Friday, April 15, 2011

Future Slumlords

One person called it integration, lots of friends find it very cool, I don't quite know what to think of the fact that we are now owners of a little dump of a cottage and a 560 square meter parcel of garden space in a garden club not too far from where we live.

This is a view back toward the Military Museum from on top of the dump.
Good thing we can walk to the garden from where we live, because our car's been in the shop for nearly 4 weeks. So much for importing a stupid American girly-car! Good luck getting parts. It's actually a very pleasant and scenic walk, even though it doesn't seem too enticing at first glance. You leave our house, cut through the IKEA ghetto that is the Obere Neustadt, go past the imposing Garnissonskirche, cut through the park in front of the Military Museum and gape at the currently under construction Daniel Libeskind addition, cross the big loud busy street, pass the supermarket where you can pick up whatever provisions you could possibly need, from grilling items to fresh sauerkraut to delicious crunchy garlic pickles, pass some more military buildings on the left where there are signs that say "Do not enter, guns are used here" and can peer in and see all kinds of cool tools of destruction, from helicopters to tanks to rockets (the kids are always impressed), cross the bridge over the train tracks (also exciting for the kids if a train comes), and then, here's the really cool part, cut through the dump. The dump is no longer in use, leave it up to Dresden to turn a dump into a park. It's actually pretty nice and quiet, you don't even realize you are smack dab in the middle of the city (and on top of a dump) up there because you are elevated and the noise of the city is very far away. There are paths, meadows, often people are up there flying kites or having picnics, not to mention enjoying the great view. After exiting the dump, we go through a little gate and we are immersed in the joy that is our Kleingartenverein (Small Garden Club). Actually, there are two. On the left are the old Stasi workers' gardens, they are bigger and better equipped. On the right is the garden for everybody else. There are nearly 1000 parcels in our club, it's like a giant parallel universe. When you go for a walk in there you can't see the end of the place or anything else for that matter. You don't feel like you're in the city any more, you feel like you are in some quaint little village with nicely cut little plots of land and tiny little pink houses everywhere. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's a view out over our garden club from on top of the dump.

Here's a view back toward downtown, again from the dump.

And there it is, our own little slum. This place is in disrepair, the previous owner inherited it from his aunt who just got too old to really keep up the garden. Well, the nephew had no desire to. You can see the remnants of what was once a very chic garden that was tended with great pride, remainders of curving walkways among rose- and lavender bushes, carefully arranged trees, berry bushes and chives coming up that suggest a well-tended herb patch of summers past. This is all just talk of the garden. The house, oh the house. To put it simply: all the junk and stuff that was strewn about the garden and piled high in the house (and is not shown in the picture because it's already been hauled off or moved to the back part--like the tipped over yard swings, the grills, the bricks, the stones, a giant pile of sandstone...) filled a dumpster to the brim. We didn't pitch everything, we kept the useable items and the neighbors took some stuff. Somebody took the sandstones the guy had been using to build a terrace without a permit, somebody else took the mouse-poo-ridden sofa for their dog to sleep on. Oh, yeah, and the previous owner staked the place out, waited until we were gone and the neighbors were gone to slip in and take a bunch of stuff after his grace period had ended. You see, he'd been kicked out and owed the club money.

That's just the junk. Did I mention the roof? It's sagging. It looks sort of like a horse's back, if you want to picture that. After clearing the house out, my trusty handyman started to tear out the plastic lining that acted as a ceiling and stinky yellow water just poured down like a smelly rainshower. The good thing is that there's a stove that we could fire up to start drying the place out. It's got wet walls, but we've torn out the wallpaper and are airing the place out as much as we can. We're also having a visit from a roofing expert in the family this weekend to hatch a repair plan.

Then there's the water. Last weekend we tried our luck, Handy Man ventured into the 2 meter deep hole where the water can be turned on and off, and we established that when on, water sprays all around the line on the outside of the house.

We were prepared for this, I would say. We consciously didn't purchase some expensive chic-y garden because we didn't want to just take on somebody else's ideas. The plan was to make this our own, and oh, will we ever. This place also certainly has its advantages. It's on the edge of the club, giving us fewer neighbors and a view of something else other than the other gardens. Plus we've got a quince tree, a cherry tree and an apple tree, not to mention tons of annual flowers, plants and herbs and berry bushes. It just all needs to be moved around a bit so that we can also fulfill the requirement of actual fruit and vegetable cultivation on a certain portion of the garden. I've already been busy transferring flower bulbs. The little house is also bigger than you may build them now.

A little about the history of this place: in earlier times the area where the gardens are now was used as a type of airport. After World War 2, it was cleared and converted into garden parcels so that the starving population could have a plot of land and grow their food.

I like to see this as my start on a long career of being a slum lord. You see, I have a penchant for old houses, especially ones in disrepair. Plus, my parents actually thought that a garden club was a place for poor people to live, something like the trailer parks in the United States. This is my starter house. Next comes my first villa, then my second...


Donnie Lowrey said...

Howdy partner. What kind of American girly-car did you buy?

Remember White Rabbit said...

We brought a Sebring from Michigan to Germany. In America people seem to snicker at it, but here it's a real head-turner and we can barely find a parking spot big enough for it :-) I'd really like a Challenger, though.

Donnie Lowrey said...

If you're set on getting a Chrysler product, I'd go 1970 or older. How about a 1970 Challeger RT? That would really turn some heads.

Remember White Rabbit said...

You can read minds! That is precisely what I'd love to have.