By the time it came to be mid May, I had setup the office for a soft re-opening, which really meant blocking half the desks so that there would be sufficient space, and ensuring that all the extra hygiene requirements, such as masks and disinfectant, were in place. By this point we’d been in home office for about 2 months and this would give people the option of returning to the office once in a while if this was more convenient.
On the way home I dropped past the shops, to a new phenomena: As of now, there was a limited number of people allowed in shops, and security guards made people stand in line and ensure they were wearing masks on entry. It was kind of strange to be waiting to go in, but at least there was plenty of stock of all essentials again. For a while during this crisis all sorts of things had been out, besides the worldwide toilet paper shortages, we also had delivery issues with yeast and flour, for example.
As we couldn’t get together with people to play games, that Friday night we played pandemic with Katrin and Killian virtually. It was not perfectly stable, but we made it work! We were on a roll with this whole pizza thing, so we made pizza from fresh dough for dinner too – Yum!
On Saturday we decided to check out Falkensee, as there is a house there we were considering in the area. It’s quite a nice suburb, so we decided to make an appointment to see the house. After that we dropped past Ilkas place to water the garden and feed her cats for her, while she was on holiday.
On Sunday we did yet another bike tour, this time deciding to visit Gabi in the process. She’d invited us over for some seasonal fresh white asparagus and homemade hollandaise sauce. We spent the whole evening there, by the time we left it was getting dark. Rather than ride all the way back, we just rode to the train station and caught the train back.
On Sunday we spent the day at home, and I spent the morning playing board games online with Glen and Johan. It was great to get together again; I really do miss the board games nights with the gang!
The following week we had an appointment to go to our first house inspection. Yes – in Germany you need an appointment to view a house, they don’t just have open houses the way they do in Australia. To be honest, the whole real estate website in Australia is soooo good. You don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone sometimes. Anyway, just after we jumped onto the tram there was a loud ringing of a bell and a massive “THUD” as the tram lurched to a halt. Manja and I were both startled as the doors sprang open. Turns out the tram hit a car which had stupidly turned in front of it. The driver, a mother, was temporarily distracted by her kids in a bad moment. Luckily the damage was only to the car and tram, no one was hurt at all.
The house wasn’t bad, but we decided not to make an offer. The property was being subdivided and a house put into the front part of it. The back property had an awesome view of a field, Buuuut: There was another vacant lot between the house and the field. If anyone ever builds there, we’d be completely closed in.
A bit later that day we had another appointment – this time to consider building a place. Manja had found an agent who connected vacant properties and purchasers. As we waited for the bus, it decided to drive right past the stop without stopping… We called the agent to let him know we’d be about 30 minutes late and he also just said he’d swing by to pick us up. “Look for an old American car” he said. A bit later a white 1980’s Chevy limousine pulled up. Turns out the guy spent some time in America and fell in love with the cars. When he moved back, he imported and restored one.
He took us to the lot where the house would get built, and found that it had a really old wooden house on it. It would get torn down in the process but would have almost been worth restoring – I can only imagine how nice it would have been before the city sprawled around it. Unfortunately in the last few years it had squatters in it, so it was definitely rundown. We left with some idea on prices and options on what could be built there.
On the weekend it was mums 60th birthday, as well as Gabys. As we couldn’t be there to celebrate with Mum, we decided to at least surprise Gaby – including a gift from mum: A purple hat. Now that will not make sense to most of you, but it’s related to this story. Basically it’s about a woman who looks into the mirror at different ages, cumulating at 80 where it says “At 80, she no longer looks into the mirror. She just puts on her purple hat and goes out to have fun – perhaps we should all put on the purple hat a bit sooner?”
But it begs the question: Where does one get a purple hat at short notice, especially during Corona times? The answer was more obvious to me than to Manja, at a costume shop. But where is there a costume shop, asks Manja. Across the road from the Board games shop, says I, the newcomer to Berlin. I guess one remembers what’s important 😂
So we headed down the road by Tram, picking up a card game as a gift from us, some flowers and the purple hat, as well as some “60” Balloons. All from the same corner.
