Living in a flat in the Czech Republic

The block of flats in which we live © Ricky Yates

The block of flats in which we live © Ricky Yates

Nearly eight years ago, Sybille and I moved from the North Oxfordshire countryside to Prague, and from a four-bedroomed detached Rectory with several downstairs rooms, to a three-bedroomed flat with a sitting room and a minute kitchen. Not only did this mean us undertaking a massive and therapeutic downsizing exercise, it also means we now have close neighbours – several of them!

Our flat is on the second floor at the end of the block. It is identifiable by the orange coloured bedspread which was drying on a clothes rack on our main balcony, when this photograph was taken. Because we are on the end of the block, we only physically abut one other flat, (to the right of our main balcony in the photo), with one shared wall and a frosted glass panel that divides our respective balconies.

When we first moved into our new home, this small neighbouring flat was owned and occupied by a Czech young lady called Lucie. We soon discovered that Lucie was a singer as we frequently heard her practising her scales 🙁 The other notable thing about Lucie was that in warm, sunny, summer weather, she enjoyed being out on her balcony wearing a pink bikini 🙂

About two years ago, Lucie sold the flat to a young couple, Zuzana and Filip. They made some alterations to the flat – we heard the banging and hammering 🙁 But what we didn’t initially realise was that a year ago, Zuzana and Filip moved out and started renting out their flat through Airbnb. We only discovered this in early September 2015, when Sybille overheard three young men speaking in German on the neighbouring balcony. She asked, in German, through the glass, who they were and what they were doing there. They were from Konstanz and Airbnb guests.

You can learn all about this ‘fully equipped studio’ here. The webpage contains some delightful Czenglish including offering ‘one double bad’. This is obviously either a sizeable German bath or a large amount of trouble! There are a series of seven photographs and the second one is of the balcony, looking towards our main balcony. Sybille’s green watering can is clearly visible through the glass 🙂

So far, our various Airbnb neighbours haven’t caused us too many problems. A few months back, three Australian young ladies were making quite a racket at 22.30 on Saturday night. I buzzed the door bell and pointedly remarked that, ‘Some of us have to work tomorrow!’ More recently, a group of young Spanish males got quite a surprise when being told to be quieter by Sybille, in her fluent Spanish!

Long-standing readers of my blog will know that we discovered who lived in the flat immediately above us, when in December 2010, we experienced Christmas Carp induced flooding. Follow the link if you do not know the story. Ever since that event, we have always referred to the owner of the flat directly above us, as ‘Mr Water Engineer’ 😉

Two or three years ago, a lady appeared on the scene and moved in. Initially we referred to her as ‘Mr Water Engineer’s girlfriend’. We would often see her out running, obviously keen to be fit and keep slim. But then in her quest for fitness, she bought herself an exercise bike. And unlike most other purchasers of exercise bikes, she actually uses it – regularly!

In both the sitting room, where Sybille has her desk, and in the bedroom which I use as my office, we regularly hear ‘de-da-de-da-de-da-de-da’, as she peddles away. So the lady is now known as ‘Mrs Hamster Wheel’, because that is what it exactly sounds like 🙁 As her bike riding sessions usually last for between one-and-a-half and two hours, we regularly use their commencement as an excuse to head to one of our nearby bar-restaurants 🙂

For legal and other reasons, I shall refrain from any comments regarding the couple and their daughter, who live in the flat immediately below us. But recently, there have been some interesting changes in flat below that – the one situated on the ground floor.

The ground floor flat, two storeys below ours, has a garden. Because it is on the end of the block, the garden extends on three sides, though the section at the rear is very narrow. Back in 2008, when we moved in above, this ground floor flat was owned and occupied by a couple and their child. A couple of years later, a second child was born.

They also had a lively Jack Russell terrier who enjoyed running around the garden and barking at anyone who passed by. The dog’s name was Gazpacho – quite why he should be named after a cold Spanish soup, we never discovered. He was colloquially known as ‘Gazpi’ and we always referred to his owners as ‘Mr & Mrs Gazpi’.

Late last year, Mr & Mrs Gazpi moved out and put the flat up for sale. As we discovered, by checking the sale particulars online, the flat is only about two-thirds the size of ours, because it loses space to the entrance lobby of the block.

Earlier this year, the new owner moved in. She is a lady who I think is in her late forties, though I do recognise that judging a lady’s age is entering into seriously dangerous territory 😉 As she has two different surnames on her mail box, I presume that she is a recent divorcee who is reverting to her maiden surname, but realises that mail may still come addressed to her in her married name. Also on the mail box, is the name of her teenage son who has the male form of one of her surnames.

This lady clearly saw the potential of this flat and particularly, the garden. Although, as you can see in the photograph, the hedge around the garden is already quite mature, she has placed basket-woven fencing inside the hedge for greater privacy. She has also blocked up the bottom of the garden gate, to ensure that the third member of her family, a large, grey floppy-eared rabbit, doesn’t escape!

