After an amazing journey across the Atlantic Ocean, we arrived in Europe to begin the next leg of our world travels. We started it all off with a house sit in Karlsruhe, Germany. Truth be told, I’m not sure we would have ever gone to Karlsruhe if not for this sit, but I’m so glad we did. It was a city unlike any we’ve been to before, with natural beauty, a great art scene, delicious food, and the most down-to-earth people. We loved Karlsruhe and are already looking for an opportunity to go back.
Karlsruhe is in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, located in the southwest corner of Germany. The city’s western border sits on the Rhine River, which separates Germany and France. As the city lies exactly on the 49th parallel (same as the border of Canada and USA), the climate is consistently a little bit chilly but can rarely be called hot or cold. However, it is said to be one of the sunniest cities in Germany.
Our Karlsruhe home was located in the far northwest corner of the city, literally on the edge of town. However, everything we needed was within walking distance: grocery store, bakery, park, and several restaurants and pubs. Our hosts were gracious enough to let us use their bikes, which extended our range quite a bit, and there was a train station right nearby, so we had full access to the city anytime we wanted.
Exploring the area was a challenge at first, in part because it seemed like no one wanted to talk to us. We would smile and nod at each person we passed on the bikes or at the markets and received nothing in return, sometimes not even eye contact. A little digging around on the internet revealed this to be a quirk of the local culture. It turns out our attempts to be polite were viewed as attempts to start a conversation, hard to do when one party is riding past on a bicycle. Once we got the kinks ironed out, we found the local people to be incredibly welcoming, kind, and truly hilarious. Scattered among the homes were tiny pubs, each one only large enough to seat a dozen people. We popped into one on Easter simply out of boredom and ended up having an amazing day chatting with some locals. The quote of the day was “Do all Americans really smile this much?” On another occasion, I nearly plowed into a small child on my bike. I stopped just in time, but in a horribly embarrassing fashion. The parent didn’t start yelling at me or threaten me. Instead, he began laughing and offered a hand to help me back up and going. We found the people of Karlsruhe to be the true highlight of the trip with so much kindness and a penchant for fun and laughter.
Our home in Karlsruhe ended up being quite a bit larger than we were originally expecting. It was a three-bedroom home with three partial bathrooms (two rooms with toilets and one room with a tub). There was a large kitchen and dining room combo along with two large living areas. The best part of the home, however was the beautiful outdoor area with the large back deck and garden that looked onto a pond. Neighboring properties in the area are on sale for around $650,000.
We slept in the master bedroom on the main floor. The whole house was very comfortable and functional, but had some fun and interesting quirks. For one thing, all of the light switches were pull-strings. It was very curious at first, but we eventually found it to pretty common place throughout Europe. Another was the mysterious yellow wedge in the bathroom. Next to each of the bathroom sinks was a small football shaped block attached to the wall. We had no idea what it was at first, wondering if maybe it was some sort of strange wall art. Eventually, my complaints about the lack of soap in the bathrooms tipped me off to the realization that the “art” was actually bar soap. Once I figured it out, I really liked the idea of having soap that wasn’t constantly sticking into the counter.
Due to the timing of our arrival, we were unable to meet our hosts at the beginning of our sit in Karlsruhe. Instead we met their father, who put our German language skills to shame with his beautiful English and even better Spanish. We were lucky enough to meet the whole family for a dinner party upon their return. Some of their friends showed up as well and we talked and laughed well into the wee hours of the night. We left feeling delightfully full, and our faces hurt from all of the smiling and laughter.
Our fur-babies for the house sit in Karlsruhe were two independent cats named Ruhchen and Suri. They didn’t speak English and even if they did, I am sure they would have ignored us. But we enjoyed their company and they seemed to tolerate us well enough. We even got a number of “presents” in the mornings, so we must have done something right. Haha!
Ruhchen seemed constantly disappointed in us. We apparently didn’t open the door the right way, sit on the couch in the right formation, or walk down the stairs in the correct cadence. He tried each day to train us, but seemed constantly befuddled by our lack of understanding. When he wasn’t judging us, he was either playing in the tall grass, snoozing on the couch, or eating.
Suri, on the other hand, was very easy going. If I didn’t open the door the way she liked, she walked the extra couple of feet to let herself in through the cat door. She enjoyed regular tickles, sleeping in the top bunk of the kids’ bunk beds, and napping at Josh’s feet while he worked… I think she just really enjoyed napping.
Life house sitting in Karlsruhe was pretty great. Ruhchen and Suri were easy going and the house was very little trouble. This left us with plenty of time to really see the area. The weather was all over the place with several chilly and rainy days, but also several warm and sunny days. We took advantage of each, using the sunny days to ride our bikes and the rainy to try new foods. Karlsruhe had so much to offer and left us wishing we had more time to see it all. It was a great way to start off our European adventure, and we can’t wait to get back and see more of Germany.