When we returned, it was time to call Australia to wish Mum a happy birthday – they were celebrating into her Birthday from Windy point. The restaurant was only doing takeaway because of Corona, so they improvised: Trestle tables in the carpark where the view of the city was spectacular.
On the 17th we were on a mission. Gaby had invited us for dinner, but we were going to be there a fair bit earlier: Midnight Australian time, with my Mother on Skype. We inflated the balloons on the bus ride to Gabys and walked in perfectly on time. One small catch with surprises: Sometimes people are not home 😅.
So we setup in her backyard and waited for Gaby to return. Eventually she did return and was thrilled to have us waiting there for her, and to chat to my mum a bit.
Gaby had invited a few more people and we had a lovely dinner chatting the evening away together. Oh! And I made a greek-yoghurt orange cake, topped with roasted pistachios and honey. With a few fresh strawberries, it ended up being really nice!
The following week we found a place which was a couple of houses down from Ilkas place. We went there one evening, it was a really good deal for the area, but the house itself was just too small. That and the proximity to the traintracks made us decide against it in the end.
We also had an extra day off on the 21st. We made use of the awesome weather to explore Potsdam a bit by bike. Potsdam is the next largest city near Berlin and the capital of Brandenbug – the state surrounding Berlin. There were many nice moments, but one of the highlights was a creek we crossed which had a massive amount of frogs just croaking away. We also saw something else move slowly on the shore, but we could not see what it was. Even when I went down for a closer inspection of the moving leaves, it managed to stay hidden.
Friday night we went off to see another two houses. One was under heritage protection and would have needed to have the foundations redone – something out of scope for me as a handyman. But the place had an awesome 1900’s charm. The second place was a really odd house: It was basically super high-tech in the 1930’s with all sorts of odd little quirks, including a hidden doorway. I SO wanted to buy the place, but Manja and I both agreed it was too remote. Travel to Berlin for work would have only been possible by car, which is something we both don’t really want.
On the weekend we spent some time refining our ideas on what we actually want to buy. Being the nerds we are, we built a complex spreadsheet with what is important to Manja and what is important to me. We gave it some weighted averages, and included transit times to various places we are likely to visit regularly. We then added financial and renovation factors. Based on over 50 criteria, it would bring it down to a single score. Yes. We are nerds 🤓
On Sunday I chatted to Oma in the morning. It was her birthday the next day and I knew I wouldn’t get to talk to her much then. So we chatted and the next day I just briefly called to wish a happy birthday.
Wednesday evening it was time to check out the next house. This time we missed our connecting train and ran about 30 minutes late. The real estate agent actually came and picked us up from the trainstation – we felt both thankful and embarrassed at the same time. Turns out we were the last people to view the house that day, so everyone was relaxed. The seller was an older lady who was selling her nice little house in a perfect location. 20 minutes by train to the city center, with a nice sized garden. Her husband passed away after a longer illness, and she had moved to Germany 50 years ago from England. We really loved the garden and the location, but the house was poorly cut for our purposes. That would have still been okay because the house had a cellar. Unfortunately the ceiling height in the cellar was only about 1,9m. Too low to really make use of it; one just felt a bit claustrophobic down there.
On Saturday we headed over to a local plant center, which had an awesome sign “Entry only with wheelbarrow”. Instead of shopping trolleys, they had just arranged wheelbarrows 🤪. In the afternoon we checked out yet another house – this time near Gabys place. The location was about a 20 minute bike ride from the nearest trainstation, but it had a nice property. The House itself was from the 1950’s and the property included a concrete barn. I would have loved to renovate the place for the next 20 years, but Manja rightfully said that it’s not much fun living on a construction site. So we decided against this one too.
On Sunday we inspected another place – this one was nice, but a bit pricey for its location. The owners were selling directly though, without a realestate agent, which makes things about 7% cheaper for the buyer. They were selling as they were moving to Turkey. The place really was nice, but the one bathroom it had was just too small. It was squeezed underneath the stairs. We thought about it for the next week, but decided against it in the end. After the inspection we headed to Ilkas place for her Birthday. We had great company, rhubarb cake and a fantastic BBQ.