026We’re here.  We’ve moved in to our new place.  Benjamin got his first taxi ride today (he loved it) and Bailey got his first train ride (he didn’t).  We get the lion’s share of our stuff on Monday, as well as an internet connection.  Now we start setting up our home — it seems like a lot of work for just a year, so I’m really hoping we like this enough to stay for two.

I’ve gotten so used to being in the process of moving that I’m having to constantly remind myself that we’re going to be here for a while.  I was unpacking today and kept thinking, “I don’t need that, I’ll just leave it packed . . . oh right, we LIVE here now.”  Everything will get unpacked here eventually.

For today, we’re “camping” here, but it’s just temporary.  We’re home!038

We have a place!

114We signed the lease on our new apartment this morning.  Woo hoo!  We are so excited and relieved to have taken care of finding a place.  And even better:  we love it.  It’s big, it has great light and it’s in a wonderful location.  The boys will each have their own room, and we will again have a tub for bath time (we only have a shower in our current place, and B has been great about it, but he can’t wait to get in the new bathtub, and Liam has largely gone unwashed since we’ve arrived in the second temporary apartment).  We were very fortunate (partly due to Dan’s persistence) to have gotten our relocation money just in time to sign our lease and pay our (huge) deposit on the apartment.

136Of course, we don’t have any furniture, or nearly anything else, to move in to our apartment.  That is still incredibly frustrating:  so we now have a place, but if we move in, it’ll be like we’re camping (with a 2 year old and an infant).  We still have not received our air shipment (nor our sea shipment) — we’re hopeful that either or both might arrive next week.  (So for the time being, we’re going to try and stay in our temporary apartment.)  And having our new place means we have a whole new list of “to do” items to take care of:  getting the electricity and heat transferred into our names, purchasing appliances, having appliances delivered, arranging for internet and cable service, getting renters insurance, baby proofing, getting curtains (because no one is going to sleep past 5:30 in the morning if we don’t get them) and then unpacking and arranging all of our stuff once it arrives.

138But, ignoring the monumental list of tasks ahead, for the moment, we’re so happy to have our place.  We interrogated the owner about the property and the neighborhood.  The building has been there since 16-something, but the apartment itself is less than 20 years old (so no worries about lead paint or anything).  He filled us in on the locations of the good restaurants, grocery stores, open-air markets, butchers, bakeries and pizza places nearby.  Interestingly, his kids were the same ages as ours are now when they first moved in to this apartment, so the place has even been kid-tested.  We even met some of our new neighbors in the building on our way out (including a retired American couple who used to work at the IAEA) and they were all very excited to meet us.

After signing our lease, we took the kids to the nearest playground (location also supplied by our new landlord) and had lunch in a cafe around the corner.  It is so comforting to feel like we’re starting to find our place here.

Our new place

Just over a year ago, I came to Vienna for the first and only time before I decided to move here.  I was here for four days — I came to meet Dan on one of his business trips.  I wanted to get a feel for the city and see if I could even imagine myself living here.  I wasn’t here for long, but we tried to get out, see some sights and experience as much of the city as possible.

025Sunday morning of my trip here (which was also Valentine’s Day) we got up very early (not easy to do, due to the jetlag) and went to see the Vienna Boys’ Choir.  We weren’t entirely sure where we were going, and we got a little lost on the way.  We came up out of the wrong exit from the U station into a silent little square.  It was cobblestoned and deserted.  We set off, trying to find our way, and encountered a few people making their way to the church that was a little further along the square.  It was quiet, beautiful and perfectly my idea of Europe.  I loved it instantly.  I wanted to know where we were, but we were running late and didn’t have time to explore.  We eventually found our way to our destination, and didn’t get a chance to return.

028A few months ago, when we made the final decision to move here to Vienna, we began to look for housing.  At one point in the search, I asked Dan, “Do you think we could live in that little square we found that Sunday morning?”  It was half-joking, since we didn’t know where it was exactly, and we both figured that area would be too expensive, since it was right in the heart of the city.

