The world is where people live. That may seem to be an obvious idea, but in history, people did not live like they do today. I tried to show this to you with the outdoor toilets at Aksinya's family estate. I also wanted you to see that most bathrooms outside (and even in Russian) large cities didn't have toilets--they had bathtubs and stoves to heat the water. In this period, gas lights are ubiquitous and electric lights slowly moving into the world. The same is true of other living spaces like bedrooms and sitting rooms. At Sacré Coeur we find very modern facilities. I want you to see them first hand.
They all followed Frau Drescher to the end door on the right that also happened to be directly above her office. She pulled out an old key with an attached heavy bob like those from a gasthouse and unlocked the door, “Usually, the doors are kept unlocked while the students are away from them. They may be locked when a student is inside, but I don’t recommend that.”
Frau Drescher pushed open the door and exposed a small sitting room. The wallpaper, flooring, and floor covering were all similar to the corridor. The entire suite was comparably decorated. In the center of the sitting room sat a short tea table, a small sofa, and two chairs with padded seats. A couple of curtained windows lay behind the sofa on either side. A gas lamp hung next to the door to the corridor and next to another door on the right. In the right hand corner built into a cabinet was a gas burner. A fine tea service sat on the cabinet. The room was simple, but still elegant.
Frau Drescher allowed them to look around for a few moments, “You can see there is provision for preparing tea in the room. The water is available from the bath that I will presently show you. Please, follow me into the bedrooms.” The door on the right opened into a very short corridor. Within the corridor, were a door at the left, one right before them, and a door on the right. The entire corridor was less than six feet long.
Frau Drescher opened the door on the left. It let them into a very bright bedroom. Its decor was similar to the sitting room. The room was somewhat “L” shaped. The door opened toward the outside wall which was also the back wall of the sitting room and looked down into an alleyway. About five feet separated the door from the outside wall. A turn to the right revealed the rest of the bedroom. It was small. The bed rested against the right hand wall and the street side of the building. The bed was almost entirely concealed from the door. They had to take a step and turn the corner for the bed to become entirely visible. At the head of the bed was a high curtained window. To the left was a bedside table, a desk, and a chair with a padded seat. Another high curtained window lay behind the bedside table.
At the foot of the bed was a large ornately carved schrank for storage of clothing. Behind the desk on the other wall were two matching high curtained windows like those in the sitting room. The room was very bright from the winter daylight that came through the windows. A gas lamp hung on the wall between each set of windows. That provided light for the desk and for the bed.
Without using too many words or too much space in the writing, I tried to give you a short but detailed description of the rooms in which Aksinya and Natalya will reside. These rooms will be important for a while, but the detail, like I explained, lets you see the private areas where people live. This is the most important idea I want to convey.
The first description is the sitting room. I want you to know the area is decorated similarly to the upper corridor. As I mentioned, the red rose motif indicates romance in the culture (perhaps not the idea Frau Drescher wants to convey). The furniture is not spartain, but not crowded. The fixtures are gas lamps and a gas burner. These are obviously very important to the people of the time. Note, the burner is for tea preperation and there is a tea service for the room. This is how important the preparation of tea is. This indicates the lack of sufficient heating. Tea helps heat the body and the soul. I likely need to add in a bit about the heating--it would be steam radiators.
The second description is the first bedroom. In the description, I give you a sense of the placement of the rooms (the location of the street) so you can understand the environment outside to a degree. The furniture here is very important. Note, the rooms are small and the bedrooms are cramped and utilitarian. There are no closets--this is true in Germany and Austria today. They have schranks which are large standing closet furniture to store clothing.
Gas lamps don't provide much light--note they are above the bed and the desk. This should hopefully produce enough light for reading and study. Is it a wonder that houses were dark inside until the acceptance and integration of electrical lights and electricity. I'll try to convey some of this in the future chapters.