Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Home Search

Written June 16, 2011.

Sitting here, I think about all that has transpired since my move here in May. The whole enterprise was like a whirlwind courtship: too little time to pack and put our affairs in order, too little time to even look at a place there via the internet, way too little time to say goodbyes and do last minute writer things. Yes, definitely like a whirlwind courtship as there were days I didn’t know which end was up.

Overall, the transition went – er – about as smooth as I expect. Does the term atom bomb mean anything to you? We landed here on a Friday and by Saturday early morning; we were looking at houses in the outskirts of the city. One was a fantastic home and much bigger than ours in the States. The next had a fantastic yard that I wanted to combine with the first house we’d seen but neither seemed quite right for us as both would require a car for us to get around.

I picked a few more from the list provided to us by the UN. Many were taken, as the list hadn’t been updated as frequently as necessary because of lack of staff. Lack of staff? Hey, this is the UN, right? Every position is funded or they don’t have the department, correct? Well – no, that’s not at all how the system works. Throw out everything you know or thought you knew about the UN because more likely than not, it is incorrect.

During the next week, I along with my youngest, Kyle, a nineteen-year-old who drives me crazy, I saw three more places. One place was a penthouse with three terraces, all new appliances and a funky kitchen that my husband felt claustrophobic in when we stood there together. The dog park was a far walk away, there was no parking for the potential car and the neighborhood was questionable. We had the keys for this place and visited it three times during that week so we could look at the neighborhood and check out the public transportation. We loved the place that much and thought we could make it work even with the drawbacks.

The rest of the places that week aren’t even worth mentioning as they were too small or too far from work or were just not right for us. This was the first house search for me in almost twenty years and I had very definite ideas about where I wanted to live. So far, the only place close was the penthouse.

That Sunday we visited another house that looked to be in a great area in the 21st District. We get there and the place looks perfect from the outside as a typical Viennese home. We’re excited by this prospect and go across the street to meet the sweetest little old Austrian woman we’ve ever seen. She reminded me of my grandmother and spoke no English. Once in the home, we’re devastated as it has not been updated since the late 1950s or at least that’s what it looked like. It also didn’t help that we couldn’t communicate with the woman. The rent was cheap, the yard was great but the bathroom was in the basement. Needless to say, we immediately passed on this one.

Another week goes by and the next Saturday we find a house in the 22nd District that looks promising. The home is in an area my husband, Gordon, knows he’ll love and it’s on a golf course. We’re excited, as it is owned by someone with the Mexican embassy and therefore a person who will understand about living in a foreign land. We run into our first problem trying to get there. We wait for the bus to take us to the stop as shown on the internet. Apparently, the bus stop is only used Monday through Friday and we’re half mile away. We trudge it along this fantastic country lane. Finally, we find the bus stop and note that it is a long way from the house itself. Not good for those winter treks through snow for the husband to and from work. This is a place we’ll definitely need a car.

Finally, we get there and the caretaker is waiting for us. He immediately apologizes as the previous tenant had just left the day before and it’s the first time he’s seen the place since he rented it to them four years ago. Not a problem as we understand just how nasty a home can be when first vacated and needs a good cleaning. We’re floored upon entry, as the people have not only left it dirty, they’ve trashed many things that made the home special. We look through every room and all three floors as our hearts sink. The stairs have issues, the basement floor is warped and a variety of other problems. It will take three weeks to get ready and even though it has everything we want, we pass, as we can’t afford our temporary housing too much longer at about $2K per week.

We moved on to the next on our list. My youngest, Kyle, and I had seen two more places during the previous week. He actually insisted his father see both of them, so we’re off to the one in an area called the 19th District, which rang all my bells and whistles with the first look. It was three bedrooms, two and a half baths, two terraces and had locked parking as well as a garden for the dog. The owner was a lovely man who we enjoyed very much. The only problem was that the rooms were small and it was a fair distance from where my husband would work. We had afternoon tea with the owner, chatted a while and came away with an absolutely great feeling about the place and the landlord.

The last place we saw was in an 1869 built building. The fifteen-foot ceilings echoed and the original parquet floors were in two patterns. One, a herringbone pattern took up what they called the hall and kitchen. The other, a star pattern, made up the rest of the floors in the apartment or flat as it is known here. The kitchen was modern and would suit our needs. The bathrooms were quiet different, as there was one complete bath with a shower, sink, toilet and bidet. The other bathroom had a tub and a sink. In addition, a water closet was between the two that contained a sink area and a toilet area. In the first bathroom, there was the washer with the potential for a dryer. Did I mention most people don’t have dryers here? Most use racks to dry their clothes indoors or out, whichever is more convenient.

One of the best things about the place was that it overlooked the gardens of the Schwartenberg Palace. The other end of the garden was another palace called Belvedere. The gardens here are legendary and therefore the view fantastic. Another was the fact that the tram stop was about two hundred feet from the door coming in and about five hundred feet on the other side of the road for leaving. This meant Gordon could get to work very easily and efficiently every morning with little time spent in the elements. After all, he was the one who would be out more than me as far as U-Bahn travel.

Finally, we were done looking and have narrowed it down to three: the two places in the 4th District (the new penthouse and the one overlooking the palace gardens) and the one in the 19th District. To make it fair, we did a grid and sit down to talk about the pros and cons of each.

The penthouse is a trudge down a hill, albeit short, to get to public transportation. It has no storage for the bikes, no car parking and the dog park is a long way away. All the appliances are new but the kitchen is funky and there is no bathroom upstairs. A dryer would have to be purchased but a new washer is in the master bath.

The place in the 19th is located right next to public transportation but it a bus ride and two train rides away from Gordon’s work making it about 40 minutes total travel time. While that’s not bad, it’s not the best either, so it goes in the con column. The rooms are small, another con but it does have terraces, the garden for the dog as well as an underground garage that we can store bikes or a car. There’s also the plus of the great landlord we would have. We’d also have to purchase a washer and dryer ourselves, as it didn’t come with either.

The 1869 flat is huge in comparison to anything else we’ve seen, including most of the homes. The views are great and it has an ambiance none of the places had at all. It’s also just steps away from a tram stop, with a total commute time of fifteen to thirty minutes depending upon the tram and train. The dog park is less than half a block away. There is storage for the bikes and we could rent a car space if we decided to get a car. It had a sauna and a pool but no access to the fantastic garden at the back of the home. The kitchen and baths were all modern and adequate for our needs. There was a room for the office as well as plenty of space for guests should we ever have any. There was more storage than normal and it had a washer with a dryer to be provided should I want one.

I was then asked my impression, as I’d be the one living here full time with him. I thought for a moment and him that I probably would have gone with the penthouse because it was new. I went on how I liked the place in the 19th as well since it had everything we wanted. Something held me back as a thought came to me. Growing up, I had a certain idea of what a place like Vienna would be like. I thought of big rooms, high ceilings and great views. In my opinion, the last flat was what I pictured living in Vienna would be like. The final decision would be his, as I would be traveling back and forth to the States more than he would be. Wherever we lived, he had to love the place since he earned the money to pay for it.

Today, I’m at my new desk, looking out over a garden only meant for royalty and their guests. Across the park, I see the place where the guards resided as well as the church attended by those who lived in the compound. Yes, this is exactly what I pictured Vienna to be.

More on this fantastic place I now find myself living in.


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