almost falling in love with a heritage building
Some might know that I have a bit of an obsession with heritage buildings. When I was little and we’d take trips to Italy or through Germany’s eastern Bundesländer, my brother and I would play a game: he’d „get“ all of the fancy, modern buildings, I’d „get“ the the crumbling, old ones (we may have fought about castles though). At first glance that seems pretty unfair – the little sister gets stuck with the sad leftovers the older brother couldn’t be bothered with. Yet, to this day I’m convinced I have gotten the better deal. What I got was character. History. Stories. And room for imagination. Something, that had already stood some test of time and just needed a loving hand and a bit of determination to waken its potential.
Over the years I have come to realise that there may be a little more to wakening a crumbling heritage building than enthusiasm and love. And maybe that’s why when given the choice between working for the city’s urban planning department or a construction company, I went for the latter.
I love checking out the for sale listings on the website of the Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege – the Bavarian state department for historic monuments. And recently I stumbled across some potential.
I contacted the owners, stopped by on my way home from work, poked my head through the faded shutters and finally told Dub that he and I would be going to an open house this weekend. And though I figured from the beginning that this wouldn’t be the one, I’m so glad we went.
The Maulhof in Gelting was probably built in 1833, saw a number of additions between 1916 and 1921, but has fallen into Dornröschenschlaf and laid dormant – renovation-wise mostly untouched – ever since. Stepping through the door did feel very much like stepping back in time. No running water, no bathroom (only a collapsed outhouse at the rear of the building), one kitchen stove to heat the house. The rooms in the living quarters are sparsely furnished, a table, a few chairs, a Pfaff sewing machine table, a handful of wardrobes, among them a clunky but lovingly-painted Bauernschrank from 1856, a pin-board on the wall with a bill written in Sütterlin and a business card with the telephone number „12“ on it. The chalk inscription the Sternsinger would leave on the doors and lintels on Epiphany read „19 C+M+B 68“.
The old stable and the attached barn were crammed with bee hives and leather harnesses, milking buckets and tools I couldn’t figure out what they would have been used for, an old tractor and two motorbikes, children’s sleds from the 50s and iron ploughs. It pains me to think someone might throw out most of those treasures. But then, what would you do with a dysfunctional tractor or even just the dusty Mieder I almost tried to wheedle out of the owner?
The one room that even got Dub’s imagination and enthusiasm spilling over was the attic/hayloft. The roof trusses bearded with dust-blackend cob webs, the floors invisible under layers of stale, 40 year old hay, the air draughty from all the holes and slits in the ceiling tiles. Yet it was this room that left the most lasting impression and that had both of our imagination run wild with how we could turn this space into our home. There was a pile of old bed frames. Smalls ones, today children sized. How many kids could we have? 6? Or maybe 3, plus three beds for friends staying over?
Thinking back just hours later now, it again makes me want to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I want to see places like this one blossom. I want to see them filled with life, loud or quiet. I want to see them loved and cared for. And I want to see them continue withstanding the test of time, being appreciated for their endurance and wisdom. And this is when I know again, I made the right career choice – and when we meet the right house, I’ll be ready to treat it with the determination, respect, unquestioning love, endurance and knowledge it deserves.