How an Airbnb disaster led to a beautiful friendship

(CNN) — When a huge plumbing disaster strikes, most Airbnb guests would pack their bags and demand their money back, while their hosts would glumly write off their profits and try to forget about it.

But for German travelers Elke Thau-Montgomery and Rudi Thau, and their American hosts Beth Ann Moon and Jennifer Steinberg, a calamitous Airbnb situation turned into a continent-spanning, five-years-and-counting friendship.

Florida-based couple Beth and Jennifer listed the apartment connected to their home on Airbnb for the first time in 2017. Beth and Jennifer are gay, and were wary about homophobia from their guests (Beth jokes that she hid from the first few bookers.)

But guests from the US and beyond came and went, and largely kept to themselves.

Elke and Rudi stood out from the beginning. They were friendly and relaxed, and arrived bearing a bottle of gin as a gift.

Elke and Rudi were attracted to Beth and Jennifer’s Airbnb because of its location — near the Everglades in the southern tip of Florida — and Beth and Jennifer’s inviting backyard pool.

But what sealed the deal was the Volkswagen Beetle parked outside. The German couple figured anyone with a VW Beetle was likely to be on their wavelength.

“Let’s go there, they must be nice people,” Elke recalls thinking.

When Elke and Rudi presented their hosts with the gin, Beth went into the house and brought out another bottle from the same distillery, about double the size.

“We were laughing at each other,” says Elke.

“We hit it off as soon as they arrived,” says Beth.

The two couples ended up sitting outside all night, drinking and chatting.

“It was really the first time that we had ever connected with people that were here,” says Jennifer. “They were just like us, we had so

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