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Winter Approaches

November 1989

We are able to get most of the things we need here. This is such a cosmopolitan city that we really aren’t hampered by not having what we used to be used to. Now we try to find a replacement, and sometimes, what we find is even better than what we had. For example, I need a winter coat. I have put off getting one since 1973. All I’ve ever worn are trench coats, and not even ones with linings. I really didn’t need much. I’d wear sweaters underneath and I was usually going or coming from someplace in a car. But now I do so much walking that I probably will need something warmer, even though our weather is about the same—or so we’ve been told. Recently the temperature dips to the mid- to upper-thirties at night and then rises to the upper-forties to mid-fifties. There may be more rain here. We’ll have to wait and see.

Anyway, I’ve never wanted or even been interested in a leather coat, but they seem to be everywhere here, and they are worn in the rain too. And the prices are the same as for wool coats. A friend of mine let me try on hers last week, and it was wonderful. It was so lightweight I couldn’t believe it. Perhaps I’ll end up getting one of those. They are about $140 now and should go on sale shortly for half of that price. I’ll hold out for half price. I’m sure I’ll be able to find something. Maybe I could get a little black one for Crumpet. I said that because I saw an elderly man walking his dog on my way home from school last week. And that largish gray dog had on a light blue "dog" trench coat—with a belt and buckle around its waist no less. I must admit, it was cute though. And this week I saw a man with a small dog that looked like an overgrown rodent. That dog was wearing what looked like a red leather coat. You can tell from this that dogs are a big deal here. You even have to pay a yearly dog tax.

Then there are the furs. I have never seen so many mink coats in my whole life. It gets chilly enough here to wear furs beginning in late October. And I find it humorous to see women of all ages, from young mothers to great-great-grandmothers in their minks—from short jackets to full-length coats. They wear any kind of garb underneath and wear the furs to do mundane, everyday errands. In the U.S. I'm used to seeing minks, for the most part, in dress-up situations. Here, they are merely functional, warm coats. I don't mean to imply that I see only minks, but there are so many of them and it seems that the women aren't necessarily well-to-do. Furs are ubiquitous—and minks more than most. I also see a great deal of Persian lambs, both gray and black. Perhaps I've been accustomed to thinking of furs as luxury items instead of merely as protective garments in cold climates. Before we leave here, I, too, will probably end up with a fur of some sort, but not the kind we saw in a fur shop (Pelze) a couple of weeks ago. We were looking in the window on a Saturday afternoon, and we saw this lovely short-napped brown fur. We looked closely at the label and discovered that it was a hamster fur coat. I don't think I could ever wear one of those even though it was quite lovely. Yuck! I'd hear them chattering in their cages or running in their wheels every time I'd put it on.

Maybe we’ll take a holiday sometime this month or next. Thanksgiving is not a holiday here, obviously, but earlier that week, Wednesday, I think, is a German holiday. I had thought that maybe we could drive someplace or take a train to France or something. But now I’m working the first half of that week when Jack has the day off, and he’ll be working when I have the day off. We never do seem to be able to get the same work schedules. A friend called from Washington yesterday, and I told her that we might drive to Austria or Strasbourg in France some weekend. And I told her it was just like her driving to West Virginia on a Saturday or Sunday. She calls us once a month just to see what’s going on. She’s the houseguest who appeared the day before we moved. We told her that we probably wouldn’t be calling because the calls are so expensive here. It costs us about $3.00 a minute to call the U.S. and there is no cheap or discount time. It’s the same price 24 hours a day. When she calls us, she said she spends about $7 to $8 for ten minutes. That’s certainly a big difference! She usually calls on Saturday or Sunday morning (or about noon, her morning!) her time, which is five or six o’clock in the evening for us.

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