Germans are a very clean people. No, they are a borderline insanely clean people. We regularly see folks out scrubbing their front steps with a bucket and a scrub brush. I once saw a woman sweeping hail off her front patio during a hail storm! Shop keepers get out wet brooms and scrub down the outside walls of their businesses. And, yes, I will admit that I find all of this a wee bit intimidating! So I have decided to cope with my own ineptitude through good-natured-finger pointing. In support of this attempt at regaining my sense of superiority, I am beginning a new series documenting some of the excesses of German Cleanliness. First up, I present to you: The Pavers Project.
The parking lot of our apartment building is not asphalt, as it would be in the US. It is made of individual decorative pavers. Nice-looking, eco-friendly, long-wearing. And, I think, particularly lovely when small grasses and moss grows up in the spaces between the bricks. If you have ever had un-mortared stones or bricks lying around you will realize that nature has a way of happening whether you want it to or not, so the pavers frequently have a little greenery hanging out between them. The passage of cars over the little plants tends to keep growth down to a low-level, but it doesn’t discourage it entirely. That is where the curved knifes come in.
Once or twice a year someone from the apartment goes out and meticulously scrapes each and every paver stone free of moss, lichen, grass and other growths. In the states someone might spray the whole zone with an industrial jug of Weed-B-Gone, but that is not the German way. No chemicals are used in the process here- just a couple of women with aching thighs and backs, and the drive to get the job done.
Each morning in the cool of the day, these two women go out and work for a couple hours. You can easily see the difference between the areas they have cleaned and the ones they haven’t gotten to, yet. Notice the old-timey stick broom that is resting against the wheelbarrow? That is the type of broom favored for outdoor jobs. Cheap, disposable, environmentally friendly and easy to use.
After the ladies have had their fill of stooping, they will have a full wheelbarrow piled with yard waste. You think a 30 minute Step-aerobics class gives you some burn? Imagine 2 hours of straight squats! Yipes! So, the ladies will put the job aside until the next day. (And, yes, I have to admit that our apartment cleaner lady has a figure to rival Helen Mirren’s!) Mind you, this parking lot is about 3 meters wide by 150 meters long stretched around the apartment building. That is a lot of area to clear with a couple little knives! It will take them several weeks to get the whole area finished. But, that is apparently the only way to get it German Clean!