Moving house is a trauma, but to be honest, it’s probably about time. We live on the top floor of a small block of flats which has led to a number of thoroughly annoying occurrences. First, due to the close proximity of the roof, our ceilings slant awkwardly at the far edges. This wouldn’t be so much of a concern if I wasn’t 6’3. At least once a week, I brain myself on a piece of the ceiling jutting out of the wall at a preposterous angle. Secondly, because this is the top floor, and the roof appears to be mostly metal, the flat becomes our own personal sauna in the summer. At one point, as the weather approached 35 degrees, I began to understand how a lobster feels as it is unceremoniously thrown into a pot of boiling water. You know there are problems when you start to use the oven as a make shift air conditioning system. Last of all, and also roof related, is my bathroom. I’ve complained about this in the past, but it really bears repeating. Although I enjoy my new levels of flexibility, it would be nice not have to perform Olympic level warm ups just to have a ten minute shower.
Having decided (been told) we are moving, the first thing to do was to find a new flat in the city. How hard could that be? I moved house at least ten times, and it couldn’t be more difficult than moving to another country. Like many things in Germany, finding a flat has been needlessly complicated. There are a number of ways you can go about looking for a flat or house in Germany, the first port of call being a series of websites (http://www.immowelt.de, http://www.immobilienscout24.de, http://www.wg-gesucht.de) all of which appear to have been designed by a web design student from 2002. They are hard to navigate, and infuriatingly, the search application is about as accurate and comprehensible as AskJeeves. Another option, despite it being 2013, is to look in the newspaper. Not online mind you, no you have to wait until a given day (usually Thursday) go out, and buy a local newspaper. The novelty of experiencing the life of 1990’s flat hunters soon wears off once you’ve wandered to the local shop a couple of times. Once you have found a few flat’s you might like, you must decipher the code words that landlords seem to use. 2 Zi. Whg (2 room flat), WaMa (washing machine) and ZH (central heating) are among the more choice examples. You might think that you have found the right place, only to find out it has no kitchen (that happens with some regularity) or even worse the landlord expects some extra cash (Provision) on top of the deposit and a rental advance of a few months. Worse case scenario, you end up paying six months rent, up front, before you even start packing all you knick knacks into boxes.
Having found a couple of flats, we had to go through the process of viewing them. This was not quite the experience I thought it would be. Instead of going through a flat with the landlord, alone, German rentals usually require that you gawk at an already fully occupied flat with a herd of other potential rental candidates. This has the affect of a kind of reverse zoo, where you think your there to look at the giraffes and the zebras, but actually those giraffes and zebras are there to look at you. So, as the crowd wanders unrestricted through the flat, your being assessed by the landlord/landlady as to your suitability. Uncomfortable as this may sound, the kindly animals of the zoo, unlike the landlord, rarely ask you to fill out a form telling them all the details of your job and financial status. You then have to say what you intend to improve in the flat, a kind of coup de gras of the whole process. Fill out this bit wrong, such as suggesting on the installation of a fireman’s pole or maybe an indoor meth lab and you’ll find yourself with nowhere to live. Luckily, my infinitely intelligent girlfriend knows of my potential to write down stupid things (evidence: this blog) and prevented me from writing about my hopes of improving the flat by installing a fine set of monkey bars, in order to better traverse landscape. It was probably due to this timely intervention on her part that we found our selves being offered a new flat last week.
Now, with confirmation of our new accommodation, my girlfriend and I partook in the important ritual of paying homage to the Swedish gods of home furnishing. No new flat is complete without at least one visit to Ikea, possibly five or six just to be sure. I think we can safely say that all Ikeas have been designed by some evil marketing genius. As soon as your in the door, your being bombarded with dream lifestyles that your not entirely sure you really wanted. To negate this consumer negativity, Ikea has built there store in such a way as to turn initial pessimism into a kind of euphoric joy through a visual and cultural war of attrition. All the displays look so perfect and homely, that after a while, the stupid kitchens seem like the abodes of kings and queens. The furniture, although mostly cheap and yet overpriced, is named with such inherent Swedish whimsy that you grow to love Billy the bookcase or Fintorp the kitchen door handle like they were cherished friends from a bygone age. It’s only when you get home, and the effects wear off that you realise you have just spent €40,000 on egg whisks, over sized bowls and millions of tea lighters. Actually, such is my new found love for Ikea, I simply just moved in. Sure, all the books are in Swedish and the clothes that are in the cupboards would be too small for a dwarf but the meatballs are amazing. I’m pretty sure the laptop I’m currently using to type this isn’t actually real, but who cares, my wardrobes called Ransby and he is my new friend. If you happen to be in the area, swing by. I always have Anrik on the go.