Albrecht is a son in a family of wealthy intellectuals that has a seaside estate near Hamburg. In early adulthood, when he returns from his around the world trip, he is expected to settle down and marry the beautiful Octavia. One day while rowing alone, Albrecht meets the similarly ravishing Äls, a Finnish woman who migrates to Germany annually for her medical treatment, as she is probably terminally ill. It turns out they live near each other, and subsequently both go horse riding together often. Albrecht becomes very friendly with Äls, and Äls begins to love Albrecht. Albrecht marries Octavia and the married couple move from Hamburg to Düsseldorf.