More than a month ago I set foot in my home country, Germany, in particular I returned to the town I grew up in: Solingen. I have since discovered that if you leave your home for 30 years, you don’t fit into Germany’s neatly organized bureaucracy any longer.
All Germans have to report to the city they intend to live in. The ‘Einwohnermeldeamt,’ a city’s reporting agency was one of the first places I visited because without an official address it is impossible to buy cellphone service or Internet or pretty much anything else. Thank the stricter terrorism laws for that. A visit that takes most Germans a few minutes turned into an hour. Apparently according to the official records, I had lived in Cologne (not the U.S.) for 30 years and had a secondary place of residence in Solingen. Neither were correct because paperwork had gotten lost in 1986 and it took the very helpful employee patience and expertise to set my records straight. With the new paper in hand, I was able to get a new cellphone. But Internet? Not so fast. Actually, most things aren’t so fast. Internet service requires about a three-week wait. Not convenient when you need to research everything that makes life easier online.
During the week I continued by applying for health insurance, trying to move some money from the U.S. to Germany to buy a car and getting electricity for our apartment. Americans are used to dealing with utility monopolies. Not so in Germany. You can choose between different power operators who channel electricity through the local network. As a result I found one that will save me more than $200/year over the established regional supplier. Not bad.
Getting furniture is another issue. I’m used to walking into a store and buying what I like. I either take it with me or arrange delivery within a day. German furniture stores operate on a two-month ordering system. Because of the many choices, i.e. a bedframe is available in beech, oak, cherry, etc., the store shows samples only. Right now we’re waiting on a bed I ordered in July even before we arrived here. Our clothes are stacked in boxes and bags along the walls of our bedroom until the wardrobe and dresser arrive. German apartments and homes don’t have built-in closets and every German lugs around his/her own closets when moving. A decent quality wardrobe is a real investment, setting you back the cost of your next vacation.
On the upside, I’m enjoying breakfast in the company of a huge Nutella jar. It’s cheap and delicious, just like the selection of rolls and fresh breads from one of the dozens of bakeries in the area. Just this morning, I read that Germany produces more than 3,100 types of bread. I plan on trying as many as I can. Then there are the amazing cheeses from Austria, France, the Netherlands and Germany. A high quality Brie costs less than one Euro. Compare that with prices at my local Kroger store where a decent piece of cheese sets you back $7 plus.
We’ve already been in the woods a few times hunting mushrooms and hiking. Last week we spent three entire days exploring new forests. There also the very enjoyable visits with friends and family. This time, we can welcome them in our own home. We’ve attended several parties, eaten Italian, Greek and German food, tried a few new beers, and begun stocking our wine shelves. The only thing we’re still struggling with is the weather. It’s mostly cool and quite damp with many cloudy days.
In Other News
‘Surviving the Fatherland’ named Finalist in 2017 Kindle Book Awards
I’m excited to report that my novel, Surviving the Fatherland, is a finalist in the 2017 Kindle Book Awards. Winners will be announced in November.
New Editorial Review on ‘Reader Views’
Reader Views posted a new editorial review for ‘Surviving the Fatherland.’
“Having read numerous books on Hitler, survivors and concentration camps, I must say “Surviving the Fatherland” by Annette Oppenlander is one of the most compelling books I have read…continued