Friday, January 29, 2010

Cleaning snow in Germany

I live in a so-called Terassen-haus (house on steps?) which has its floors placed diagonally on the side of a hill. So the building is not straight, rather diagonal. So the elevators opens its one door for the first 3 floors, and the opposite door for the higher 4 floors. I live on the 5th floor. Such an arrangement of floors gives each front appartment a big balcony, and each balcony is surrounded with bushes, so the whole building looks a part of the hill. The building is located a little above the base of the hill, so there are 3 sets of stairs before the building, with a 2 meter flat surface between each set of stairs. Why am I telling in so much detail? Because yesterday I was asked to remove snow from these stairs.

Each appartment in the building gets its duty almost once every month in winter to keep the stairs clear of snow. Last 2 months, there was no snow on my duty. But this month there is snow every day. They place the tools outside the building. They consist of a shovel, a long brush and a bucket of snow-salt. I had never done this before, so I took the shovel and tried the carry the snow on each stair-step to the side. Most of the snow was easy, but it was very hard where people had stepped. The surface was not smooth, so the shovel didn't move easily. Then I figured that fine cleaning would perhaps be better done with the brush. It worked, but not at some spots. I tried for half hour at my best and then sprinkled salt on it and left for office. It snowed heavily in the afternoon, reminding me that I have to clean again in the evening. When I reached home, the path that I made on the stairs was even cleaner than I left it in the morning. This snow-salt is a magic salt. Though, I was a little annoyed why I had I worked so hard in the morning, I would have just cleaned a bit and sprinkled the salt. But, anyhow, it showed me that Farmville is a lot more easier when played on PC :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chilling Winter in Germany & Europe

This winter is different than some previous years. Well, it started like normal: it snowed in December, but the snow vanished before Christmas, leaving wishing for another white Christmas. Then, it snowed again; this time an awful lot. For many days it snowed daily, mostly powdered snow. City services was quick to clean the pathways, but it snowed again the next day, until the newspapers announced a shortage of snow clearing salt. I even saw snow cleaners at night. A few days after, the authorities issued a warning asking people to store 4 days food and candles in case of electricity outages. This made us nervous, but then we realized it was probably meant for Northern coastal regions and Islands. They were hit the hardest by this extreme snow. People even said that this is a record since at least 20 years.

A funny (read: scary) thing happened too. My university has multiple campuses. My campus is on top of a hill. A bus goes up and down the hill. One day, when it snowed at extreme, I was waiting for the bus at bus-stop. The bus was late about 5 min, and it crawled slowly towards the bus stop. It was a double bus (two bus sections joined, but can bend). Well, I got on the bus, and the bus started down the road to get on the main road on a T-intersection. There was a signal there which was turned off due to the weather. The bus waited, but cars were coming from both directions. As soon as a small gap occurred between the traffic, the bus driver gave gas to make use of it, but he had to turn sharply to avoid tumbling down the hill in front of the T-intersection. The bus driver applied brakes, and the feared happened: the bus slipped: it was too fast. It took our breath away. So the driver released the brakes and gave some gas while turning the steering-wheel. Thankfully, the bus turned and got on the main road.