March 4, 2007

Home at last

So after months of frustrating search, Kevin and I have our very own apartment. And it's furnished. And there's even a stove. After having done our best to resist the siren call of the maklers, we finally gave in. Well, sort of.

We didn't have to resort to a proper makler (the predators who take a 238% commission). But instead of finding a cheap apartment on our own and then furnishing it ourselves (albiet cheaply), we just rented a temporary, furnished apartment from the company that had housed us for the month of February. It wasn't so bad. They only took 150%, but at least they spoke English!

Initially, I felt defeated that we weren't able to find an apartment on our own. I mean, what kind of ex-pats are we if we can't even do the most basic of tasks, like put a roof over our heads? But Bernadette, our pseudo-makler, informed me that, in fact, lots of Germans have trouble finding an apartment, too. Her company, which has branches in over 50 cities, specializes in housing people locked out of Germany's static housing market. Most of her clients are Germans who wind up temporary homeless between leases.

And then, I remind myself that I did actually find an apartment on my own, and we came within hours of signing a lease on it. But it was a complete shithole, and thank God, I didn't have to take it. Sure, it was only 350 euros a month, but it was unfurnished, the oven was hanging by a single wire, and there were no floors. You were expected to install carpet or laminate yourself! And although it had a large balcony, the view overlooked a cemetary! Now, I'm not superstitious. I actually loved living next to Little Rock's historic Mount Holly cemetary and taking my dog, Bennett, there to run an obstacle course between the headstones. But this was no Romantic old cemetary. It was just depressing.

When it came right down to it, we decided that we could afford an apartment twice as expensive, so long as we didn't have to put a single nail in the wall. And then Bernadette presented us with this little jewel.

Our 60 quadratmeter studio (third floor, above the satellite dish) is in the old part of town, right in the shadow of the Marienberg Festung and within walking distance of all of the cities shops and restaurants. It is actually in the same building as our old temporary apartment, so we only had to move our stuff up two flights of stairs.

Inside, the apartment is bright and modern, with a new kitchen and bathroom. It also has a huge private balcony, where I can grow flowers and eat breakfast in my bathrobe in the summer. The furniture is eclectic and antique, much of it is from India, and although it's not how I would have decorated my apartment, the change is kinda fun. And isn't "change" the reason we moved here to begin with?

The only catch -- and you knew there had to be a catch, didn't you? -- is the landlords. Doktor and Doktor W., two middle-aged psychiatrists, bought the apartment 10 years ago when their eldest daughter moved to W├╝rzburg to attend the university. Shucks. They had intended their younger daughter to live there, too. "But she refused, and insisted that she study in Berlin," the first Doktor W. told us. I bet she got an apartment, too. Double shucks.

So for the past six years, they've rented to the place to poor saps like us, mostly businessmen in town for only a few months. However, one colorful tenant was an American serviceman, who, according to Doktor W., was "a giant, an animal." In fact, the man was rather large. He left a pair of boots in the closet. You could raise a family inside them. Anyway, my fellow countryman skipped town without paying the rent, so now the good doktors require a three-month deposit. C'est la vie!

The main problem with our tenants is their over-attentiveness. At first they seemed kind and helpful. We didn't have bed linens for a king-sized bed, so they bought two sets, including down comforters, and just added them to the inventory of the apartment. But therein lay the problem: the inventory. They maintain a list of everything in the apartment. And I mean everything: pots, pans, bed, bed linens, fridge, flatware (it's sterling!), from the largest -- an enormous antique wardrobe -- to the smallest -- the toilet brush, and everything in between. I don't mind them wanting to keep track of their stuff (although it's not like I can walk off with a two ton garderobe), but they're driving us crazy with the upkeep of this sacred document.

We've already had several appointments to sign and countersign the list, add new items, and make a duplicate when they lost their copy. And every time they come over, we have to make sure the place is spotless, with all of their stuff in its designated place. "The key to the cellar must stay on the mirror in the foyer," barked the second Doktor W. Okay, if you say so.

Most recently we had to meet because they wanted to measure the apartment for new bookshelf that would hide the bed from view. I don't want the bed hidden from view. I like that everything is bright and open and airy. I tried explaining this as best as I can, but my German is about as good as their English. I'm still not sure what the final verdict is.

But if they do force a new bookshelf on me, I'll just move it to the storage cellar. I know where the key is, after all.

1 comment:

The Essentialist said...

Nice to see you have finally settled into a more permanent home. I can truly empathize with you on the landlord situation - as well as Jesse and Paul, I am sure. It sounds like you have found the German equivalent to Mrs. Lee. Let me know when they start chasing your friends out of the apartment.

If they come back with the bookcase just tell them "kein gutes".

No good. No good, indeed.