Jul 24 2009
I don’t think I’ve spent any time on this blog discussing the curiosity that are European windows. Such a curiosity are they that many Americans, at least the ones who visit us, think they have irreparably damaged them when they try for the first time to open them. Now I, upon coming to Switzerland, already knew this little secret due to my summer in Brussels—thought not yet how to work the blinds in our apartment. Let me describe standard European windows:
- They don’t have the hatched panes of American windows. They are usually formed from two large sheets of uninterrupted glass, two panes thick for insulation, more like glass doors.
- They don’t slide up and down; instead, they open inward, again more like doors.
- If you are incredibly lucky, you get multifunctional opening windows: they can open either from the top, so that the window is cracked open a few inches and slanted, or they can open, well, like normal doors, inward, and all the way.
Our apartment in Renens has these awesome multifunctional windows. But no, ignorant American, that window opening from the top is not broken, is not falling down on top of you. That’s just how you open it a few inches rather than letting the whole thing blow around. As an added bonus, our windows come with these blinds which are outside the windows and require pulling out and up on a cord to let down, not just pulling up and down, but are overall far easier to control. The apartment in Paris that we’re subletting only has windows that open all the way inward like normal doors, which is a pity, because it rains a lot here, and all the rain blows in too, or a whole lot of hot or a whole lot of cold air can blow in at once.
What we have not missed until quite recently is the fact that no windows on this continent seem to have screens. Not a one, even though they spend a whole lot more time being open than in the US, as air conditioning is rather rare here. That means that when one opens up the windows at night to let in the cool night air, one also lets in all the bugs. In Switzerland in June, Seth and I had been operating in close-to-total darkness, while awake, after dark, windows open, so as to deter bugs from entering. But really, it was ok. As one Swiss person told us, there are bugs in Switzerland, but there are no mosquitoes. Somehow that actually seemed sort of true. On the other hand, Paris seems full of mosquitoes, and every morning I have been waking up with at least one new itchy, unfortunate bite. There is currently one even between my eyes.
This is an example of the kind of small differences that continue to exist between this continent and the one across the Atlantic, along with different-sized toilet paper rolls and less-than-real sandwiches bereft of mustard. I wonder why no one in all of Europe has yet thought that it might be a good idea to place a screen on a window to keep out bugs and then been able to convince others of its utility, even though they’ve been able to create magical top-opening windows. As for now…anyone know where I can get a mosquito net in Paris?