You Can’t Plan for Everything
It’s been just shy of six months in Berlin, and Christmas and New Years are just around the corner. My husband and I agreed on some general checklist items to work on after our arrival, and after checking “find a nice temporary apartment” off the list at the end of the summer, things were looking pretty good. I had begun the registration process for my business and we were getting settled into life in our new home.
We assumed challenges would arise eventually, but as my husband told me while we were looking for a hotel a few weeks ago, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. But you can’t always plan for everything.”
Outgoing and Incoming
After three weeks, our upstairs neighbor mentioned he and his family would be moving to a new place in the same building, and the apartment would be renovated prior to the new family moving in. We didn’t think much of it since we were travelling back home for a couple weeks and figured most of the work would be done by the time we got back. Neither one of us is particularly sensitive to noise, anyway. I’ve been known to sleep through earthquakes and tornado sirens enough that my husband jokingly wonders if I have a log somewhere in my family tree. Tom, on the other hand, used to produce raves in Los Angeles back in the day and has been known to administer a turn table or two every now and again. Not only that; he’s a helicopter pilot which is as cool as it is loud. It’s not like we’re strangers to construction, anyway. During our last few years in Chicago, the houses on both sides of ours were renovated, with one being a gut rehab that lasted nearly three years. Besides, it’s so much quieter here.
“Alles ist gut”, as they say here in Germany. No problem.
My husband, Tom, works primarily with US companies as a software developer, so right now we’re on a schedule that runs about eight hours behind Berlin. I’d say we get to bed between 2:00-3:00 in the morning and get a good eight hours in. It’s a little unusual, but the schedule hadn’t been an issue. We thought it was pretty amazing that we couldn’t hear the original family above us at all. We knew they were there – we’d exchange pleasantries in the hallway and on occasion they would apologize for noise. Nothing major, just typical family and kid related stuff (mostly crying, the baby’s not old enough to run around yet), but we had never heard a peep.
The neighborhood we landed in, Neukölln, is known to be notoriously loud due to the number of trendy bars and restaurants and is a nightly destination for hip Berliners and travelers, so there were always some noise on the streets. Even so, it was so much quieter than back home. In Chicago, we lived a short distance from the Blue Line El, which ran 24 hours a day. It wasn’t until we arrived we realized how loud it actually was. The relative quiet of Germany was both unexpected and a nice change of pace. We attributed that silence to the craftsmanship and quality of the old buildings out here, so we were really surprised when we started to get woken up at just around 7:00 am every day after the new family moved in. The thing that seemed to rouse us from slumber were mostly things striking the ground; we just assumed it was the kids playing on the floor but the repetition and volume were tough to sleep through. It would last a couple hours every morning, and we were losing at least a few hours of sleep a night.
We figured we were the odd ones out, having a schedule that ran so late from everyone else. I was mortified at the thought of bothering a young family and figured it would be a last resort. We were sure we could take care of things ourselves.
This is really no big deal. We’ll just use ear plugs, there’s dozens of varieties available.
Oh, wow. We cycled through numerous high and low end varieties and none worked.
No prob… We’ll just turn our trusty Google Home into a white noise machine. The two combined will surely resolve the issue.
Hmmm. Wrong again.
Giant headphones that are basically ear muffs? All three will definitely work for sure. Problem solved!
...Ok, now this is getting ridiculous. How can this not be working?
We spoke with the new neighbors a few times at this point, and I think they were just as frustrated as we were. We even brought them a bottle of wine as a peace offering at one point because we knew we must have been a pain to deal with. I felt pretty terrible bothering them at all, but after three weeks on four or five hours sleep a night we were both just absolute wrecks. I didn’t mind that we could hear laughing and playing the rest of the day. We weren’t looking to stop any of that, we had just hoped for a a solution that would allow us to sleep while the kids got to play. The thing is, it really seemed like they were making really genuine attempts to make things better, but nothing was working. We kept the earplugs and white noise, and eventually gave up on the headphones. They were more of a Hail Mary than anything. Both confining and uncomfortable, they didn’t really seem to help. We finally decided to sleep in the room farthest away from the master bedroom.
It was quieter, but not so much that we could sleep through the night. We were about 20 feet away, down a hallway, with three rooms separating us and it still sounded remarkably close. It was baffling. It was definitely louder in general other times of the day, but we didn’t have an issue with that. It was just not being able to sleep that made things so rough for us. The thing is, it didn’t really matter at this point. We’d been sleep deprived for long enough by now, it had become hard for Tom to work and for us to function normally. My biggest concerns were being accident prone in the kitchen. I’d never had a mishap with a knife in 20 years, but had two close calls in less than a week.
This this point, there was really only one thing left to do.
The only fix we found that worked? Sleeping somewhere else. The last month we were at the old apartment, we only slept there for one week. It was hectic (and pricey), but at least we got more than four or five hours sleep a night. After speaking with the landlord, it became clear there wasn’t much that could be done. Even though it was louder in general, the only thing that actually bothered us was not being able to sleep. It was pretty likely that someone with a more regular schedule would be able to manage, so we were able to break our lease without too much trouble. As much as I loved that apartment, we’d been running on empty for weeks and something had to change. We felt pretty defeated at that point, but were hoping for the best.
So we moved. Again.
As One Door Closes…
You know what they say, right? As one door closes, another opens. It was so sad to leave the old place – we had made some friends in the building and I had really begun to settle in during those few short weeks we had before we stopped sleeping. The good news is that the new door we opened has officially blown my mind in the best way possible. For the next six months or so, we’re in a neighborhood called Bergmannkiez and I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s been one of my favorite neighborhoods since arriving, and I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ll be here for a bit. Whether we were just passing through on our way to Templehof for an afternoon walk or heading out to get some currywurst at Curry 36, it’s easily one of my favorite areas. Filled with cobblestone roads, old world charm and incredible architecture with loads of cool shops and restaurants of all kinds, it’s hard not to love the ambiance.
The best part? Our new apartment is amazing, and we can sleep again! I was a little worried that I would have stress-related insomnia after leaving the old apartment, but luckily those concerns were unfounded. As long as we were sleeping somewhere else, we were golden. While it may have been due to the sheer exhaustion after the last couple months, either way I’ll take what I can get. It’s amazing how quickly life goes back to normal when something as simple as a good night’s sleep is restored.
Our plan is still the same in the meantime, although dates have moved out a bit. We’re still looking for a permanent apartment, will work on registering my business and then move on to other fun things like acquiring our driver’s licenses. I was almost finished with my business registration, but another move means more paperwork. It’s not entirely clear if I need to make changes to my original applications or start over again, and unfortunately that means that shopping with ZKD is still on hiatus.
The upside to the weeks of chaos? I’m taking a real, genuine break over the holidays for the first time in at least five years. As far as my immediate plans? I’m going enjoy this much needed break. A recharge from the madness that crept into our lives in lieu of sleep is far overdue and I can’t wait to enjoy a bonafide German Christmas in our new apartment and neighborhood.
Got Questions? Contact Me!
Email is still the best way to contact me with all your ZKD related questions. Direct messages via Facebook and Instagram also work. I truly appreciate the understanding and patience everyone has afforded me during the transition. You are the best!
If you’d like to know the moment things are back up and running with my ZKD jewelry business, please contact me!