Berlin - Wilmersdorf 1979

Storing four large suitcases in my grandmother's one bedroom apartment was a challenge. Every corner and space behind doors was filled with our stuff. I don't know if she was prepared to accommodate us for several month but she welcomed us with open arms. It was a cold winter that year and I do not remember seeing that much snow ever again in Berlin. My grandmother was retired at that time and lived on a small pension. The apartment had been her home for over 40 years. It was very small, had no bathroom, just a toilet and no running hot water or central heating. This is how it was done: In the morning (it was freezing cold) she would light the two tiled stoves (Kachelofen), which were beautiful to look at, with coal briquettes the size of a brick. Those were stored in the cellar, three floors down and had to be carried up every day.
One oven was in her bedroom and one in the small living room. It would take about half an hour to warm up the rooms and the heat was constant and pleasant as long as you added a coal every now and then. However, she loved to air the rooms early in the morning and would open up the windows while we would cover ourselves with more blankets.
In the kitchen there was no heating at all, just a very small warm water boiler tank above her small sink, that she filled up. It held about 5 liters, and you pushed the heating button and the water would heat up in a few minutes.
Picture from the web of a more recent model:

Water Boiler
Well, my husband was very surprised that there was no bathtub or shower and that we would have to wash in a basin and shiver from the cold while trying to do this the fastest way possible. We ended up walking to the public indoor swimming pool 'Stadtbad Wilmersdorf' a few blocks away, every other day for a nice hot shower.
Although I had visited Berlin many times before with my parents and knew the ins and outs a bit, I was not at all prepared for all the hurdles we would have to take. I switched into vacation mode in my mind and hoped that this was all temporary and we could return home soon. I was so wrong....


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