries to Saumagen1 there.
  • We visited the Hambacher Schloß, a castle in the area used as a sneaky rallying point for German unity and democratization and especially liberalization the face of reactionary Bavarian hegemony in the post-Napoleonic Wars period. Whew.
  • The Weinessiggut Doktorenhof directly in Venningen was a weird, stinky little spot around the corner from Fritz’s Ferienwohnung specializing in hand-crafted vinegar-based consumables.

Bridge Update

Big news! We are definitely very close to closing one chapter and starting another.

Wake up Tuesday and discover what the bridge fairies have left for you.
Wake up Tuesday and discover what the bridge fairies have left for you.

Not too many more days like these left for this year!

View from Alte Linde
View from Alte Linde

  1. Think German haggis, but more muscular and less organ-y. Wikipedia has more info. []

Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part V: the Drive Back

Catch up on the previous episodes here:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Early on the morning of our departure from Naples, Rachel took a taxi to the airport and flew to Sicily to continue her adventures there. We started a long drive back from Naples to Regensburg, stopping overnight twice along the way. Continue reading Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part V: the Drive Back

Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part IV: Naples and Pompeii

It’s been a little hectic around here since we got back.

Our story thus far:

  • Sarah flew down to Venice to meet up with our pal Rachel
  • Cliff drove down to Piombino Dese to pick them up at the train station and eat and sleep at Ca’ de Memi
  • The three of us drove to Siena and explored for a few days
  • Then we made our way to Rome, where we walked A LOT and ate a lot
  • After five days in Rome, planned a route through Gaeta, tried some tielle there, and braced ourselves for Neapolitan traffic

It. Was. Bad. Continue reading Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part IV: Naples and Pompeii

Bonus Bridge Update!

Yesterday we were excited to see that the scaffolding and tarps obscuring the south end of the bridge are coming down!

Bayerischer Rundfunk is reporting that the third phase of the project (arches #3-5) is nearing completion. Arches #6-9 are up next, and the auxiliary pedestrian bridge that’s been standing around with no way for anyone to use it will be connected to the main bridge to divert Fußgänger and Fahrradfahrer traffic again soon.

South End of the Bridge
South End of the Bridge

Bridge Update July 2016: literal and figurative

It struck me as a little ironic that the literal bridge from Regensburg to the rest of Bavaria1 is being repaired, whereas some protesters want to bolster a figurative bridge to Regensburg — and Germany in general — from other countries. Continue reading Bridge Update July 2016: literal and figurative

  1. at least back in the day when the Regensburg was the seat of the Perpetual Diet of the HRE []

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)

It is possible to eat too much pizza. For me, at any rate.

On our last jaunt through Italy, I kept meaning to order something that wasn’t pizza and failing spectacularly. Every region has different specialty toppings! I might miss out on something!! But when my body finally said NO MORE, I went for Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans) instead. And my goodness, was it ever rewarding. Borlotti beans are the creamiest, most flavor-absorbing beans I’ve ever come across. I plan to try making it sometime with dried beans, but this canned version comes together in a flash.

100 g diced pancetta or bacon
2 T olive oil
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 c/100 ml white wine
1/4 t red chili flakes
1 large sprig fresh rosemary leaves
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 t ground black pepper
4-5 c/1-1.25 L weak chicken broth
3 15 oz/400 g cans borlotti (cranberry) beans, drained and rinsed
1 generous c/250 g short pasta
1 c/200 mL boiling water (optional)
1/2 c/100 g grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 c/50 g chopped parsley

Heat deep soup pot to medium heat. Add pancetta or bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until a little fat renders, then add olive oil. Turn heat to medium-low and add onions and garlic, stirring frequently until tender and translucent, but not browned. Add white wine, chili flakes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and black pepper, stirring until wine is mostly evaporated. Add chicken broth and beans and allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning down heat if necessary.

After 10 minutes, remove bay leaves and strip rosemary and thyme leaves from sprigs, returning the leaves to the pot. Either mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon or briefly use a stick blender, making sure to leave about half of the beans intact. Add the pasta (if there’s not enough liquid to cook the pasta or the soup is already too thick, add the extra water) and cook until almost done. Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes. Serve with grated Pecorino or Parmesan and chopped parsley.