Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Berlin Inside & Out...Part Three: Apartments
Posted by Anna Macoboy
As an Australian living in a house that's only about 10 years old, one of the things that excites me most about Berlin is its hundred-year-old apartment blocks. In what used to be East Berlin, these are all gradually being restored, so on any street you'll see an interesting mix of crumbling old buildings and nicely fixed-up ones. Even the crumbling old ones are often beautiful inside, though, and almost all have incredibly high double-glazed windows, high ceilings, floorboards and central heating. What's particularly interesting about apartments in Berlin is that the renter and not the owner holds all the power. Nobody buys apartments there, they just rent for life, and they can do basically anything they like to their rented place - knock down walls, pull up flooring, add in bathrooms (as in the case of one place we stayed!). It's a scenario that seems crazy to people in Australia, where it's just understood that you'll buy a house as soon as you possibly can, and in the mean time don't even think about putting blu-tack on those walls! Our friend Lindy, who we lived with in Berlin for a while, leased her apartment in Prenzlauerberg in the early nineties, not long after the wall had come down, when the area was only just beginning to recover from its Communist days and certainly not a popular spot to be living, and she has gradually fixed it up over the years. These days the place is buzzing - in fact, Prenzlauerberg is almost considered too yuppy to be cool any more - and these kind of "altbau" (original) apartments are becoming harder and harder to find. If you get one with a balcony it's considered a major bonus, too. Most of these photos are of the apartment we stayed in just recently - it was a "holiday" apartment, of which there are plenty in Berlin, and it had a balcony! Our dream is to buy an apartment like this and rent it out as a holiday/short stay apartment like this...when we're not staying in it ourselves, of course! Ah well, maybe one day...