Sleepless in Gdynia

31 10 2009

My young landlord told me to “bring only your toothbrush, you will find everything else you might need at the apartment”.  Not so.  We moved in late Sunday evening, pulled up the bedspread and found a naked mattress.  A very hard, uncomfortable Polish mattress for a spoiled American derriereIMG_1470 😉  Too late to do anything about it that night.  So we slept on my pashmina, with the husband’s T-shirts serving as pillowcases over some makeshift pillows.

The next morning, still a bit disoriented, I called my friend.  “Go to JYSK” she advised.  We found the store on the other side of the railroad station, a small version of our Bed Bath & Beyond.  Two hours later, we boarded a bus with all the bedding and towels we needed.  Plus we ordered a memory foam mattress topper.

This will be the longest 2 weeks of my life.


In like Flynn!

30 10 2009


view from our window – Gdynia port

We are in!

After a truly frustrating and tumultuous month of searching high (Gdynia centrum) and low (Redłowo) for a suitable apartment, we finally hit the jackpot!  For privacy reasons I will not dwell on the building’s address; suffice it to say, we are in the best location imaginable – next to the beach, the famous Kościuszki Square, the port, and the epicenter of Gdynia.

The apartment itself is a spacious (for European standard) 62m2 one bedroom,  fully equipped and totally furnished.  The young owners (Ken and Barbie look-alikes) live in Warsaw and bought this place as a vacation retreat, like most  Warszawiaków who spend their summers on the Baltic coast.  Our landlords were eager to negotiate the (very inflated initial) asking price and were visibly happy to rent it out to a “stable pair” (read: mature).

No more living in limbo.  Finally I can “nest”.

Loved and lost – the misadventures in real estate

17 10 2009

I expected the process of finding an apartment to be stressful (knowing my proclivity for perfection), I just did not count on having my heart broken.  Twice.

The very first place we saw, we went gaga over – super location, spectacular views,  French country decor and the price was right.  Our hearts sang – yes, we’ll take it!  The agent ( freshly baked, by-the-rule young lady), informed us that the lease has to be signed – in person! – by both owners of the property. First obstacle – the owners live in the south of Poland.  She placed a call to the owner, to relay the happy news. She reached her in a sanatorium, recovering from a procedure (read:  face lift) and the owner assured us, that if we can only wait a couple of weeks, her husband will fly them (in their private jet) to Gdynia to do the deal.  If the weather is fine.  And if she feels OK.  And the plane is back from being serviced.  Yes, I know, the bells should have gone off, but I was so drunk with the vision of me on the balcony, feeding the seagulls and breathing in the salty Baltic air – I was not thinking straight.  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After 2 weeks of restless nights, living in limbo and stalling our current landlord, the young agent called to inform us that the owner changed her mind – she wants to sell her property rather than rent it.  In this market?  Well, now we know for sure we were dealing with someone just a few french fries short of a Happy Meal.

Second heartbreak came a month later.  We were still making our rounds of the real estate offices and viewing many apartments in the center of Gdynia, our target area.  Many of them totally remodeled, well furnished and quite reasonably priced.  However, most of the buildings in the center of town go back to the middle of the last century and it shows.  So even if the apartments inside are  testament to the new wealth of the Poles, the outside and the common areas (especially the entrance and the stairs) are in disrepair, with broken elevators (if any) and reeking of urine.  Not all, but most.


Grand Hotel, Sopot

And then we saw an ad on classified: Center city, new luxury building – are you ready? – penthouse apartment.  With a circular terrace overlooking entire city of Gdynia.  And the Baltic Sea!  We contacted the listing agent and literally ran over there in the pouring rain to check it out.  The owner we met at the apartment – young business type – wasted no time telling us that being independently wealthy, he did not need to rent out this apartment.  Well, that should have been our first clue.  After agreeing on the price and him supplying some extra furnishings (there were no closets in the entire place!), he walked us to the door saying:  “I’ll sleep on it and let you know tomorrow”.  Clue #2.  We waited an entire day, finally contacted the agent.  “Yes, I spoke to him.  He needs more time to decide – he really loves that place!”  Clue #3.  Well, after 2 more days of stalling, he finally decided to take it off the market.

Is it us?  Or are the Polish nouveaux riches plum crazy?

Brother, can you spare a flat?

16 10 2009

IMG_1433real estate office, Sopot

Getting your teeth drilled without anesthesia – that’s  what looking for a rental apartment and dealing with Polish realtors is like.

The real estate brokerage is a fairly new concept here and therefore mostly unregulated… and absolutely inane.  The agents don’t do much work for you – you bring them the listings you are interested in (found online) which they will show you and then expect at least one month’s rent commission (if you end up renting  the place).  But before you even set foot in the apartment, you must sign several documents agreeing to pay their commission (most of those signings take place in cars, elevators and hallways).  Since they do not like to share listings with each other, I have to contact a different agent for each apartment I find interesting.  As of now, I have met with 16 brokers…Trying to keep their names (and offers) straight is an exercise in futility.  I also have a stack of 36 “prowizja” agreements in my purse.

One sure thing in Poland you can count on:  the bureaucracy.

And the winner is…

6 10 2009

While searching for a rental apartment in the TriCities, we considered all our options.  Gdansk is cosmopolitan, full of history and culture.  Sopot (also known as my birthplace ;-)) is a touristy,  laid-back  beach resort.  But Gdynia combines it all – beach, port, shopping and cool jazz clubs.


The choice is clear – we are moving to Gdynia!


4 10 2009

Welcome to Sopot!

ul. Polna, Sopot

After many productive years in the land of milk-and-honey, my American born husband and I are retiring to my hometown of Sopot, Poland.

Can we adopt?  Can we acclimate?  Can we learn to live without a clothes dryer?

Stay tuned.