A Clean Sweep


When I looked at this photo, I shook my head. What a combination of things were going on here.

To explain, it was not unusual for people to keep one or two animals in the back courtyard of the apartment blocks, hence the pile of manure. Usually that pile was at the far back of the courtyard, near a back alley, but in this case it seems to be right on the main street. Well, it’s a small town, and it was long ago.

It was also the custom to air out the bedding by hanging it out the window. Instead of blankets, people used huge feather beds, kind of like what we call duvets now, but probably a lot fluffier. Think giant feather pillow. You can’t just throw it in the wash (only the cover) so you hang it outside to air out.

But here’s the rub. How fresh is that feather bed going to be after hanging over the manure pile for a few hours?

In defense of the German Hausfrau, it isn’t typical to air out the bedding over the manure pile; it just happened to be the case in this photo.

As for the chimney sweep, tell me what you see. Anything in the picture that jumps out at you? Let’s hear it.

I’m not even sure they still use chimney sweeps in Germany. This was in 1977. If anyone knows what they do today, please enlighten us.

I thought this guy was kind of cute, but I hope he washes his feet before crawling into his bed. I’m sure he does!

24 thoughts on “A Clean Sweep

    • Maybe it’s not there in the summer. I’m not sure what they do. Maybe they put it on their gardens in the summertime and begin stockpiling it again in the winter. Or not. My eyes are watering just thinking about it.


  1. The bedding is filled with (Eider down) feather from the Eider duck, very warm but you can’t wash duck feathers. It is still common for small villagers and country farms to house live stock on the ground floor under houses. They use the body heat from the livestock to help heat the house.
    I don’t know what that is around his ankles but chimney sweeps are still very common and still wear the same type uniform as your sweep was wearing.


  2. Classic! Yes, I remember that habit of airing the bedding (although there was never a manure pile involved). It used to amuse my American linguistics teacher no end. I love these anecdotes, Anneli, thank you! X


  3. Hallo, liebe Annelie. 🙂

    Diese Schlappen an den Füßen des Schornsteinfegers finde ich schon seltsam. 🙂

    Es gibt noch immer Schornsteinfeger bei uns. Es ist bei uns Pflicht, dass ein Schornsteinfeger jedes Jahr den Kamin “fegt” und eine Schadstoffmessung an der Ölheizung durchführt. In Schlappen habe ich unseren Schornsteinfeger aber noch nie gesehen. 🙂 Er trägt festes Schuhwerk und keinen Hut. Die Kleidung ist aber noch immer schwarz und sieht ähnlich aus, wie auf dem Bild. 🙂
    Auch wenn man sich einen Kaminofen kauft, so muss ein Schornsteinfeger ihn “abnehmen”. Das heißt, er muss den Ofen und den Anschluss kontrollieren und sein OK geben. Das dient der Sicherheit, damit es nicht zu einem Brand kommt.

    Der Schornsteinfeger ist hier auch ein Glückssymbol. Es soll Glück bringen, wenn man einen Schornsteinfeger berührt. 🙂

    Liebe Grüße,


    • That’s very interesting, Martina. Here in Canada and the States most people heat with electricity or maybe oil. The ones who use a woodstove (often as auxiliary heat) usually clean their own chimneys so we don’t have many official chimney sweeps. But I love the idea of this man being a symbol of good luck. I should have touched him (if only I had known) and I would have been even luckier.
      Thanks for your informative comment!


  4. Yes, they still come around, especially in the country side. Just this spring it happend to us. It was a very young couple, both in the same outfit like “your” chimney sweep, except that they also were wearing white socks! Did you know that if you see one of them you have to touch them – its supposed to bring you luck. And yes, everyone is airing out their bedding on sunny days.


  5. Hi,
    You have a nice blog. I have really enjoyed being here. Are you somehow related to Finland as your first name is Anneli which is a very common name in Finland. Have a nice and colourful autumn.


    • Thanks for visiting, Ilkka. No, I’m not Finnish. My parents were German and my mother happened to like this name. I have only met two or three other Anneli’s in my life, but maybe if I went to Finland I would meet many more. It’s nice to know I’m not so alone with this name. Thanks for your comment.


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