Berlin Apartment Search Ends, Part 1

August 8, 2017

The long hard search is over. After months of looking for a new apartment here in Berlin, losing an uphill battle of open showings, where it’s like a cattle call of Berliners desperate for an apartment, and landlords who won’t accept US financials, I found a great apartment in Prenzlauer Berg. I’m going to love this apartment.

In about 4 months.


But you moved in last month, people will say? Yes I did. And now I’m dealing with all the trials and tribulations of moving to an unfurnished apartment and coping with services and deliveries. And it’s making me want to scream in frustration. If only I didn’t start writing this on a Sunday, when I think it’s illegal to scream.

Let me say, I’m very happy with this apartment. It’s in a great kiez. It’s about 22 square meters larger than my last apartment. A completely renovated flat in a 1905 building. Lots of cafés, shops, parks. And quiet! No S-Bahns rolling by and drunk tourists throwing beer bottles. And no sirens blaring all the time. But at least I had a view (as I kept telling myself).

I know it took me a long time, but I’ll freely admit I’m a bit picky. More than a bit. College dorm size refrigerators? Nope. Showers in the kitchen? Uh, no. Fifth floor walkup…who am I kidding? There’s this thing about Americans wanting old-world charm in Europe. Yeah, I watch House Hunters International.  And don’t get me wrong, I love old-world charm. It’s great to look at. But then you actually have to use it.

Anyway, here in Germany when you move into an unfurnished apartment, most often you get a bathroom and that’s it. Kitchen? You get hookups. So I really wanted to avoid having to spend the money to put in a kitchen from scratch. Fortunately, this apartment has a kitchen minus the refrigerator and dishwasher. But light fixtures, window coverings, etc., Forget it.

So first I bought a refrigerator, a dishwasher (which I debated whether I truly needed – proof I’m becoming more European), and a washer-dryer (proof that I’m still American).

But for now, let’s put aside talk of the quickly diminishing bank account having to furnish this place. There’s more fun to be had.

Having no furniture, the first order of the day was going to the one place I promised myself I wouldn’t go to. Ikea. I hate Ikea furniture. Mostly because it’s so damn ugly. And uncomfortable. But when you need everything, cheap wins out.

No, I did not buy this.

Let’s just say I started going to Ikea so much, I knew the shortcuts to get to different departments by heart. But after the last two apartments here in Berlin being furnished with cheap Ikea furniture, I discovered something rather surprising. If you actually spend more than 50 euros on a sofa, there are some choices. Let’s not go overboard and call it stunning. We’re talking “somewhat decent” category. So I ordered a bed frame, wardrobe and sofa. A sofa with real leather. Well, mostly real leather.

The other thing about Ikea that gets me all the time is that marketplace. That freaking marketplace. It sucks your wallet dry. “I didn’t think I needed this, but it’s only 3 euros. I’ll get six.” And what really sucks is you end up with so much stuff before you realize to get home, you need to take a tram and a train, then walk a few blocks.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Ikea. I schedule delivery and they tell me it will be between 7am and 9pm. Are you freaking kidding me? Mind you, I still haven’t moved in yet. I have the key but because I have no furniture I’m still at the old apartment. I have to stand in an empty apartment for possibly 14 hours? But then when I check out, the woman suggested going to the transport desk to see if I can get a smaller window. Which I do. And I do. 3pm-9pm. A little better.

Except the next morning, I get a call letting me know that they delivery truck is 10 minutes away. At 10am! I tell the guy that it’s supposed to be between 3 and 9pm. The guy speaks very little broken English and my German, while improving, is nowhere near good enough to tell him anything more than that. I’ve now discovered the best way to improve your German quickly is not classes, watching the news, looking at subtitles. No, it’s having to communicate with service people who don’t speak English. This will not be the first time, either. No, this is only the beginning. Anyway, he says he will call me back. So I wait and wait. The phone rings. It’s a customer service agent with better, but not great, English. I tell her I can be there in about 20 minutes and she says okay. I know I can’t get there in 20 minutes by public transportation, so I order a taxi with the Uber app (Uber is illegal in Berlin but you can use the app to get a regular taxi). Then she calls me back and says they will come between 3 and 9. Crap! The taxi is on its way. I quickly figure out how to cancel and, fortunately, did it in time so I wouldn’t be charged.

I get to the apartment a bit early, just in case. And sure enough, the guy calls around 1:30 to see if I’m there. I tell him I am. Then I wait for them. but when the truck arrives, I discover “them” is just “he.” Yup, only one guy shows up with all these huge boxes and a sofa. He then proceeds to tell me he doesn’t need help with the boxes but I’ll have to help him carry the sofa up.

Wait, didn’t I pay for this service?

But then I see him lugging these boxes on his back and the guilt steps in. How can I just stand and watch this guy break his back? So I offer to break my back and help him. Which he accepts. Let me tell you, that sofa was a bitch to get up the stairs. Fortunately, a neighbor helped (he actually couldn’t get by on his way downstairs so what else could he do). I’ve never seen the neighbor since.

By the way, when you have no window treatments, Ikea packing materials come in handy:

Yeah it’s ghetto but it does the job

So now I have something to sleep on–the sofa. I didn’t order a mattress from Ikea because, well, I draw the line of low quality at the mattress.

I decided to try one of these new online mattress companies that seem to be getting raves. There’s a bunch of them now. You order the mattress and have 100 days to try it. I’m one of those people who tend to OD on reading reviews. One of them recommended for side sleepers is called Leesa. Michael Phelps is the spokesperson. And if it’s good enough for an Olympic champion, hey, it’s good enough for me. But then the reviews. They run from it’s way too hard to it’s way too soft to it’s the best mattress ever. What to do, what to do? I order it. Side note–it’s the best mattress ever.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that now I’m dealing with DHL. The absolute worst delivery service on the planet. And this will continue in Part 2.



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  • Reply Berlin Apartment Search Ends, Part 2 - The Nomadic WriterThe Nomadic Writer August 9, 2017 at 6:32 am

    […] where were we? Oh yeah, […]

  • Reply Linda Mrak August 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Your adventure continues! Best of luck in the new apartment! It looks nice!!!

    • Reply Michael August 11, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks, Linda!

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