Grandma's communist pad: We were shown this apartment by a friend of a friend of a friend. He knew we wouldn't be interested in it, but we thought we'd check it out anyhow, because looking at apartments is kind of fun. This guy's mother had lived in this apartment for a while until she passed away a few years ago, but his brother doesn't want to sell it, so they are trying to rent it out instead.
I didn't have my camera with me, but I will do my darnedest to paint as vivid a picture of this place as I possibly can.
Let's start with the kitchen. Every inch of counter and cupboard surface was coated in a fake, worn grey marble-patterned formica, while the cupboard doors and even the drawers all had strips of gold tinted aluminum border inlays for added flair. Directly over the sink, however, was one cabinet door inset with glass, and in the center it had a clock set into it with the numbers glued directly onto the glass in a circle around the hands. The faucet had two enormous round meters affixed to the hot and cold water levers. The space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling was lined with half empty bottles of various types of hard liquor.
Most of the doors in the apartment had been removed and replaced with those sliding grey vinyl accordion style doors that move back and forth along a track in the ceiling.
In the living room, a dining area was separated from the area with the couch and TV by a massive, floor-to-ceiling glass partition, framed by panels of wood that were painted a shiny black. The wall behind the dining table was lined wall to wall and floor to ceiling with old books. The 40 year old TV sat in a large, 80s-era entertainment center/book shelf that was similarly crammed with old books, as well as piles of old blank cassettes. The massive sofa was a very 1970s beige intercut with horizontal strips of dark brown pleather. A random assortment of paintings covered much of the available wall space, some of which were apparently done by a family member, and appeared to depict abstract raccoon faces done in vibrant air-brushed pastels.
The apartment had a balcony, which looked down onto a sort of brutalist "garden", which was mainly sad bits of plants engulfed by big, grey, blocky concrete planters.
Despite the obvious, um... let's say eccentricities, the place actually felt quite warm and cozy. Clearly not something we would want to live in, but the kind of place you could imagine your grandmother living in in 1980s communist Czechoslovakia. I know a few people who would probably consider living here voluntarily just on the abundant kitsch factor.
The tree house: This place was on Lazaretska and had great views overlooking the picturesque, tree-filled Jakubovo square. The building was somewhat old, and the apartment was nestled high in the fourth floor attic space.
While the views from some of the windows were quite nice, the severely angled a-frame ceilings - as a result of it being in the attic space - posed a bit of a problem. Since Terezia and I are both around 6' tall, we'd run the risk of hitting our heads on the sloping, 45 degree angle ceiling. The worst instance of this was in the bedroom, where whoever gets the left side of the bed would have to duck down really low when getting up so as to avoid bashing his or her head into the ceiling. I think we both envisioned a heated game of rock-scissors-paper to decide who'd get that side of the bed. I've already killed enough brain cells with all the homemade gut rot I've had to endure in this country, so I don't want to make matters worse. I suppose I could wear a bicycle helmet to bed so that I don't have to worry about slamming my head into the ceiling when waking up at 3 in the morning to pee, but... no.
Apart from that, however, the apartment was actually quite nice. It had modern and tasteful furniture, a fully equipped kitchen, nice hardwood floors, and dark wood support beams in every room that really lent the place a rustic feel, not unlike being high up in a tree fort. However, there was a bit of miscommunication with the price of the rent. The owner actually wanted €50 more than what was advertised, which also happened to be €50 more than what we're willing to pay. The apartment was also kind of getting a wee bit further out from the center than we'd like, and the bus route to Terezia's work would be a little more complicated. So, while we did pass on it, it was definitely one of the nicer apartments we've seen.
Another unaffordable dream apartment: We've seen a few other apartments as well, but none of them are worth mentioning except for another dream apartment that our friend Katka managed to show us. This was located in the same beautiful historical building as the bookstore - Kníhkupectvo u Bandiho - she runs with her husband, right on the corner of Medena and Kupelna. The place was lovely, with the requisite museum style parquet hardwood floors; large, spacious rooms with high ceilings and big windows; gorgeous exterior details like a lovely entryway and stairwell; and to top it all off, it was on the fourth floor. Sadly, like the last dream apartment we saw through Katka, on Heydukova, this was yet another case of the utilities pushing the monthly total anywhere from €100-200 out of our range. Katka is so incredibly sweet, but damn, I wish she'd stop doing this to us! Maybe next year.
I should also mention that this dream apartment was the 5th place we've seen that had been previously inhabited by Greek university students. I would've thought that was a strange coincidence had I not edited this little piece for the Spectator a while back.
At any rate, we've narrowed our search down to a couple of pretty cool apartments, both of which we think we'd be happy in, so stay tuned to find out which one we end up choosing and why!