031This morning, we were heading back to our favorite apartment, to take a second look at it and make sure it’s the one we wanted.  Since we’re staying in a different part of the city now, we arrived by way of a different U station than we did the first time we saw it.  We came up out of the station on our way to the apartment . . . and we were in the little square.  No kidding.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but it was the same.  It’s busier on a weekday, and more beautiful in the springtime, but it was the same place.

We went on to see the apartment — it’s as perfect as we remembered, and we’re so excited to have found a place.  But, how amazing to have found that it’s just next to the little square we found that morning — the same little square we’ve been thinking of and hoping to see again.  This apartment, this neighborhood — they really feel like home to us.  When we visit there, it feels like where want to be.  Finding our little, quiet square this morning just made it seem that much more perfect, and we’re so excited to be moving there.

We’re moving tomorrow . . . and I’m not sure to where

Our stay in our first temporary apartment is coming to an end.  We have to leave by 10:00 tomorrow morning.  It’s been great.  Super-IKEA-ified, really comfortable, really clean, safe for the kids, and the location is super convenient.  It has served us well for our first 10 days here.  (I can’t believe we’ve been here for 10 days.)

So now, it’s on to the next place.  But until 3 hours ago, we didn’t have a “next place”.  (I’m still not sure we really do.)  This past week, we’ve been mostly focused on finding a place for permanent housing (and we’d been kind of hoping we might get that settled fast enough to not have to find a second temporary apartment) so we let the search for tomorrow’s apartment go until way too late.  We do have a favorite permanent place picked out, but we won’t even see a lease on it until Monday, so we need a place for the next little while.

We were being really flexible on location, price and size, so we didn’t figure it would be too hard to find a place.  Well, it turns out that finding a place equipped for kids (we need a porta-crib for Liam), walking distance to the U and which would allow Bailey wasn’t that easy after all.  Also, most temporary apartments in Vienna are listed with multiple agencies, so three times now we have had places promised to us which are not actually available.  Also, the Vienna City Marathon is this weekend, and is apparently really popular, so finding a place has been really challenging.

But, we have a place.  At least, I think we do.  It’s not ideal — it’s very small, no tub, only one bedroom.  And hopefully a porta-crib.  Ok, so it’s very not ideal.  Sigh.  Looks like I’m off to do more hotel/apartment searches . . . there has to be something out there that will work for us.

Out in the rain

It was a chilly, rainy (on and off) day in Vienna today.  We were out apartment hunting, and we really felt not having a car.  The public transportation here is phenomenal, but there’s just something so easy about having a car.  We’re not “good” at being car-less yet, so there’s a lot to think about and plan for.

Here in Vienna, lots of people don’t have cars.  But they also aren’t living out of 5 suitcases.  They have great little buntings and rain covers for their strollers.  They have umbrellas.  They have boots.  They have raincoats.  We have some of those things (not very many).  It wasn’t a bad day, just a challenge.

001The first place we went to see was an 18 minute (entirely uphill) walk from where we’re staying now.  We ended up rushing out the door to get there (because we’d been waiting for the realtor to tell us which place to meet him, and he didn’t tell us until we actually needed to be heading out the door . . . and Liam was sleeping, so it was an ordeal to get going) and therefore just didn’t have our complete arsenal of “stuff” to battle the conditions.  Liam was still in his pajamas, I forgot the fleece blanket for B in his stroller, I wore the wrong shoes, I didn’t bring Benjamin’s snack, Dan didn’t realize I’d packed a hat for Liam, so he didn’t put it on him for the first half of the day.  I’ve always kept a stock of things in the car trunk, just in case we needed them:  jackets, hats, blankets, sweatshirts.  I’m so used to having that safety 003net, and I really missed not having it today.

But, we were rewarded.  I think we found our place.  It’s beautiful, it’s in the center (nearly) of the city, it has plenty of space, and even a little storage, it has a (very small) elevator and it’s walking distance to shops and the U (metro).  I love it.

027We had one last place to see, though, so after our 18 minute walk and our brief visit to the apartment, it was back out into the rain to get on a train, to get on another train, to get on a tram to get off and switch trams because we were on the wrong one, and then a walk.  The second place we saw was beautiful, too, and would be my favorite but for the 8 or so marble stairs in the foyer of the building which would make it nearly impossible to use the stroller by myself.  And then, it was back out in the rain and the cold to head home (by way of the gelato place — we were nearly the only customers today).

