Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Was Living in Soviet Housing on my Bucket List?

Soviet-inspired housing, named panelaky in Czech,
because they're put up in a hurry with panels


Pretty grim, eh?
That's my balcony, third from the top,
underneath the satellite dish,

complete with dish towels on the line
.

No sheets! No coffee pot! No mixing bowls! The carpet! Who knew they made carpet so thin? A mattress box that one could use to store clothes in underneath. A shower curtain held up by five working rings out of ten. Four out of five lights burnt out in my room with the last one going out the night I arrived. I half expected to find 'instant gulag gruel' packets in the cupboards. What is it exactly that Communist builders had against beauty?

But the view! Did I mention the view of the city yet? The windows in panelaky were the only kind one could buy in the Czech Republic under communism but they actually seem extravagant because of their giant size. They swing wide open too.

Then there's the convenience. There was one brand of grocery store called Billa across the street and two more at my metro stop. Grocery shopping took only fifteen minutes.

Plus, I remembered the last time I traded in a pretty cozy home for a two-bedroom concrete block apartment. And that apartment didn't even have thin carpeting - it had no carpeting. Those were two of the most incredible years of my life - graduate school, living in what Americans call 'married student housing' (whether one is married or not). It was fantastic. I wouldn't trade those years for anything.

And Daniel Glick, the author of "Monkey Dancing: A Father, Two Kids and a Journey to the Ends of the Earth," one of my all-time favorite books about travel, talks about how if you are going to see the world, you are going to have to live in some, ahem, unexpected places." My friends told me when they helped me move out that this was actually an "upscale" panelak.

So I had an hour of freak-out when I arrived. Where was my imagined historic Prague walk-up? Then acceptance and happiness kicked in. I knew I was up for it. Women could make a home in a yurt if we had too. And the people I met over the course of my month here were just as nice as could be. Click on the title to read an interesting history of panelaky. I'll show my panelaky courtyard next.

The living room with the balcony attached

Kitchen

Dining room

Bedroom #1

Bedroom #2

You could fit a lot of Christmas presents in here

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2 comments:

Kelly! said...

I thought your roommate was already living there.

That is NOT that bad. I know you're trying to convey your transition from dismal to upbeat, but you kind of sound like you're complaining a lot. Plus you keep mentioning the view and you don't have pictures on there. The cupboards are fine too.

Anyway, very cute. Are you going to decorate, or is it not worth it because you won't be there long?

Karen said...

He was my flatmate, not my roommate. I think you'll agree there's a big difference. The pictures I tried to take of the view didn't turn out because it's foggy often. And no, I am not going to redecorate because I have already moved! And I'm not really complaining - just in jest - because it WAS fun to experience!

 
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