Saturday, 27 November 2010

The snobbery of the Vorderhaus

Can you see my neighbour who is out on his balcony, wind, rain, snow, or shine making phone calls in his dressing gown?

What an icy blast of air I felt when I opened the door on to the balcony to take this photo this morning. Finally it feels like winter is here. We got a little snow yesterday and the day before, but it didn't really feel that cold. So today is the day I will finally go and get a winter coat and I guess Kita will probably already be composing a letter to me saying that the kids need those thick snowsuits, 2 sets, one for outdoors, one for in.

The purpose of my chilly (rare) visit on to the balcony was that I finally discovered the secret of the 'Vorderhaus (front house) snobbery'. Eons ago when we first moved into this apartment our old upstairs neighbour indicated that being in the Vorderhaus was far better than being in the side or rear houses - these are the ones you can see in the photo. I wasn't really sure why, and assumed that it was because she lived in the Vorderhaus and maybe didn't like some of the people in the other houses.

A little while ago I went a wander round the back of the other side of the building to see where the rear (hinterhaus) came out on to the street. It doesn't. It's literally a concrete wall. Obviously there would have been other buildings attached before they got destroyed in the war, but the process of redeveloping the building from the ruined shell has left it as a big blank wall. I'm not sure whether the bank would have gone up before this building was properly re-built, but nonetheless it has sandwiched -in the rest of the building.

I started reading Ian McEwan's 'The Innocent' a couple of days ago. It's about a British guy who goes to Berlin as part of a British-American surveillance team. In it he meets a woman who he visits in the Hinterhaus. Suddenly, it all became clear! He says...

'The apartments at the rear of the old Berlin blocks were traditionally the cheapest and most cramped. They had once housed the servants whose masters lived in the grander quarters at the front facing the road. Those at the rear had windows facing on to the courtyard, or across a narrow space to the next building.'

Now I wonder whether the apartments in the Vorderhaus were much bigger than what we're in now. The Canadians below us have around 380 square metres, which seems big enough to warrant servants. There's is over two floors but if you were to have one complete floor of the Vorderhaus then that would probably amount to the same. I can't really imagine that there would be servants in anything smaller, but I could be wrong. A cleaner would certainly be nice for this place, and maybe a cook, and well, life would be a little easier with a nanny I guess, and maybe even a butler or maid.

1 comment:

  1. I would make room for staff if I lived in an igloo.


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