I’ve already blogged about some of the things that are to be appreciated in Switzerland — the cheese, the peaceful Sundays, the beautiful scenery. But it’s time to talk about some of the things that you can’t find here. Let’s start with hot water. It’s abundant during the day, but a friend who has been living here since September warned us not to count on having enough for a hot shower at night. We scoffed at him as we enjoyed steamy water temperatures throughout the evening in our temporary apartment. But, as it turns out, that hot water may have been the sort of tourist amenity that hotels and other lodgings offer in an attempt at “luxury,” or to prevent frustrating clashes between tourist customs and local ones. Because last night — our first living in our new apartment — I went to wash some pots after dinner and found that the water was, indeed, devoid of any warmth. I am not sure what time of day the cut-off is — somewhere between 6 and 8 pm is my guess. Well, at least this makes me feel better about not having a bathtub…I’d pretty much only use it at night anyway.
Two other things that are scarce here: elevators and closets. When “lifts” do appear, they typically look as though they were designed to hold just a few average-size adults, as opposed to North American ones that typically can accept eight or ten passengers. And many buildings, like ours, simply don’t have one at all. Which is “quaint,” of course — “romantic,” even. I have no problem climbing the three flights of stairs to my apartment on a daily basis; I even enjoy this bit of enforced exercise. And no closets? Well, perhaps that’s nice too, as it lets you decide what you need for storage, and where to put it.
But picture this: you’re at IKEA, thinking about how to solve the problem of your new apartment containing no closets whatsoever. It appears that wardrobes are the solution. So you wander over to the applicable section, and soon become dazzled by the possibilities on offer. These babies are fully customizable: you choose the materials, the size, the number of shelves/rails/drawers/shoe-racks/what-have-you on the interior. Do you want your wardrobe’s walls to be a different colour from its doors? No problem, IKEA will make it happen for you. You spend some fun minutes on their computerized wardrobe-design-thingy and then you just print out the results, and the IKEA staff tell you where to find all the pieces you’ll need to assemble your masterpiece.
Ha — that problem wasn’t so hard to solve! You went from having no closets to having two personalized closets in a matter of minutes. Success! Victory! Except — um, you just bought over 450 pounds of closet. How are you going to get it to your 3rd-floor, liftless abode? This gives you momentary pause. It’s okay, your non-wardrobe-buying, has-a-lift-in-his-building friend says, they have this thing called a “furniture taxi” here. The guy will drive your goods to your building in a truck, and then if you pay extra, he will help you to carry it up the stairs to your apartment.
Great! It seems as though IKEA really has thought of everything. You go to the Customer Service desk, as directed, and arrange for a furniture taxi. When it shows up, you see it’s not at all what was advertised — perhaps because it’s a Saturday and all the trucks are already in service. What you get is, essentially, just a taxi, albeit a larger, van-sized one. The driver is neither young nor fit and you cringe to see him try to cram all of your purchases (in addition to the wardrobes, you thought it would be a good idea to buy a dining room table and some chairs) into his vehicle. He ends up exhausted, and driving with several boxes precariously close to his head. So when he drops you off, you mention nothing about getting up the stairs. Instead, you tip him generously for his valiant attempt to do what is clearly not his job, and watch him drive away as you stand, marooned in a sea of IKEA boxes, looking wistfully at your apartment’s balcony, high above the street.
So, yeah, that was our Saturday. Stelian and I eventually got everything upstairs: each of the wardrobe body and door pieces was a two-person job (and could have easily been a three-person job) due to their weight and their size, and the fact that they had to be lifted over stair railings. I am still feeling slightly sore from this effort, and it engendered in me the greatest sympathy for the moving crew who had to bring our bed, sofa, desks, and many boxes of books, kitchen ware, and so on up here yesterday. In the land of inadequate lifts and unforgiving stairwells, let me tell you, the moving guys have gotta be tough.
Back to my unpacking. Happy February!