I was feeling much in the Christmas spirit, so I decided to donate my old TV and the piece of furniture it stood on for the last decade to some local, less-fortunate inhabitants of this fair burg. Also, my wife had been pestering me for a few months that she wanted it out of our apartment and that putting it in the cellar was NOT an option. The two things collided.
So I did what any samaritan would do. I walked a circumventive route and placed the TV in a tunnel that runs under a major road near our apartment, making sure the whole time that nobody saw me do it. It was wrapped up in a blue IKEA bag, with a remote control, and a cable. Merry Christmas.
We live in a nice neighborhood in Munich, an equally desirable location for expats and natives alike. The area is very middle-class. Before we moved here a few months ago we lived in an area that is celebrated for its ‘cultural diversity’, code words for a large immigrant population, a methadone clinic, and blocks of social housing. We loved that neighborhood, too, however, just not for the same reasons that we love this neighborhood.
One of the things we loved about the old neighborhood was there were plenty of children (immigrant children, of course, since Germans have general apathy to too many progeny), which meant there were always plenty of goodies at the bi-annual community flea markets. We were always trying to pick up cheap toys, used books, kitchen utensils, etc.
One of the more interesting things we’ve learned about life here in Munich compared to our former lives in America is that if you wait for the after-the-flea-market sale, you sometimes can get some good things dirt cheap. Like free. That’s right, here in Munich, one of the richest cities in the world, people leave their old used worn-out stuff on the streets for others to take. And take it they do.
Now, I’m not sure if the taking of things is because people are struggling more than we think just to pay the bills, or it’s the more likely possibility of Germans’ legendary frugality manifesting itself in this behavior. Or perhaps it’s as simple as good old-fashioned laziness. Whatever the reason, most people I’ve spoken to think it’s a great thing.
One thing is for sure, it is the best, most direct way to recycle, though it does little for the bottom line of the economy. This throws conservative Americans into a tizzy, since consumerism is the pathway to Heaven. The Germans use less but buy better quality. I digress.
The first and last Sunday mornings of any month are the best time to go sidewalk bargain hunting. These are the days that normally follow Saturday moving day, most new renting agreements naturally begin on the first of the month. Another difference is, unlike in America where tossed furniture, kitchen appliances and old bicycles normally are found at the end of a long dark road to nowhere, here in Munich they are left just off the main traffic areas. They can be procured on side streets too, it’s really just a game of luck. There is no real organization which is about as exciting as it gets for Germans.
Here in Munich you have to take your old things to the Wertstoffhof (recycling center), where you may or may not be asked to show a valid residency permit with your current address, to make sure that one, you are allowed to dispose of your stuff in Munich and two, to determine if you’ve brought them to the correct center for your ZIP code. If you have all of these things then you are directed to the correct container (there are about 30 different containers-no shitting), by a gruff Bavarian man (always a Bavarian) who reeks of Leberkäse and cigarettes.
I have also been the recipient of the deep discounting deals on the pavements as well. Recently, my wife and I were walking with our daughter and came across a basic shelf which fit perfectly in a little nook we have in our apartment. A thorough cleaning, a coat of lacquer and a few well-placed tacks in the back and, poof, we now are the proud doting parents of a ‘brand new’ shelf.
But like anything in life that’s good, there are limits. Last week the city finally came and removed a completely banged up fridge from the sidewalk around the corner. The police had placed a note on it, asking the owners to please remove it. It sat on the sidewalk, untouched, for about three weeks. Rumor has it that the old owners are back in Romania or Bulgaria already, so the city had to take it away.