Sunday, April 25, 2010

Melting away the little town blues

Before I move and leave here, I'd like to see some more things in this area.
Some time ago on a weekend, the weather forecast was good and I decided that I'd pay Frankfurt a visit. It's about half an hour by train away.
A colleague of mine was so nice to send me a few recommendations, complete with links to Google maps. Also there was going to be a museum night that day.

Frankfurt really isn't that big, but it likes to act as if it was. It does have one of the biggest airports in Europe though and is the financial capital of Germany. It likes to call itself "Mainhattan" because of the skyscrapers, Main being the river running through it. Other than that I never considered it to be an attractive city (I also never heard anyone say that about it).
But it's certainly good enough for a half-day city trip.

I started out at Williy-Brandt-Platz where the European Central Bank is located.

From there I took the paths through a little park towards the old opera. The park provides a nice view, the trees mixing with the tall skyscrapers to each side, seatings here and there, and the occasional statue (like the one of the German poet Friedrich Schiller).

At the end of the park, on the right hand side is a a round tower with blue glass exterior called the Maintower. It has the only public viewing observatory in Frankfurt and it costs 5 € to get up there. I accidently got out of the lift too early (there's a restaurant there, too) and had to find my way up to the platform through several lift and stairs. I was rewarded with a great view over the city.

After that I went back down and toward the Old Opera. I always wanted to go there for a concert, but I'm afraid I won't make it anymore before I leave. It's a beautiful old building from 1880, but unfortunately it's currently being renovated.

Close to the Old Opera is the rather new Opernturm, another skyscraper with a bright stone façade. On ground level there's a store called ManuFactum. Their slogan is "They still exist, the good old things" and they sell... well, all kinds of things, from dinner mints and garden tools to perfume and waxed jackets. They also have a little snack bar attached where you can eat sandwiches (I would have liked one, but they were too expensive).

From Alte Oper I caught the subway to Merianplatz. My colleague recommended a stroll along Berger Strasse. When I got out I wasn't sure in which direction I should go, but I instinctively chose the right one. To each side of the road there are lots of fascinating little stores, selling design furniture, fancy ice cream or yoga equipment.
I got myself some ice cream and finally arrived at Bethmannpark. The park itself isn't anything special, but it contains the Garten des Himmlischen Friedens, a beautiful Chinese garden. As the weather was great of course there were a lot of people there, and I admit I wished I could enjoy the garden when it's a little more quiet. There were kids running around, and a woman explaining her listeners how the pavilion is charged with chi by a group practicing qigong in it, and on a fence sat a young man drawing the garden. For a moment I considered approaching him and inquiring about his art (I was curious to see the drawing, and yes he was kinda cute, too), but then decided not to interrupt.

From the garden I took the tram towards the Konstablerwache where the main shopping street called Zeil starts. It's a shopping street like every other, not particularly nice looking, but you can find all kinds of stores there of course. I was too tired to do a lot of shopping. But I got myself some cheap ballerinas because my feet were very tired and I needed a little change to the Chucks I was wearing.
What I wanted to see at the Zeil was the infamous new mall MyZeil. The stores are not interesting, although there's one of only four Hollister stores in Europe - you actually have to queue just to get in (I didn't)! The most fascinating and interesting thing about MyZeil is the architecture. In the front glass façade there's a big hole with a tunnel bending inwards. It is very hard to describe and nearly impossible to catch on photos, too.

After walking through the shopping street from one end to another, I needed a little break and thought about what to do next. As I said there was a museums night that night, but I was really tired and had a headache kicking in. I decided to take the subway to the Museumsufer where most of the museums are located along the bank of the river Main, stroll along the riverside to another place I wanted to see and then decide about what to do.

Arriving at the first museum made it clear that it would be packed with people and there'll be much standing in lines, so I decided it wasn't worth it to drag myself through this. Along the river banks were many people, families, lovers, groups of friends, having a picnic or just sitting around and enjoying the warm evening. I admit it made me feel a little lonely, but I tried to also enjoy the beautiful sunset nevertheless.
I finally arrived at the Gutleutviertel where there's an old harbour that was made into a modern residential area. It's nice there, reminded me a lot of Copenhagen actually.

There's another tower there, too, the Westhafen Tower, which is called "das Gerippte" by locals - after the traditional glas in which the local specialty Äppelwoi (apple wine, a kind of cider) is consumed.

