Home sweet Czech home… Oh, how different you are from my American apartments. For starters, I’ve switched to the British by calling an apartment a “flat.” Laugh all you want but it’s simple math: two syllables less to trip over. Interesting side note, the extra syllables make “apartment” sound fancy to British ears while “flat” sounds posh to Americans. The grass is always greener, eh?
So you caught me: I’m not fancy people. I’ve got a working class apartment in a regular-people building on the worn side of town that the post card don’t show (though I’ve got a couple bones to pick on that front). Don’t be alarmed when the pictures show modest 12-ft ceilings and used appliances. Such is life.
My new flat is in Žižkov, Prague 3. It’s further from the center than originally intended but well worth it. Not to disillusion my fragile readership, but Prague isn’t all the cobble-stoned fairy tale that I’ve been preaching. There are also working class neighborhoods where the streets are paved with – gasp – concrete.
But the weird world of Žižkov is a story for another day. A story of parks, pubs, beer gardens and spectacular vistas. This story has a lot of pictures of bathroom fixtures and residential hardware. Be glad that you tuned in this week (but be aware that I’m writing for Mom).
Welcome to my flat.
What strikes me most, moving into a non-Americanized place are the small differences.
First, to get in you must unlock this behemoth security door which is typical in Prague flats. (The key for the security lock is this amazing old piece of metal: twice the length of a normal key with a joint in the middle so it can fit into your pocket.) Then, because front doors typically don’t have handles, you open the regular door with a key and push it open.
When entering you step into a small, functional kitchen through the front door. The kitchen is the hub of this little flat: with a pantry, bathroom, and two bedrooms attached to it.
My bedroom matches the standards of the westernized world (with the exception of these weirdo outlets).
Outlets here are a bit bizarre seeing as the ground is part of the wall as opposed to being part of the plug. You don’t plug things into the wall so much as plug the wall and the cord together.
The only other item of note is that since these buildings are so old, all the windows have been built doubly: for insulation. It’s all single pane glass but built in a complex, double-window system. From my bed I can count twenty-four handles that would have to be turned should I want to open all twelve windows in my room.
Now my bathroom has loads of weird stuff going on.
“What’s that? You want to flush me? Push the button on top.”
Apart from the button, the toilet works the same though I was kinda hoping to find a flat with a bidet.
The shower is more interesting. While it’s basically the same set up it’s far more popular here to have a removable shower head. There is also a standard for having separate hot and cold water handles – so quaint!
I haven’t quite figured out how to control this shower yet and it walks all over me: first trying to scald me than smacking me with ice. The dual handles are mean; the cold nob sticks and the hot could make tea – causing all kinds of problems. A sort of scalding ballet danced in the confines of a coffin.
And what the hell are these guys?
Building during a time when there was no mechanized ventilation systems encorporated into buildings required an architectural solutions in the form of this window, leading into a musty ventilation shaft. Not to say that it’s creepy, but when I open it I always have a momentary flash of being in a zombie movie.
The view from the open shaft is of my pantry window and a pipe, not exactly a million dollar view. Looking up, one can make out the sunlight peaking in overhead and looking down, well, you don’t want to know what’s down there.
My kitchen is also has some oddities. It’s strange to come to another country from the states. We do everything so BIG back home. It strikes me as odd that the standard fridge size is a mini-fridge (which I even have trouble filling). The standard oven size is about the same (which means no turkey for Thanksgiving – a ten pound bird wouldn’t fit).
My current range runs on gas and doesn’t have an automatic starter so I have to fiddle with matches to make the world work. It’s actually kinda fun, once you get used to it.
My toaster sucks and the kettle-handle get’s as hot as the water, but it’s a good place to call home – for the moment.