We decided on a flat in the west of Stuttgart, which is very close to the centre of town and surrounded by useful supermarkets and restaurants. The price of renting in Stuttgart is actually quite high and we have ended up paying a little more than we were in London, albeit for a far superior flat. The flat itself is an attic/loft conversion and is surprisingly spacious; the roof is scattered with Velux windows that allow a lot of natural light. The bathroom is very modern – and huge! – and includes our own personal sauna, which is surreal. In the central living space is an outside area with balcony, that is enclosed for privacy. It’s a pretty special place, although it being on the sixth floor – and the absence of a lift – does mean we will have to get used to the trek. I already feel sorry for the removal men.
We signed the contract in a stereotypically bureaucratic and protracted process that took nearly two hours. One thing that was noticeable was that, in almost all cases, the law is in favour of the landlord, with the tenant even having to pay for the upkeep of the boiler and for building maintenance. Also odd is the residents’ responsibility for cleaning of the pavement outside the building, apparently due to a lack of anything akin to Council Tax. There’s a little timetable at the entrance, leaving the tenants with no excuse for forgetting.
We don’t move in until the end of the month, but I’ll be sure to put a few photos up when we do.
Our first week in Stuttgart has come and gone, and while we’ve only scratched the surface, I can at least give a few basic impressions, a few passing comments.
Our temporary accommodation is in a suburb of Stuttgart, and I think it would be fair to say it is very quiet and peaceful. To go from the centre of Tokyo, to the centre of London and then come to the German equivalent of the village from Hot Fuzz was pleasantly surreal. Despite the remote setting, however, the level of spoken-English is incredible and has been sufficient for all situations everywhere we have been. The centre of the village is quiet in itself – except between the hours of 5 and 7pm when perhaps more than ten people can be spotted – but in the other direction is a huge expanse of woods that are barely used. This has been great for running and general wandering.
I joined the local gym, which is deserted during the day. It’s nice, although I was told that I was not allowed to wear a sleeveless top – worn not for showing off but because I become a small fusion reactor when I exercise. Perhaps this was the German love of rules being manifested. Despite this, everyone we have had to deal with has been really friendly – especially our landlady, who baked us a cake – and has laughed far more often than is the norm. So the stereotype of the serious German has been disproved, at least.
The city itself is orientated around an extremely long shopping street, which has most chains you can imagine. During the week it is not so busy, but come Saturdays – unfathomably everything, including big chain supermarkets, is closed on Sunday – the place really fills up. The Opera House looks very nice and I look forward to seeing as many operas as possible inside it. To indulge my book fetish, there is also a huge, modern library just outside of town, the inside of which resembles the Penrose Stairs on a loop. It’s fair to say I’ll be spending quite a lot of time there.
More to follow.
We spent 20 months – remembered now with nostalgia intoxicating our brains, as incredible – in Tokyo and then a few months fewer in London, which was an interesting concoction of cultural enrichment and soul destruction; and now we find ourselves in Stuttgart, a little lower in key but of – I’m sure – no less value.
Being English, some of our compatriots may have wondered if we were conducting – with Japan already ticked off – our own tour of the old “Axis of Evil”. In reality our hermetic tendencies do not discriminate; we travel to see, to back up our opinions of foreign countries with experience, and to return to where we started and see that place for the first time (as the poem goes).