I am amazed by my children.  However much fun I might have found it to explore these apartments, I suspect there is significantly less allure when you’re 6 months old or two and a half.  Through this entire adventure so far, they have been amazingly happy, relaxed, flexible and understanding.  (I have no idea where they get that from.)  I can’t believe the way they’re adapting and really enjoying themselves in what could be a difficult situation.  They inspire me.  It’s hard to give in to being grumpy or exhausted or irritable when your 2 year old isn’t.  It’s even harder to give in to it when he’s having a hard time and it’s the first time all day he’s complained.  They help me to remember that although it’s easy for me to slip in to the expectation that this will be “tough”, it doesn’t actually have to be.  There’s lots of things to enjoy — like running laps through empty Viennese apartments or eating gelato on a cold and rainy day.

A grande soy chai is still a grande soy chai

Today was probably our busiest day so far:  we looked at two apartment possibilities in different parts of town, Dan went by his new work to get some of the paperwork started and out of the way, we went shopping for non-food grocery items (which here you don’t buy at the grocery store), we went to the bakery (one of my new favorite places) for a loaf of bread and we had the cleaning lady come by.  And that was all before dinner, and in addition to the normal activity of life in a new place with two little ones.  Whew!

It was a very busy day.  With all of our activity, and the fact that Liam isn’t quite adjusted to the time change yet, we’re exhausted.  By 5:00, when we were finished with all of our errands, I was completely drained.  We were headed home and were discussing whether we should stop to grab a little something to treat ourselves on the way home.  I was too tired to walk the extra few blocks, but Dan went, and he brought something home for me:  a grande soy chai, from an actual Starbucks.  Even at home, I would have enjoyed and appreciated something like that after a long day.  But there’s something extra special about having a little treat from home when we’re so far away.  They make it a little less sweet here, but otherwise, it’s so familiar:  the taste, the smell, even the cup (it’s written in English, too!).  Because even though we’re having a wonderful adventure, and it’s great to explore all of the things that are exciting and different, it’s comforting to experience something warm and familiar at the end of a long day.

Apartment hunting

025We’re looking for a more permanent home here in Vienna.  The place we’re in right now is only ours until the 16th (this coming weekend).  It’s a bit of a daunting task:  trying to find a place that will be good for us, fun for the kids, enough room to make us comfortable, not too expensive, in a good neighborhood, a reasonable commute to Dan’s new job and close to grocery shopping/pharmacy/bakery/market/train/tram because we don’t have a car here.  And 031we don’t really know what we’re doing because we moved here less than a week ago.  We don’t really have an educated idea of exactly where we want to be, and we don’t have an idea of what is reasonable to expect from places or from landlords.  It’s a challenge!

We started looking over the weekend.  We looked at a place that is beautiful, gigantic, very recently completely renovated and expensive.  We also looked at a place with is less extravagant but in the embassy section of the city with an amazing (and very Viennese) view of palace grounds.

038We have two places to look at tomorrow, and three more later in the week.  I’m trying to keep track of them, because I know that soon everything will start to run together.  Going for tram and train rides all over the city is giving us a better sense of Vienna, but it’s an intense amount of pressure to try and pick the right place for us from a place of such profound ignorance of our surroundings.

The boys have been so great while we’ve been looking.  Benjamin runs around and poses in the pictures I’m taking so I can remember the details of each place.  I love his sweet enthusiasm.  Liam is happily along for the ride in the carrier.  He’s happy wherever we go, as long as we’re together.  Today, we even had to wake them both up from their 013naps to make it to an appointment (almost) on time, and they were peaceful and relaxed for our journey.  They’re amazing.  (It does seem to help that when we went to our first apartment appointment, we stopped for gelato on the way home, and now Benjamin has decided that each appointment should be accompanied by gelato — not a bad idea, really.)

The search continues tomorrow.  Either of the places we’ve seen so far could work.  We just have to keep searching and find the one that is right for us.  The fatigue is setting in a bit, but I am motivated by keeping things fun for the kids, and inspired by how much fun they’re having and just by how happy they are.