I love the feeling you get when you first see a new place that will become familiar, part of your day to day. It doesn’t happen often: new houses, workplaces, gyms (that last one’s a gag, by the way, as no gym has ever become familiar to me). It’s fleeting – there’s usually only a day or two where it feels foreign and new and then all of a sudden you’ve settled in and you’ll never see it with fresh eyes again. I remember trying to appreciate this feeling when we moved into our house in Marrickville (we sat on the ground in our back patio as the heavy summer rain poured down, eating sub-par pizza, looking at the knee high grass that the owner had failed to cut prior to us taking possession, smelling the new, strange smell of the house and hearing its echo). So when we went apartment hunting for our permanent accommodation, I tried to be conscious of this feeling as we looked through a range of potential new homes.
Our relocation consultant, a lovely Lucerne local with a ready smile and a gentle manner with our little girl, had put together a list of seven places for us to view. Tim, being Tim, developed a rating system for them. He calculated cost per square metre, distance to both Lucerne station and his work, distance to public transport and shops, and factored in a range of features such as access to a laundry. The apartments were then ranked according to this system, and I got significant milage out of teasing him for his Excel based nerdiness.
As the viewing progressed we started to categorise the houses based on impressions, as you do when seeing something for a half hour block. For example, there was Cat House (the couple that lived there loved cats THE MOST. They had several as pets, the cats had their own balcony, and almost every room had a cat climbing tower. Additionally, their art primarily featured felines – in fact pictures of cats outnumbered pictures of their kids. The apartment itself was a quirky number built in the 50s, with a slanting roof and epic storage, something of a rarity here). We also saw Piano Room Saunaville, a large rambling apartment spanning two floors with garish red awnings, a sound proofed room (the prior tenant was a piano teacher) and a communal sauna slash germ breeding ground in the basement. We looked both in Lucerne town and in suburbs a little further out, some with stunning views across the lake and Alps and others with not-so-breathtaking views of the train line.
Prior to going into Goldie (the apartment had many feature walls, all of which had some manner of gold in them. One was a textured gold wall in the master bedroom, another a bold black and gold floral print in what would have been Adelaide’s room), the girl had fallen asleep in the car seat. Our relocation consultant, who is the mother of four grown kids, asked me if I would be leaving her in the car while we went in to view the apartment. I am not sure whether this is because it’s usual for Swiss people to do this (it is an extraordinarily safe country apparently, and kids are encouraged to be independent from a very young age) (although I had assumed not ‘leave tiny baby in the car’ independent) or whether she thought Australians did so. Either way, for the record (and my child-protection-working mother) Laidey viewed every apartment with us.
There are of course loads of differences between properties here and ones we’ve viewed at home. Every apartment has a cellar space for storage and communal areas in the basement to dry clothing. It freaked me out a little walking through some of them; although I’m not terribly claustrophobic generally, there was something off-putting about being deep in the bowels of old buildings with no sunlight. There are bomb shelters, which are a requirement and not something we’re familiar with – they had heavy lead doors that only made the afore mentioned claustrophobia worse. Laundries are often shared, with a designated day for each tenant to access the machines (we culled such apartments, favouring those that had an internal laundry because as I have mentioned washing and drying is pretty much my number one occupation). They are highly soundproofed – a relief as the mama of a screaming bub who hates disrupting the neighbourhood – and many are built appropriately for families, often with playgrounds as part of the complex or nearby. The similarities to Sydney are mainly related to the market – rents are high, properties scarce and competition fierce for available apartments.
It had been a very long time since we’ve gone house hunting together, and I’d forgotten that we have quite different priorities and taste. After lots of viewing, judging and arguing (over vinos later that night), we were able to agree on one. It’s based in Lucerne, right near the lake but also the station, and feels like it’s in the thick of things. An application is in and fingers are crossed. The only downside was that it was also number one on the Tim Scale, so of course I’ll be hearing about that for some time to come.