Sending out an SOS…
I used to watch TV programmes about terrible neighbours in horror. Then all of a sudden we found ourselves in Berlin with a terrible neighbour of our own.
It started in May 2013, when we popped to Berlin for a quick holiday to see if we wanted to rent the apartment that was being offered to us for a few months. During our week stay the man below us came ringing at the doorbell. For convenience sake, let’s call him Mr B. He wanted to know what we had been doing all day long, as he had endured a banging sound non-stop for hours on end. We had been out the entire day, so I told him he must have been mistaken and shut the door.
We moved into the apartment in August. During the first week he rang again. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you all that our doorbell is loud. The apartment is small. Even if someone rings just once it frightens the life out of me. When it is rung continuously for around fifteen minutes with a man screaming ‘Mach auf!‘ (‘open the door’) and banging on the door at 1am it is pretty scary. Especially when I have no idea who to contact for help.
Our peep hole device disappeared mysteriously that night. Now, whoever was outside could see us looking at them and knew that we were at home and purposely not opening the door. Strange coincidence…
The next day we met with some nicer neighbours. They said Mr B is a drunken Russian who drinks himself to s stupor and doesn’t remember anything the next day. The man across from us said he has previously been shouted at for drinking coffee on his own balcony. Then I started hearing Mr B during the day. He was shouting from his balcony at children who were playing in the sunshine. Whenever I heard a baby crying I could hear him screaming for it to be quiet. And he wasn’t using polite words.
We had a few more doorbell rings in the early hours and I refused to open the door. Then, one came during the afternoon. I didn’t expect to see Mr B standing there stuttering away at us once more. He accused me of sweeping at 2am in the morning. He was really threatening in his behaviour. I told him we had been fast asleep at 2am and don’t even own a sweeping brush. When I tried to close the door on him he pushed the door back towards me with his hand. It was really scary. I shoved the door closed and once again the constant doorbell ringing began. He said he demanded to talk to us. I shouted he could talk to the police and we rang them for help.
I was shaking with anger. Our home is meant to be somewhere we feel safe and relaxed. Every time the doorbell rings we both jump. Compared to the people living above us we are almost silent. We don’t wear shoes. We don’t have dogs running around the apartment all day long. We don’t have loud music. In fact, whenever he rang we were literally being silent, either sleeping or translating, which requires quiet in order to concentrate.
The police turned up half an hour later. At home, they would come into the house for a chat. Here they stood on the stairs aggressively. It was very odd. I heard Mr B’s door open so he was obviously eavesdropping in on the whole discussion too. The police listened to us for a while, but they said most people end up moving house as there is nothing much they can do unless he attacks us. The only feasible option would be to get a number of people complaining against him and then give evidence to his landlord. If he owned the property it would be even more difficult. It would also take time and lawyers. It might force him to move out, but that would be an unlikely outcome. They just told us to ring the police again if he was disturbing us.
Since then he has rung a couple of times to accuse us of something or other, always mistaking us for our noisier neighbours. He even once asked if I would like to join him in complaining about a neighbour who was hammering on a Sunday, the day Germany dedicates to being quiet. I told him the noise didn’t bother me and to go away. I’m looking forward to getting away from him when we move as he really creeps me out. Let’s hope the next place has normal people living around us!