I remember our first night in Germany.
I can still smell the cold.
Taste the new.
Feel equal measure of exhiliaration and intimidation.
Hear the wonder.
See adventure 'round every bend.
That first sleep was met after eyes had been wide and ravenous for near 40 hours, when exhaustion had been exiled and adrenaline was in control.
I was a foreigner in a foreign land and everything was a shadowy reflection of what I knew it to be.
We didn't understand the bedding.
Weeks earlier, we had crated a pile of stuff we thought we'd need, comforts that fill a home.
Pictures to dress the walls.
Clothes (too many) to dress ourselves.
My favorite Swiss Diamond frying pan, the one that cost a bundle but delivered what it promised. It doesn't cook food, it conjures magic (and I'd buy the whole bloomin' set
if I could afford/justify it….).
Towels and washcloths, because we're particular about our linens…
And despite being told "German beds are sized differently than American beds," we sent along our coziest sheets, featherbed, my theraputic neck pillow and an old king-sized comforter.
The crate wasn't due for a week, so in the meantime we were to use the towels and linens provided by our landlord.
* * * * * * *
To stave off jetlag, we refused to nap. We went a thousand miles per hour throughout the day, acclimating to our new hometown, touring the grocery stores, visiting the butcher shop and learning the hard way that the Apotheke isn't the same thing as a CVS. Another story.
That evening, we met up with our fellow expats for dinner at one of the two Greek restaurants in town–oh, the amusement of trying to direct people when we didn't even know where we were ourselves, couldn't pronounce the street names, and the GPS spoke only in German. By the end of that meal (which remains a mystery to this day) I welcomed the complimentary shot of schnapps offered by the tavern owner "for digestive purposes," a custom for which I'm beginning to believe is, in fact, to aid digestion. But that's yet another story.
It's late when we arrive back to our apartment, and it's only then we beginning sorting through a mountain of linens in the Ikea-inspired wardrobe, and either due to exhaustion or American blinders we just. don't. get. it.
German beds and bedding are different from their American counterpart.
A German king-size bed is actually two singles within one large frame. Two, separate mattresses.
The bedding isn't for the entire king-size area, bottom sheets are for each single AND THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A TOP SHEET.
But, see, we don't know this at the time and we're trying to find what we know; we keep looking and looking and I'm telling you, my landlord passed along A LOT of bedding and it's STILL not dawning on us THAT GERMAN BEDDING IS DIFFERENT!
And, its' not just the bottom sheets and lack of top sheets–they only use duvets with covers, AND THOSE DON'T EXIST IN KING-SIZE!
Also, you know those Euro shams we use for decorative pillows? THOSE you sleep on here. I think. Maybe not. Suddenly I'm confused and worried my landlord will find this post and say "YOU SLEPT ON THE SHAM PILLOWS? **THAT'S AGAINST THE GERMAN LINEN LAWS AND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO EVICT THE IGNORANT AMERICANS**" except they don't speak great English and they probably would've stopped reading by now.
There are sleeping pillows, too, but not a single pillow case that fits them. They're rectanglier than American sleeping pillows and I have yet to discover cases that fit them. Even when I've looked in homegoods stores THAT SELL THE SLEEPING PILLOWS, I've only seen Euro shams.
Are you following me? Am I explaining this okay?
We do the best we can, a pitiful attempt at figuring out this new German Way (the first of many instances), bottom-sheeting the mattress, and picking out two duvets and some pillows. I should also mention the heat hadn't been turned on in our apartments until the day we arrived, and it was cold–below freezing outside and inside not much warmer.
So I stacked a few more duvets on top of me, acting out some Deutschland version of the Princess and the Pea but without the pea.
S o m e h o w soul and spirit finally settled down and we survived the night.
When our crate arrived the next week, I kissed my king-size feather mattress topper and king sheets and king comforter, worried not a bit that they were larger than the two single mattresses they covered.
That was then, ten months ago almost to the day, and there was snow on the ground like there is now.
* * * * * * *
Ten months have overflowed time and space and tonight is my last night in my German apartment.
My featherbed and cozy sheets and therapeutic pillow and king comforter were crated yesterday, on their way home ahead of us.
We knew how to make up the beds with our landlord's linens this time, but we held onto two pillow cases for the German rectanglier sleeping pillows.
It's freezing outside but toasty inside. God, I'm going to miss radiant floor heating. Once it cranks up, it's goooood.
I've been saying my good-byes all week, never knowing when someone would jerk the tears right out of my heart.
I never saw this coming. Real friendship. Strong community. And though I'm ready to go home and regain some sense of normalcy, I'm astounded that it's this hard for me to go.
Our common bond is twofold: sharing the expat experience and a language. If you've lived in another country, you'll understand; if not, I don't think you can.
* * * * *
I can smell change.
Taste the quiet.
Feel equal measure of anticipation and hesitation.
Hear the beauty through tears.
See everything but the future.
And I keep finding myself humming I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
* * * * * *
Dedicated with affection to those who've made all the difference in my Year of Living Dangerously.