Friday, December 2, 2011

Epic apartment hunting escapade and mouse poop

For the past couple weeks we've immersed ourselves in an apartment-hunting marathon. Our goal was to find a new place by December 1. We're extremely grateful and thankful to Terezia's brother Tony and his girlfriend Jana for letting us stay in their clean and cozy house in Bernolakovo. But Bernolakovo is a mind-numbing 45-minute bus ride to/from downtown Bratislava, and Bratislava's Stare Mesto (old town/downtown) is where we really want to be. Plus, there's nothing within walking distance from where we are in Bernolakovo, and that bus to Bratislava only comes through the neighborhood once an hour.

We've seen all kinds of apartments, and literally all of them have had at least one fatal flaw, one deal-breaker that we just couldn't live with. For example, a place located right in the historical center on my favorite street, Kapitulska, in a renovated medieval building with awesome barrel-vaulted ceilings, was at ground level and its bedroom window looked right onto the shared patio/driveway for the complex, and - get this - shares its internet connection with the apartment next door. No thanks!

A beautiful apartment on the lovely, Hapsburg-era, palace-lined Konventna street, complete with spacious rooms and enormous old-fashioned windows that let in tons of natural light, had no oven! Clearly, given that Terezia is a chef, not having an oven would be unthinkable!

A mouth-wateringly gorgeous place in a historical villa located on tree-lined Godrova street had spacious rooms with lovely, large windows, an amazing art-deco couch, but had no bed (we're looking for fully furnished apartments), and the rent didn't include utilities (it's important to find a place that either includes utilities in the rent or charges a fixed rate for them on top of the rent, because heating a place in the winter can send your energy bill through the roof - as much as 150 euros a month in older apartments with those spacious, high-ceilinged rooms!).

Another place, right smack in the middle of the historical center in a nice old building, couldn't even be shown to us when we met the real-estate agent out front because the tenant, who was in the process of being evicted for missing a few months' rent, was still living there. Legally, since he was home, we could have only come in to view the place if he had allowed us to, and he was pretending to be asleep on the couch in front of the TV when we arrived, which meant we couldn't come in. The real-estate agent got back to us the next day and was unable to give us a set date on when they could get this loser out of there. So, no dice.

With our deadline looming, we started to get desperate. On Tuesday we saw an apartment on Obchodna, a bustling, pedestrianized street lined with historical buildings and an array of shops, with a lot of foot-traffic. The apartment, on the third floor of an old building, offered gorgeous views in two directions over the city, and large windows that let in lots of natural light. The main flaw was the kitchen - it was measly, with a 2-burner stove and a toaster oven. But this place didn't require a deposit or last month's rent, and you could give as little as 2-3 days notice if you wanted to vacate. So, we decided that we could stay here temporarily, for a few months, while we continue to look for a better, long-term apartment. Then we wouldn't have to commute from Bernolakovo to view apartments, and we could live in walking and/or bus distance to everything, and just enjoy being *in* Bratislava. So, we agreed to take the place.

However, the tenant had just left and the apartment needed to be thoroughly cleaned, some missing wood panels on the kitchen floor needed to be replaced, and parts of the wall were in serious need of a new coat of paint. The agent told us it'd be in tip-top shape in a couple of days, and all clean and ready for us to move in. Sadly, when we got there Thursday morning, NOTHING had been done. The kitchen floor was still shredded, the place was filthy, and worse still - we saw a bunch of mouse or rat poop on the bathroom floor! Not only that, but the place had a funky smell (especially in the bathroom), that was not there when we first viewed it. If it was just a matter of cleaning and repairs, we probably could've dealt with that, provided the owner got around to it. But the mouse turds were too much for Terezia. She dealt with rodents when she lived in San Francisco, and she said that apart from being generally annoying, the problem was difficult to fix, especially in a place that's not being taken care of by the owner. Plus, it really rubbed me the wrong way that we were assured the place would be "tip-top," when nothing had been done.

So, we bailed. Call us wimps, call us pampered Americans with high expectations, but it just didn't feel right! The manager begrudgingly gave us all of our money back, denied that there could ever be a rodent problem in their establishment, and we had Tony pick us up on his lunch break. Feeling defeated, deflated, and frustrated, we went back to Bernolakovo.

However, there is a very clean, nice, fully furnished place (with an awesome kitchen) in a more modern (1950s-era) communist building in the center of town, which we're seriously considering, and another place to view tomorrow. So, the saga continues. But we hope to be outta Bernolakovo by the weekend, so we're keeping our bags packed.

The mouse poop, hair, and grimy goop in the bathroom of the Obchodna apartment.

Terka contemplates the bedroom of the Obchodna apt.

Part of the living room and kitchen - you can see where part of the kitchen floor is in need of repair, which we suddenly weren't sure was going to happen. 

At least the Obchodna place had wonderful views, but that was the only thing going for it. 

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