About two months ago, a workman arrived and started digging a large hole in the garden, directly below our balcony. It being a fairly hot day, in typical Czech fashion, he stripped down to his boxer shorts to do so! He returned over the following days to line the large hole with a cement render and then lay a thick black plastic membrane, in order to create a pond.

Timber was delivered and, after the new owner had brushed timber preservative over it several times, another couple of workmen arrived to convert the timber into decking, all around the newly created pond. Here is the end result, as viewed from our balcony, two floors above.

Michaela's new pond, as seen from our balcony © Ricky Yates

The new pond, as seen from our balcony © Ricky Yates

I have to say that the end result is very attractive. However now, on some occasions when it is warm and sunny, our new neighbour stands in her pond, or sunbathes on the decking, wearing a lacy g-string and nothing else! Whilst she has created some privacy at a ground-floor level, I am left to wonder whether she ever thought about those of us who live directly above. We do like to look out from our balcony from time to time, and frequently as we do, we are greeted with yet another ‘only in the Czech Republic‘ moment 🙂

12 comments to Living in a flat in the Czech Republic

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Could I venture to suggest an alternative title for this piece? ‘The resident wildlife of a Prague suburb!’ 😉 Life is definitely less adventurous in rural Ireland.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,
      I did wonder whether to call the post, ‘Our interesting neighbours’ 🙂 Life was certainly also less adventurous where we previously lived in the Oxfordshire countryside. I decided the blog needed a fun post after writing about more serious matters in my three previous posts.

  • Matt

    Hi Ricky,
    Any chance that you can invite myself and the rest of the cricket guys over next time it’s warm & sunny ?

    • Ricky

      Hi Matt,
      I did think that, sooner or later, I’d get a comment like this from one of my fellow Bar Bar cricketers 🙂 Or a request for photographic evidence 😀 But the blog will remain family-friendly!

  • Paul

    Hi Ricky, Enjoyed this post as it reflects our own experiences of “apartment dwelling”? Some years ago, we moved from a four bedroom detached house in rural Sussex and settled into our newly built two bedroom top floor apartment outside Aylesbury. Downsizing was our first challenge. We were fortunate that we acquired the only garage in the block and we still have items to unpack! Neighbours have come and gone and each new occupant is more interesting than the previous owner! We have shared in births, marriages and bereavements and gained many insights into different cultures and “how the other half live” !!?. There is never a dull moment !!
    Thanks for sharing your experience – it made us smile!? Paul

    • Ricky

      Hi Paul,
      Glad you enjoyed this post and interesting to read that it resonates with your own experiences. ‘Each new occupant is more interesting than the previous owner!’ certainly applies to our new neighbour on the ground floor 🙂

  • Bob

    Hello there, I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident – and couldn’t stop reading! Too funny, and too true. I do think plenty of folks both expat & local will see more than just shades of their own neighborly adventures in this particular piece. Makes you wonder if that lady is blogging about her neighbors somewhere, hmm…

    Regards, just a random Prague passerby.

  • Em

    Hi Ricky, this is an engaging post – I love all of the quirky character descriptions you give. Ben and I looked at your complex at one point recently as we’ve had to move flats but ultimately decided on one near Zelena, which isn’t far away. It’s in a building with mostly offices, so it’s quiet at night, though humming during the day. It sounds like we would have been highly entertained in your building, though! 🙂

    • Ricky

      Hi Em! Glad you enjoyed this post. Yes – our neighbours do at times, provide some good entertainment 🙂 Glad to hear that you’ve found a new flat as I knew you were having to move. Thanks for once more visiting & commenting here.

  • Oh goodness, some of your stories are making me feel extra lucky for our situation: there is only one other flat on our floor, which is unoccupied and used as a storage unit by the owners. The only sounds I ever hear are babies crying during work hours from the doctor’s office below, haha. It was interesting to hear that your neighbors are Airbnb guests – I suppose as long as they “keep it down” it wouldn’t be so terrible, I suppose, but I often wonder (as an avid user of Airbnb) how it would be to live near a holiday rental flat vs. having permanent neighbors.
    I’ve also decided clearly I need to go reading your archives… sounds like there are some great stories there 😉

    • Ricky

      I’m not really complaining about our neighbours, Cynthia. For the most part, they are fine. Mrs Hamster Wheel exercising, can be somewhat irritating, but as I wrote, we do use it as an excuse to go to a nearby bar-restaurant 🙂 Likewise, we’ve only had noise problems a couple of times from our Airbnb neighbours. Currently, they are a middle-aged Dutch couple from Amsterdam who took an interest in our cat poking his head under the glass partition of our respective balconies!

      You’re most welcome to go back reading through my archives. Whilst I don’t blog as regularly as you do Cynthia, I have been blogging for longer & there are therefore, 364 posts to explore 🙂