Apartment swap instead of vacation: here and gone

Traveling is not an option right now. That’s why we swap apartments with my sister – as a corona-compliant change of scenery.

The neighbor’s cat doesn’t travel, but she still likes suitcases Photo: Uta Keck

"We don’t want to go to Zehlendorf!" The kids are pissed. They sit on the sofa and scold. How can it be that we want to let other children into their rooms? What if their things get broken?

Actually, we have planned a vacation in the Alps. In the lockdown, it’s not going to happen. However, continuing to sit around on vacation where we always sit around seems depressing to us parents. That’s why we thought about swapping apartments: My sister and her family will spend a few days with us in Berlin-Kreuzberg. And we travel to their townhouse on the outskirts of the city. That’s corona-compliant and still something different.

Soon the kids don’t think it’s such a bad idea either. The sister family has Amazon Prime and a cat. So we start packing. And to clean: Only now do we notice how much stuff, how much dust has accumulated in the corners, precisely because we are constantly at home.

The next day, the sister family is at the door. We hand over the keys in the stairwell. After half an hour, we too are at our destination.

Foosball in the basement

The air out here is fresh. When you open the patio door, you hear raindrops falling, nothing else. We walk through the house, distribute the rooms. You look at things differently, in peace and quiet. I’d like to recreate the shelf made of stacked boxes. There’s a foosball table in the basement, which the kids take up right away. I lie down on the bed. Two children’s pictures hang on an orange wall. So that’s what my sister sees in the morning when she opens her eyes. What connects them to the pictures?

We take a walk in Babelsberg Palace Park, a hilly area with a view of the Glienicke Bridge and the Havel River. No Alps, no mountain lake, but very beautiful. The sun comes out, we take a deep breath. Meanwhile, my sister sends photos from Kreuzberg, from the subway, from the park, especially of full plates. She is thrilled at how many snack bars and restaurants there are near us. After a kebab to start them off, they go for Japanese and later Indian food.

In Kreuzberg, the newspaper comes every day; here, the vegetable box comes from Brandenburg. And the cat from next door. He drums his paws against the window. So far, I’ve only associated cats with a tingling in my nose. But the allergy stays away, the tomcat proves to be very funny. When the children wave a string around, he suddenly jumps into the air.

The main thing somewhere else

We plan a trip by ferry across the Wannsee. Passersby feed the seagulls at the dock. Following a secret choreography, the flock flies up, draws a circle and settles back in the harbor, screeching. Ice floats on the water. We wait, wait, the ferry does not come.

Actually, one would think that the trip was a flop. But it was not. At the moment it is a value in itself to be somewhere else, even if it is a pier next to a highway.

In retrospect, the kids also think: The apartment swap was great. My sister says she really felt like she was on vacation. We only saw each other briefly in the stairwell, at a distance with masks. And yet we haven’t been as close as we were during those days for a long time.

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