Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Mühlenbeck and Basdorf


Mühlenbeck - doesn't it look tranquil?

Two more houses to see today.

First though, observations about the DDR Ostel we are staying in. You certainly can't miss it, located in a Plattenbau block of flats painted acid colours of bright orange, yellow, and lime green. It's close to the Ostbahnhof, and the West Side Gallery of graffiti on one of the last remaining stretches of The Wall. The Fernsehturm looms in the near distance. The Reception promises much, with a 70's decor, a large portrait of an SED apparatik, and a TV showing a loop of old DDR news. The apartment though is more IKEA than DDR. A few strips of garish wallpaper are hung behind the bed, there is a comfy three-piece suite in brown nylon, and a stereogram with its guts taken out. But the floor is laminate and the seventies-era chandelier has energy-saving light-bulbs. There is a balcony with a view of Hellweg (a kind of German B&Q), and of the courtyard below covered with sand and with a beach volleyball net. The bath/wc is next door and shared with the other four rooms on this floor, which was a bit distracting when somebody took a shower at six in the morning. I wasn't expecting a museum piece, and I could have taken cheezy chintz, but this was all so, well, soul-less. With a bit of imagination and not much cost it could have been so good, but ...

Anyway, the first house to view today is in Mühlenbeck, north of Berlin. On paper (or on Google maps anyway) this looked like a rural idyll. In reality the village was very busy with traffic, and the house for sale on a bend on the L30. Our poor cats wouldn't have lasted five minutes. Also a beck ran along the border of the plot which smelled strongly of something not very nice. On the plus side, a cafe in the village did a nice cup of coffee and rhubarb cake, and I saw a stork nesting on top of a chimney. There were also lots of gardens with free-range chickens and goslings, so Suki would have enjoyed herself there. On the negative side, well, the traffic. And the noise from the traffic. And the house was dark from a very overgrown garden. And the traffic. Strike this one we think.

In the afternoon we looked at a house in Basdorf. Another Einfamilienhaus north of Berlin but a big difference. The first thing to strike you is how neat, tidy and ruhig Basdorf is. Walking to the house was like walking through a holiday village: all well-laid out, clean, and gepflegt. Exploring the town first we found a newly built market square with, joy of joys! a Biomarkt - selling soy milk and veggie stuff! And a pet shop! And a bowling alley! (ok, scrub the last one). I saw one bit of graffiti - a swastika, with a line through it thankfully - but otherwise everywhere looked as pristine as the village in (the sixties cult TV series set in Porthmerion) The Prisoner (ominous?). The house needs rather a bit of work to rectify the DIY errors and half-completed projects of its previous owners (including replacing a missing door to the living room - how could they lose that?), but otherwise fitted the bill. It has a large if rather unkempt garden, a fitted kitchen (Einbauküche), a sizeable guest room, and a Keller you can comfortably stand up in (with a half-fitted bath in - don't ask me why). Location-wise it is on the edge of miles and miles of forest and National Park, and just up the road is the holiday-resort-on-the-lake-town* of Wandlitz, second-home to many politicians. So, what's not to like? Well, there is the Heidekrautbahn railway running four times an hour through the back-garden. Much better than the busy main road at Mühlenbeck, and you have to expect compromises in life - nothing is ever perfect. Besides, I could always take up train-spotting.

* see, you can create compound nouns in English too!

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