Many people in northern Europe suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder thanks to short winter days, but in Simonswald, a valley community nestled in the southern Black Forest, darkness prevails for almost half of the year.
“In winter we don't have sun for up to five months – it's hard on the psyche,” said Ulrike Schuler, who with her husband Thomas has managed to redirect sunshine into their living room during the dark days.
The couple, who run a bed and breakfast called Haldenschwarzhof, have put up a two-by-two-metre mirror along the valley rim on a neighbouring piece of property after getting the idea from a movie.
“While watching television we saw similar construction in Piemont, Italy,” said Schuler. “Then we did some research online.”
The Schulers found their solution in Frankfurt, where they engaged a company that helped them create the sunlight diversion system, which has now been in place since early November.
“It's not a big space, but just about four by four metres that are now sunny and warm,” Schuler said.
While some members of the community have accused the family of using the enormous mirror as a marketing ploy for their holiday property, they say their only concern was winter well-being.
“I grew up at an altitude of 1,000 metres in Bernau in the Black Forest. There we had sunshine from morning until night,” Schuler explained, saying she found the darkness in the valley far too taxing on her mental health.
“The venture was worth it,” she said.
The Schulers are now considering a second such mirror to light their home naturally, but it could mean more teasing from neighbours.
“I've had to explain to a number of people that I'm not trying to get a tan – that's not what the mirror is about at all,” Schuler said.