From there I walked to the main station and took the train home. Read more on this article...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leaving home ain't easy 2

On that Saturday I had to get up earlier than on work days.
I had three more flats to look at and then the plan was to buy a newspaper (since my free trial hadn't arrived yet) and make some calls.

The first flat had no kitchen and a boiler. Otherwise it was really good, enough room, nice surrounding area. I really thought about it.
I met my parents there and we went to the next viewing with the car.

The next one was amazing! It was in a great area, in the backyard in a little house. It had nice two rooms, a nice bath, a little terrace. The owners lived on the second floor, obviously wealthy people.
Unfortunately with 710€ per month it was a little above the limit I set myself. But it was tempting.
They wanted a self-disclosure containing questions about my occupation, musical isntruments I play, pets, warrants and refrences. Wow...

Third place was out of question. The current lodger was very open about that. Washing mashines were only in the cellar, and only two for the whole house. The kitchen and bathroom had no way for venting, it would all go into the living room.

After that my parents and me had a little break in a café and had some cake. We got a newspaper and I was calling all numbers that sounded promising. I managed to get three more viewings that day.

One of them was in a really promising surrounding. Very close to a concert venue and a park; I would have liked to live there. But the flat... It was underneath the roof again, had a boiler and gas heating in only one room and again no room for a washing mashine. It generally looked very old. I just didn't like it very much.

I already nearly gave up hope for the day. I was thinking that I either had to take the first one, or pay for the second one or go looking once more.

But the last flat we looked at was (nearly) perfect! Top floor, two rooms, nice bath, no boiler, a little balcony, storage room. It only has a kitchenette and there's no washing mashine in there now, but the owner said I could install one. The area is great, nice houses, shops close by and a bus stop in front of the door from which the bus takes 15 minutes to my future work place.
We were so happy to finally have found the right place. It turned out that the owner worked for the company I'll be working for for 30 years. He said I should sleep one more night and then say whether I want it, but I was already sure.

So on Sunday I called and went there once more the next week to sign the contract.
I tried to be happy but I still worried about the kitchen and the washing mashine. When I was there it turned out that I probably have to buy half of the kitchen (sink, fridge, etc.) but I can take the rest of what is there for 1000€, including a microwave and an exhaust hood. I have no idea what these things cost, so I said ok.
I was feeling somewhat down on the way home. I was worried about the kitchen and the washing mashine and the fact that I have to live there at least 2 years (it's in the contract). My parents calmed me down a bit. I probably would have had to buy a kitchen anyway.

The balcony:

The kitchenette as it looks now:

I am sure this will be a nice place to live and I'll be happy there. But I'm not really happy yet. There's still a lot of organizing to do, getting a kitchen, moving the stuff, installing the washing mashine. *sigh*
I'm looking forward to the time when all this is over and settled with. I didn't quite think that moving was such a big deal, it somehow wasn't when I last moved (we were really, really lucky with this flat I think). Good thing I didn't know that before I chose to change jobs, I might not have done it. Read more on this article...

Leaving home ain't easy 1

It really isn't easy.

First of all I ordered a free trial of the local newspaper and did some research on the internet. I also put an ad myself in the newspaper.
So after using my cell phones as much as never before, I had three flats to visit on a Wednesday afternoon. I left directly from work, the train takes about 1,5 hours.

The first flat I looked at was nice. The house was build in the same way as the house my parents live in. But it was way too small, I had overlooked that the ad said it only has 32 square metres.
The second one was nice, too. The busline to work was close by. It was, well, generally really nice. But somehow... Maybe it was the way the prospective landlord (living in the same house underneath) kept asking me whether I can clean up. Maybe the very boring, middle-class surrounding. It just didn't feel quite right.
The last one was really pretty. Very nice surroundings, tram stop right in front. A maisonette top floor flat with two really nice rooms. But the kitchen and bath were very small and I couldn't have taken my washing machine with me, but would have had to walk down into the cellar every time to do the laundry and pay extra for it.
I got home sometime after 10 PM that day without having seen a good place. I felt slightly panicky. I felt like I should have taken the second one - after all there was no rational reason why I shouldn't.

What I hated about the whole ordeal is that you have to tell people asap whether you want it or not. After all you're merely one of a dozen interested parties.
But not only do I hate making decisions, but it's worse when you have to say no to one thing with nothing but the hope to find something better. I just don't feel comfortable in such situations.

I was really tired, but did not have much time to rest: on Saturday I would have another tour of looking at flats, this time with my parents supporting me. Read more on this article...