Niedersachsen has been covered in snow since the middle of December, and this is not normal for this part of Germany. I think even the children have lost their enthusiasm for the fluffy white. The snowfall this past weekend made for perfect snowman conditions although we did not go out into the garden to make a snowman.
The fact is that we are laying low. We are hiding from our neighbors. We are renegades, lawless immigrants suffering because of our ignorance. When we moved to Germany in October and bought what we needed for the house, everyone said, “You won’t need a shovel”. When it snowed in December, everyone said, “It won’t last but a few days”. In January when we searched for a shovel, ice pick, and salt at the hardware store, they said “We are sold out but check back in a few weeks if the snow’s not gone” and this weekend they said, “Ostfriesland is sold out of shovels and salt, sorry”.
This would not be a problem in Norway, of course. This is only a problem here in our efficient middle class neighborhood with overly conscientious neighbors. They are out every hour on the hour to check their walkways and gutters for debris or ice crystals. In Norway, people wear cleats on their shoes so they do not slip on the ice, but in Germany, they curse the one who did not clean the path – and then they sue.
Germany law says that you are required to keep your driveway, walkway, and the storm drain in front of your house clear of snow. As I understand following is required:
1) You have to keep a path clear from 7am until 10pm (7:00 to 22:00).
2) A path at least 1.5 meters wide has to be cleared, ideally 3 meters wide
3) any path 3 meters or narrower has to completely cleared
4) the path should be then salted (where permitted) or sown with gravel mixture
As a previously professed heavy shopper, we have the mail carrier at the door daily and if that poor man had slipped and cracked his hip while delivering a book from amazon.de or a perky tunic from gudrunsjoden.de, I would be devastated. So what can we do? We have driven to every hardware store within a 250-kilometer radius – no shovels. We have done our best with a broom but yes, we do have icy patches around our house.
I am very nervous and do not dare look our neighbors in the eye. Therefore, you can imagine my joy when I read that the weather is getting milder and by next week, I will have different things to worry about.