Jul 202013

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.

Paver Cleaners

Paver Cleaners

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.

Scraping the paversAfter 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!

  4 Responses to “Its not just Clean, Its German Clean: Pavers”

  1. When we lived in Germany we noted how clean and clear the local forrest was. It seems that the older folks would go out and pick up all the leaves, sticks and debris. Yes, THAT is German clean!

  2. Stephanie,
    Excellent. German Clean, what an interesting topic.
    Pavers are a great water resource management practice. Rainwater percolates down between the bricks, thus supporting local groundwater recharge and helping to lower contributions to flooding.
    I work in downtown Riverside, CA, where the main walking mall is paved with pavers. This was done a few years ago to help with rainwater management and drainage problems. Paver cleaning there is achieved by regular use (2-3 times a week) of leaf blowers to keep the spaces between bricks from getting clogged (lots of trees downtown), and periodic power-washing with a portable unit. Not sure how it’s done elsewhere in the US.
    I love reading about your experiences and observations about living in Germany, especially since I have some German ancestry. German clean might explain a few of my OCD tendencies.
    Take care.

  3. When the Mc Mansion was built on the north side of my house the concrete walkway was totally destroyed. The builders knew this would happen and offered to repave it. I told them to forget the concrete and replace it with bricks set in the sand. Now, when it rains or is washed off It soaks into the sand and is dry very quickly. The Mc Mansion has concrete and it puddles up and takes quite some time to dry, especially if the pump that is supposed to clear the water doesn’t work, which is most of the time. To fix the system they have to tear up the concrete, replace the pump and pipes and then repave it. That is very expensive so they just have little puddles.

  4. Ah! I didn’t remember that they are so great for water management, but now that you guys mention it, it totally makes sense!

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