The Search for Suitable Lodgings

I’ve been looking for a flat. Finding one I actually want to live in has proved more difficult that I thought. There are times I want to turn to the person showing me around and say, “Look, sorry, It’s a good price and the room’s OK and everything, even with its prison cell lighting, and your dog’s sort of cute and all, but it’s also pretty nervous-looking and it seems like it would be really needy and annoying.  And I feel kinda sorry for that rabbit in its small cage in your dark hallway. And, well, the kitchen’s the size of a toilet cubicle and there’s no common area to speak of, the whole place smells of old sweaty feet, you have to climb eight flights of stairs to get there and your neighbourhood appears to be populated entirely by teenage gangs, young mothers and junkies. But, you know, thanks for showing me around and good luck finding a flatmate you like.”

There also seems to be a tradition here of landlords organising tenants for individual rooms, so sometimes you show up at a flat and don’t even get to meet the people you’d be living with. Other times the flat’s good, the flatmates seem nice, but the price is too high, or the area isn’t great.

One of these was in Vinohrady, sort of the Fitzroy of Prague, both in terms of street cred and price. A flat there is usually around 8,000 CZK (around $500) at the cheapest, which is really expensive for Prague, and most of the places are more. On the other hand, in the Fitzroy tradition, it’s packed with bars, cafes, second hand shops and music joints, as well as a couple of really nice parks, including Havličkovy sady, which has view like this:

This park is a few blocks away from that particular flat, but five or so minutes from the metro station and right in the middle of Vinohrady. Close to everything.

Jana, The girl who let me in was skinny, cynical and cigarette brown. Her neck and arms seemed to hang forward from her collarbone, like a top-heavy marionette. She led me into an tiny elevator, old and solid as a ship, and then into the apartment where she offered me tea and chain-smoked at the kitchen table as we chatted. The main area – entrance hall, kitchen down the end – was all one wide rectangle with the doors to the rooms leading off of it.

I liked her right away. She had an unapologetic honesty about her that I admired, and she talked about tobogganing down hills in the park on a garbage bag (which has almost made me take the flat right then and there). She shared a room with her boyfriend, who had just returned from several years in England, and the other room was inhabited by a 30-something artist type who made sound for films. I didn’t get to meet the other two but the way she described them, I knew it would be a cool mob to live amongst. And they were all Czech, which offset the ex-pat saturation of the neighbourhood and would be good for my language skills.

The room, though, was small, harshly-lit, unfurnished and, most of all, 8,000 CZK(bills included), which is more than I want to pay. Especially if I have to go and find furniture for it in a country that doesn’t have milk crates. Also, if smoking in the kitchen is allowed, I will, and I should really try to avoid that kind of business.

So, two days later, I made the sensible decision and turned it down. My mother will be happy and lungs are grateful, I’m sure, but I can’t shake the feeling I’m missing out on something. Adventures go on in that house, I’m sure of it. Parties would not feel out of place there. Friends could crash on the couch without feeling like intruders. Jana is an interesting character I want to know more about and I’d be keen to meet the others.

It’s still available, the ad was just reposted on the flatsharing site.

Today, I saw another great place, which I’ve accepted if they’ll have me. It’s a nice room, well lit, furnished and 7,000 CZK with bills. Good-sized kitchen, gas stove, lovely living area/dinning area, nice enough flatmates, in an inoffensive sort of way. They’re showing quite a few people through today and said they’d let me know.

If not though, well, I’m pretty sick of looking at flats. And what’s $500 when you’re tobogganing down hills on garbage bags, anyway?

– Zoe Barron


2 Responses to “The Search for Suitable Lodgings”

  1. 1 Kath February 14, 2010 at 10:24 am

    good luck 🙂

  2. 2 hankie February 14, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Answer: worth it.

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